Saturday, February 25, 2006


BLDBLOG is subtitled "architectural conjecture :: urban speculation :: landscape futures." It's a fascinating weblog well worth spending some time with for anyone interested in cities, and is full of excellent photographs. Here's a few random examples:

A bridge in New York City, photographed by Michael Bayard:

Kansas farmland from space:

A painting by Angelina Gualdoni of an abandoned mall near Chicago:

Los Angeles freeways interchange, by David Maisel:

Underground London:

Great stuff.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2006 11:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bitter feelings in the darkness

On Talk Reason Rutgers mathematician Michael Levitt has a pretty funny, but perceptive, analysis and put-down of Steve Fuller, the post-modernist-in-drag guru of "science studies" who testified for the creationist side in the recent Dover "Intelligent Design" trial. While the verbiage gets a little thick at time, it's worth reading, I think, not only for the fun of the takedown, but because Levitt also explores why so-called scientists in the social science are attracted to non-scientific explanations such as creationism, and at the core of what he writes dwells a prime reason that non-rational religonists of all kinds are so harshly dismissive of science and its naturalistic worldview. (I've paraphrased a bit to allow it to stand on its own.):
[Rationalists] regard the knowledge of the natural world that science affords and the consistency of its knowable laws as adequate consolation for the eclipse of a vision of the universe as governed by divine purpose, moral equity, and ultimate justice. Most people in the world, however, are unenthusiastic about the trade-off. Where those who are most comfortable with science see it as "a candle in the dark," to use Carl Sagan's memorable phrase, they are far outnumbered by the mass of those who, at one level or another, harbor bitter feelings toward science for revealing just how pervasive and complete that darkness is.

The rationalist sees in science the richness and clarity of its interlocking web of explanations and the awe-inspiring strength of its methodology (the most powerful engine for uncovering truth that mankind has ever invented), while those who reject it see only that it has destroyed (for them, at least) the glory of the fantasies they have been taught to live by.

To those of us who live in the reality-based world, science explains the world best, and that's just the way things are, but it's a serious blow to those whose worldview is based on revelation, dogma and received ideas. No one should expect thanks for pulling the rug out from underneath someone who knows only the world of the rug.

[via Gene Expression]

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2006 05:55:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


US / UK / UAE ukase

Matthew Yglesias says this well:
[A]lly or not, the UAE isn't a strategic partner of the United States in the way that the UK is. The number of countries who have British-style security relationships with the United States can be counted on one hand, if not one finger. We share intelligence with the British that we wouldn't share with Portugal, much less Dubai. An ally as close as Israel has been known to screw us over in defense and intelligence matters because, hey, countries have different interests. A private British firm operates in the context of the rule of law; a state-owned enterprise in Dubai . . . not so much. These are different countries in a thousand ways that have nothing to do with skin color. Pretending not to see the difference is childish and absurd. That a country hosts American military bases proves almost nothing -- we have bases in all kinds of places.

To ignore the existence of a "special relationship" with the British is not only silly, it's intellectually dishonest.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2006 02:37:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Curling bronze!

Congratulations to the American men's curling team, which won the bronze medal today in Turin by beating the Great British team in an excellent match. It's the frst Olympic curling medal ever won by an American rink.

Team Fenson was always fun to watch, even when they had their occasional off days, and certainly deserved their historic win.

The dead time between the end of Olympic curling and the start of spring training exhibition baseball games is going to be damn hard to take!

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2006 12:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 24, 2006

National Journal Senate ratings

The National Journal's liberal/conservative rating of all 100 US Senators by their 2005 voting record is out. I've mapped it above, with each state divided in half. The most conservative of each state's two Senators is on the right side of the state. (There is no geographic significance to the way I've divided the states.)

[via dKos]

Update: Chris Bowers explains why vote ratings such as this are not useful in handicapping the 2008 Presidential race, and provides insight on what information is useful.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2006 11:33:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The danger

On Democratic Underground, David Michael Green thinks it's Munich in America:
America may not be a fascist country today, but it's not for want of trying. I have no question but that through Dick Cheney's dark heart courses the blood of Mussolini. No wonder the damn thing's so diseased. And I have no doubt that Karl Rove has only admiration and envy for Joseph Goebbels. Hey, why can't we do that here? (Hint: We are.)

