I thought that was a pretty good quote, snarky and true enough, so I started writing a post highlighting it, and went to look for where Bierce wrote it (I always like to include a citation for a quote whenever possible) -- unfortunately, I couldn't find one. Neither Googling nor a search through my library of quotation reference books brought up a source. Most Internet citations carry it without attribution, or with an "(atributed)" disclaimer, or with no attribution at all, as in "someone once said".
The most obvious source would be Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, but my copy has a much more interesting (and much more cyncial) entry for "War":
War n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. "In time of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end -- that change is the one immutable and eternal law -- but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his "stately pleasure dome" -- when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu -- that he
heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war.
One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of the elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal emity provide the night.
Not nearly as pithy as the shorter quote, but perhaps an order of magnitude smarter, a true example of reality-based observation. (And Bierce was writing between 1881 and 1911, well before the "peace" of The Great War turned out to be only a 20 year armstice before World War II.)
Back to the original quote, though -- a deeper Google search brought up the possibility that it originated not with Bierce at all, but with comedian Paul Rodriguez, (see here, here, here and here, for instance), which makes somewhat more sense, since the quote has a very modern feel to it, and seems as if it would work well in a contemporary comedian's routine. Unfortunately, I've also not be able to find any citation for where and when Rodriquez said it, so we're stuck with dueling attributions.
I'm inclined to think that it's not from Bierce, but from Rodriguez. (This person agrees as to Bierce.) I've sent an e-mail to Rodriguez through his website asking for any help he might be able to give.
[A]ny quote which sounds vaguely appropriate to do so will sooner or later be attributed to H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain or Albert Einstein.
Other folks contributed Oscar Wilde and George Barnard Shaw to the list, but Ambrose Bierce would be a good addition as well, especially considering his own take on it, from The Devil's Dictionary:
Quotation, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.
As Twain once said (or was it Shaw? Or Cidermills?)
It doesn't matter who the author is, if the quote is good enough.
Correction: For some reason I got the name of the proprietor of the weblog that started all this, What is The War?, wrong -- it's Matthew Duss not "Paul Duss." My apologies for this inadvertant error. I've correct the text above.
Bob Kerr in the Providence Journal has an incredible story. Apparently, if you pay down too much on your credit card bill, you may run afoul of Homeland Security:
[Walter and Deana Soehnge] paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.
And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.
And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.
They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.
After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed.
So Deana Soehnge called the credit-card company. Then Walter called.
"When you mess with my money, I want to know why," he said.
They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking.
They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.
Walter called television stations, the American Civil Liberties Union and me. And he went on the Internet to see what he could learn. He learned about changes in something called the Bank Privacy Act.
"The more I'm on, the scarier it gets," he said. "It's scary how easily someone in Homeland Security can get permission to spy."
Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up. The Soehnges were apparently found not to be promoting global terrorism under the guise of paying a credit-card bill. They never did learn how a large credit card payment can pose a security threat.
But the experience has been a reminder that a small piece of privacy has been surrendered. Walter Soehnge, who says he holds solid, middle-of-the-road American beliefs, worries about rights being lost.
"If it can happen to me, it can happen to others," he said.
Soehnge is right, the more you know, the scarier it gets.
Any argument that the US must remain in Iraq in order to stave off disintegration must be accompanied by an account of how the US presence, with a finite extension, will actual resolve the problem. If we're just delaying the inevitable, then there's not much point in staying. ... I think that the burden must be on those who support the continued occupation to explain precisely how the situation will be better in a year or three because of the US presence.
If there was any evidence that we have a clear, reasonable, reachable goal in Iraq, a plan for how to achieve that goal, and the willingness to commit the resources necessary to achieve it, I'd be willing to talk about supporting a long-term (decades-long, if really necessary) military presence in that country. Unfortunately, none of those is true, and the only valid argument at this point for not pulling out is that we have the moral responsibility for the mess there (which is undeniably true) and if we don't stay things will get worse.
Well, we're still there, and things are getting worse -- and we're clearly not able to do anything to stop it. In the meatime, our troops are dying.
There's no real "solution" to the problem, certainly none that's available to Bush because of his wholescale rejection of international institutions and multilateral thinking. I hope, though, that the Democrats now jockeying for position for 2008 are thinking hard about what they're going to do if they're elected, because I rather doubt Bush is going to pull out. (And I certainly hope they're not betting on the civil war dying down on its own.)
