Saturday, January 31, 2004


I came across a great book title today while browsing at a used book store:

Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time by Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygaard.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/31/2004 10:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


What David Kay doesn't know

Josh Marshall makes the obvious point about what David Kay's been saying. Yes, he's said that he believes there never were any WMDs in Iraq, which he's in good position to know, having looked for them there, but he's also made two other claims:

First, he?s said that the CIA was not pressured to reach its erroneous conclusions. Second, he has said that rather than the president owing an explanation or apology to the American people, the CIA owes an explanation or apology to the president.

As to the first point, how would he know?

To the best of my knowledge, Kay wasn?t involved in any of the relevant inter-agency processes and he hasn?t investigated this question after the fact. So how would he know? I think the answer is clear: he doesn't.

The second point is a classic example of that phenomenon we?ve become so familiar with in the Bush years: up-is-downism.

Update: Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch explores the strengths and weaknesses of the humanitarian case for invading Iraq.

[link via Billmon]

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/31/2004 03:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, January 30, 2004

Bad examples for the kids

Atrios has the story of some kids who were prevented from performing a pro-American pro-democracy anti-totalitarian play by James Cavell ("Shogun") because, as part of the scripted action, an American flag was cut up to dramatize the playwright's message about "the dangers of mindless political indoctrination."

After receiving complaints about the flag cutting, co-chairman Melody Wicht, who teaches drama at Pembroke Pines Charter High, disqualified the McArthur team.

"Some people came to me after the play and complained about the performance," Wicht said. "So I looked into it."

Wicht said she based her decision on Florida Statute 876.52, which says "Whoever publicly mutilates, defaces or tramples with intent to insult any flag ... of the United States shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree."

[From the Sun-Sentinel]

This is closely related to the stupidity of inflexible zero tolerance rules in school that Randy Cassingham has so vociferously complained about.

There are obviously problems in schools from such things as drugs and violence. But terrorizing children with inflexible rules is not the answer. School principals have always had the responsibility to make and enforce rules, and punish accordingly when those rules are broken. "Zero-Tolerance" laws take that responsibility away. They mandate certain responses that can be way out of proportion to the rule violation in question. That is what these stories are about. "This is True" has reported on a fair number of these knee-jerk reactions to non-events. Children are put into the position of being treated as felons by being suspended and/or expelled over obvious toys -- the very same thing that would happen if they brought real guns to school. What happened to the punishment fitting the "crime"? What happened to justice? What happened to the education of these children? All of that is being ignored in the name of "Zero-Tolerance". Sure, in many cases the kids broke a rule, and those rules have a purpose (e.g., to avoid tragic shootings by police who think the guns are real). Most cases call for, at most, a stern talk in the principal's office -- not suspension, expulsion, police involvement or press conferences (as many of these cases have seen). It seems to me that if we feel a need to expel kids over water guns, there must not be many real problems our society needs to deal with.

If our school administrators are incapable of (or, in the case of Colorado, prevented from) demonstrating the skills necessary to reasonably evaluate the circumstances of a possible infraction of the rules, and instead blindly and dogmatic enforce those rules to the letter regardless of mitigating factors, how can we possible expect the children they're in charge of teaching to develop those faculties?

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 12:18:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Retro City

In Retro City, Michael Johns links the current urban revival to nostalgia for cities as we remember them from the past, (this is hardly unusual considering that Johns is the author of Moment of Grace: The American City in the 1950s), and claims that the amenities and conveniences of the "new" city are not only not new, they are imports from the world of the suburbs:

Although we've resurrected the forms of our cities, we've animated them with a culture straight from the suburbs. 

Today's cities copy those of 50 or more years ago because the 1950's was the last time cities had busy downtowns and strong neighborhoods. Their buildings were made almost entirely of brick, stone, wood and terra cotta. Factory, rail and waterfront districts still produced and moved goods. City residents displayed a certain sophistication,as movies of that era remind us. And cities played a dominant role - economic, cultural and political - in the life of the nation. All that came to an end in the late 50's, when cities fell into a long period of physical and cultural decay. 

American cities will never again be as vital as they were during the first half of the 20th century. That is why cities are prime objects of nostalgia in our very nostalgic age. And what better way to modernize the objects of our nostalgia than by recreating old cities to attract large numbers of young professionals? Cities suffered for decades, after all, and lost middle- and upper-class residents. Renewal projects failed to improve them. They are shrinking parts of an expanding and increasingly dominant suburban society. And a growing number of affluent people now find suburbs boring or homogeneous. No wonder cities seem fresh, even exotic, and thus ripe for a nostalgic comeback.


[T]he culture of loft districts and gentrified neighborhoods resembles that of a suburban subdivision much more than an old city block. Newcomers to such areas want the look of the old city but the peace and quiet, and purely residential character, of a suburb. So they immediately encourage local officials to squelch the sounds, smells and movements of any manufacturers or wholesalers still in the neighborhood.

Sometimes they're even willing to ruin historical architecture for the sake of a suburban convenience. Think of the metal balconies that developers tack onto converted warehouses so residents can partake in the suburban pastime of grilling. Backyard grilling may well be the greatest invention of our suburban culture, but is it worth defacing beautiful brick facades for grilled salmon?

What lies behind all this residential development, of course, is the idea of "the neighborhood." A New York real estate broker described gentrifying blocks above 96th Street along Broadway as "just so 'neighborhood.' "Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles depict an "old neighborhood feeling" in gentrifying districts everywhere. Or they discover, as one recently did in the area around Madison Square Park, "a sense of community and shopkeepers who provide old-fashioned courtesies."

Merchants sometimes fly pennants on renovated retail streets to announce the neighborhood's name. Whether they've resurrected the old name or invented a new one like NoLIta, it's a self-conscious attempt to create a sense of neighborhood identity, something old neighborhoods never did.

But today's neighborhood is different from the older one that's supposed to inspire it. For one thing, gentrifiers and loft-dwellers live much less of their lives in their neighborhoods than those who lived there 50 years ago. Today, few mothers and children are around during the day. Many of those children go to schools outside their neighborhoods and, like their parents, tend to have most of their friends and most of their activities in other parts of the city.

Like a postwar subdivision, today's retro neighborhoods lack ethnic clubs, nearby in-laws or grandparents, and merchants who have watched a generation of youngsters grow up. They lack the culture that once provided city neighborhoods with a sense of continuity and identity, and forced people to develop ties over time, across generations, even across ethnic differences.

Loft districts and gentrified neighborhoods have been transformed so quickly, and by such similar kinds of people, that they are often as homogeneous, with respect to age, race, income and education, as a 50's suburb. Gentrifiers acknowledge this lack of diversity, and it's a painful admission because "diversity," after all, is what they say they like about the city.


The car in itself is not suburban. But it is suburban to expect your very own parking space in the city. Such an expectation means new and converted residential buildings must include a built-in parking space for each apartment, a requirement that turns the first floor or two of a building into a parking lot.

Parking is so scarce in some gentrified neighborhoods that people regularly park on sidewalks. As a member of a San Francisco neighborhood council put it: "There is a substantial age and experience divide on this issue. Those people who see nothing wrong with it are younger and more recent residents of the neighborhood, who bring a suburban sensibility to the city."

Bringing a suburban sensibility to the city: that's a good description of our urban revival.

While Johns makes some interesting points, I'm not certain that "nostalgia" is necessarily the prime motivator behind the new urban revivial. Might it not be that what we're seeing is a return to the kind of urban scale that is more comfortable for people to live in, and to recreate that scale people have turned to the nearest example of it at hand, the remnants of the older city that still exist?

As for the suburban sensibility, I was ready to quibble with that as well, but it occured to me that, having been born and raised in the suburbs I might not be the most objective observer. Perhaps, unknowingly, I've brought my suburban prejudices to the city with me, and perhaps 30 years of living in cities (Boston and New York) haven't eroded them. I don't know, I guess I'll have to mull it over.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 11:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Naked Terror

When presented with images of terrifying events, people tend to miscalculate their probablility. A single memorable image -- of the World Trade Center collapsing, for example -- will crowd out less visually dramatic risks in the public mind. This explains why people overestimate the frequency of death from disasters like floods and fires and underestimate the frequency of deaths from more mundane threats like diabetes and stroke.

How can we protect ourselves from our psychological vulnerabilities? First, we can turn off the TV. A study of psychological responses to 9/11 found that, two months after the attacks, 17 percent of the American population outside New York City reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress related to 9/11. High levels of stress were expecially notable to those who watched a lot of television. This anxiety is only heightened by cable networks, which have converted themselves into 24-hour purveyors of alarm.

But cable TV isn't the only institution of democracy that have an incentive to exaggerate risks. We've seen the temptations for politicians to pass along vague and unconfirmed threats of future violence in order to protect themselves from criticism in the event that another attack materializes. Ultimately, our success in overcoming fear will depend on political leadership that challenges us to live with our uncertainties rather than catering to them.

Jeffrey Rosen
"Naked Terror"
New York Times Magazine (1/4/2004)

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 10:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Who will run with Kerry?