America is not a fascist country (if it was, you wouldn't be reading this), but pardon me if I don't defer to Bush defenders and ringside Democrats who consider me hysterical for worrying about the direction in which we're heading.

These are the same people who've spent the last two decades denying the existence of global warming, while we now learn with each passing week how much worse than we had ever imagined is that environmental wreckage. These are the same people who said Iraq would be a cakewalk, and planned accordingly. These are the same people who prepared us for 9/11, the Iraq occupation, Hurricane Katrina and the prescription drug plan, and who have set new records for ineptitude in responding to those crises. These are the people who can't get body armor on our troops, three years after launching the war, and who are getting flunking grades in terrorism preparation from the 9/11 Commission four years after that attack. These are the same people who have turned a massive surplus into a record-setting debt, and coupled it with equally breathtaking trade deficits. And now they want to cut federal tax revenue even more.

Yes, he is the president, but golly gee, Sargent Carter, he sure seems to make an awful lot of mistakes!

So forgive me if I don't trust their judgement on matters of rather serious importance. Forgive me if I don't stand by hoping they're right as the two hundred year-old experiment in American democracy goes down the toilet. Besides, I thought being a conservative meant taking the prudent course, anyhow. Even if there was only a one in a hundred chance that a grenade was live, would you play with it? Wouldn't it have been better to have acted 'conservatively' with the fate of the planet at stake, and assumed that global warming might be real? And, likewise, shouldn't we worry about what is happening to American democracy now, while we still can?

The truth is, there is a government in office which seeks such complete power and dominance that even some conservatives have started to notice. Too blind to see the true intentions of this bunch, they can at least figure out that an imperial presidency created by George Bush might one day be inherited by Hillary Clinton (complete with her plans for a revolutionary dope-smoking lesbian Marxist state and global UN domination, enforced by an armada of black helicopters), so now even these fools are getting nervous about where this goes. They know that the only difference between the monarchism our Founders so reviled and contemporary Cheneyism is that the technology of our time allows George Bush to turn George III into George Orwell.

It's Munich in America, people. We can dream the pleasant dream that if we just stand by quietly while the Boy King gobbles up some of our liberties, he won't want any more, but that would be a lot like Chamberlain dreaming that a chunk of Czechoslovakia would be enough to appease Hitler. It wasn't, and it won't be.


[A]rguably the three most brilliant inventions of the Constitution are separation of powers, the guarantee of civil liberties, and federalism. Even the latter – which has least to do with foreign affairs or checking executive power, and therefore has been least assaulted – is under duress as the Bush Gang attack state power any time it strays from their regressive political agenda, for instance with respect to euthanasia, medical marijuana or affirmative action.

In fact, all three of these key constitutional doctrines are suffering under a brutal assault from a regime which finds democracy and liberty fundamentally inconvenient to their aspirations for unlimited power. The administration absurdly claims to be bringing democracy to the Mid-East. (After that whole WMD thing went MIA, and Saddam's links to al Qaeda proved equally credible, what the hell else were they going to say?). But far from the ludicrous claims that they are agents for the spread of democracy abroad, they are busy unraveling it with furious industry here at home.

It is, I'm afraid, Munich in America, and now we must decide whether to appease the bullies and pray for happy endings, or fight back to preserve a two hundred year-old experiment in democracy. Despite all its flaws and failures, Churchill was still right about it: Democracy is the worst system of governance except for all the others. And that makes it worth fighting for.

But the spot we're in now is actually worse than Munich, because there will be no Normandy in this war, and no Stalingrad. No country with the deterrent threat of a nuclear arsenal can ever be invaded by another country or group of countries, regardless of the magnitude of the latter's own military power.

That means we're on our own, folks. If we flip completely over to the dark side, nobody will be storming our beaches and scrambling up our cliffs to liberate us from our own folly. Hell, if they weren't so worried about the international menace we represent, they'd probably be laughing at us, anyhow, thinking how richly we deserved the government we got.

