Thursday, August 12, 2004

National GOP Panic Week

RonK provides a litany of why this week is National GOP Panic Week.

Superficially, W's position doesn't look that bad. He enjoys the agenda-setting advantages of incumbency, an adequate war chest, pliant media, an approaching convention bounce, control of Congress and the year-end pork cycle. Not bad cards to hold against a small deficit in the polls.

But GOP are not just behind a little in the polls. They're in simultaneous arrears on multiple accounts. They have almost enough rope. Almost enough duct tape. Almost enough time and skill. No single deficit looks insurmountable.

The fun starts when they have to fashion a particular rope bridge to get a particular herd of elephants across a particular chasm -- in this case, a Great Divide where giant mutant chickens are coming home to roost.

That's when Team Bush turns its energy to stretching and borrowing and corner-cutting ... followed by grunting and cursing and finger-pointing ... and finally frantic speculation about weaving ropes out of elephant hide, or building a catapult instead of a bridge.

As GOP outfitters double-check their charts and gear, take stock of provisions, and calculate pack weight versus burn rate -- they're in for a rapid succession of rude awakenings.

Check out his list -- but guard against complacency!

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/12/2004 01:15:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What are they thinking?

Jamie Moran wants to make life a living hell for Republican convention delegates -- and in the process he's going to help make life a living hell for me and millions of other New Yorkers. But the heck with that, I'll be magnanimous and let that slide -- it's much, much worse that the combined efforts of Moran and other groups planning massive protests of the RNC are probably going to hand Bush and the Republicans a propaganda coup that I'm sure they couldn't be happier about.

What can you say about these people? They seem completely blind to the fact that the media will cover these protests heavily, always emphasizing the loonier elements involved and whatever property damage manages to be done (even if the protestors themselves don't do any, there's bound to be provacateurs who've infiltrated the group), and that will provide Bush (and every other Republican bigwig) with the perfect opportunity to stand strong and resolute, denouncing the protestors and subtly (and not so subtly) equating them with the Democrats, wrapping themselves in the flag while simultaneously denying the civil rights which the flag stands for.

Still, that's the kind of b.s. we expect from Bush and company, just their normal modus operandi, but why the hell are people who are supposedly on our side providing them with precisely the ammunition they need to pull off their act to absolute maximum effect?

This is an extremely close election, in which the two major efforts underway by both candidates are (1) to mobilize the base and (2) to convince undecided voters to make a choice. Scenes of protestors fighting with police and wrecking private property, juxtaposed with Bush at his ramrod-stiff straight-talking true-blue American icon best painting them as the Democrats Of The Street are sure to help him rally his base and to turn off a significant percentage of undecideds.

Let's recap, shall we?

There are two, and only two, possible futures that lie in front of us. In one, George W. Bush continues as the resident of the Oval Office, in control of the Executive Branch of the richest, most powerful and influential country on the face of the earth. In the other, he doesn't. There are no other alternatives, and if that sticks in anyone's craw, well it's just too bad -- get over it, and fast, because from here on out, everyone in this country who doesn't want the first option had better be doing everything possible to bring about the second option, and that means helping John Kerry and doing nothing whatsoever to assist George Bush. Anything else -- feeling good about youself, getting your rocks off, "making a statement," "exercising our civil liberties," "not letting them tell us what to do" -- is totally irrelevant and, much worse, counterproductive.

There is, in the end, a point to all this.

Jamie Moran and his associates, and other protest organizers, would be advised to reacquaint themselves with the concept of a Pyrrhic victory. If things go off the way I expect they will, and Bush gets any kind of appreciable bounce from the convention, let's be sure to remember the ways in which our supposed allies helped to achieve that.

Update: Eric Alterman (via MyDD) seems to be thinking along these same lines:

With enemies like these Bush doesn’t need friends.


Update (8/14): Theoria has some advice for the RNC protestors, which, if followed, could help minimize the problem.

