Saturday, November 19, 2005

The first time

This came today:
I started writing an article for my first blog post ever. I decided I was going to do a Media Matters-esque airtight peice on the logical
fallacies this one blogger used when he was writing about the Plame affair (litterally using a Logical Fallacies list from Wikipedia).

Little did I realize that the blog I was taking on was actually the personal blog Mark Tapscott, Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, writer for Fox News, Washington Post, etc . I bring out quite an indictment against his ability to accurately represent a situation, a man whose career is in the media, and I can't wait to see if he responds.

Long story short, this was my first post to this blog ever. I will put up a Manifesto tommorow- my focuses being Democratic opposition to Olympia Snowe in 2006; and taking the battle of fact-checking to the blogs in a very confrontational way.

I would really really really sincerely appreciate if you'd give me a boost by linking to my first post. I want to hit the ground running and bring something new to the blogosphere.

Abben's blog is here -- take a look.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/19/2005 12:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, November 18, 2005

Surf's Up

The moment at the end of Brian Wilson's song "Surf's Up" when the song proper ends and the "Child is the father of the man" coda begins simply has to be one of the most overwhelmingly beautiful moments in pop music history. Or, at least that's the case in the original version, on the Beach Boys' Surf's Up album, where Wilson's voice still has a brilliant crystalline purity, as opposed to the recent release of Wilson's Smile, where the delicacy of the moment is somewhat undercut by the relative roughness the singing. (It's still a wonderful transition, but not nearly with the same emotional punch.)

It's true the song is overall a bit self-consciously poetic and mysterious, but that's all forgiven once that coda kicks in -- when I'm listening, I want it to go on forever (which is why I prefer the fade out of the original over the defined ending of the remake).

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/18/2005 11:12:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Welcome to Kansas...

...please set your clock back 100 years.
Dear Kansas Teahching Proffsional,

As you probibally had already herd, The Kansas Bored of Edukation has recently voted to teach alternatives to the Theory of Evoluition. As I have said before publicly, Evoluion is an “age-old fairytale”, as opposed to Intellgient Design, which is based on faith, bible scripture, and other non-fairytales.

We are also happy to announce that, in our finite wisdom, we have also decided to redefine the word “Science” to include the comptemplation of supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon. I am so excited!

Although this will now allow Kansas Science teachers to teach Witchcraft, Satanism, VooDoo Worship, and Advanced Flat-Earth Theory, right along with our right-wing Christian views of science, we feel that we owe it to our students who would otherwise only be exposed to boring old logical and rational ways of thinking.

With that, I am happy to present to you a copy of the new “Intelligent Design Teachers Guide”. Please use it to stimulate conversation, but also feel free to branch out and encourage your students to invent intelligent design theories of their own. This learning package was also supposed to include a Ouija Board, candles, incense, and a Magic 8 Ball, but the budget wouldn’t permit it. If I’m re-elected and not ousted by some fancy “book-learnin’ elitest, sexular-humanest”, I plege to get you those things, God willing.

We hope you make the most of this material, and support our crusade to destroy the pubic edukiton system, and to keep Kansas the laughing stock of the Nation.

[via Panda's Thumb]

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/17/2005 09:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Publius has a good idea, a question we should ask of all candidates in 2006 (and I'll add 2008 as well):
Get them all on the record - not on the war resolution, but on the invasion. "Knowing what we now know, would you still have supported invading Iraq?" If they say yes, they're either lying or showing that they're unfit for public office.

We know where Edwards stands on this, and Joe "Why Am I Cursed to Run For President When Everyone With A Smidgen of Brain Matter Knows I Have No Chance to Win" Biden -- let's hear from candidates for House and Senate in '06.

(Incidentally, on several occasions Biden's come this close to making my "I've Got a Little List" list -- see the sidebar -- where he would join his friend Joe Lieberman and DINO Zell "How Man Ways Can I Hurt My Party and My Country" Miller, but he's never quite made the grade. But I have faith in him! He'll make it yet, and the current dust-up over the misuse of intelligence might be the perfect opportunity for him to succeed at last. If not, there's the Alito hearings as well -- they should provide any number of chances for Biden to demonstrate once again that he can't be trusted.)