But there's nothing funny about this situation. Hitler dreamed of a thousand year reich, but didn't count on the resilience of an endless army of Slavs, or the technological prowess of a nation of shopkeepers' great-grandchildren hammering his would-be millennium down to a decade. If the US goes authoritarian (or worse), on the other hand, who will play Russia or America to our Germany? The answer is no one, and it is not apocalyptic paranoia to fear a very, very long period of unrelenting political darkness, once the curtain comes down.

Is this the beginning of the end for American democracy? Maybe. I have no doubt that unchecked Cheneyism intends precisely that. It's therefore up to the rest of us to stop it. It's up to us to say yes to Philadelphia, and no to Munich. Because there will be no Normandy.

Now we find out if we can keep Mr. Franklin's republic, after all.

His metaphor is not entirely apt (Munich was appeasement of an external threat, the threat we face from Bush-Cheneyism is internal and in many ways of our own making), but the catalog of horrors he compiles is true and the dangers he outlines are real and immediate.

[Thanks to Peggy]

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2006 01:22:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Just about two years ago (3/5/04 - my, how time flies when you're making the world safe for theocracy), I wrote that once the US left Iraq, the situation in that country would degrade into a civil war pretty quickly -- but, according to Juan Cole, it looks as if it's already happening, even before we've managed to disengage.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2006 05:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bad idea all around

What's wrong with this proposition?
It is not a good idea to have an arm of any foreign government running your ports.

Or this one:

It is a worse idea to have an arm of a foreign government run your ports when the relationship between that government and an enemy who's vowed to destroy you is, let's say ... unclear.

Or how about this, what wrong with this?

It's not the brightest idea to have a foreign corporation of any kind run national-security sensitive facilities.

I dunno, try as I might I can't really find a lot of fault with these propositions.

Oh, maybe number two is a little paranoid -- hell, maybe they're all a bit paranoid, but with the distinct possibility that someone who tries hard enough can slip bombs or weapons or supplies or men into the country through our basically unguarded ports, it would seem as if a little paranoia might not be totally unwarranted.

But Kevin Drum seems to have a bit of a problem with these propositions (see here, here, here, here and here -- that includes his backpedaling as well).

It seems that he feels that many of the Republicans screaming about the Dubai Ports World deal are doing so out of anti-Arab bias, anti-Moslem prejudice or pure jingoism -- and that's almost certainly the case, given the track record of today's Republican party -- but he also feels that because of this, we should back all off a bit, lest we sully our hands from being associated with these benighted yahoos.

Well, in a word ... no. Why they oppose the deal really has nothing whatsoever to do with why we oppose the deal, and if the deal is a bad thing -- and it most certainly is a really bad thing (cf. the propositons above) -- to back off from the fight against it out of daintiness and concerns about propriety seems a little overly fastidious.

And politically inept as well -- but, then, Kevin says he's not talking about the politics of the deal, but the objective worth of it, one way or the other.

Gee, I honestly don't know what gets into Kevin Drum sometimes. At the same time he talks about how tone deaf Bush is to make this deal, he goes and pulls this stuff, like he's not a premiere progressive blogger with a certain amount of influence, but some putz with an unknown weblog nobody reads.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2006 04:23:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I have real doubts about whether the American populace has learned any lessons from Iraq, except that we shouldn't invade Iraq.
Chris Bowers
How Can We Create A Change Election in 2006?

I think that's probably true, given the similar inability of Americans old enough to know better to draw the right conclusions from Vietnam.

In any event, Chris has done some good thinking in this post, including this most important thought:

People who think about politics a lot should realize that they don't think about politics the way that the vast majority of the nation does. For starters, the vast majority of the nation doesn't actually think about politics that much.
This is painful for political junkies to admit, but if you're paying a lot of attention to what's going on in politics, you are, practically by definition, not in the same frame of mind as the vast majority of the electorate, who don't want to be bothered thinking about politics or elections until they absolutely have to. The more they're forced to think about them, because the ruling party is fucking up, the more pissed off they're going to be at the people they believe are in charge.