On Lawyers, Guns and Money, DJW is afraid I could be prescient about this:

Any excuse at all to associate Kerry and Bush opposition generally with something radical, fringish, or generally unappealing to those mythical normal Americans will not only be seized upon by GOP spinners, but flogged to death by the rest of the media as well. Now they try this sort of thing all the time and it generally fails to get much traction (you don't hear much about the Whoopi Goldberg "hatefest" anymore), but that doesn't mean we should underestimate the potential for bad press here. The media wields enormous power in presidential elections (as 2000 showed quite clearly), and this would be the sort of thing they'd love to flog as a "turning point" or some such thing.

And Mike at Apeiron agrees as well:

I think it is obvious that the media will cover heavily protests of any kind that take place outside Madison Square Garden. Certainly New York protests will get more air time than protests from Boston. And while I want people to be able to exercise their rights to assemble and speak their minds, I'm cognizant of the fact that the GOP, in its desperation, will do anything necessary to smear and misconstrue the motives and messages of protesters.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/11/2004 12:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Things look swell, things look great...

...not so much in the real world (although it is nice that the current Polling Report summary of national trial heats shows Kerry leading in 11 of 13 different polling circumstances, and has a significant lead with independents) as here on unfutz. It took 7 months for us to reach 5,000 visitors, and 3 1/2 months to get to the 10,000 mark, but only 7 weeks to reach 15,000 visits.

(I know that's quite lame when compared to sites that get 15,000 a day, or in a couple of hours, but there you are.*)

The new influx of visitors has to do almost entirely with my Electoral College survey, but I hope a few of the newcomers will also take a look around, and perhaps even, occassionally, come back again for another look.

* Update (8/13): Or, like Daily Kos, in about 85 minutes. WOW!

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/10/2004 03:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Odd Ads

I have to wonder what kind of key-word analysis brought these two advertisements to the BlogSpot banner which adorns the top of the page here:

Homeland Security Careers
Increase your salary with a career in Homeland Security. Free info.

Portable Spectrometers
"FT-IR: Take It There" Field and mobile sensors

I suppose it's a step up from the "Help the RNC help Bush win" ads that I was getting.

Update: MyFriendRoger contributes another odd ad that I missed:

W Ketchup:

You don’t support Democrats.

Why should your ketchup?

W Ketchup™ is made in America, from ingredients grown in the USA.


W Ketchup is America’s Ketchup™

Roger also makes a very good point -- it's a good policy to actually click through on the Republican and right-wing ads that end up here, because they have to pay for the clickthrough even though nothing is purchased. As he says "A small way to ruin their day."

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/10/2004 04:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Geez, in what fairy tale country could this ever happen in?

Let's just say there was a man who came from a privileged lineage, while not being very gifted intellectually, rhetorically, or when it comes to riding bicycles, and this man got into a great prep school and college, even though he was the capo di tutti capo of mediocrity, because of his family. And then during a war that he supported his daddy made a few calls and got him into the National Guard, while other men who were not in favor of this war went and died in far off jungles, while for months on end he didn't even show up for duty. And then this man started at least a half dozen businesses, all of which went bankrupt, but was bailed out every time by wealthy friends of his daddy. And then he committed a case of insider trading that makes Martha Stewart look like a Red Cross worker, but was not investigated because the SEC Chairman was appointed by guess who...daddy. And then he was elected Governor of Texas because his daddy's rich friends in the oil business bankrolled two political campaigns where he was able to swamp his opponents with superior financial resources. And then he ran for President, and was elected because he once again had his daddy's wealthy buddies bankroll him, his brother, the Governor of Florida, purge thousands of voters from the rolls who would have supported his opponent, and when it still looked like all the votes might be counted, which would mean he would lose, the Supreme Court, loaded with appointees from his daddy's 12 years as President and Vice-President, chose to shut down the count.