I've heard it said that one primary reason that Iowans went for Kerry and not Dean was that they felt dissed by the Dean campaign when speculation started about who Dean's running mate would be once he had swept his way to the nomination. On this theory, the good people of Iowa took umbrage at this crass usurping of the democratic process and handed Dean his hat and showed him the door.

Well, I don't really buy it, but I suppose it might have been a factor of some sort. If so, will there be blowback now that James Carville has, at the request of the Wall Street Journal, handicapped John Kerry's possible running mates?

  • John Edwards -- 7 to 5: "A geographic and stylistic match for the craggy veteran Massachusetts senator."

  • Bill Richardson -- 3 to 1: "He is a popular Hispanic governor of a Western state, with congressional and foreign policy experience."

  • Bob Graham -- 5 to 1: "He's the most qualified person" and "is one of the most popular politicians in the history of Florida, the most pivotal state in the last election."

  • Dick Gephardt -- 8 to 1: "He would solidify labor support and help in the key swing state of Missouri, which President Bush carried in the last election."

  • Wesley Clark -- 10 to 1: "Would thwart any Republican hopes to ride the national-security issue in the fall" but Clark "has shown his political inexperience on the campaign trail."

  • Sam Nunn -- 15 to 1: "He has impeccable national-security credentials, and is a deficit hawk."

  • Hillary Clinton -- 15 to 1: A "remote possibility if the Deaniacs are threatening to bolt from the party and Ralph Nader vows another third-party effort."
[Lifted from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, since I don't have a sub to the WSJ -- Ed]

I'm not a betting man, and have no real feel for odds, but I think Carville's assessment of Hillary Clinton's chances are absurdly low -- at least I hope they are. From what I can see, there are few in the party who have any desire to go there and invite the heap of trouble it will bring down on the ticket. The last thing we want to do is deliberately provide ammunition for the right wing fanatics to use to rile up the merely conservative who may, we hope, be tiring of Bush's misadministration, but who still hold strong negative feelings about the Clintons.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 09:17:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Senators and Governors

With Kerry once again the annointed front-runner, we see renewed interest in his 19 year voting record in the Senate and the purchase it provides for the mounting of attacks on his candidacy. That's one of the problems with being a Senator (especially a long-term Senator) and running for President.

I wrote this back in May 2003, before I began posting here:

One other thing I should say about Dean, one factor that he has going for him which really has nothing much to do with him in particular, is that he's a former governor and not a senator. That means he doesn't have a nationally prominent voting record to be used against him and that he's a relatively fresh face compared to everyone else in the race.

It's conventional wisdom that being a Senator is a natural stepping stone to the Presidency, but recent history doesn't bear that out. Take a look at what our recent Presidents did before taking office in the White House:

Bush -- governor of Texas, frontman, business failure, drug abuser, AWOL National Guardsman
Clinton -- governor of Arkansas
Bush -- VP, head of CIA, ambassador, etc.
Reagan -- governor of California
Carter -- governor of Georgia
Ford -- VP, congressman
Nixon -- VP, senator, congressman
Johnson -- VP, senator, congressman
Kennedy -- senator, congressman

In other words, you have to go back 34 years, to 1968, to reach a president (Nixon) who earlier served as senator, and 42 years to get to a senator (Kennedy) who was directly elected to the presidency without first passing through the vice presidency.

Taking a look at the rest of the presidents of the twentieth century, it still seems as if governors have a distinct advantage over senators:

Eisenhower -- general
Truman -- VP, senator
Roosevelt -- governor
Hoover -- cabinet secretary (commerce), humanitarian, engineer
Coolidge -- VP, governor
Harding -- senator
Wilson -- governor, president of Princeton
Taft -- cabinet secretary (war), colonial governor of the Phillipines
Roosevelt -- VP, governor, cabinet secretary (navy)
McKinley -- governor, congressman

Obviously, both senators and governors have the potential to have relatively high public visibility, but also obviously, there are always twice as many senators as there are governors. I don't know if that means anything, but I do think the evidence shows that the conventional wisdom is wrong, it's being a governor that should be considered a natural potential stepping stone to the White House, not being a senator.

[Slightly edited from original for style -- Ed]

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 08:55:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Memewatch & amateur campaign advice

  1. The Dean campaign is dead.

  2. Dean and Trippi changed the mechanics of retail politics forever by tapping directly into the resources of the general public instead of relying on large donors whose support comes with strings attached. This enables the Democratic party to more truly represent the wants and needs of that public.

  3. Dean became the putative front runner by coming out and aggressively attacking Bush when establishment Democrats were wary of doing so. Now, all the Democrats in the race espouse a liberal populist agenda wound around strong attacks on the Bush administration.

  4. Nevertheless, the Dean campaign is dead.

Comment: Campaigns which are moribund, but not quite totally dead, can be dangerous, as there are few constraints on them, and they're prone to lash out against anyone or anything if they think if will gain them a few more hours of life. Campaigns that are still alive must use this time to practice their ability to turn the energy of these attacks back on the attacker, thus deflecting them. Although it can get out of hand and be damaging for the party as a whole, it can also be good practice for the general campaign, when the opponent will, from the beginning, have absolutely no compunctions or ethical standards and will show no restraint of any kind.

We can learn a lot about how Kerry, and to some extent Edwards and Clark as well, will handle Bush in the general election by how they handle the attacks which are now sure to continue from Dean and Joe ("Whoa-mentum") Lieberman.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 07:56:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


And they call it the dismal science

And speaking of economists, I didn't know until I saw him on a local cable public-affairs program that one of the things which influenced Paul Krugman to become an economist was reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy.

This is from the Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page:

Admittedly, there were those science fiction novels. Indeed, they may have been what made me go into economics. Those who read the stuff may be aware of the classic Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. It is one of the few science fiction series that deals with social scientists -- the "psychohistorians", who use their understanding of the mathematics of society to save civilization as the Galactic Empire collapses. I loved Foundation, and in my early teens my secret fantasy was to become a psychohistorian. Unfortunately, there's no such thing (yet). I was and am fascinated by history, but the craft of history is far better at the what and the when than the why, and I eventually wanted more. As for social sciences other than economics, I am interested in their subjects but cannot get excited about their methods -- the power of economic models to show how plausible assumptions yield surprising conclusions, to distill clear insights from seemingly murky issues, has no counterpart yet in political science or sociology. Someday there will exist a unified social science of the kind that Asimov imagined, but for the time being economics is as close to psychohistory as you can get.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 03:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Brad DeLong is very, very bitter (and with good reason)

MyFriendRoger pointed me to a good post by economist Brad DeLong, who expresses his bitterness with the wreck the Bush administration has made of the economy:

Why do so many of us who worked so hard on economic policy for the Clinton administration, and who think of ourselves as mostly part of a sane and bipartisan center, find the Bush administration and its Republican congressional lapdogs so... disgusting, loathsome, contemptible? Why are we so bitter?

After introspection, the answer for me at least as clear. We worked very hard for years to repair the damage that Ronald Reagan and company had done to America's fisc. We strained every nerve and muscle to find politically-possible and popularly-palatable ways to close the deficit, and put us in a position in which we can at least begin to think about the generational long-run problems of financing the retirement of the baby-boom generation and dealing with the rapidly-rising capabilities and costs of medicine. We saw a potential fiscal train wreck far off in the future, and didn't ignore it, didn't shrug our shoulders, didn't assume that it would be someone else's problem, but rolled up our sleeves and set to work.

Then the Bush people come in. And in two and a half years they trash the place. They trash the place deliberately. They trash the place casually. They trash the place gleefully. They undo our work for no reason at all--just for the hell of it. [...]


And every single senior Republican economic policy appointee comes out of a look back at the past three years looking very badly. X fails to organize meetings so that the long-run budgetary consequences of short-run policy moves are properly considered. Y pirouettes in midair and transforms from a deficit hawk into a deficit dove so as not to offend White House Media Affairs. Z lowballs the interest rate effects of higher deficits--and manages not to talk about the savings and investment effects at all. W mutters in the privacy of his own office about the importance of maintaining a surplus--but doesn't have the nerve to say "Boo!" to a goose (let alone to George W. Bush) once he steps outside his office door. V remains silent while the clown show that is the Bush economic policy process--a process he cannot view with equanimity--rolls forward. U cuts his own agency staff off at the knees and shows no interest in the very important and interesting work on the long-run fiscal options that they have done. Outsiders like R who assured me back in the fall of 2000 that Bush understood and would tackle the long-run problems of funding entitlements and the social-insurance state manage not to emit a public peep of complaint. Q talks about how much the president wants to reduce the deficit without daring to put his own position on the line within the administration by demanding that words like "deficits are bad" be accompanied by an actual plan to reduce the deficit. Every one. Every single last one.

And it is worth pointing out that it's not just the economic policymakers. The same holds true of all the other executive-branch Republican political appointees: defense, international affairs, science policy, social policy. Is there anybody (with the exceptions of John Donaldson and Mark McClellan) who has emerged or [will] emerge from this administration [with anything] like a reputation? And it's all the Republican senators and members of congress as well. People who used to have some claim to respect--paging Pete Domenici, anyone?--have simply rolled over and played dead.