Looking ahead to 2008, I take this as more evidence that our choice of a Democratic Presidential candidate should not be based primarily on their policy platforms, their experience at governing, their ideological orientation, or how relentlessly the mainstream media presses them on us as the "front runner". No, I begin to believe more and more than our choice should be based on extremely superficial attributes such as:
  • Is the candidate taller than the likely candidate for the other side?

  • Do people feel comfortable with the candidate, would they want to bring him or her home and sit down and watch a game and drink some beers.

  • Does the candidate look like a President?

  • But more importantly: Is the candidate good looking?

Context is important, of course: if the opposition candidate is a complete dud, you can field someone against him who isn't ideal -- but if they put up someone who fulfills these basic superficial requirements, you've got to have someone who does it better, regardless of whether the person's an airhead or not. (After all, if they're going to elect an airhead, isn't it better that they elect our airhead?)

I've been saying this for a while -- we've got to stop picking candidates on the basis of wonkish criteria, and seriously start casting our President. If we can't do the job, call in some folks from Hollywood to help. A good casting director knows the difference between someone who "reads" Presidential and someone who doesn't, and, given that they make those kind of discriminations hundreds of times a day, they should be able to tell us quite quickly which ones of our potential candidates have a shot. (We don't have to use an already-minted celebrity, as long as the person has celebrity-like qualities.)

So, while Chris Bowers is doing the heaving lifting in figuring out how to make 2006 a change election, I've come up with two ideas which I think are essential to keep in mind for 2008:

  • Avoid Senators, but Governors are OK.

  • Pick our candidate as if we were casting the role of President

I'm serious here, we can't afford to lose in 2008, which means we can't afford to do things the old way -- it don't work.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2006 02:53:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Not just winning, rebuilding

I'd be remiss if I didn't direct my half-dozen loyal readers to the discussion between Matt Stoller of MyDD and William Beutler of Hotline (here, here and here). My friend Roger Keeling especially praises the quality of the commentary attached to these posts, singling out this one by kenfair:
I think that the netroots are to some extent interested in playing a longer game than the Beltway establishment seems to be. For the last several cycles, I've seen the national party focusing on the upcoming election (whichever election that happens to be) to the exclusion of longer-term goals such as party-building, recruitment, training, and brand management. This focus on short-term results has allowed the Republicans to denigrate the word "liberal" and to make the plausible (albeit false) argument that Democrats don't stand for anything.

If it hopes to regain national prominence, the Democratic party cannot be the cicada that appears every two years when it's time for a national election. The 2006 elections are important, true, but they're not the only thing that's important.

This mirrors some of the ideas Roger has posted about before here on unfutz over the years: the need to build a liberal infrastructure to counter that which the Right-wing Establishment created over the past 40 years (since losing the Goldwater election) -- a topic I've also gone into before here and here, for instance.)

It's not enough to just win elections (although it would be nice if we did that now and then), one has to have the means to continue to win elections and to set the political agenda -- without that, we're just the occasional occupants of the White House, the momentary leaders of the Congress. With it, we get to continue doing the Great Work that's been our ongoing project ever since FDR took over during the Republican Great Depression -- creating a fair, secure, egalitarian society in which all men and women are indeed treated equally and given an equal chance to succeed to the best of their abilities, and those that fail aren't trampled underfoot, but are dealt with as individual human beings, not corporate fodder.

That's grandiose, but it's the direction we consistently moved in for many decades, until we were thrown off track by the right-wing juggernaut. We can't hope to get on track again until we have the ability to hold back that bulldozer.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2006 01:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is this a set-up?

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
Stephen Stills
"For What It's Worth" (1967)
performed by Buffalo Springfield

OK, maybe it's not paranoia, just justifiable cynicism, but how's this for a scenario regarding the Dubai Ports World brouhaha:

  1. Bush does another typical crony deal

  2. Deal begins to attract unwanted attention

  3. Republicans, weakened by scandals galore, come out against deal

  4. Bush threatens to veto attempts to scuttle deal

  5. Stopping legislation passes, Bush vetos, Congress overrides

  6. Bush gets to tell cronies: I did my best, it wasn't my fault

Yeah, I know there's quite a few radical assumptions in there, such as that Republicans in Congress (especially the House) would actually follow through on their threat to do anything once Bush has put his veto foot down (much more likely that they'll spout off to be on the right PR side of the controversy, and then find a way to back off once ther bluff is called), and that they would have the balls to go against Big Daddy and override an unprecedented Bush veto, but, still, I don't know, something about the way this is breaking strikes me as off.