I mean, stuff like that is just so unbelievable.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/10/2004 04:24:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Attract and deceive

From Publius, a very clear-sighted and straightforward observation which can't be repeated too often if we are to understand why Bush is still (apparently inexplicably) popular with so many people, and why Kerry is therefore not going to win this election in a walkaway (although I do think he's going to win in the end):

[W]hat’s interesting about Bush is that his greatest strength – his political appeal – is inextricably linked to his most glaring vice – his willingness to simplify and deceive the very people his image is intended to appeal to.

For more insights, please go and read the rest of the post, The Best and Worst of George W. Bush, it's worth your time.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/10/2004 02:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, August 09, 2004

Roger on Terrorism and the election

Dear Ed,

I imagine that you, like me, have this terrible fear hiding in the background of your mind. A fear, so to speak, of the unknown ... or, rather, a mix of the unknown with the all-too-well-understood.

What we all understand is that another terrorist attack in the United States is almost certainly the wish and goal of multiple parties out there.

What we all understand is that the timing of this event (or these events) is up to those individuals. Some may well be operating at the direction of foreign terrorist leaders, but many could be flying solo at this time: lone individuals or small cells planted deeply, or simply inspired by the calls for attacks on the U.S.

What only a few of us seem to understand is that the threat isn't just from Al Queda or other Islamic extremists. Oklahoma City was the product of pure born-in-the-USA extremism, and the people who applauded that horrible event are still out there and would like to see more.

In today's environment, such domestic terrorists have a new advantage. Pop off a bomb somewhere -- blow up a federal building, level a shopping mall, annihilate a stadium full of baseball fans -- and you know that the media, the government, and most citizens will immediately assume that Bin Laden is behind it. I wonder how much investigative time will be wasted, and errors spun, because of such assumptions.

In any case, you and I know that a terrorist attack could come at any time. Domestically produced or not, it's likely to be blamed on Islamic radicals ... and if it happens only shortly before the election, there will be little hope of sorting it out in time for people to weigh all of that as they vote.

And here's where our fear of the unknown comes in. We don't know IF such an attack will happen before the election. We don't know if it will be a dud, or prove horribly powerful and effective. We don't know who the target will be, although in a sense that hardly matters. Any event any where is likely to quickly move "terrorism" up past the economy as the #1 concern the public.

And we don't really know what the consequences, politically, will be. Based on experiences to date and public opinion polls, Bush is likely to get a boost (for reasons that defy rational understanding, leastways on my part).

Finally, here's another fear -- something that, perhaps, you and I and others have just tried not to think about because it seems impossible for us to change in any way anyhow: the sense that Democrats, including Kerry and Edwards, are just doing no more than hoping for the best. We can't know if a terrorist attack is coming tomorrow or next week or next month, and we can't do anything about it, and the results will be the results regardless, so a lot of Democrats and liberals are just gritting our teeth and hoping that either it doesn't happen, or if it does it's minor, or if it isn't minor that we can ride it out anyhow.

Well ... I've been fighting that impulse in myself. I've been giving it all some thought. Not that I've come up with anything brilliant (perhaps not anything useful at all, in fact), but it occurs to me that Kerry-Edwards could perhaps be "inoculating" themselves by speaking out about the possibility of an attack happening at any time. Even running some ads on the matter. Giving special interviews specifically focusing on it. These would, always, discuss what the Democrats will do differently once we've retaken the White House. But they would also sound like warnings to people, "Hey, don't forget that terrorists ARE out there, and an attack at any time IS possible."

Like any kind of insurance, there is an upfront cost to that. In this case, the cost of reminding people about an issue that -- again, inexplicably -- Bush leads on. The "payoff" would occur only if there IS a terrorist attack before the election, and (perhaps too much like regular commercial insurance), there wouldn't even be any certainty that it would have a decent payoff. But the alternative is to keep "hoping for the best," which strikes me as a terrible policy.

