Misgovernment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are:
tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing;
excessive ambition, such as Athens' attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II's of England via the Armada, Germany's twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan's bid for an empire of Asia;
incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally
folly or perversity.
Barbara W. Tuchman
The March of Folly (1984)
quoted by Lewis H. Lapham
in The Road To Babylon Harper's magazine (12/2002)
War is the unfolding of miscalculations.
The Guns of August (1962)
All battles are, in some degree, and to a greater or lesser number of the combatants, disasters.
The Face of Battle (1976)
Many wars in this century have been started with only the most nebulous expectations regarding the outcome, on the strength of plans that paid little, if any, attention to the ending. Many began inadvertantly without any plans at all.
Fred Charles Ikle
Every War Must End (1991)
Peace is not some hippie buzzword or dreamy pacifist ideology. It's an active, long-term military strategy that requires different, possibly counterintuitive, tactics. The world knows that the United States is unmatched in its ability to wage and execute wars. In the future, we will have to become equally unparalleled in our ability to negotiate and sustain peace.
letter to the editor
New York Times Magazine (4/25/2004)
To fight today's terrorism with an army is like trying to shoot a cloud of mosquitoes with a machine gun.
"Everybody Hates Somebody Somewhere"
New York Times Book Review (11/16/2003)
[N]o war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice.
David Kenyon Webster
letter (c. 02/1945)
quoted by Stephen Ambrose in
Band of Brothers (1992)
Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing.
Apollo 13 (film, 1995)
directed by Ron Howard
written by William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert
based on Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
[spoken by "Gene Krantz", played by Ed Harris]
In the long run knowledge guarantees neither wisdom nor sound judgment.
Sherwin B. Nuland
"Getting in Nature's Way"
New York Review of Books (2/12/04)
"Peace" is something more than just the absence of war between nations, it's a state in which civil society flourishes, and people can live and work and marry and have children and raise them without fear of being whisked away at any moment for a perceived infraction of The Rules, whatever they happen to be at the moment. "Peace" is when people don't just survive, they thrive, when they can make a living, and buy the food they need, and have the respect of others, and live in freedom without fear. If they don't have those things, if their lives are stunted and warped by the perversions of dictatorship and oppression, if their lives are ruled by constant fear, then there is no "peace" there, there is only the absence of war.
posted to an e-mail discussion group (12/22/02)
Chris Bowers has some thoughts on liberal interventionism, in response to Peter Beinert's article in TNR.
It seems apparent from the results of the recent election that whatever the state of the economy and the nation, people really didn't have a good idea of who to blame for it. Despite the GOP's control of the White House, both houses of Congress, and, effectively, the Supreme Court, enough people (in the right places) were willing to vote for that party's candidate for him to win the election.
Clearly, the people (or a sizable portion of them) didn't and don't have a clear idea of who's been in charge recently, and who, therefore, is to blame -- and the Democrats didn't do a good enough job at educating them. Perhaps this chart might be helpful. It shows which party has been in power for the past 24 years, since Reagan began the work of taking apart FDR's New Deal infrastructure, which brought us out of the Great Depression and through World War II:
So, the GOP has controlled the White House for 16 of the past 24 years (that's 2/3rds of the time, or 67%), the Senate for almost as long (15 years, or 62.5%) and the House of Representatives for the past 10 years (42%). And yet, somehow, they've managed to convince many people that their party is not responsible for our condition, that they are the solution, and not, in fact, the problem. That's an amazing political sleight-of-hand.
James Fallows, in the New York Times, has a sensible and level-headed column on the problems inherent in the current state of electronic voting:
I trust computers. When I first used A.T.M.'s, nearly 30 years ago, I carefully saved receipts in a folder and matched them with the bank's monthly statement. Now I sometimes stuff the receipts in my wallet, but I almost never look at them again. The only banking error I've encountered in all those years was when a human teller left a final zero off a deposit I had made.
I still pore over credit card statements, but mainly to see whether some person, not some machine, has issued the proper refund credit or made an improper charge. I've sent e-mail messages to the wrong people by mistyping an address or hitting the oh-so-dangerous "Reply All" button, but never because the system routes it where it shouldn't go. When I travel, I assume that the e-ticket I booked through my computer will be valid and that frequent-flier miles will show up in my account.
Yet when I went to my polling place in Washington on Election Day, I waited an extra half-hour in line to cast a paper ballot, instead of using the computerized touch-screen voting machine. Am I irrational? Perhaps, but this would not be the evidence.
A columnist in The Washington Post recently suggested that nostalgia for paper ballots, in today's reliably computerized world, must reflect a Luddite disdain for technology in general or an Oliver Stone-style paranoia about the schemings of the political world.
Not at all. It can also arise from a clear understanding of how computers work - and don't. The more you know about the operations of today's widely trusted commercial computer networks, the more concerned you become about most electronic-voting systems.
The phenomenal reliability of the systems we trust for banking, communication, and everything else rests on two bedrock principles. One is the universal understanding in the technology world that nothing works right the first time, and maybe not the first 50 times.