Udate: Digby says the port deal hits Bush's trifecta:

If there are three hallmarks of this failed Bush administration, it is hubris, incompetence and cronyism. This port deal features all three.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/21/2006 11:53:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Lessons to be learned

On the 60th anniversary of George Kennan's "long telegram", the foundation of the cold war policy of containment of Soviet power, G. John Ikenberry has an excellent post on TPM Cafe on the valuable lessons to be learned from it as we struggle to figure out how to deal effectively with the radical Islamist threat.
[Kennan] ends the telegram with five comments, all of which might be recalled today as the United States confronts new threats:

First, Kennan argues, we need to study the "nature of the movement" that is Soviet communism. He says: "We must study it with same courage, detachment, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it. . ."

Second, Kennan argues, "we must see that our public is educated to the realities of Russian situation." He goes on to say that "I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavorably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better." He says: "I am convinced we have better chance of realizing those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis."

Third, Kennan says: "Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meet Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiques. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit – Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies."

Fourth, Kennan argues: "We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities . We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will."

Fifth, Kennan concludes his long telegram thusly: "Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping."

It has been fashionable since September 11 to argue, as the Bush administration has done, that "everything has changed" – and that the old rules and old strategies must be rethought for a frightening and transformed world. I just don’t buy this argument. Indeed, if the Bush administration had read the long telegram – particularly the last section and Kennan’s five admonitions – American foreign policy would be in better shape today than it is.

Immediately after the attacks of 9/11, I knew that it was absolutely imperative for me to know more about why they happened: who were the people who did this?, what did they want?, why had they attacked us? All of those questions were necessary to be answered in order to understand how best to deal with them. I think many other liberal-minded people who were not foreign-policy savants had the same thought: find out more about them, so we can know why this happened and what we should do.

For this instinct, liberals in general were roundly lambasted as weak, appeasers, perhaps even traitors. Any response to the attacks which was not immediately an all-out balls-to-the-wall military one was decried as unpatriotic and unAmerican. Never mind that I supported a military reprisal against the Taliban, the very fact that I also advocated other programs designed to win in another way entirely was enough to be branded.

Whatever, what I wrote shortly after 9/11 still seems true to me, and has been borne out by the debacle of Iraq:

We *must* act as nation-builders, or at least facilitators so that nations can rebuild themselves. We should do this not out of guilt, from simply as a matter of enlightened self-interest. ... [W]e need to remind ourselves that the purpose of any military action should not be retribution or retaliation for its own sake, although we would certainly be justified in seeking those things. Any military action should be in the service of the ultimate goal of making Americans secure, not only in their homeland but elsewhere in the world. Any military action, or any other part of this campaign against terrorism that we have been thrust into, which doesn't serve to move us closer to that goal is counter-productive and should not be carried out.

An unbiased observer would have to conclude that the policies of the Bush Administration have not made us more secure since 9/11, but significantly less. I hope that the next, Democratic, administration will draw a lesson from that, and from the historical example of Kennan's long telegram.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/21/2006 02:10:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Olympic bitching

I'd be curious to know what percentage of NBC's production costs for their Olympic coverage went towards producing their annoying "up close and personal" featurettes and other sidebars as opposed to actually, you know, showing athletic competition. At times, the programming seems to be a thousand sidebars in search of a main story.

Were I the God of the Olympics and Olympics Television Coverage (a very new god, but a very hard worker), I'd ban all "human interest" coverage of any kind, unless it had a direct and provable connection to the outcome of the competition, void all contracts between figure skaters and the manufacturers of netting and sequins, allow the estate of Elvis Presley to sue male skaters for unlicensed impersonation, permanently exile Ice Dancing to the Ice Capades where it belongs, and take Kevin Drum's complaints under consideration as well. (And I agree, it served that snowboarder right to lose the gold medal by showing off.)