Two other thoughts about this, though. In "inoculating" themselves, our candidates could in the process make sure they're inflicting some damage on the Bush Campaign. For example, since Bush and him minions decided to toss over tradition by engaging in political attacks during the Democratic Convention, Kerry / Edward should return the favor, finding ways to upstage the Republicans or to set the terms of the debate contrary to whatever the GOP has planned for its convention days. Put them on the defensive at the very moment they're supposed to be projecting their positive, "unifying" themes that promote Bush more than attack Kerry.

And -- my second thought here -- maybe there's no better way to do this than by highlighting the Bush Administration's gross failures on the war against terrorism. Now we have Plamegate II, the exposure of a double-agent we had with Al Queda. This is potentially a huge issue, and there may be ways to make sure it's getting LOTS of media coverage just about the time the GOP convention opens in a few weeks. (Yeah, it's already out there, but then the Valerie Plame matter has risen and fallen repeatedly, and lasted a good long time on one of those cycles). What better inoculation that to point-blank say, "If there's an attack now, the exposure of a major asset we had within Al Queda itself may be the reason why!" You'd have to know a LOT more about the whole thing before you could do that. I remain astonished that Condi Rice seemingly, almost casually, admitted that the Administration disclosed the agent's identity; it makes me think there's more to it than we've heard so far. But if it really is just as it appears -- that by plan or via incompetence they exposed an asset's identity for no better reason than to make themselves look good briefly -- it seems to me entirely fair ground for Kerry / Edwards to cover.

Such are my thoughts this Sunday night. If there be any merit in the above, please consider all or part for the blog.


I have a few thoughts to add to what Roger wrote.

In case anyone reading this isn't already aware of it, David Neiwert on Orcinus has done prize-winning yeoman's work on tracking and dealing with the ramifications of domestic terrorism, including the government's apparent refusal to take it as seriously as foreign terrorism. (His latest book is Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, A Trial, and Hate Crime in America.) A trip to Orcinus should be part of everyone's regular blogrun schedule.

A far as Bush getting a boost from a terrorist attack before the election, I think that could go either way. Certainly, there would be an impulse to rally 'round the flag and support our government and leaders, but, after all, we're shortly about to finish out the third year after 9/11, which I think most people would feel is sufficient time for the Bush administration to have made us a at least a little safer than we were back then. Absolutely, no government anywhere, at any time, run by anyone, can protect its citizens 100% from terrorist attack, but when a government has fought tooth and nail the very changes that could help, and has undertaken such a risky and counterproductive foreign policy as the Iraq war, and still continues to ignore serious problems and refuses to release promised funds, I think all of that is going to add up to people taking a terrorist attack as an abject failure on the part of Bush, and they will act (and vote) accordingly.

But even given my expectation that another attack would hurt, and not help, Bush's campaign for election, I think Roger's idea for Kerry to get out front on this issue is a good one, and right in line with what many of us have been saying all along, that national security is the important issue of this election. That's one primary reason why Kerry, the decorated Vietnam vet, is the candidate in the first place, and, judging by the focus of the Democratic convention on the military record and bona fides of the candidate, Kerry knows that as well.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/09/2004 11:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Jim's odd dictionary

From Everything Burns:

I began to suspect something was odd about the 1945 edition of Shipley's Dictionary of Word Origins that I'd snagged out of the window of the Magus bookstore when I was browsing through the frontmatter and found the section Theories of the Origin of Language. A single paragraph. I have reproduced the salient portion here:

There is the bow-wow theory, which pictures language as springing from spontaneous animal cries. Or you may choose the pooh-pooh theory, which sees the start of words in emotional outbursts. Perhaps, instead, you
prefer the ding-dong theory, which sees language arising from imitation of natural sounds.
The dictionary itself consists of sprawling explorations of roots, cognates, bastardizations and back-formations starting at a given word. Because each entry can cover so much ground, the better number of the entries merely refer to another entry (provoke. See entice.). But because each entry can be so meandering, some of the redirections can evoke a chuckle (iambic. See helicopter. turbulent. See butter.).