Addenda: I noticed that I haven't updated my "little list" in a while, so I've done so now, adding Woodward, Miller, a bunch of intelligent design people and a few others.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/17/2005 01:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Advice to Woodward

On TPM Cafe, commenter RT has some good advice for Bob Woodward, journalistic icon turned establishment shill:
When a source asks to go on background - that is, when you can report what he says, but not who he is - ask yourself this: is his boss, or his boss's boss, and so forth, going to be mad when he sees these words in the paper?  Is this guy going to be in trouble, maybe even lose his job, if I were to name my source?  Or are his employers perfectly happy to see these words make it into the news, but they simply want to blur the fingerprints a bit?

I'm not a reporter; far from it.  And I may not understand some of the dilemmas imposed by your profession.  But you know what?  I bet this will give you a pretty good clue, the vast majority of the time, about whether you ought to be giving a source the protection of confidentiality.

Because if his bosses are happy that he's saying what he's saying, then there's no need for him to be saying it on background.  Maybe he, and they, are just using you.  Just a hunch, Bob. And all you and your buddies are doing is carrying their water, doing stenography for them as they write anonymous letters to the public.

This is especially obvious in its truth when you aren't meeting with the source in some quiet corner, but rather in a meeting room or auditorium with half the Beltway press corps present, and copies of prepared remarks being handed out.  If it's no secret to the whole damned press corps who the "senior Administration official" is, then what's the justification for keeping the rest of the country in the dark, other than to feel like you're 'in the know,' as they used to say in my dad's time?  You aren't getting at the truth; you're doing a favor to a big-shot.

And one final hint on an unrelated matter: if a well-placed source tells you something "in an offhand, casual manner," as if it was "almost gossip," you might not "attach any great significance to it," but he might.  After one-third of a century in the game, how is it that you're this easily played?

One of the things that made it possible for Woodward and Bernstein to break open the Watergate story was that they were not part of the Washington Establishment -- neither the entenched powers-that-be in public office or its media auxiliary. They were just hungry reporters who saw a good story that could promote their careers, and weren't deflected or biased by prejudices and preconceptions about what was possible or impossible to have occured. They weren't connected, nor did they have an axe to grind -- they just chewed away at the story because it was their lifeline and they needed it to work for them.

Well Woodward's not in that position any more. Now, he's part of the DC Media Establishment, which itself has moved much closer to and intertwined itself with the city's Political Establishment, to the point where it can become pretty damn hard to tell one from the other. There's now a commonality of interest between folks like Woodward and folks like Bush and Cheney, reinforced by an interlocking nexus of connections, and that means there's no longer any real push for the Woodwards of the world to hold the feet of the Bushs and Cheneys to the fire of public exposure, not when a darn good living, and a lot of ego-boosting public renown, can be had from shilling for them from a supposedly adversarial position.

It wasn't so much that Woodward's been co-opted, as much as he's been seduced away from journalistic principle by the ease of going along with the prevailing cultural norms -- the same norms which prevailed back during Watergate, and which held back established reporters from pursuing the story, giving Woodstein their opening.

Addenda: These days, Woodward's not a journalist, he just plays one on TV.

Update (11/21): Digby's got the rule of thumb for journalists:

Don't shield powerful government officials who use the press for sleazy partisan activity they know the public would disapprove of. Oh, and write the real story, not the sleazy partisan smear job your valued "sources" are feeding you for the privilege of future access. It will pay off in the long run. You'll find yourself facing subpoenas and jail time far less often.


Ed Fitzgerald | 11/16/2005 10:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A dark and dangerous place

An interesting observation from Talking Points Memo reader MC:
I've obviously missed something. When did it become appropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to go onto a military installation before a military crowd and denounce the opposition party? I cannot remember a time in my 21-year career when anything remotely like this happened. Is it just me or are we embarked on something very dark and dangerous for our democracy?