When I worked briefly on a product design team at Microsoft, I was sobered to learn that fully one-fourth of the company's typical two-year "product cycle time" was devoted to testing. Programmers spend 18 months designing and debugging a system. Then testers spend the next six months finding the problems they missed. It is no secret that even then, the "final" software from Microsoft, or any other company, is far from perfect.
Today's mature systems work as well as they do only because they are exposed to nonstop, high-stakes torture testing. [...] Years ago, bank or airline computers would often be "down" because of unforeseen problems. Now they're mostly "up," because they've had so long for flaws to become exposed.
The second crucial element in making reliable systems is accountability. Users can trust today's systems precisely because they don't have to take them on trust. Some important computer systems run on open-source software, like Linux, in which the code itself can be examined by outsiders.
Virtually all systems provide some sort of confirmation of transactions. You have the slip from the A.T.M., the receipt for your credit card charge, the printout of your e-ticket reservation. If your e-mail message doesn't go through, there is still the copy in your "Sent" folder. This is the technology world's counterpart to the check-and-balance principle in the United States government. The first concept, robust testing, protects against unintended flaws. The second, accountability, guards against purposeful distortions.
Which brings us back to electronic voting. On the available evidence, I don't believe that voting-machine irregularities, or other problems on Election Day, determined who would be the next president. The apparent margins for President Bush were too large, in Ohio and nationwide. But if the race had been any closer, we could not have said for sure that the machines hadn't made the difference. That is because many electronic systems violate the two basic rules of trustworthy computing.
By definition, they have barely been exposed to real-world testing. The kind of thorough workout that Visa's or Google's systems receive every hour happens for voting machines on only a few special days a year. By commercial standards, the systems are necessarily still in "beta version" - theoretically debugged, but not yet vetted by extensive, unpredictable experience - when voters show up to choose a president.
Four years ago, about one-eighth of all votes for president were cast electronically. This year, nearly a third were. How the system would handle that large increase in scale could not have been tested until the presidency was at stake. Worse, most of the electronic systems are not accountable. When I voted this year, I fed my paper ballot through an optical scanner and into a storage box. In a recount, those ballots could have been pulled out and run through the scanner again. If I had used the touch screen, I would have had no tangible evidence that the vote counted or was recountable.
Is that a problem because the chief executive of Diebold, the largest maker of such systems, is a prominent Republican partisan? No. It's a problem because it defies the check-and-balance logic built into every other electronic transaction.
This is from the Sunday New York Times last weekend. I thought it was instructive, as it reminds us again how centralized the control of our mass media is.
(It also reminds me that a few years ago, when I got fed up that the local all-news radio station I listened to, WCBS-AM, was becoming more and more personality- and feature-driven, and the anchors where starting to express their own quite conservative political opinions when framing the stories they presented, I switched over to the other all-news station in my market, WINS, which has a more straight-forward presentation -- although some right-leaning spin does show up, especially on the weekends when the writing appears to be under less strict control. Doing so might seem to show how the marketplace is supposed to work, as a dissatisfied customer votes with his feet, if it weren't for the fact that both stations are owned by Viacom.)
CBS won the official ratings race during the first full week of the November sweeps, averaging 15 million viewers per prime-time hour, followed by NBC (11.3), ABC (10.4), Fox (7.3), WB (3.8) and UPN (3.7). But what about the 45 million or so other people, on average, who were watching television? Here's another way of looking at the ratings for that week: instead of ranking the broadcast networks, we've ranked the media conglomerates that own them - and nearly every other outlet on your TiVo grid. The easy winner, predictably, was Viacom, owner of CBS and UPN as well as the MTV cable networks. But other high finishers, like Time Warner and Liberty Media, may be names that television viewers don't normally think of while cruising channels. (For each company, we added up the average viewers for all of the networks and cable channels in which it has a controlling interest; joint ventures were divided evenly among the owners. Only networks whose numbers are made public by Nielsen Media Research, and which met the company's minimum reporting standards, were included.)
Walt Disney Company 18,656,000
General Electric 17,750,000
Time Warner 12,120,000
News Corporation 10,752,000
Liberty Media 4,144,000
E. W. Scripps 1,705,000
Channels included for each company (in order of viewers, highest to lowest):
Viacom: CBS, UPN, Nickelodeon, the N, Spike, MTV, Comedy Central, TV Land, BET, VH1, CMT, Noggin, Showtime, Nicktoons, the Movie Channel, MTV2.
Walt Disney Company: ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel, Lifetime,* A&E,* History,* ABC Family, ESPN2, Lifetime Movie,* SoapNet, Toon Disney, Biography* (*joint ventures with General Electric and Hearst).
General Electric: NBC, USA, Lifetime, A&E, Sci-Fi, History, Pax, Bravo, Lifetime Movie, MSNBC, CNBC, Biography.
Time Warner: WB, TNT, Cartoon, TBS, HBO, Court (joint venture with Liberty Media), CNN, Cinemax, Headline News, Turner South.
News Corporation: Fox, Fox News Channel, FX, Speed Channel, National Geographic Channel.
Liberty Media: Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel, Game Show, Starz, Encore, Discovery Health, BBC America.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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.