"Is George W. Bush the worst president ever?" is the question that George Akerlof asks. A fish rots from the head, yes. But this fish is rotted all the way down to the tail.

Delong's bitterness is rooted in his professionalism and sense of duty to the country, but it encapsulates the way a lot of us feel, and how we've been feeling since the day in December 2000 when five biased and blatantly political Supreme Court justices stopped the lawful counting of votes in Florida and handed the White House to George W. Bush, in flagrant disregard of the law and common sense, in the process disrespecting democracy and every person who cast a vote in that election (and not just those who voted for Gore -- every participant in a democratic election has a vested interest in all votes being counted in a fair and impartial manner.)

Roger's reaction to DeLong's post captures as well some of our fears for the future. I post it here with his permission. [Edited by me -- Ed]

Having read enough of these economists, I am really convinced that if Bush wins re-election [sic] and continues to pursue the kinds of policies he has been pursuing to date, there will be a full-fledged economic meltdown in the U.S. (and, possibly, by extension the world) within a decade. To appreciate what I'm saying, you need to really think in terms of a Great Depression of some kind. I mean, all of us will be unemployed. I mean the economy will go into freefall. I mean, the U.S. could wind up declining into a genuine "second-rank" status.

I think, in short, that we may be standing on a genuine precipice.
There is literally a kind of insanity loose in our nation. The rightwingers are literally engaged in a kind of mass delusional behavior.
Depressingly, I am very certain that if (a) the Democrats do manage to win in 2004, and (b) they then somehow manage to keep the train from flying off the tracks, then (c) the rightwingers won't admit any wrongdoing or short-sightedness. They will, instead, be champing at the bit trying to regain power so that they can resume ALL of the idiocies they've been doing.

I keep thinking about how, in the last days of WWII -- as Berlin was under seige by Russian forces -- Nazi thugs were running around, finding 8 and 10 year old boys who were hiding rather than throwing themselves (armed only with sticks) against Russian infantry and armor. They would declare these boys "cowards" and "traitors," and hang them from streetlamps. They had time to do this even as their city was being overrun by Russian shock troops! Nothing -- literally not even the end of the world -- was quite enough to instill even an iota of doubt into the minds of these fiends.

Will we have to go through something similarly catastrophic?

What will be less painful and permanently disabling for ourselves and our nation: having the Democrats win in 2004, only to have to endure four or eight or twelve years of hate and deadlock just as Clinton experienced (along with all the brick-brats they can and will throw from their perch in Congress and the Courts) and then to experience yet another Bush-like slimeball winning office...

... Or would it be ultimately less painful to have Bush re-elected, along with a GOP-controlled Congress, so that when the nation runs into the brick wall and everything starts to crumble, there will be a chance that it'll be like the Great Depression all over gain: the rightwingers will be discredited massively, utterly, and driven to the political wilderness for a generation or more?

I don't know.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 02:17:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


New Dean don addresses the troops

Dean's new campaign manager (or "CEO"), Roy Neel (who I've been calling the "Gore guy" because I could not remember his name), posted a message to the troops on Dean's Blog for America. Josh Marshall says it strikes the right tone, and I'm prone to agree, but, like Marshall, I don't think it really changes anything.

One thing that interested me was this comment on the Dean blog, from "Jackie in OH", in response to Neel's message:

Joe Trippi is like an entrepenuer. Lots of vision and energy. Entrepenuers are essential in getting a new business (or in this case a campaign) started, but when the business (or campaign) matures, they often fall short on the management skill for the day to day operation. I think that is what has happened here. It isn't anything negative on Joe's part, it's just that the leadership to get something started is just different than what it takes to keep it going. Right now we do need someone who understands the nitty gritty inside stuff including the dirty tricks being pulled by some of the other campaigns. All of our efforts will be for nothing (including Joe's) if the campaign doesn't face it's problems head on.

This precisely mirrors my thinking, so I'm bound to agree with it. The problem is, those dot.coms and other Internet-based start-ups that ditched their visionary founders for run-of-the-mill corporate management have a pretty dismal record of success. And in this situation, there isn't a lot of time to let everyone get up to speed and turn the company around. If Dean doesn't win something very soon, even if its only Delaware, he's basically screwed.

All along the punditocracy (including rank amateur pundits like myself who have the inexplicable urge to share their lack of knowledge with anyone who comes down the pike) has been saying that Dean has money and organization and a 50-state campaign and would, because of all those things, be in it till the end. Now it turns out there's no money, the organization is in turmoil, and all the February 3rd states are being ignored in the hopes of bringing in Washington state or Michigan. Well, that's a strategy, of sorts, and perhaps the only one that's available to them in their straightened circumstances, but it's hardly a high-probability one, and it's one that could prove itself to be wanting very, very quickly.

Dean himself, in his talk to his staffers, talked about a long, drawn-out, "war of attrition", but that kind of campaign assumes that the insurgent is embedded in the community and can draw on those resources at liberty while the front-runner wears himself out trying to get rid of the thorn in their side. Problem is, the clock is ticking, and there's really no time for a long, drawn-out insurgency. The front-runner, piling up win after win (or, at least, delegate after delegate) can afford to wait it out, because, in this situation, time is on his side, not on the the side of the guerilla campaign. (And, in any event, what makes anyone think that Neel, coming from a big campaign background, is the right type of guy to run that kind of enterprise?)

No, I think everything now is stacked against Dean, and in a way that being the underdog, a condition that always has appeal for many Americans, really won't help much. So while I'm glad that Neel is enough of a good politico to know that he must pacify the troops before turning to the actual work that has to be done, it's almost a foregone conclusion ("inevitable," Matthew Yglesias might say) that Dean is done.

Postscript: Simon Rosenberg, writing on the blog of the New Democratic Network, has what I thin is a very good take on the long-term effect of Joe Trippi's work:

Pundits will be discussing for a long time the meaning of Dean, and will work to dissect what happened over the last six weeks. I’ve written about this some already (see Making Sense of Dean), but I think the easiest way to understand what has happened is that Dean, like many innovative insurgents, has had trouble turning his dynamic insurgency into a sustained and serious candidacy. But regardless of the outcome of the Democratic nomination, like many other insurgents he has created a vastly different political landscape and language.

The Dean insurgent phase - from June 2003 to Jan 2004 - also coincided with a remarkable rise of the Democratic Party. In our June poll from last year all Democrats trailed Bush by 16-20 points in direct matchups. Today, in the latest Newsweek poll, all Democrats are within the margin of error of Bush, and Kerry actually leads. As Dean the insurgent changed our Party the public responded to our new, stronger and better approach and we gained 15 points across the board for all candidates.

Dean’s full-throated indictment of Bush has become the industry standard; the tone, tenor and style of his Internet communications have been emulated by everyone in the Party and even Bush; and perhaps most importantly and lastingly, he has allowed the Party of the middle class to once again understand how to make the middle class a partner in our politics and not just consumers of our policies.


Dean and groups like MoveOn have shown that the Internet is an efficient and effective way to allow many new people to participate in the system again. And what the Dean campaign understood first is that by giving a role for regular people to play in your politics it made the argument that your campaign was really about the middle class much more compelling and true. Our audience as a Party has changed. And you can hear it in our language as a Party - the forgotten middle class is forgotten no more.

What Dean and its Trippi era have done is to make the Party of the middle class more authentically the champion of the middle class by fundamentally altering how we finance and imagine our politics. This campaign is about them. No winks, no nods. We now know that we can only win this race with not just their votes but with their active participation in our politics again.

Our frontrunner Kerry has adopted this approach. He talks of his website, talks of taking back the country from the special interests, talks about how all of this is for "us" and not him. And if it sounds like he means it, he does.

My fellow New Democrats, this is what we've been calling for for twenty years - a politics driven by the interests of the middle class. What many in our movement have not understood is what Trippi understood – that to be true to our word, to be the true champions of the middle class, we would have to fundamentally change our politics, and make it more participatory, more open, more iterative, and more democratic.

The Dean/Trippi contribution to all of progressive politics – including us New Democrats – has been huge. They clearly made mistakes along the way, perhaps fatal ones, but it cannot change the fact that our politics and our party today are stronger for it.

[via Tapped]

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/30/2004 12:53:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Don't take this lying down

Headline on the AOL Welcome screen, advertising advice on how wives can pretend to know a lot about football in order to get closer to their husbands on Super Bowl Sunday:


I leave it to your imagination as to how this headline could be misinterpreted. (Hint: What other kind of "pro" is required to "fake it"?)

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2004 12:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Dean done

I was out of it last night, so I've just now read about Dean firing Joe Trippi, his campaign manager and the architect of the Internet/Meet-up based revolution that was the dynamic that fueled the whole Dean phenomenon. Trippi was replaced with a Gore guy, an inside-the-beltway type.

It's just a gut feeling at this point, but I think this means that Dean is indeed dead. Dead, dead, dead.