What I want to see is athletic competition, people doing extraordinary things under a standard set of circumstances. If I want to watch soap operas, there are many for me to choose from, if I want a "disease of the week", there are thousands of bad TV movies awaiting me, if I want an inspirational story, I'll read a biography, and if I want to see badly made-up women in scanty costumes dancing badly, I'll go to Vegas.

Most of today's coverage was wasted on non-sports and featurettes, with a few actual sporting events thrown in as a sop.

(BTW, do you think after Bode Miller's failure to win a medal so far, or even to deign to appear to work very hard at trying to win a medal, corporations will think twice about building extensive advertising campaigns on a single athlete? One would think that this lesson might have been learned after American Express based a campaign on Andy Roddick in the last US Open, and Roddick was sent packing in the early rounds.)

Finally, I was sorry to see that the American women's curling team was eliminated today from medal contention, although their hopes were already hanging by the slimmest possible mathematical thread. Still, the team seemed in good spirits, enjoying themselves and letting their alternate get some Olympic experience, while still playing the games to the best of their ability. They didn't showboat, and they still managed to convey their love of the games, and the pleasure they get from playing it. I've really enjoyed watching them, and will continue to do so.(The American men are tied for first with the team from Great Britain, guaranteeing them a spot in the medal round -- they're fun to watch too.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 11:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Waxing on doping

I continue to think that the whole idea of banning performance-enhancing substances for athletes is pretty silly. (And William Saletan in Slate does a good job at pointing out the myriad inconsistencies and absurdities of the Olympic anti-doping code.) When you watch any of the skiing events in the Olympics, whether cross-country or alpine -- and the same goes for the snowboarding events -- the commentators make it quite clear that a huge portion of the credit for a good performance (or blame for a bad one) should go to the various technicians who maintain the equipment, especially the waxers who have to choose the correct wax for the weather conditions. The wrong wax can, apparently, condemn an athlete to ignominious defeat, whatever their abilities or training.

Given that situation, given that the Olympics don't require every skier or snowboarder to use exactly the same equipment and the same wax to insure parity between the athletes (and guaranteeing that a win comes about strictly because of ability, and not technical advantage), how can they continue to maintain their anti-doping standards?

It's gross inconsistency.

(Has there ever been a doping scandal in curling?)

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 04:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bla bla bla

Fulfilling my sacred obligation to comment on all the most pressing issues that currently face the world, I hereby weigh in on the momentarily infamous bla bla bla e-mail exchange.
  • He was right to be annoyed that she backed out so late.

  • She was right that since nothing was on paper, there was nothing legally binding her to take the job.

  • She was wrong to go against her word about what she would do -- legally binding or not, people rely on you doing what you say you're going to do.

  • He was right that pissing off someone in a small legal community seems unwise if you plan to practice there.

  • She was dumb to write the bla bla bla e-mail. She could have stopped where she was and been (just) within the bounds of propriety.

  • He was wrong to share that private e-mail exchange with someone else, which allowed it to get out to the public. At the very least, he should have stripped out her name, and presented it as an interesting life episode. That he didn't leaves the strong implication that he was getting it around in order to punish her in some way by spreading word of the exchange within the legal community. He could still have done that by describing the incident in his own words, explicitly naming her if he was of a mind to get back at her (within his prerogative, if not particularly nice), but using her e-mails without her permission invades her privacy.

  • I note that she's taken the opportunity of her 15 minutes of fame to have a glamour photo taken for publicity purposes -- a sign of the times.

There, aren't you glad I didn't leave you in the dark?

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 04:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


What gives?

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a report on what cities gave the most to the Red Cross to help with the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina.
In total dollars, the Red Cross chapter in New York led the way with $103.3 million; Greater Chicago was second with $72.6 million; and the San Francisco Bay Area was third with $65.6 million, the agency said.