It won't be anything like a "solution" per se, but some combination of a US troop cut back, with a UN-sanctioned multi-national force for policing, perhaps with a de facto division of the country into semi-autonomous regions, with the oil administered by a neutral third party (the UN?), with proceeds split among the regions, is about the best that I can come up with at the moment, but by 2008 the facts on the ground may be such that some other ideas might make more sense. (Which is the reason why the Democratic Presidential hopefuls should tread lightly about announcing any grand schemes they may have, because those ideas may be dust in the wind sooner rather than later.)
This caricature of Richard Cheney is from a page of right-wing merchandise which was linked to from David Horowitz' wretched Front Page site. This particular line also features a caricature of a boozing Ted Kennedy, and the charming caption "I'd rather hunt with Dick than drive with Ted."
What's interesting about it is not the predictable wingnut attempt at "humor", but that the caricature of Cheney is just about as unflattering as the one of Kennedy. Maybe the artist thought the portrayal of Cheney showed resolve or grit or something like that, but all it really shows is how nasty Cheney is -- and it's intriguing that even his natural constituency apparently sees him that way. (Perhaps that explains why his approval rating is down to a miniscule 18%.)
Of course, there's really not that much of a choice on their part about how to depict Dick. I mean, what can you do to soften the presentation of this guy?
After my discussion below of the characters of politicians and how it can differ from the personas they project or are presented with having, it has to be said that Cheney's character and persona seem very much aligned with each other. I've never met him (and never will, I'm sure), but I bet that it's the "real" Dick Cheney we're seeing in these pictures, and that's what the carcaturist has captured, perhaps unwittingly.
Not really related, but I though I'd stick it here for the hell of it: The Wingnut Debate Dictionary defines "Cheney's razor" as "a philosophic rule that the most complex explanation of an unknown phenomenon is probably correct."
We'll not beat these guys out of office until we understand a simple point that I and a few other political professionals I know and have stressed for years, for me as recently as last fall with a US Senate candidate (and it fell flat, BTW): it's human qualities, stupid.
It's not the issues or positions on issues, as our Beltway idiots and CW believe and, to this very day, base their campaigns on. It's who you are as a person: honest, trustworthy, ethical, truthful, yadda, yadda. In short, voters make their decision based on the human qualities they see reflected in the candidate. They'll vote for a good, honest, strong guy even if they disagree on many issues with him.
He's right, of course, except probably for saying "many issues" -- I think there's probably a limit to the number of issues a voter and a candidate disagree about before the voter turns off that particular politician, but it's certainly true that policy is not the primary guide voters use. (Which is why I sometimes get a bit annoyed at the uber-wonkery on display at TPM Cafe or Tapped.)
The other thing that Sun Tzu doesn't say explicitly (but surely understands) is that it's not the actual, real-world qualities of a candidate that count, it's the qualities as they are presented to the voters that are important. If the presented persona is too different from the actual character of the candidate, or if the candidate is a bad performer who can't convincingly support the presented persona, the voter is going to sense something's wrong, and they won't buy it. If, however, the persona is in line with conventional wisdom about the candidate, and the candidate is able to inhabit the personal convincingly, it gets to be difficult to tear apart the belief of the voters in what they truly believe to be a "fact" about the candidate.
So, some potential lessons here:
The better your candidate is as an actor, the more the persona you are presenting to the public can stray from the actual character of the candidate;
The more the persona adheres to pre-existing stereotypes and preconceptions, the stronger the voters' belief in it will be;
Conversely, the more the persona differs from received knowledge (conventional wisdom), the more important it is that the candidate either have a very powerful real-life character on which to build, or, if that's not possible, to be an extremely good performer;
In those cases, it's not the distance of the presented persona from the actual character which is the problem, it's the distance of the presented persona from the conventional wisdom that's the rub;
A candidate with a great character, presented with a quality persona, who's also a good actor, is a very strong candidate -- however, there's no guarantee that this combination will be any more persuasive that a candidate with a lousy character who's well-presented in line with conventional wisdom and who is a great performer.
Earlier today, I posted a very downbeat reaction to the Bush-Katrina-briefing story -- basically, I said I was out of bad things to say about the incompetence, arrogance and mendacity of the Administration. My good friend Roger Keeling demurs -- he's pumped up by the story:
For five years, I've engaged -- almost daily -- in a kind of magical thinking (maybe that's too harsh: perhaps a kind of pleasant wishful-thinking daydream would be more like it) that, somehow, one could acquire and vet videotape of all the private moments of George Bush and his thugs. Imagine the lovely discussions you'd have: Kathleen Harris reporting on their efforts to steal the Florida vote; private meetings with Karl tracking the progress of their little creation, The Swift Boat Liars; sitting around the bunker with Dick and Don and their oil industry buddies, laughing it up while divvying up America; George telling his buddies -- in 1999 -- how his biggest priority would be to invade Iraq and get the guy who insulted the Bush family.