It's a good point, but it seems to me that we were pushed into that dark place some time ago, certainly when Bush was elevated to the Presidency by the Supreme Court in lieu of having the votes counted, or perhaps even before that, when a cabal of Republican right-wing powermongers decided the virtually unknown ne'er-do-well son of a former President was going to be the next occupant of the White House, and almost immediately put together the largest election war chest ever seen in American politics.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/15/2005 02:34:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Can't stand it

The new style of having a news anchor (Blitzer, Cooper, others) stand up in front of a bunch of video screens instead of sitting behind a desk is really (I mean really really) annoying. I dislike it intensely, and whenever I see it I want to almost immediately change the channel.

Way back in the Stone Age, there was a little situation comedy, perhaps you've heard of it, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which the characters worked for a local news show in Minneapolis. When the vain, idiotic anchorman (there's a contemporary comic stererotype) wants to change the title of the show so that his name is above the title, the hard-boiled news director turns hims down: "The star of the news is the news," he says.

Can we get Lou Grant back to run CNN?

P.S. Ted Baxter stood to read the news, too.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/15/2005 01:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ballard says...

J.G. Ballard is seventy-five today.

by J.G. Ballard

I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.

I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash, in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile graveyards, in the mystery of multi-storey car parks, in the poetry of abandoned hotels.

I believe in the forgotten runways of Wake Island, pointing towards the Pacifics of our imaginations.

I believe in the mysterious beauty of Margaret Thatcher, in the arch of her nostrils and the sheen on her lower lip; in the melancholy of wounded Argentine conscripts; in the haunted smiles of filling station personnel; in my dream of Margaret Thatcher caressed by that young Argentine soldier in a forgotten motel watched by a tubercular filling station attendant.

I believe in the beauty of all women, in the treachery of their imaginations, so close to my heart; in the junction of their disenchanted bodies with the enchanted chromium rails of supermarket counters; in their warm tolerance of my perversions.

I believe in the death of tomorrow, in the exhaustion of time, in our search for a new time within the smiles of auto-route waitresses and the tired eyes of air-traffic controllers at out-of-season airports.

I believe in the genital organs of great men and women, in the body postures of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Princess Di, in the sweet odors emanating from their lips as they regard the cameras of the entire world.

I believe in madness, in the truth of the inexplicable, in the common sense of stones, in the lunacy of flowers, in the disease stored up for the human race by the Apollo astronauts.

I believe in nothing.

I believe in Max Ernst, Delvaux, Dali, Titian, Goya, Leonardo, Vermeer, Chirico, Magritte, Redon, Duerer, Tanguy, the Facteur Cheval, the Watts Towers, Boecklin, Francis Bacon, and all the invisible artists within the psychiatric institutions of the planet.

I believe in the impossibility of existence, in the humour of mountains, in the absurdity of electromagnetism, in the farce of geometry, in the cruelty of arithmetic, in the murderous intent of logic.

I believe in adolescent women, in their corruption by their own leg stances, in the purity of their disheveled bodies, in the traces of their pudenda left in the bathrooms of shabby motels.

I believe in flight, in the beauty of the wing, and in the beauty of everything that has ever flown, in the stone thrown by a small child that carries with it the wisdom of statesmen and midwives.

I believe in the gentleness of the surgeon's knife, in the limitless geometry of the cinema screen, in the hidden universe within supermarkets, in the loneliness of the sun, in the garrulousness of planets, in the repetitiveness or ourselves, in the inexistence of the universe and the boredom of the atom.

I believe in the light cast by video-recorders in department store windows, in the messianic insights of the radiator grilles of showroom automobiles, in the elegance of the oil stains on the engine nacelles of 747s parked on airport tarmacs.

I believe in the non-existence of the past, in the death of the future, and the infinite possibilities of the present.

I believe in the derangement of the senses: in Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Huysmans, Genet, Celine, Swift, Defoe, Carroll, Coleridge, Kafka.

J.G. Ballard (profile)I believe in the designers of the Pyramids, the Empire State Building, the Berlin Fuehrerbunker, the Wake Island runways.

I believe in the body odors of Princess Di.

I believe in the next five minutes.

I believe in the history of my feet.

I believe in migraines, the boredom of afternoons, the fear of calendars, the treachery of clocks.

I believe in anxiety, psychosis and despair.