Figured per capita, the leader were Seattle ($29.44/person), San Francisco ($14.00/person), Boston ($12.52/person) and New York and Philadephia tied for fourth ($11.52/person).

Let's see, something about those cities... Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle. Hmmm.

Right! They're all in blue states, they all voted for Gore and for Kerry. I wonder where the major cities of the red states were? Where are Houston, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio, all larger than San Francisco? Or Jacksonville, Austin and Memphis, wth more population than Boston? Or El Paso, Nashville and Denver, bigger than Seattle?

What does it mean that not one of the major cities of the red states made the list?

[via Rittenhouse Review]

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 04:32:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Right-wing cult-ure

The "right-wing as cult" meme grows and grows. In case you haven't read them yet, check out what Glenn Greenwald, David Neiwert and Digby (here too) have to say about it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 01:28:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Depressing, but true:
Most bloggers toil in total obscurity.

New York Magazine's explanation for this is the power-law curve:

...Clay Shirky, an instructor at New York University ... specializes in the social dynamics of the Internet, including "network theory": a mathematical model of how information travels inside groups of loosely connected people, such as users of the Web.

To analyze the disparities in the blogosphere, Shirky took a sample of 433 blogs. Then he counted an interesting metric: the number of links that pointed toward each site ("inbound" links, as they're called). ... When Shirky compiled his analysis of links, he saw that the smaller bloggers' fears were perfectly correct: There is enormous inequity in the system. A very small number of blogs enjoy hundreds and hundreds of inbound links -- the A-list, as it were. But almost all others have very few sites pointing to them. When Shirky sorted the 433 blogs from most linked to least linked and lined them up on a chart, the curve began up high, with the lucky few. But then it quickly fell into a steep dive, flattening off into the distance, where the vast majority of ignored blogs reside. The A-list is teensy, the B-list is bigger, and the C-list is simply massive. In the blogosphere, the biggest audiences -- and the advertising revenue they bring -- go to a small, elite few. Most bloggers toil in total obscurity.

Economists and network scientists have a name for Shirky's curve: a "power-law distribution." Power laws are not limited to the Web; in fact, they're common to many social systems. If you chart the world's wealth, it forms a power-law curve: A tiny number of rich people possess most of the world's capital, while almost everyone else has little or none. The employment of movie actors follows the curve, too, because a small group appears in dozens of films while the rest are chronically underemployed. The pattern even emerges in studies of sexual activity in urban areas: A small minority bed-hop, while the rest of us are mostly monogamous.

The power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: When we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. Movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. Investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. Popularity breeds popularity.

"It's not about moral failings or any sort of psychological thing. People aren't lazy -- they just base their decisions on what other people are doing," Shirky says. "It's just social physics. It's like gravity, one of those forces."

What's depressing about this is not having small "C-list" blogs referred to as "vanity blogs", or even that I'm being condemned to continue blogging in the cellar without the lights on, as much as the emphasis throughout the article on how much money people are making off their blogs. Call me a naive idiot, but I thought blogging was about something else entirely, stuff like peer-to-peer communication, greater access to more voices, a new egalitarianism, the chance to reinforce our founding democratic principles, establishing a heterogeneous alternative to the orthodoxy of the gatekeeper media, "disintermediation" -- crazy, radical ideas like that, and not about inventing a new way to make a living.

As I noted in a recent post, the continued bulking up of the big weblogs into mega-blogs like Daily Kos and the TPM mini-empire is a disturbing harbinger of things to come. Don't get me wrong, I really do appreciate those sites and the work they do, I go to them many times a day, and participate on them to a limited extent, but I think it's quite probable that in a decade or so we'll find that we have a Blogging Establishment that's as just as entrenched as the so-called Mainstream Media establshment is now, and we'll look back on the moves being made today as the first step on our way to that new reality.

Will having a Blogging Establishment be a bad thing? It's hard to say. If its blogs remains independent (i.e. not owned by the media and entertainment conglomerates and other bigfoot media companies), politically progressive and responsive to their "communities", maybe not, but to the extent that having an entrenched Establishment makes it that much harder for small amateur blogs to make their voices heard, perhaps so.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2006 12:34:00 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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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


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