And now, thank the gods!, a little tiny piece of my fantasy has come true! For once, the bastard and his minions can't deny it. They can't say it didn't happen. George Bush KNEW that Katrina was on its way. He KNEW that it posed deadly danger to an entire city; he KNEW that if FEMA wasn't given the tools it needed, and with urgency, American citizens were going to die.
He did nothing; American citizens died. And -- THEN the bastard LIED about it on national television. No half-lies, either. No mixed messages. No way to say, "Oh, you're just misinterpreting his words." No -- none of that. HE LIED. Absolutely, with his usual idiot-boy monkey look ... doubtless the same look that never really fooled daddy, but otherwise held him in good stead all the time he was growing up and lying about this, that or the other to his teachers, his college professors, his TANG commanders, his employers, the girlfriends he was cheating on, and all the rest.
Only THIS time is can't work. Not at all. Because we have it on tape!
If the Democrats will USE this -- if, if, if!!! -- they could, I swear, bulldoze him into the mid-20s on the approval chart, and the GOP along with him. Make the little cretin totally toxic!
This should be done around the time of the '06 elections, of course, but even with six months of delay I don't think there will be ANY good response the GOP can cook up in the interim, save for each individual Republican candidate just trying to distance him or herself from Bush.
I can see the ad now. Images of pre-Katrina, clips from the news and weather stations. The narrator intoning about how EVERYONE seemed to realize a grave threat was approaching. Then a clip from the interview with Diane Sawyer, Bush saying "No one could have forseen what happened." Then, the narrator, "He was lying. The proof: videotape of George Bush BEING WARNED EXPLICITLY about the threat." (Show clips from the video). "He was warned, but he didn't care ... and hundreds [thousands?] of Americans were killed as a result. And then, rather than face up to it like a man, George Bush LIED TO ALL OF AMERICA."
(Remember how the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton because, ah, "he lied"? Sure, Bill was under oath -- but it was about sex, a private matter. Shrub wasn't under oath, to be sure, but on the other hand IT WAS ABOUT HIS CRAVEN INDIFFERENCE and brazen incompetence which resulted in massive numbers of deaths. Lordy!)
Use it in the election, a tool to mow 'em down like the wrath of the gods! I'd say use it for an impeachment drive, but -- face it -- unless we take Congress (one or both houses), impeachment is as likely as snowballs in hell.
In any case, I'm not out of superlatives. I'm re-energized with them! Because for once, our superlatives HAVE INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE backing them up, of the kind even the dimmest Kool-Aid-drinking rightwinger can't deny. Today, Ed, is a good day!
I sure hope he's right.
Update: Blogger Jon Swift, "a reasonable conservative" who "get[s] all [his] news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues," has a view of the Katrina-briefing story from the right.
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
(1972) quoted by Dick in "How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (written 1978) published in I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon (1985) reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), Lawrence Sutin, ed.
One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven -- or even proven at all -- to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn't there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car's ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.
A Scanner Darkly (1977)
Fear ... can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy. If you're afraid you don't commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back.
Flow My Tear, The Policeman Said (1974)
[Philip K.] Dick's fiction calls up our basic cultural assumptions, requires us to reexamine them, and points out the destructive destinations to which they are carrying us. The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now, the images in Dick's fiction declare, we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland.
Patricia S. Warrick Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick (1987)
I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, &, for them, my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation & presentation, analysis & response & personal history. My audience will always be limited to those people.
(1981) In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis (1991) edited by Lawrence Sutin
Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.
letter to Patricia Warrick (5/17/78) Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: v.5 1977-1979
The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
"How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)
The worlds through which Philip Dick's character's move are subject to cancellation or revision without notice.
Roger Zelazny (attributed)
Spinoza saw ... that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, "I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second per second."
"The Android and the Human" (1972) reprinted in The Dark-Haired Girl (1988)
Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would not call that a disease but an error of judgment.
A Scanner Darkly (1977)
Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed ... Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.
A Maze of Death (1970)
Science Fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.
"How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)
Can any of us fix anything? No. None of us can do that. We're specialized. Each one of us has his own line, his own work. I understand my work, you understand yours. The tendency in evolution is toward greater and greater specialization. Man's society is an ecology that forces adaptation to it. Continued complexity makes it impossible for us to know anything outside our own personal field - I can't follow the work of the man sitting at the next desk over from me. Too much knowledge has piled up in each field. And there are too many fields.
"The Variable Man" (short story, 1953) The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.