Figure this: Trippi created this amazing thing that allowed Dean to raise more money than anyone else, and to do so in a way that doesn't beholden him to established interests. Trippi also creates (or at least facilitates) the whole Deaniac volunteer phenomenon that underlies the fantastic organization that Dean is supposed to have. But Dean loses two contests, so of course there's going to be some thought of making changes.

So, what does a good executive, no a great executive do? He finds a way to make everyone happy. He manipulates and cajoles and glad-hands and scolds and allows folks to cry on his shoulder and slaps 'em on the back and bucks them up and, in the end, he keeps the talent he's got and brings in the new talent that he thinks he needs. That's was a great executive does.

Clearly, Dean is not a great executive. He took the easy way, cut loose one guy and hired another. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. Any two-bit jerk can do that, I can do that, it takes talent and sensitivity and skill to do the other. And you know what, those are just the qualities we should be looking for in a President, skill and talent and sensitivity.

So, regardless of how well Dean does in the next two mini-cycles of primaries, his bubble is burst. The leader of the cult has shown his vulnerability and his lack of real talent for the job, and the troops will be demoralized in a way that Iowa and New Hampshire did not do. He may survive for weeks, he may go to the end, but the halo is gone, the uniqueness of what he had at hand is over, now he's just another politician who wants to be President.

He's dead in the water, it just may take us some time to find the body.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2004 09:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Kerry Package

In Slate, William Saletan (a Lieberman Democrat by his own admission, it should be noted) observes about Kerry:

Like my colleague Chris Suellentrop, I've watched the Kerry surge with amazement. I've asked myself how Kerry is persuading previously skeptical voters to change their minds about him. The answer is, he isn't. Other people are doing the persuasion. Other people are doing the testimonial ads, as first lady Christie Vilsack did for Kerry in Iowa. Other people are firing up his crowds. Other people are telling his story. Other people are touting his virtues at rallies because he doesn't reliably display those virtues himself. The man who stood up to serve his country as a soldier is being propped up as a candidate.

He goes on to catalogue Kerry's various shortcomings as a physical candidate, which is the kind of thing which really concerns me about Kerry.

As I've said any number of times, I don't have anything against Kerry, really, but I have graves doubts that the intangible part of the Kerry package are sufiiciently strong enough to overcome Bush. His stiffness is reminiscent of Gore's, and that's not promising. I've already posted about Josh Marshall's comments that his campaign seems to alternate between competence and complacency, much as Gore's did. There is no way, no matter how much populist rhetoric he churns out, that he's going to appear to the common man as just one of the gang down at the American Legion, and, for all that we can see through Bush's facade, he's still perceived that way, as one of the guys.

Kerry is also vulnerable to charges of "flip-flopping" on Iraq, because his stance, although intellectual justifiable and consistent on its own terms, is complex and multicolored and much harder to understand than Bush's, Lieberman's or Dean's black & white positions. He's physically odd looking, with a face that, in Mo Rocca's words, looks like it's melting. (Yes, this is superficial and stupid, but, like the height thing -- Kerry is OK in that department, but so was Gore and it didn't help him -- people this stuff into account, even if they're not aware they're doing it.)

I'm not trying to torpedo Kerry, and I don't have a viscerally negative response to him, as some people seem to have to Dean (and as most of the liberals I know have to Bush) but I do worry about him, I really do.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2004 09:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Scoring the seerage

A couple of days ago, I made some predictions about the outcome of New Hampshire. Let see how I did:

My guess.... er, carefully considered analysis, is that the order of finish will be:

Kerry / Dean / Edwards / Clark / Lieberman

Close, but no cigar, unless they count the last 3% of precincts and the absentee ballots and Clarks' current 705 vote advantage disappears.


  • I predict that Lieberman's showing will be quite bad (under 10%) and he will drop out shortly afterwards. I nailed the first part, but, unfortunately for us all, Lieberman has refused to quit the race. Score me 1 for 2.

  • Kerry will lead Dean by more than 10 points, but Dean's showing will be credible enough to keep him moving ahead, and possibly strong enough to start the media talkng about a "comeback" (although he probably won't be dubbed the "Comeback Kid"). Hard to know how to score this. Kerry's lead was more than 10, that one's clear; whether Dean's showing is "credible" depends on who's doing the spinning; that he's "moving ahead" is undeniable; no one is talking about a Dean comeback (though Kerry has dubbed himself the "comeback Kerry") I'll score this as 4 predictions, of which I'll credit myself with 2 right, and 1 undecided. Total so far: 3 for 6, 1 pending

  • The media will consider Edward's results to be "good" and Clark's to be "disappointing", but both will continue in the race. 2 for 2 on this, despite the fact that their vote tallies are, for all intents and purposes, indistingishable. That's the funof the "expectations" game, which almost as jolly as the "momentum" game. Total: 5 for 8, 1 pending

  • Immediately after NH Kerry will start having problems again as he lapses into complacency (as per Josh Marshall's comments the other day) and starts getting attacked by the media again, being the frontrunner. Too soon to know about Kerry's problems and complacency, but I think we can take it as read that since he's now officially the frontrunner, the media will start attacking him again, just as they attack all frontrunners, with the exception of conservative Republican frontrunners. Total me up as 6 for 9, 2 pending

  • Like death, taxes and Dennis Miller, Sharpton will be impossible to get rid of, even though his results will be microscopic. This was a joke, not unlike Sharpton.

  • And Kucinich.... is he really still running? Another joke, since he's walking, not running. (Alright, he's crawling.)
And that's the name of that tune. I also resolutely predict that my average this time will be better than 25% -- unless you count that as one of my predictions. It turns out that my average was better this time, 66% instead of Iowa's 33%, for an overall prognostication score of 70%, with several items still awaiting further data.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2004 07:42:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bush to get Rudy, Cheney to get dicked?

Speculation, from MSNBC's gossip columist, that Giuliani will replace Cheney on the Bush ticket this year seems pretty loopy to me, especially in light of all the evidence that Cheney is the guy actually running things behind the scenes.

of course, as Josh Marshall pointed out, he's been pretty much 100% wrong about, well, pretty much everything, and he continues to yap about how dangerous Saddam was, what with all those WMDs he had ready to use against us, even after David Kay admitted there weren't any, and it's almost getting to be that you can kind of tell that Tim Russert is actually preparing to get ready to someday soon think about maybe contradicting Cheney when he's on Meet The Press (at some future date to be determined at a later time, when Tim and his analyst think he's strong enough for it), but, even so...

Despite the evidence of Pinocchio, Magic and that episode of The Twilight Zone, it's fairly infrequent that the puppet is able to survive without the puppeteer or the dummy without the ventriloquist.


Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2004 05:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I got an email on the blog's address yesterday from "" and I was elated, figuring that Mr. Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, needed my help in re-directing the strange editorial policies of that once august paper. Unfortunately the e-mail, which had the subject header "HELLO", was empty, which I chalked up to a problem in the system I use for blog mail. (It doesn't like graphics and won't pass along attachments.) So I sent Mr. Hiatt a response, explaining that his message had been blank, and giving him another address to use.

Today, I got another message labelled "Hello", and three with some variation of "Mail returned failure" and another with a title I can't recall, and I suddenly realized that what I thought was my pathway to media success, was actually just the newest Internet worm trying to propagate itself. Not a ticket to ride, just dead, dried up, worm sperm.

So much for that. But I do wonder, if the worm propagates itself through people's address books on corporate computers, as this article indicates, why did Fred Hiatt have the address of my blog in his address book?

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2004 03:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Spam "word salad" explained

I posted a few weeks ago about a friend who had gotten some weird e-mail, spam that resembled Dadaist poetry. This article in the NY Times goes some way towards explaining what that's all about. (Although, in the case of my friend's mail, I still don't know what was being sold.)

Many experts believe that solving the spam problem will require a combination of approaches. But laws take forever to pass and amend. Technological fixes like sender authentication and electronic stamps would also take time to carry out, but filtering is already here - and it is reducing the spammers' messages to feeble signals swamped by a roar of alphanumeric noise.

The turning point came in August 2002 when a computer scientist, Paul Graham, issued a manifesto called "A Plan for Spam," describing how to filter e-mail using a statistical method discovered in the 18th century by the English theologian and mathematician Thomas Bayes. Bayesian e-mail filters had been studied for years, but with Mr. Graham's paper the idea went mainstream.

Presented with thousands of examples of good and bad e-mail, a Bayesian filter compiles a list ranking each word according to how likely it is to appear in junk e-mail. Rising to the top of the roster are high scorers like Valium, Xanax, mortgage, porn and Viagra. Settling toward the bottom are words like deciduous, cashmere and intensify. Hovering in the middle are the vast number of neutral words that can swing either way.

When a new piece of e-mail arrives, the filtering program counts up the words and computes an overall ranking. If the number exceeds a certain threshold, the message is rejected as spam.

A message from a friend saying that she is so worried about refinancing her mortgage that she took a Valium will pique the filter's interest. But most of the text will probably consist of words with neutral or very low rankings, dragging down the score and allowing the e-mail to go through.