I believe in the perversions, in the infatuations with trees, princesses, prime ministers, derelict filling stations (more beautiful than the Taj Mahal), clouds and birds.

I believe in the death of the emotions and the triumph of the imagination.

I believe in Tokyo, Benidorm, La Grande Motte, Wake Island, Eniwetok, Dealey Plaza.

I believe in alcoholism, venereal disease, fever and exhaustion.

I believe in pain.

I believe in despair.

I believe in all children.

I believe in maps, diagrams, codes, chess-games, puzzles, airline timetables, airport indicator signs.

I believe all excuses.

I believe all reasons.

I believe all hallucinations.

I believe all anger.

I believe all mythologies, memories, lies, fantasies, evasions.

I believe in the mystery and melancholy of a hand, in the kindness of trees, in the wisdom of light.
RE/Search #8/9 (1984)

Addendum: "My advice to anybody, in any field, is to be faithful to your obsessions. Identify them and be faithful to them; let them guide you like a sleepwalker." (JGB)

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/15/2005 12:56:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tristero: "The president is a liar"

MyFriendRoger points me to a post by Tristero on Hullabaloo, which gives practical advice for convincing people that Bush is a liar:
[E]stablishing a fact is not the same as persuading others to accept that fact. The fact - the president is a liar - has long been established. Now, how do you get others to accept it? Say it: The president is a liar. Say it again: The president is a liar. And when someone demands proof, you repeat: The president is a liar.

Now, suppose they say, "But you've shown me no proof. That's just your opinion. Prove it." Now what? You say, "The president is liar."

Now to us liberals, this may appear at first to be a bit, how shall I say it, irrational and unfair. It is not. First of all, the person you are trying to convince is perfectly capable and in fact probably has read many of the same articles you have read, in which the lies of Bush are so painfully apparent. Their ability to reason is skewed, not their ability to read. Attempts to "set their reason straight" by advancing reasoned arguments merely reinforces the delusion.

The important thing to remember is that a deeply-held delusion is invested with deep emotional attachment. One's self-esteem, one's positive opinion of oneself, has become deliberately entertwined with maintaining that delusion at all costs. Dangerously so. It is that emotional attachment you must confront. When that has been dealt with, the ability to reason is freed to arrive at the obivious conclusion: The president is a liar.

Now in dealing with someone on the emotional level, there's no reason to be cruel, but you need to be firm. You need to weaken, in the face of enormous resistance, the emotional glue that binds the deluded to his/her delusion. You don't humiliate as in, "Schmuck! Any moron can see the president is lying through his teeth. WTF is wrong with you?" That further binds the delusion to the person's sense of self, which now feels attacked and therefore becomes defensive. Instead, you simply repeat, "The president is a liar."

Eventually, the repetition will permit the idea to seep enough into their consciousness to make the deluded start to wonder whether it is worthwhile investing their sense of self so deeply in someone who just may be, in fact, a liar. Your clue that this is happening is a change in the way the way the discourse is conducted. Instead of, "Oh yeah? Prove he's a liar!" you'll start to hear things like, "I guess he did cherrypick the intelligence a bit and in a sense, that's a lie. But you don't think Bush made stuff up out of whole cloth, do you?"

At which point, you respond, "The president is a liar" but, as Sean-Paul says, don't go into the details. Remember, they've already heard them but they can't reason about them properly yet and the problem they are having is emotional, not intellectual. They've started to wake up, but they are still entangling their own sense of integrity with Bush's.

It's only when they respond, "Okay, he's a liar. He lied and manipulated intelligence to get us into the war. But we have to support Bush now if we are not going to embolden the enemy" that you ease up slightly. You say, "The president is a liar. He lied to your face. Over and over. He lied to the soliders who are now fighting for their lives over there. The president is a liar. You owe him nothing. He owes you the truth."

Mass delusion on the scale we're seeing among Bush-supporters could, conceivably, be as difficult to break down as mass hysteria, but it seems reasonable to think that one way to go about it is to fritter away at the edges of the phenomenon, converting people one by one, and allowing the new meme to percolate inward at its own rate, while we follow along behind it, converting as we can.