Some of the redirections seem mischevious (holocaust. See catholic. incorrigible. See royal.) or sexist (gynocology. See banshee.). In fact the entry for 'husband' reads:

Wives, attention! Husband is the master of the house: AS. hus, house + bonda, freeholder. Later was added the idea that he had a wife.
For me, though, the last straw was:

hike, hiker.
See coward.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/08/2004 05:08:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


From the Chronicles of Living in Bush's America

With wit and a great deal of forebearance, student photographer Ian Spiers details his run-ins with police and Federal agents in Seattle while taking pictures of train bridges and canal locks:

“I’ve listened to this for over five minutes. Look here. You see this?” Special Agent McNamara said, producing his badge. “This is a federal badge. We’re not with the rest of them. We’re federal agents from Homeland Security...”

Good grief.

He told me that I’d broken the law by not providing my ID to the original investigator (a man who I personally feel has entirely too much power). I told him that I’d asked if I was legally obligated to produce my ID, and that he’d clearly told me “no,” but it was obvious that that didn't matter to Special Agent McNamara in the slightest. I was just wrong, and he was just right.

He went on to tell me that the minute I’d photographed federal property, citing the Ballard Locks, the train bridge, and the Patriot Act, that I’d, again, broken the law. Of course, I asked why there weren’t any signs on that parcel of public property disclosi
ng that photography was forbidden...

You know, I just read (and reread) that last paragraph, and I still don’t get it. I mean, you’re joking, right? The Ballard Locks are easily my neighborhood’s most recognizable landmark and its highest point of tourism. Tour buses and tour boats make regularly scheduled visits here, and guided tours escort groups of visitors through this landmark daily. Everyone’s taking pictures of the Locks, the boats, the bridge, and the migrating salmon. In fact, on any given weekend, you really can’t throw fish at the Locks without hitting an amateur photographer. And yet this guy is justifying this invasion of my privacy by telling me that it's illegal for me to take photos?

I knew something he didn’t know. I went on to clarify that I’d actually been to the Ballard Locks just two days earlier, where I’d met with the park ranger, specifically requesting permission to take a series of photos. We’d had a genuinely pleasant discussion about photography and the freedom of speech. In the end, he’d clarified that I had permission to take photos, just about any photos I’d like, on the city side of the Locks... which was the side I was currently on. Of course all of this information was immediately discounted as Special Agent McNamara’s dissertation turned towards the logic behind investigating suspicious activity.

I continued to ask why the eight of them weren’t “investigating” and harassing any of the curious, non-brown tourists that were now milling about. “There’s a man, right there, with an easel and canvas, standing under the bridge, right now! Why aren’t you asking him for his ID?”

“Have you read today’s paper?” Special Agent McNamara asked gruffly.

Exasperated, I gave up, saying that I really didn’t want to play those kinds of guessing games. No, I didn’t know what he was talking about.

Special Agent McNarmara went on to lecture me in front of his peers and the gathering crowd on the finer points of 9/11 and the social climate that’s ensued. (Thinking back on it, I think he skipped over several significant points regarding the damage to American liberties.) At long last, he punctuated his keynote by referring to some “maniacs” slamming 747’s into skyscrapers, and saying something about how people are concerned about suspicious activity in their country, and how they needed and deserved to feel safe,

I couldn’t help myself. I interrupted again, stating that I knew about 9/11, ‘cause it happened in my country, too!

After being detained for thirty of the longest minutes of my life, my ID was finally returned and the congregation of men— three Seattle Police officers, three Federal Homeland Security agents, and two security guards for the Ballard Locks (including my original confronter)— slowly disbanded. After a quick thought, I caught up with Special Agent McNamara in the parking lot at the top of the hill and asked for a business card. (“Here he comes,” one of the men announced sarcastically.) Special Agent McNamara gave me his card, and then retrieved a bulky digital camera from his car and asked to take my photo… you know, just to help him out… just for his file. He even instructed me to call him before returning to the Locks to take additional photos. I reiterated that I’d done nothing wrong, and that I did not want him taking my photo. He continued to gently persuade me, and I continued to refuse, and then he made it perfectly clear that I had no choice in the matter. So, I let him take his goddamned photo, and then I returned to my tripod.