If a spam promising "l0w m0rtg@ge rates" slips by, the filter is informed by the user that it has made an error. The mutation is then moved higher on the list, as well as future mutations of the mutation, until the spammer is reduced to sending gobbledygook. A recent e-mail message making the rounds promised "Leacatharsisrn to make a fortcongestiveune on eBay!" (A Web link inside led to a site with information on a money-making auction scheme.)

Increasingly the subject lines convey no meaning at all: "begonia breadfruit extempore defocus purveyor." For the spammer, the hope, slim as it seems, is that a few curious souls will open and read the e-mail, which begins, "I finally was able to lsoe the wieght" and goes on to offer a product "Guanarteed to work or your menoy back!" Read out loud, the message sounds a little like HAL the computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey" sinking into aphasia as its synapses are severed one by one.

In what may be their final death throes, some spammers have begun sending messages consisting of a single image or a one-line sales pitch - "picospams" - with a link to a Web site. Often appended at the end, in an attempt to flummox the filters, is a scrap of Dadaist poetry - "feverish squirt feat transconductance terrify broken trite fascist axis stultify floc bookshelves. " Sometimes this "word salad," as it has come to be called, is rendered in invisible ink - white letters on a white background - or hidden inside an embedded formatting command.

No matter. The filters learn to adapt. If the spammers want to stay in business, ultimately they must convey at least a hint of meaning. After all, you cannot send a completely random message - or one that is blank - and expect many people to click the link.

[via Follow Me Here]

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2004 02:02:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

NH primary real-time blogging

7:50pm EST Assuming that CNN has exit polling data from which they can draw conclusions about the NH race, and which they're holding back until the polls close in 10 minutes or so, then I think we might be able to conclude that Kerry is going to win. I say this because they're still showing on CNN subtitles about Kerry polling ahead at the end and Dean "hoping" for a comeback, and, human nature being what it is, if they already knew Dean was going to upset Kerry, they wouldn't be running those titles, because doing so would make them look stupid when they announced their projections.

It's reading tea leaves, but that's my theory.

8:00 CNN reporting Kerry is leading, but it's very close, and no projection can be made. Numbers being shown: Kerry 38 / Dean 24 / Edward 13 / Clark 13 / Lieberman 10

8:03 Boston Globe has the same figures, with 10% of precincts in.

8:12 Just saw on Calpundit that an average of the exit polls he saw to that point was: Kerry - 35.7 / Dean - 31.1 / Edwards - 12.6 / Clark - 11.5 / Lieberman - 6.4

8:21 It didn't take long -- CNN just called Kerry the winner. Of course, the really interesting question at this point is by how much? (My sofabed is occupied by a house guest who needs to get up early tomorrow to catch a plane, so I can't flip around to get other media outlet's reports, I'm limited to CNN for my news.)

8:29 With 29% reporting, Kerry's lead over Dean goes up a point and Edwards opens up a lead (1 point) over Clark.

8:45 45% in, Kerry keeps moving ahead 39-24. FWIW, my e-mail discussion group (13 people voting) collectively predicted Kerry 31.5 / Dean 24 / Edwards 19.7 / Clark 17 / Lieberman 7, which really doesn't look all that bad as a prediction by amateurs right now.

8:47 Gotta go back and read those blog entries about a brokered convention.

8:48 CNN now saying that Kerry's spread will be 10%, which I figure is just about the breakpoint for Dean. Anything below 10% and he'd be trumpeting a "comeback", between 10 and 15% he'd be more cautious, above 15% and he'd be in trouble, I think.

9:04 On Daily Kos, both Kos and Tom Schaller are writing Dean off. I'm not so sure. He's got the money to go on, and if I were in his shoes, I'd at least continue one more week to see what happens on Feb 3. If he doesn't pick up at least one win then, then I agree, he's dead in the water.

9:07 Kerry's still 15 points ahead with 49% of the precincts counted, which is not what Dean wants to see right now. I would think that he wants, and needs, to see it closing down some in order to continue to seem credible. Dean's on Larry King, staying on message, continuing to position himself as a Washington outsider with executive experience. He looks rather calm and collected, and surely every media person in the western world is going to watch to see what kind of speech he makes tonight. Dean says he doesn'thave to win next week to stay in the game, but that seems more like spin than reality.

9:15 CNN is still saying Kerry's win will be "at least" 10%, but shouldn't we be seeing things tighten up a bit if it's going to be that close? With 56% in Kerry is still ahead by 14%, and that's very close to dangerous territory for Dean. Edwards and Clark still tight, with Edwards still ahead by a point.

9:21 Come to think of it, the fact that Edwards is still in it at this point is pretty amazing. I was saying many weeks ago (with typical rank amateur hubris) that he didn't have a chance. It's nice to see him acknowledge, on Larry King, that he must win South Carolina to stay in it. Frankly, I'd like to see more of that kind of tactical frankness from Dean, but, then, Dean has more to lose than Edwards does. No one's going to be knocking on Howard Dean's door about the Vice Presidency any time soon. And, in fact, my (please note rank amateur hubris) prediction is that this is Dean's one and only shot at the Big One. I can see him standing for Senator, but he'll never be a viable candidate for President again if he doesn't pull this off.

9:24 I'm considering a new slogan for this site: unfutz: Why get your conventional wisdom from a professional, when you can get it from a rank amateur? I think it's got good possibilities.

9:27 Waiting for Clark and Kerry. Aside: real-time blogging on a dial-up connection is really a pain.

9:32 In a piece of really bad timing, both Clark and Kerry come out on the stage to make their statements at the same time. Don't their people watch TV?

9:34 OK, Clark has now left the stage after shaking hands. Maybe he's waiting to allow Kerry his moment? The same kind of thing happened last week, when the networks had to cut away from Edwards' speech to show what became infamous as Dean's Scream (aka the Rebel Yell). CNN's going with Kerry (of course). As I've said before, I don't have anything particular against Kerry, and I'm heartened by the poll that shows his beating Bush 49 to 46, but I still have concerns about his viability when put up against Bush. There are a lot of negatives attached to him, both tangible and intangible, and he's, well, kinda boring. He's speaking now, and he's not exactly scintillating.

9:40 71% in and it's still 39-25. It starts to look like CNN was being ultra-cautious in citing a 10% spread. Dean's hanging on by his fingernails, by the standards I established so authoritatively about an hour ago.

9:44 I can't stand the tension! 72% in and it's 38-26!! What a race!!!

9:45 I was just going to write to complain that Edwards was speaking at the same time as Kerry, and how stupid that was, that he was wasting his free-TV moment, but CNN then cut away to him, so maybe he timed it exactly right. Kerry was into the laundry list part of his speech, he was hardly being captivating, and the net decided to get some fresh meat. But Edwards is giving his stump speech, pretty much the exact same thing he did in Iowa. He's got the learn the difference between staying on message and boring people. Make all the same points, but do it differently. Is he programmed, or what?

9:50 I switched over to C-SPAN to see some more of Kerry, and I agree with CNN's decision. Edwards is more interesting. But then I switched back to CNN and they had switched to Clark, who did to Edwards what Edwards did to Kerry, starting speaking in the middle and forced the network to switch. Will Dean do it to Clark now?

9:54 No, it's Lieberman, in fifth with 9%. He should drop out, but apparently won't, at least not immediately. He's got money invested in the Feb 3rd primaries,, but surely that's his last hurrah?

9:56 Lieberman's spinning the results as a "three way split decision for third place" which is not only b.s. (third is between Edwards and Clark, Joe has always been behind them both), but it's pretty pitiful b.s. as well -- I'm not first, I'm not second, but I'm almost good enough to be third! Hurray!!

10:00 Dean hasn't spoken yet (although he's appeared on Larry King) -- is he waiting for everyone to go to sleep, to avoid another embarrassment? Probably just waiting for all the others to finish. (Will he give Kucinich and Sharpton a chance as well? Nah.)

10:01 It's official, CNN says Kerry is the FRONT RUNNER! Also, it was a record turnout. I assume that the number of undeclared voters will be high, and that will turn out to be a significant part of Kerry's win. Dean appeals to the grassroots hardcore party faithful, and Kerry to independents and the Democratic establishment.

10:03 Dean's about to speak, will he start off with a joke?

10:12 My computer froze, so I had to reboot it while watching Dean's speech. He's making very good use of the media attention he's getting at this moment, being calm and strangely moving at times. Instead of the Rebel Yell, he started off with "Holy cow" and ""My goodness" and "Wow" at the response of his crowd. He talked about regaining momentum, which is debatable given the result, but I guess he had to say that. He's attacking Bush strongly, and that's good. Bush is divisive, he's lost the respect of the world, he's taken away our country. Dean's is not obviously performing the way Edwards can appear to, and he doesn't induce somnolence as Kerry did tonight. He's not being manic, but he's still human and energized. (One annoying thing he does is when he smiles, he pulls in his chin to make double-chins that aren't normally there.) Now he's thanking volunteers, and CNN is sticking with him, which reminds me that at times the whole Dean thing seems as much a small cultural movement, almost a mini-cult, as it is a political campaign. OK, Kerry's had enough of Dean's speech, so he's talking to CNN, but his timing is bad, he should have done that five minutes ago. (Maybe CNN kept him on hold.)