Even though many of us have long since ceased to associate ourselves voluntarily with people so sadly deluded, it's a certainty that almost everyone has someone they can convert: a relative, an old friend, office mates. If done with care and empathy, a light touch, it might help.

Just think, a little over a year ago, Bush's approval rating, as evidenced in the 2004 election was just a hair over 50% -- now it's down to around 36%. That's a significant drop, but the biggest bloc of supporters that need to be turned are Republicans. Some are true believers, but surely not all, or even most of them.

Inroads can still be made.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 10:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Alito revealed

Washington Post:
As a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," declared his firm opposition to certain affirmative action programs, and strongly endorsed a government role in "protecting traditional values."

The comments came in a job application to then-Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III in 1985, when Alito was seeking to bolster his conservative credentials and move up at the Justice Department. Alito was subsequently promoted to deputy assistant attorney general.

Alito, an assistant in the Office of the Solicitor General at the time, said he was "particularly proud" of his contributions to cases in which the Reagan administration had argued before the Supreme Court that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." He said it had been a "source of great personal satisfaction" to help advance such legal causes -- positions that he said "I personally believe very strongly."

The letter was included in 168 pages of documents released yesterday by the National Archives. The documents portray an ideologically committed conservative and offer the first public articulation of Alito's personal political philosophy as he portrayed it five years before his appointment as a federal appeals court judge.

Well, that seems to provide the answer needed -- Alito is indeed opposed to reproductive rights. Of course, those on the right never had any doubt of that -- if they had, they would have gone off on him the way they did Miers. Their complacency -- no, happiness --- at Alito's nomination, despite the nominee's current lip service to a right to privacy as settled law, which seemed to put into question his views on aborton. The right knows that those expressions are strategic and not dispositive of Alito's views, or indicative of how he will rule, and continued to support him strongly. Meanwhile, some on the other side lost sense of what was actually going on and wavered -- this should put some spine into them.

It's useful to keep in mind that there does not need to be any "smoking gun" or any obvious malfeasance or incapacity in order to oppose a Supreme Court nomination. The Constitution puts absolutely no burden on the Senate, or on any particular Senator, to withold consent only for specific reasons. One can oppose a nominee for any reason whatsoever, including that he was nominated by the worst President in contemporary American history, and is supported by the most damaging and dangerous elements in American society. That really is enough -- but for those who require a specific cause to join the battle, now you have it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 10:24:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I was done for the night, just doing a little reading before turning off the light, when I came across this -- a letter from renowned physicist Richard Feynman to a colleague who is unhappy with his life as a scientist:
You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself—it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of the naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher's ideals are.

(Taken from Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman.)

Addenda: From the same review, Freeman Dyson on Feynman:

Why should we care about Feynman? What was so special about him? Why did he become a public icon, standing with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking as the Holy Trinity of twentieth-century physics? The public has demonstrated remarkably good taste in choosing its icons. All three of them are genuinely great scientists, with flashes of true genius as well as solid accomplishments to their credit. But to become an icon, it is not enough to be a great scientist. There are many other scientists, not so great as Einstein but greater than Hawking and Feynman, who did not become icons.


Scientists who become icons must not only be geniuses but also performers, playing to the crowd and enjoying public acclaim. Einstein and Feynman both grumbled about the newspaper and radio reporters who invaded their privacy, but both gave the reporters what the public wanted, sharp and witty remarks that would make good headlines. Hawking in his unique way also enjoys the public adulation that his triumph over physical obstacles has earned for him. I will never forget the joyful morning in Tokyo when Hawking went on a tour of the streets in his wheelchair and the Japanese crowds streamed after him, stretching out their hands to touch his chair. Einstein, Hawking, and Feynman shared an ability to break through the barriers that separated them from ordinary people. The public responded to them because they were regular guys, jokers as well as geniuses.