"Self Portrait" (1968)
A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
"Man, Androids and Machine" (1975)
To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement ... Whoever defeats the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus ... thereby it becomes its enemies.
Taegan Goddard reports that a Wall Street Journal article has Alan Greenspan saying that "the two American parties now [are] controlled by their extreme wings." This very revealing bit of idiocy (or half-idiocy, anyway -- any liberal or progressive could educate Greenspan on how difficult it is to get the Democratic party to follow a progressive agenda) makes it easier to ignore Greenspan's prediction that "Such situations ... create an opening for a third-party candidate who appeals to the center."
American political history ain't my strong point (and obviously not Greenspan's either), but when was the last time a major American party grew from the center? For that matter, when was the last time we had more than two major parties, a right-center one and a left-center one?
I've finally run out of superlatives to describe the hypocrisy, ethical and moral corruption, incompetence and outright inhumanity of the Bush White House. I'm just spent.
What's brought me to this impasse is the AP story which shows a pre-Katrina briefing in which everyone -- FEMA, the White House -- is warned about the strong possibility of loss of life from having the levees topped or breached, the exact same thing that Bush a few days later denied anyone could have expected to happen.
Then, to ameliorate the blowback from this revelation, the White House leaked to Newsweek transcripts of various briefings, including one they wouldn't provide to Congress because they said it didn't exist.
Update (3/6): Hello, folks coming over from Bartcop, welcome! If you've got a few moments, feel free to look around the place. And don't forget to link through to Roger Keeling's response to this post (if you haven't already read it in the comments).
TD: You've often quoted a piece in which reporter Ron Suskind is told by an unidentified senior administration official that he's in the "reality-based community," after which that official says something striking: "We're an empire now and when we act we create our own reality." Care to comment?
Danner: I think that quote is immensely revealing. It underlines their policies in all kinds of areas, their belief that the overwhelming or preponderant power of the United States can simply change fact, can change truth. It is quite indicative of their policy of public information inside the United States. They don't care about people who read the New York Times, for instance. I use that as a shorthand. They don't care about people concerned with facts. They care about the broader arc of the story. We sit here constantly citing facts -- that they've broken this or that law, that what they originally said turns out not to be true. None of this particularly interests them.
What interests them is the larger reality believed by the 50.1% that they need to govern. Kenneth Duberstein said this recently -- he was chief of staff to Ronald Reagan -- that this administration is unique in that they govern with 50.1%. He was referring not to elections but to popularity while governing. His notion was that Reagan would want to get 60-65% backing him, while the Bush people want a bare majority, which means they have a much more extremist policy because they're appealing to the base. It makes them very hard-knuckle when approaching politics, simply wanting the base plus one.
On empire, what's unusual about this administration isn't only its focus on power, but on unilateralism. It's the flip side of isolationism. The notion that alliances, economic or political, and international law inevitably hinder the most powerful nation. You know, the image of the strings around Gulliver. They said in the National Security Strategy of the United States, the 2005 version, that rivals will continue to challenge us using the strategies of the weak including "international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism." They're associating terror and asymmetric warfare with international law as similar ways to blunt the overwhelming power of the United States. That represents an attitude toward international law and institutions that, I think, is a real and dramatic break from past practice in the United States. In our history, certainly recently, there's just no comparison to them -- no government anywhere near as radical.
TD: They're really extreme American nationalists, though you can't use that word in this country.
Danner: That's true, and they combine with this belief in great-power America an almost nativist distrust of international institutions. That's the difference between Truman America and this regime in its approach to foreign policy. They put international institutions in a similar class with terrorism –- that is, weapons of the weak
TD: Weapons of mass interference.
Danner: I should add that, in my view, the era of neocon leadership is clearly coming to an end. The impression that they were ever entirely in control is wrong in any event and the vanguard of the neocons has obviously been blunted by the great failure of Iraq -- because their assumption of preponderant American power turned out not to be true. Napoleon had this wonderful line that you can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it. Military power is good for blowing things up; it's good for destroying things. It's not good for building a new order. It takes a great deal more power, skill, and patience to construct an enduring order in Iraq. The United States doesn't have sufficient power; it doesn't have the skill; and we know it doesn't have the patience.
TD: It's always dangerous to predict the future, but can you imagine, in quite another direction, this administration imploding or unraveling?
Danner: Well, as in so many things, Yogi Berra had it right: I never make predictions, especially about the future. When it comes to raw political power, the ramrod backbone of the administration is clearly national security. 9/11 restored to the Republican Party what they had lost with the end of the Cold War -- this persistent advantage in national security. If there is one thing this administration has done brilliantly, ruthlessly, efficiently, it's making political use of its war on terror. It remains to be seen whether they can go to that well one more time in the 2006 election. There is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, exactly because Americans, after four years of it, are tired of this rhetoric and they've been enlightened by the Iraq war, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the Medicare debacle among other things to the general incompetence of the administration and to its corruption.