10:22 Noted: At about 80% reporting, Clark and Edwards flip-flopped, with Clark now (at 84%) at 13% and Edwards at 12%. Kerry-Dean is still 39-26.

10:24 Now Wolfie and what's-her-name on CNN are hitting Kerry with GOP talking points about his voting record, and being a "liberal Massachusetts tax-and-spend Democratic Senator". Kerry: "If being in favor of balancing the budget means that I'm a liberal, then call me a liberal." He almost reclaims the liberal label as a badge of distinction, except that all of his examples are things that are generally not considered to be typical of liberals, so he's subverting it at the same time.

10:26 Just had to mute Joe Lieberman who's repeating his absurd spin about a "virtual split decision for third place" I can take a certain amount of spinning as being necessary to save face, or keep one's momentum from dissipating entirely, but there does come a time when it moves across a line into stupidity and dishonesty. Anyone who believes that Joe is neck-and-neck for third deserves to have him as their President.

10:30 Jeff Greenfield just asked Lieberman why Kerry isn't a "main stream Democrat", and the answer: just look at his record. Thanks, Joe, thanks for doing Rove's job for him, just a little. What a jerk. Tune in and drop out, Joe, you're not wanted. (Someone open up some new video games and use them to lure Joe back to Connecticut, please.)

10:41 Can I point out that the media tends to talk as if only one candidate can come out of an election with "momentum", but if momentum in politics is anything like momentum in physics, it's not a unique state of being, but a description of the quality of a certain kind of change in that state of being. It's quite possible that every candidate can have some amount of "momentum," but that one has more than another -- which is why I can speak of Joe Lieberman spinning like crazy in order not to see what little forward motion he has dissipate away entirely. (And yes, I know that the metaphor was lifted from sports, where it usually is an either/or kind of thing, but it bugs me there as well, especially since the effect of the "momentum" in sports is in the psychology of the participants, as their belief in their own ability to win helps to make it possible for them to win, but the effect of the "momentum" in politics is really in the psychology of the observers and reporters -- and to some extent in the electorate -- and not in that of the candidates.)

10:56 It's worth noting, for what it's worth (amid all the talk of momentum) that only a very tiny percentage of delegates have been committed at this point, and that, right now, with New Hampshire included, Dean has 112 and Kerry 95. From that standpoint alone, it's hard to see why Dean would stop now, or why (pace Kos and Schaller) he can't win. Although it is official Dean campaign spin (as reported by Schaller on DailyKos), the fact that Clinton didn't win the first 10 events he entered does have to be recognized as saying that there's more than one pathway that can lead to the nomination, and that the conventional wisdom (whether spewed by professionals or parroted by amateurs) doesn't have to be right. It's just "conventional" not gospel.

11:15 Kos has a great story in the results of the Republican:

The best story of the night? The one that should unite us all? From the Republican primary results:

Bush 57,670
Kerry 835
Dean 633
Clark 545
Edwards 541

That's over 2,500 registered Republicans who wrote in a Democrat in their ballot.

That's got to scare the shit out of Rove.

Really, that's extremely good news. Kos also comments that delegate counts don't mean much at this point, that momentum is more important. I dunno, I think the whole momentum thing is a bit overblown, but Kos's point about Dean's delegate count being heavy with superdelegates, who can change their allegiance at any time is a good one.

11:29 On Kos comments, StopKerry makes a good point about the way the media defines expectations and momentum (which is another good reason to be suspicious of it):

John Edwards finishes 2nd in an Iowa caucus where he campaigned hard, then rides into NH on a huge media high. He manages 12%, behind Clark, lower for Edwards than many actually were predicting by yesterday. He leads in only one single poll--South Carolina (with Clark in 2nd...)(!) and barely shows in others.... Meanwhile he gets a positive spin from THAT?

Then you have Clark. The guy pulled out 13% in a state he had probably never even been to before and in which Kerry/ Dean/ Lieberman lived for 2 years.... He had to skip Iowa because he got in the race late. He has never campaigned in his life. In other words, he's shown incredible raw talent and brilliant resume enough to sway people to him. He is leading in Arizona and Oklahoma, close in South Carolina...BUT this is a disappointment heading South???

Also, why the heck isn't everyone calling for Lieberman to drop it??? The guy got 9% in state near his own and spent more time there than anyone -- literally, he MOVED there.

11:35 Reality intrudes: a "powerful explosion" in the center of Baghdad.

11:56 97% in, Clark ahead of Edwards by 714. Third place might be determined by absentee ballots!

11:58 Dean on Koppel working hard to re-define himself as the insurgent -- a matter of necessity, given the results in Iowa and New Hampshire, but probably all to the better for his campaign, which seems to work best when it's operating out of the glare of frontrunning.

12:20 CNN's vote ticker got stuck for a while, only showing the second half of their list (Edwards, Lieberman and Kucinich), but just before they broke for commercial I saw Clark at 26,554 and Edwards at 25,849, a difference of 705 votes with 97% of precincts counted. I'm only hanging around to see the final tally of who finished third.

12:25 Kucinich on CNN, as annoying from left of center as Lieberman is from the right. Both should take their lumps and go home. The odd thing is that every time I take one of those "Find Your Presidential Candidate" surveys, that are supposed to match up one's personal views with those of a candidate, my list of match-up has always been headed by Kucinich, and yet I really can't stand the guy. I didn't like his flip-flop on abortion, it seem disingenuous and opportunistic, and the very fact that his views match my own so closely almost automatically make him impossible to elect to the White House in this country. CNN doesn't take him seriously either, he's on after midnight, and after Al Sharpton.

12:35 Mo Rocca says John Edwards is a cross between a populist boy-band singer, and that Wes Clark's only hope is to use his military experience to stage a coup. Lieberman, he says, is like one of those Japanese soldiers who came out of a cave 20 years after the end of World War 2.

1:03 Everything seems to be stuck at 97%, with Clark 705 votes ahead of Edwards, so I'm going to shut it down for the time being. I'd like to thank everyone here at unfutz central command who contributed to the success of tonight's operation, and pledge to use the momentum we've been blessed with tonight to move forward to a new order, where we will be divided no longer, but will come together in peace, love, understanding and a fair tax code. I'd especially like to thank all those who took the time to stop by and post something to the comments section, making the discussion there as lively and informative as anything I've ever seen on the Internet. You guys are great. Good night, and may God bless America.

1:27 Entire post spell-checked and copy-edited to make me appear less ignorant than I actually is... am. The title was also changed. ("Come hear me sing, mama" no longer seemed to fit the content.)

Update (11:40am): AP is finally reporting 100% of the vote, and Clark holds on to 3rd by 839 votes:

John Kerry 84,229 38%
Howard Dean 57,788 26%
Wesley Clark 27,254 12%
John Edwards 26,415 12%
Joe Lieberman 18,829 9%

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 07:50:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Hello, MUDDA

Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel are smart guys, always ahead of the curve musically, socially and intellectually. It looks from the AP report excerpted below as if theyve seen past the current business-as-usual impasse in the music industry, and are trying to help create a better paradigm.

Rock veterans Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are launching a provocative new musicians' alliance that would cut against the industry grain by letting artists sell their music online instead of only through record labels.

With the Internet transforming how people buy and listen to songs, musicians need to act now to claim digital music's future, Gabriel and Eno argued Monday as they handed out a slim red manifesto at a huge dealmaking music conference known as Midem.

They call the plan the "Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists" -- or MUDDA, which has a less lofty ring to it.

"Unless artists quickly grasp the possibilities that are available to them, then the rules will get written, and they'll get written without much input from artists," said Eno, who has a long history of experimenting with technology.

By removing record labels from the equation, artists can set their own prices and set their own agendas, said the two independent musicians, who hope to launch the online alliance within a month.

The music industry, of course, would rather issue "John Doe" lawsuits and hit up 17-year-olds for a couple grand apiece, in the mistaken impression that anyone under 25 is going to be inhibited from downloading music because of some other dude's bad luck in being caught. (As if.)

One has to wish Gabriel and Eno the best of luck -- with the entrenched forces they're up against, they're going to need it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 08:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Hypothetically speaking (or not)

On American Street, Dave Johnson, in hypothetical mode, posits for the sake of argument that the intentions of the Bush administration are nothing but completely benign. Still...

Regardless of THEIR intentions, no one can deny that the Republicans have worked to break down the mechanisms of oversight of their activities. They have implemented unprecedented secrecy in government. They have blocked accountability for, even examination of their actions in every instance. They have undone the protections against political abuses put in place after Watergate. The have built anti-terrorism systems that are CAPABLE of spying on their political opponents. They have passed laws bypassing civil liberties that COULD BE used against any or all of us at any time. They have put in place a system of rule-by-intimidation in the Congress, and decision-by-ideology in the courts. And they have fostered an atmosphere of fear across the entire government, smearing and destroying the reputations of any who dare cross them.

Let’s just say that, of course, THESE particular right-wingnuts are good, honest, well-motivated public servants. Fine. But they have left us with nothing to stop other, bad people from taking advantage of the opening this particular crop of fine, upstanding wingnuts has created. And with the government wide-open for corruption and takeover, is there any doubt that there ARE people who would want to take advantage, step in, and take hold of the reigns of power?