The third quality that is needed for a scientist to become a public icon is wisdom. Besides being a famous joker and a famous genius, Feynman was also a wise human being whose answers to serious questions made sense. To me and to hundreds of other students who came to him for advice, he spoke truth. Like Einstein and Hawking, he had come through times of great suffering, nursing Arline through her illness and watching her die, and emerged stronger. Behind his enormous zest and enjoyment of life was an awareness of tragedy, a knowledge that our time on earth is short and precarious. The public made him into an icon because he was not only a great scientist and a great clown but also a great human being and a guide in time of trouble. Other Feynman books have portrayed him as a scientific wizard and as a storyteller. This collection of letters shows us for the first time the son caring for his father and mother, the father caring for his wife and children, the teacher caring for his students, the writer replying to people throughout the world who wrote to him about their problems and received his full and undivided attention.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 02:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Down, down, down...


Nothing of great moment to report -- I just like seeing the graph.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 02:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Newspaper circulation

According to Editor & Publisher (reporting figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation for the six-month period ending September 30th), all 20 of the largest circulation American papers suffered loses in circulation recently -- except the New York Times, which had small gains (0.46% daily and 0.12% on Sunday). The big losers were the San Francisco Chronicle (down 16.58% daily and 13.53% on Sunday), the Atlanta Journal Constitution (down 8.73% daily and 4.97% on Sunday), and the Boston Globe (down 8.25% daily and 7.86% on Sunday).

Could the Times bucking the general trend be due to their decision to institute Times Select?

Incidentally, the top 10 daily papers are:
USA Today               2,296,335
Wall Street Journal 2,083,660
New York Times 1,126,190
Los Angeles Times 843,432
Daily News, New York 688,584
The Washington Post 678,779
New York Post 662,681
Chicago Tribune 586,122
Houston Chronicle 521,419

And on Sunday:

New York Times          1,682,644
Los Angeles Times 1,247,588
Washington Post 965,919
Chicago Tribune 950,582
Daily News (New York) 781,375
Philadelphia Inquirer 714,609
Houston Chronicle 708,312
Boston Globe 652,146
Star Tribune (Minn.) 636,977
Star-Ledger (N.J.) 600,262

There's information here that's new to me, because I generally don't keep a close eye on newspaper circulation -- such as that the Times has a larger circulation than the Daily News (it used to be the opposite), and that the New York Post has less circulation than both (I thought at one point in its heyday it was larger than the News).

[Note that circulation figures for the Dallas Morning News, Chicago Sun-Times and Newsday, which had previously been in the top 20, are still pending.]

Correction: There was one other paper, besides the Times, which beat the general trend, the Newark Star-Ledger, the daily edition of which gained 0.01%.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 01:45:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Query on nukes

Atomic weapons have been used precisely twice, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, ending World War II. Since then, a number of countries have build nuclear arsenals, and the number of atomic bombs in the world remains quite large: according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (as of April 2004) there are about 27,600 nuclear weapons in the world, representing about 5,000 megatons of TNT. (About 2,500 of those weapons are on "hair-trigger alert".)

So, here's my question: Has there ever, in the history of warfare, been another type of weapon besides atomic weapons which was used and proved militarily effective, and then was never used again, without having been banned by international conventions on war?

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/14/2005 12:29:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Should New Orleans be rebuilt?

George Friedman, "Founder, Chairman and Chief Intelligence Officer" of Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), writing in early September, thinks that we probably don't have a choice:
Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to make this exchange possible. It is also the facility where goods are stored in transit. Without this port, the river can't be used. Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United States.

Katrina and the events following it have taken out the port—not by fatally destroying the facilities, but by rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable. That means that even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the absence of a port near the mouth of the river makes the Mississippi enormously less useful than it was. For these reasons, the United States has lost not only its biggest port complex, but also the utility of its river transport system—the foundation of the entire American transport system. There are some substitutes, but none with sufficient capacity to solve the problem.

It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would assume, at least some part of the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far north as they can be while still being accessible to oceangoing vessels. The need for ships to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river going north for oceangoing vessels. Barges can pass under the bridge, but cargo must first be transferred to them, and for that a port is needed. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: the United States needs a city right there.

New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial infrastructure. Vulnerable to inundation, it is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a city of some kind will return there because the alternatives are too devastating. The harvest is coming, and that means that the port, or part of it, will have to be opened soon. The port area will have to be cleared, by herculean effort if necessary. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the city will return because it has to.