I tried to act like I even cared about my class project for about ten minutes before giving up and packing up my gear. I felt sick. My head was swimming with all kinds of ugly thoughts regarding what had just happened, and passing by dozens of camera-happy tourists en route to my car really didn’t help to lift my spirits. I knew that this experience was going to be with me for a while. I wished I could find a way to do something about it... and then, like a bolt of lightning, it came to me!

On the way back to my car I approached everyone I could that had a camera and was out taking pictures of the Ballard Locks. I simply and quickly explained that I was a photography student with Shoreline Community College, that I was working on a class assignment, and that I’d decided to incorporate photos of tourists taking pictures into my project. I then asked for permission to take their photograph. That was all it took. I got a bunch of friendly smiles and a few odd looks, but not one person that I approached turned me down. They were all very happy to pose for my camera… and they didn’t even ask to see my ID!

So, why have I gone to such great lengths to write about all of this? Well, as the saying goes, if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. In an all too literal sense, it seems like it’s getting harder for me to be comfortable in my own skin, which is about as difficult to admit as it is to convey. I honestly don’t know what to say to family and friends, except that I’m still embarrassed, angry and utterly heartbroken over these events. I’ve lived in Ballard for over ten years now, and I’ve lived in the Seattle area all my life. Now I’ll have to make an effort to going back to feeling safe and free in my own neighborhood. And the worst part is that I can’t stop wondering how long it will be before I have my next altercation with the Seattle Police, or Homeland Security, or something else, simply for looking the way I do and carrying a camera. I’ve been persuaded, detained and interrogated twice, just in my first quarter of photography classes, and in both of those instances I was on public property, in areas well known for their high volumes of tourist traffic. Dear God, I really don’t want to think about what might happen to me without witnesses around, or when I finally get to work on those industrial studies in the photojournalism class. All I can try to do at this moment is raise local awareness about this issue, and look for a way to make a constructive contribution within this bizarre social and political climate.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/08/2004 04:50:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A Theory of Voter Conformity

On the ABC News website, mathematician John Allen Paulos, author of (among other books) Innumeracy and A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, attacks the problem of "how there have come to be large contiguous regions of the country that are red or blue and only relatively small regions that are purple," and finds there may be an answer in Conformity Theory, based on a model devised by Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institution (Learning to be Thoughtless: Social Norms and Individual Computation).

Paulos writes:

Imagine that arrayed around a big circle are millions of people who are asked each day whether they intend to vote for George Bush or John Kerry. Assume that these people have an initial favorite, randomly choosing Bush or Kerry, but that they are very conformist and decide daily to consult some of their immediate neighbors. After polling the people on either side of them, they adjust their vote to conform with that of the majority of their neighbors.

How many people each voter consults varies from day to day and is determined by the fact that they are "lazy statisticians." They expand their samples of adjacent voters only as much as necessary and reduce them as much as possible, wishing always to conform with minimum exertion.

There are various ways to model this general idea, but let's assume the following specific rule (which can be made more realistic). If one day a voter, say Henry, polls the X people on either side of him, the next day he expands his sample to the X+1 people on either side of him. If the percentage favoring the two candidates in this expanded sample is different than it is when he polls only the X people on either side of him, he expands his sample still further.

On the other hand, if the percentage favoring the two candidates is the same in the expanded sample as it is when he polls only the X people on either side of him, Henry decides that he might be working too hard. In this case he reduces his sample to the X-1 people on either side of him. If the percentage favoring the candidates is the same in this smaller sample, he reduces the sample still further.

Every voter updates his or her favorite daily and interacts with other voters according to these same rules.