I think Dave is correct as far as he goes, that the policies of the Bush administration (both domestically and abroad) have tremendously increased the possibility of the reigns of our government being taken by extremists who are, if not classically fascist (but then, no one can really quite agree on what "fascism" is) then certainly quasi-fascistic.

The trouble is that an armed take-over, or a putsch, would almost certainly be countered by the military and would also rile the spirits of many, if not most, American citizens, and would therefore not be guaranteed to be effective, so a way would have to be found to bring these extremists to power using the very mechanisms of democracy. A huge campaign warchest would have to be quickly assembled and a relatively unknown candidate would have to be found who was apparently affable and unthreatening in most circumstances, but who would project strongly moralistic views about good and evil and saving our country from its own destructive impulses. (The best tack would be to hold closely to straightforward Christian themes, since these resonate so well even in many non-Christians.)

During the election, the candidate would have to hide the extremist views of the people he'd eventually be fronting for and "run from the center", promising to bring unity and humility to government, while at the same time signalling subtly to various radical groups his acquiescence to their dogma. Because nothing is certain in a true democracy, behind the scenes every effort would have to be made to harm the opposition candidate, using smears, innuendo, outright lies and falsehoods repeated incessantly. Steps would have to be taken to reduce the turnout of those who might not vote for the extremist candidate, by way of threats and intimidation, propaganda and false information, as well as by various structural means to eliminate problematic voters from the roles entirely.

And, in the end, if these herculean labors were not to deliver a clear-cut victory, every effort would have to be made to use the vast influence of the extremists to manipulate the results to guarantee their success.

So, as you can see, the number of people and events and circumstances which would have to come together in order to bring about such an extra-democratic result is so large, that the probability of it happening is fairly slim, so we can probably rest easy, even given the bad policy decisions made by the Bush administration.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 02:27:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Whaddya call...

I've seen young supporters of Howard Dean called, pretty universally, "Deanies", but what do you call those who support Wesley Clark?

Clarkies? Clarkites? Clarkists? Clarkians? Clarkophiles? Clarkettes? Clarkomaniacs? Clarkfen? Clarkbars? Clarkents?


Update: I came across a reference to Dean's people as "Deaniacs", so maybe "Deanies" isn't as universal as I thought. And do I recall also seeing "Deanheads" (on the model of "Deadheads," of course).

Since Dean is actively fighting the invidious comparison of his campaign to that of George McGovern, he probably also wouldn't want to invite memories of Eugene McCarthy's "Children's Crusade" by telling his younger volunteers to "Keep clean for Dean."

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 01:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Billmon: Davos discovers the blogs

Billmon has some really good stuff on the role of bloggers and blogging in the mediasphere, and their future (if they have a future), all prompted by (of all things) a panel discussion on blogs at (of all places) the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Some highlights:

For the most part, I'd say these guys got it -- particularly [Jay] Rosen [chair of the NYU journalism department], who drew some interesting comparisons between blogs and the original newspapers that appeared in the London coffee houses of the early 18th century. Those early broadsheets, he noted, were largely the work of individual writers, who commented on political or economic or foreign events they learned about through their private correspondence with other writers.

Rosen's point, I think, is that communications technology may be moving in a great historical cycle. The invention of the printing press -- followed by radio and then television -- created a progressively more capital-intensive media industry, with an increasing division of labor among reporters, editors, printers, advertising whores, um, I mean, salesmen, etc. The invention of the Internet, however, has shifted the balance back towards the individual writer/publisher, doing his/her own thing, reporting or commenting on events they find through their own research, either on the web or off.

The difference, of course, is that what was once limited to a small literate elite in the 18th century is available to millions of people the world over in the 21st. This is a revolution by anybody's definition, and could even, in time, spell the end of the mainstream media as we know it. Or, as Rosen put it: "The age of the mass media is just that -- an age. It doesn't have to last forever."


[B]logs are doing more than just about any other modern institution (if institution is the right word for something as anarchistic as the blogosphere) to recreate a common communication space, and encourage maximum public participation.

Just because the web is decentralized doesn't mean it's fractured. Thanks to the miracle of Google (not to mention the even more powerful search tools coming on line) any piece of information or artistic content that exists anywhere on the web is also accessible everywhere on the web. This is why experiences (Dean's yeaaahhh!!!) can shared so widely. And the sharing is two-way. I can sit here in Davos and make fun of the scream, and others can flame me for helping destroy the greatest presidential candidate in American history.

What draws all this yacking together into a common space is the natural human desire for community -- for a place to exchange thoughts with other people who share similiar interests or experiences. But that's where the blogosphere begins, not where it ends. How many of us in the 'sphere have had the experience of following a chain of links to a topic we've never encountered before? How often have we exchanged opinions or information with people who are experts in areas that we know nothing, or next to nothing, about?

That's the fundamental difference between the web and the mainstream mass media, which is strictly top down. By splitting the audience into narrower and narrower fragments, based on interests or demographics, the mass media does destroy the public space, and replaces it with a bunch of pipes, or information "stacks" -- as in a processor chip -- that run from Time-Warner-AOL-Capital-Cities-Disney-ABC-Viacom-Fox (or whatever) down to the target audience.


The net is capable of deciding -- in a completely democratic way what topics it wants to explore. In effect, the news agenda is put to a continuous vote, with Google counting the ballots. Everyone and anyone is free to contest the results, but if the blogosphere wants to talk about, say, Dean's scream, then that will become the metaphorical equivalent of the lead story on page one -- until something comes along that attracts more votes.

This is what terrifies the mass media: the threat of losing control of the news agenda. There were a number of mainstream journalists in the audience at the Davos session, and after the speakers had spoken they stood up one after the other to protest the Brave New World they thought the panel was trying to sell.


Just the fact that blogging showed up on the agenda at Davos this year is probably a bad sign. I can't shake the suspicion that the golden age of blogging is almost over -- that the corporate machine is about to swallow it, digest it, and regurgitate it as bland, non-threatening pablum. Our brief Summer of Love may be nearing an end.

There's more (I think his comments about the effect of blogging's potentially parisitical relationship with the media -- the "free-rider" problem -- are something that the big-time bloggers, the Instapundits and Atrioses, have to put some energy into considering), and all of it of great interest (so much so that I was tempted to re-post the entire thing here), so make sure to head over to Billmon's Whiskey Bar and take it all in.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 01:42:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Absent Without Legs?

On the Clark/Michael Moore/Peter Jennings/Bush AWOL story, let me point everyone to this post on Orcinus, which sums up a lot of material.

[Thanks to Roger for the link]

However, I'm not terribly enthusiastic about the re-emergence of this story, for reasons I expressed to a friend this way:

You're going to hate me, but I think the entire issue is a non-starter. It didn't play the last time around and I doubt it'll play now. The *most* it may do is make Rove and the Rovers hesitate a bit before attacking Kerry or Clark about anything military, because the AWOL thing is an obvious rejoinder, but it's *very* unlikely that they'd try a frontal assault in that territory anyway. At most, you're going to see proxy attacks or under-the-radar stuff with plenty of plausible deniability -- you know, RNC-leaked talking points played out on Limbaugh and Free Republic, or very (very) coded comments in speeches meant to be decoded by the faithful. I doubt they'll come right out in public with anything notable.

As for the story itself, I don't know why, but I find it really, well, uninteresting is the most apt word. I don't think it has media legs, because the media (the big time media) won't pick up on it just like they didn't pick up on it before, since nothing's changed, there's no new evidence, and the evidence that there is is both circumstantial and negative -- there's no smoking gun, no document that really proves the claim, no person who will come forward and support the claim publicly and definitively, so all the reasons that the media didn't run with it before are there still. Why would they change their minds? Its coming up now was in the form of an attack on Clark, and the claim was (as part of the question) dismissed as "unwarranted" by Jennings.

The fact that it's (very slightly) in play again, at least on the liberal blogs, is good, I guess, but it doesn't excite me and I can't see putting much energy behind it.

For what it's worth, I agree with those that say that Moore's use of "deserter" is technically inaccurate, but I also believe that if my choices are to accept Bush as an upstanding citizen who fulfilled his military obligation with honor (which is what the White House wants me to accept) or that Bush is a deserter, then I'd say that a pilot who went AWOL for the better part of a year is much closer to the latter than he is to the former.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/27/2004 12:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, January 26, 2004


I've been watching various candidates do their stump speeches as telecast on C-SPAN, and I have a couple of, well, not insights, exactly, but comments:

  • After a Clark event, I watched as Clark pressed the flesh around the room. There were several young women who obviously had stars in their eyes for Clark, they were clearly smitten by him in what looked like a puppy-love kind of way. They radiated their smiles at 100,000 watts and kept their eyes firmly attached to the candidate. As he approached, they tensed for the contact... and then lost a little of their luster, as Clark quicky shook a hand or just breezed by without real contact.