Geopolitics concerns permanent geographical realities and the way they interact with political life. If the logic of geopolitics prevails, it will force the city's resurrection, even if it will be greatly changed, and in the worst imaginable place.

The media has moved on to other crises, and the fate of New Orleans has pretty much dropped off the radar. What's going on there, I wonder, and is the Administration doing what needs to be done, without regard to its usual ideological strictures?

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/13/2005 11:54:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Finally, some major bloggers speak out about how silly and impractical (and strategically unwise as well) the idea of impeaching Bush is -- something I've ben saying for a while (when a blogger blogs in the woods, and there's no one around to hear...).

Chris Bowers:
[I]s Bush's resignation / impeachment our goal?

In a word, no. [...] The goal now is realignment. Bush's disapproval is so high, and his position as the face of the Republican Party is so assured, that it is now possible to envision a vast national realignment away from the Republican Party based primarily on backlash against Bush-ism (aka, contemporary conservatism). Bush Sr.'s extended period of disapproval at this level led to the Perot and 1994 realignment, which helped us greatly in 1992 but on which we utterly failed to capitalize in 1994. Carter's extended period of disapproval led to the 1980 realignment, which saw Republicans sweep the senate and the White House, as well as the first serious defections of Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party. Johnson's extended struggles from 1966-1968 also led to a realignment in 1968.

Bush's approval is now low enough for a realignment to take place in 2006 and 2008. A realignment is far more important to Democrats and progressives than Bush's impeachment or resignation could ever be. This is a generational event and, considering the timing of previous realignments, 1968, 1980 and 1992-4, the timing also suggests that the opportunity is ripe. Also, the realignment will clearly come from Independents, not disaffected Republicans, as Jerome first envisioned several months ago, and as I have also documented as well. As Ruy Teixiera has called it, the opportunity before us is the Indycrat realignment.

This is it. This is our chance--our once in a generation window. If we keep Bush's approval low, results like we saw for Paul Hackett on August 2nd and across the country on November 8th will become the norm. Apart from withdrawal, I'm not even sure we need a major platform adjustment or roll-out. People pretty much already know what we stand for. As long as they grow convinced that Bushism doesn't work, they will come over to our side.

We probably won't get another chance like this for at least another decade, so we have to make it count. There are 1089 days between now and November 4th, 2008, the day of the next Presidential election. Make it happen. [Emphasis added -- Ed]


We have bigger fish to fry than getting even against Bush for his misdeeds. Bush has three years of radioactive lame duck-ness left in his term. The key isn't to replace him with another Republican. The key is to use his every day in office to drive him to the American public the cost we pay as a nation for electing Republicans to office.

And as far as legacies go, what would be worst -- destroying his own presidency or destroying his entire party? Let's make sure it's the latter.

So can we please lay off the impeachment talk? Number one, it ain't going to happen, number two, we really don't want it to happen. And number three, it's a terrible waste of time and energy. As Chris and Kos point out, there's a real, positive way to put that energy to use that doesn't involve impossible fairy-tales and self-delusion.

And speaking of self-delusion, there's this, quoted on dKos from Powerline:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

I mean, huh? What the hell can these people be smoking? Are they so utterly deluded that they really believe this, is the need for self-deception so strong that they've convinced themselves of this balderdash? What the HELL is going on that people with enough intelligence to string together words with inherent meaning can be so incredibly STUPID as to believe this? Is the cult of personality so strong that everything else blurs away to nothing?

I don't fucking get it. Maybe some of my friends are right and there's some kind of mass hysteria going on, and Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Bill O'Reilly are only the best known exemplars of it. If that's the case, then we don't just need a new president, and to turn the Congress over to the care of the party of rational adults, we also need an army of shrinks to help cure a third of the country. Should we be dumping anti-psychotic medication in the drinking water?

What gives?

Let us please try to remain always firmly a part of the reality-based community, and not get carried away by our enthusiasms (as in the "Fitzmas" expectations bubble). The future of our country rather depends on someone remaining rational.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/13/2005 02:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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(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.

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Ed Fitzgerald


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