Epstein's model showed that the result of all this consulting is a little surprising. After several days of this sequential updating of votes, there are long arcs of solid Bush voters and long arcs of solid Kerry voters and between these there are small arcs of very mixed voters. After a short while, voters in the solid arcs need consult only their immediate neighbors to decide how to vote and almost never change their votes. Voters between the solid arcs need to consult many people on either side of them and change their vote quite frequently.

Although Epstein didn't apply his model to voting but to more automatically followed social norms, the idea of extending it to voting is seductive. People do tend to surround themselves with others of like mind and generally only those at the borders between partisans, the so-called swing voters, are open to much change. His major point, which I'm distorting a little here by casting his model into an electoral framework, is that social norms, often a result of nothing more than propinquity, make it unnecessary to think much — about what to wear, which side of the road to drive on, when to eat, etc.

To the considerable extent that voting is — at least for many — an unthinking emulation of those with whom they associate, the model helps explain the near uniformity of the political opinions of their friends. (Rush Limbaugh's depressingly telling phrase "ditto heads" applies to many on both sides of the political spectrum.)

When there's some sort of shock to the system, Epstein's model suggests something else rather interesting. If a large number of voters change their vote suddenly for some reason (say a terrorist attack or environmental catastrophe), the changed voter preferences soon settle down to a new equilibrium just as stable with solid Bush, solid Kerry, and mixed border areas, but located at different places around the circle. The model thus shows how political allegiances can sometimes change suddenly, but then settle quickly into a new and different segmentation just as rigidly adhered to as the old.

This model should be easy to simulate, since it's basically a type of cellular automata, similar to, but somewhat more complicated than, John Conway's well-known game of Life.

(In a cellular automata there is a grid of cells, and the state of each individual cell is determined by the state of the cells surrounding it and the application of certain rules. In "Life," for instance, a cell which is "on" or "alive" at Time=0 stays alive for Time=1 if it has 2 or 3 neighbors in the 8 cells surrounding it. If there are less than 2 it dies of loneliness, and if there are more than 3 it dies from overcrowding. A cell which is empty ("dead" or "off") at Time=0 will remain empty at Time=1 unless it has exactly 3 neighbors in the surrounding 8 cells. Using these very simple rules, all sorts of fascinating patterns and amazing "lifeforms" can be seen. A snug 5-cell unit can burst out into an almost infinite pattern, and "spaceships" can "fly" across the grid. I spent many hours fooling around with "Life" when I was in high school, and actually discovered one or two novelties -- such as the superstring -- in the process.

Cellular automata like "Life" may look like games, but they can be surprisingly powerful. The genius mathematician John von Neumann showed that a properly designed one can reproduce itself, or can be made to be a Universal Turing Machine, which means that a cellular automata of sufficient complexity and with the right rules can be made to model any digital computer. [Update: In fact, even a very simple one like "Life" will support a Universal Turing Machine, so great complexity is not required.])

Programming the Epstein/Paulos Theory of Voter Conformity should prove to be relatively simple -- and I rather think that it's already been done, as Paulos' descriptions are very visual, suggesting that he's seen the model run as a simulation.

Addenda: It would be interesting to see this theory combined in some way with Malcolm Gladwell's idea that there are a few different kinds of people who are instrumental in spreading ideas. In The Tipping Point he calls them "connectors" (who know lots of people), "mavens" (who are trusted and influential) and "salesmen" (who can convince other people):

Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. ... Salesmen [have] the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing ...

In terms of the cellular automata, certain cells could be designated as connectors, mavens and salesmen, randomly spread throughout the grid (at densities to be reasonably determined), and rules would be different for cells bordering on these special units, in a way that roughly models Gladwell's idea. Connectors, for instance, would have a larger circumference of influence than mavens, but the influence of mavens would carry more weight. The influence of salesmen would be wider than mavens but less intense, and stronger than connectors but with less scope.