    I don't know if this was deliberate or not, of if Clark was under marching orders to under no circumstances be seen or photographed being in any way physical with a young female (with visions of file footage of Monica Lewinsky dancing in his handler's heads), but it happened two or three times as I watched. Maybe it's a wife thing.

  • Josh Marshall commented several times in the last few days that when you attend an Edwards event, you fall under his magic spell and are convinced in the moment that this guy is fated to be President, but that this passes once the whole thing is done, and it's then hard to see what the attraction was all about. After watching Edwards do that speech, I understand what he means.

    Edwards is very good at appearing natural, he's very much at ease with what he's doing, he connects with the crowd, he's clearly a natural politician in the Bill Clinton mold, and the populist content of the speech is good as well, red meat for egalitarian Democrats and liberals, with much talk of change and elitism and invocation of our natural enemies (lobbyists, for instance), but...

    The "but" is that if you look at only a snippet of the speech, say in a soundbite on a news program, you become very aware of all the hard technique that underlies that performance, and this is very disconcerting, much as it is when all of a sudden while watching a play that's sucked you into its world you realize how hard an actor is working, and the whole experience collapses. (This can happen in literature as well, when a novelist's tricks start to draw too much attention to themselves -- although, obviously, this isn't as much a problem in the world of postmodernism, where drawing attention to the frame is part of the point.)

    This could be a serious problem for Edwards, because very few people are going to put in the kind of time necesary to watch large portions of a stump speech either live or on TV, and most people are going to experience him through snippets and soundbites.

  • Conversely, the rawness and roughness of political inexperience that Wesley Clark's exhibits is charming, in its way, but it sets up a different kind of vibe. In the recent NH debate, I found myself feeling anxious every time he spoke that he was going to say something wrong, or look stiff, or otherwise trip himself up due to what is essentially a complete lack of political experience of the type that makes career politicians so disturbingly smooth and (generally) difficult to ruffle (see Edwards, above).

    When Clark's name was first touted as a possible candidate, I fretted about his lack of executive experience, and more or less acquiesced to the argument that, as American military proconsul in Europe, he had to have many of those skills to some unknown degree, but that's not exactly the same thing as the kind of abilities that campaigning requires, and it's clear from watching him that he's a tyro at it -- an intelligent, quick to learn, affable and driven tyro, but a tyro nonetheless.

    While I go back and forth about whether Clark is the candidate that can best take down Bush, or on whether he's the one that the Rover Boys are most afraid of (this week, the conventional wisdom -- or was it a trial balloon sent up via David Broder? -- is that the WH is ascared of Edwards), I do think that, given the tightness of the calendar, his retail political skills are not going to improve fast enough, and that they will hurt him badly at some point (as they already have with the way he handled the Peter Jennings-Tim Russert Michael Moore-Bush-is-a-deserter attack).

    All the more reason why Clark should be someone's running mate, and not at the top of the ticket, but if Kerry's the man, he's unlikely to go looking in Clark's direction. (More likely is Edwards, who'd brings geographical balance to the ticket.) So at this point, the only real hope for Clark to be V.P. is if Dean wins -- I haven't changed my opinion that Dean/Clark is a natural fit.

Update: Lieberman looks like he knows he's out of it. I've just seen two different campaign stops, and both times he swung out his arm, fist extended, in a feeble motion while saying, with obviously strained enthusiasm "We're going to the White House" (or some such totally cliche campaign blather). Even given Lieberman's generally Eeyorish demeanor, it was clear that he didn't believe for a moment what he was saying, and I think more than ever that his showing in NH will force him out of the race, which is all to the good.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/26/2004 11:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Prior to reading the May book quoted below, I most recently finished two books on the attack on Pearl Harbor, At Dawn We Slept by Gordon Prange, and Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History by Gordon Prange with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Here are a few interesting quotes from the latter:

[T]he eternal dilemma of democracy: How far can a nation go in defending liberty before liberty itself becomes a license to kill for those who would murder liberty?


[D]isregard for the laws of evidence undermines the structure of Occidental justice, so laboriously erected over the centuries. If contemporary documents and sworn testimony can be disregarded in favor of unsupported charges and personal venom, no citizen is safe.


An aggressor cannot be satisfied unless he has a will to be satisfied.


Occasionally military leaders forget that the object of all battles is to further national aims. However brilliantly executed, however tactically successful, unless the engagement advances the nation's foreign policy or protects the nation's interests, it is a failure.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/26/2004 04:13:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Executive judgment

At any time or place, executive judgment involves answering three sets of questions: "What is going on?"; "So what?" (or "What difference does it make?); and "What is to be done?" The better the process of executive judgment, the more it involves asking the questions again and again, not in set order, and testing the results until one finds a satisfactory answer to the third question -- what to do (which may be, of course, to do nothing.)

The tests for "what is going on" include distinguishing what is actually known from what is presumed to be true, then probing the strength and reliability of the presumptions. The tests for action choices also have additional questions: "Exactly what is to be done?" ("What to do?" becomes "What to do?") "How will success or failure be recognizable?" "Why is the particular action under consideration likely to lead to success so conceived?" In other words, "What is the theory of the case?"

Ernest R. May
Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France (2000)

It cannot be said that the Bush administration never applies good executive judgment routines to its decision-making, because when it comes to making decisions which concern the political survival of the administration, they seem to do quite well. It's just that in every other area of concern (you know, the stuff that the President of the United States is supposed to be taking care of, or at least thinking about), they're usually pretty sloppy and haphazard.

May also has a quote from a political scientist that seems appropriate in regards to the intelligence we received prior to the invasion of Iraq:

Even when warning systems provide information on an adversary's intentions that is plentiful, relatively consistent and free of noise, its proper interpretation requires a theory of the actor's behavioral style.

Alexander L. George
"Warning and Response: Theory and Practice"

One might also add that no amount of intelligence, good, mediocre or bad, can be of any possible use in determining proper policy if it is willfully misinterpreted by the recipient -- which is why it's not really exactly right to talk about an "intelligence failure" regarding Iraq, when what we had was failure to accept evidence which didn't conform to the administration's preconceptions.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/26/2004 03:43:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Marshall on empire

Josh Marshall on America's "covert empire" in the New Yorker:

The Bush doctrine, with its tenets of preemptive war, regime change, and permanent American military primacy, promised a new global order. The best way to think of that order is by analogy with the internal organization of a nation-state. What makes a state a state is its monopoly over the legitimate use of force, which means that citizens don't have to worry about arming to defend themselves against each other. Instead, they can focus on productive pursuits like raising families, making money, and enjoying their leisure time. In the world of the Bush doctrine, states take the place of citizens. As the President told graduating cadets at West Point in 2002, America intends to keep its "military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." In other words, if America has an effective monopoly on the exercise of military force, other countries should be able to set aside the distractions of arming and plotting against each other and put their energies into producing consumer electronics, textiles, tea. What the Bush doctrine calls for -- paradoxically, given its proponents -- is a form of world government.

The new order envisaged by the Bush doctrine hasn't quite worked out as it was meant to. That's because, from the beginning, the White House has acted on the assumption that bold action would make our allies rally behind us and our enemies cower. Building a consensus with our friends before we acted only encouraged quarrelsomeness. The point wasn't that dictation was superior to consensus; the point was that it created consensus.


"Bill Clinton was actually a much more effective imperialist than George W. Bush," Chalmers Johnson writes darkly [in The Sorrows of Empire]. "During the Clinton administration, the United States employed an indirect approach in imposing its will on other nations." That "indirect approach" might more properly be termed a policy of leading by consensus rather than by dictation. But Johnson is right about its superior efficacy. American power is magnified when it is embedded in international institutions, as leftists have lamented. It is also somewhat constrained, as conservatives have lamented. This is precisely the covenant on which American supremacy has been based. The trouble is that hard-line critics of multilateralism focussed on how that power was constrained and missed how it was magnified.

Conservative ideologues, in calling for an international order in which America would have a statelike monopoly on coercive force, somehow forgot what makes for a successful state. Stable governments rule not by direct coercion but by establishing a shared sense of allegiance. In an old formula, "domination" gives way to "hegemony" -- brute force gives way to the deeper power of consent. This is why the classic definition of the state speaks of legitimate force. In a constitutional order, government accepts certain checks on its authority, but the result is to deepen that authority, rather than to diminish it. Legitimacy is the ultimate "force multiplier," in military argot. And if your aim is to maintain a global order, as opposed to rousting this or that pariah regime, you need all the force multipliers you can get.


America isn't powerful because people like us: our power is a product of dollars and guns. But when people think that America's unique role in the world is basically legitimate, that power becomes less costly to exert and to sustain. People around the world have respected and admired American power because of the way America has acted. If it acts differently, the perceptions of American benevolence can start to ebb -- and, to judge from any public-opinion poll from abroad over the last year, that's essentially what has happened. When it comes to political capital, too, this is an Administration with a weakness for deficit spending.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/26/2004 01:25:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


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03/23/2008 - 03/30/2008
03/30/2008 - 04/06/2008
06/01/2008 - 06/08/2008
09/21/2008 - 09/28/2008

search websearch unfutz

Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
2005 koufax awards


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2003 koufax award
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


take all you want
but credit all you take.

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