With these adjustments, things might spread through the grid in a lumpier manner than described by Paulos.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/08/2004 01:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Fairness, progress and prosperity, because we're all in this together.

"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking."
(Alex Gregory - The New Yorker)
new york city
another progressive slogan
The greatest good for the greatest number, with dignity for all.
reference & fact check
write me
evolution v. creationism
humanism, skepticism
& progressive religiosity
more links
election prediction
Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 233 (+30) - Republicans 201 - TBD 1 [FL-13]

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Democrats 51 (+6) - Republicans 49

netroots candidates
awards and nominations
Never a bridesmaid...

...and never a bride, either!!

what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
not candid
not "reality-based"
not trustworthy
out of control
without integrity

Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
recently seen
Island in the Sky (1952)

Robot Chicken

The Family Guy

House M.D. (2004-7)
i've got a little list...
Elliott Abrams
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
John Ashcroft
Bob Bennett
William Bennett
Joe Biden
John Bolton
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Pat Buchanan
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Saxby Chambliss
Bruce Chapman (DI)
Dick Cheney
Lynne Cheney
Richard Cohen
The Coors Family
Ann Coulter
Michael Crichton
Lanny Davis
Tom DeLay
William A. Dembski
James Dobson
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
Dinesh D’Souza
Gregg Easterbrook
Jerry Falwell
Douglas Feith
Arthur Finkelstein
Bill Frist
George Gilder
Newt Gingrich
John Gibson (FNC)
Alberto Gonzalez
Rudolph Giuliani
Sean Hannity
Katherine Harris
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
Christopher Hitchens
David Horowitz
Don Imus
James F. Inhofe
Jesse Jackson
Philip E. Johnson
Daryn Kagan
Joe Klein
Phil Kline
Ron Klink
William Kristol
Ken Lay
Joe Lieberman
Rush Limbaugh
Trent Lott
Frank Luntz

"American Fundamentalists"
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)

Chris Matthews
Mitch McConnell
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Zell Miller
Tom Monaghan
Sun Myung Moon
Roy Moore
Dick Morris
Rupert Murdoch
Ralph Nader
John Negroponte
Grover Norquist
Robert Novak
Ted Olson
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Bill O'Reilly
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Perle
Ramesh Ponnuru
Ralph Reed
Pat Robertson
Karl Rove
Tim Russert
Rick Santorum
Richard Mellon Scaife
Antonin Scalia
Joe Scarborough
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
Bill Schneider
Al Sharpton
Ron Silver
John Solomon (WaPo)
Margaret Spellings
Kenneth Starr
Randall Terry
Clarence Thomas
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Donald Trump
Richard Viguere
Donald Wildmon
Paul Wolfowitz
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
John Yoo
All the fine sites I've
guest-blogged for:

Be sure to visit them all!!
recent listening
Smash Mouth - Summer Girl

Poulenc - Piano Music

Pop Ambient 2007
John Adams
Laurie Anderson
Aphex Twin
Isaac Asimov
Fred Astaire
J.G. Ballard
The Beatles
Busby Berkeley
John Cage
Raymond Chandler
Arthur C. Clarke
Elvis Costello
Richard Dawkins
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Kevin Drum
Brian Eno
Firesign Theatre
Eliot Gelwan
William Gibson
Philip Glass
David Gordon
Stephen Jay Gould
Dashiell Hammett
"The Harder They Come"
Robert Heinlein
Joseph Heller
Frank Herbert
Douglas Hofstadter
Bill James
Gene Kelly
Stanley Kubrick
Jefferson Airplane
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
John McPhee
Harry Partch
Michael C. Penta
Monty Python
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Prisoner"
"The Red Shoes"
Steve Reich
Terry Riley
Oliver Sacks
Erik Satie
"Singin' in the Rain"
Stephen Sondheim
The Specials
Morton Subotnick
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Tangerine Dream
Hunter S. Thompson
J.R.R. Tolkien
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
Kurt Vonnegut
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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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2004 koufax winners
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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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