Could the administration unravel? The notion many people on the left are putting forward about a move toward impeachment -- it's hard for me to imagine that. First of all, we're coming to a point in the political calendar where Democrats, as at the time of Iran-Contra, are not going to want impeachment to get in the way of retaking the White House in 2008. Democrats also saw what impeachment did to the Republican Party in 1998. For the first time in memory in an off-year election in a President's second term, the Republicans lost seats -- leading, as you'll remember, to the abrupt fall of Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, if the Democrats did take one house of Congress this November, I think there are a number of areas where an investigation could hurt this administration severely, and it's hard to predict what the Bush people's reaction would be if they found themselves the target of aggressive congressional committees actually investigating officials who faced being charged, convicted, and sent to jail. Even with Congress actually doing its job, we would confront the central political reality of our time: Terrorism has embedded itself in our political system, which is to say that fear has become the most lucrative political emotion and the administration would retain a considerable power to promote fear. It has the power to suggest that an attack on the national security bureaucracy is an attack on the safety of the people.
TD: As dusk settles in, let me end this way: You've reported on some countries in horrific situations over the years. You wrote somewhere that in State Department parlance they are called TFN, totally f--ked up nations. Your mother, when you come home, has a tendency to say, "Can't you go someplace nice for a change?" So here we are on this patio, the sun going down, the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. This looks nice. My question is: Is it nice, or are you now reporting from and teaching in a TFN?
Danner: [laughs heartily] Oh, you mean, this just a mask, a sunny, picturesque mask over what is, in reality, a totally f--ked up nation? Actually, to reach the point of being a TFN, I think we have a long way to go. We're at a very low point in the political evolution of this country. I've certainly not lived under an administration as radical in its techniques, its methods, and its beliefs as this one. I've seen nothing like it in my lifetime.
It's a difficult time for those of us who care about the truth and who don't believe, as I think this administration does, that the truth is actually determined by what those in power think. I take comfort from the fact that a lot of people don't believe that.
There are two borderline dangers here. One is to go off into a state of political debility in which you think that none of this matters. To hell with politics, let's try to live our lives. And that's a very natural response, to kind of bow out of political engagement, but I think that would be very wrong and very harmful. The other risk is to equal the administration in their exaggerations and their distortions, in their stunning lack of fidelity to what is happening. To exaggerate, to overstate, to alter the truth in the cause of a political goal -- this, I think, is very tempting… very tempting. When you see Fox News existing as it does, you want something of the same on the other side. But I don't think that's my job and I'm glad it's not the job of a lot of writers and journalists out there.
You asked a little while ago what reporters should do in a time like this. I think it's immensely important that people continue, with great determination, to report what is true, to investigate things like the NSA story, to make a record of all of this. Because, at the end of the day, that is what reporters do, and that is why their work is so valuable -- so, if you'll forgive this word, sacred. They try to tell what actually happened.
It's the notion that the winners in our increasingly unequal society are a fairly large group — that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don't have these skills.
The truth is quite different. Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains. The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.
So who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.
A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.
But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.
Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.
This is just absolutely incredible. I knew that income disparity was increasing, and more so under the aegis of Bush-Cheneyism, but I had no idea of the dimensions of the gap. Amazing -- we continue our relentless trip towards oligarchy.
The idea that we have a rising oligarchy is much more disturbing. It suggests that the growth of inequality may have as much to do with power relations as it does with market forces. Unfortunately, that's the real story.
Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.
Oligarchy, corruption, neo-fascism, unjust war -- what a world, what a world, what a world.
We are really in deep, deep trouble, and I foresee more and various kinds of Circuses designed to keep us distracted.
Apparently, the city's growth has been in large part due to immigration:
Growth in the 1980's and especially the 1990's has been largely driven by immigration. Foreigners are expected to account for much of the growth in the next two decades, growth that, according to the forecasts, would keep New York in first place among the nation's cities and maintain the New York metropolitan region either as the largest or, at least, tied with Los Angeles.
(Now there's the shocker in the piece -- the implication that it's possible that LA will catch up with NY in population in 20 years or so.)
Whatever the reason for the growth, considering that when I grew up in the suburbs north of the city, the big story was the exodus from the City of the middle class, especially the white middle class, and that New York came perilously close to bankruptcy in the 1970's (remember the headline in the Daily News "Ford to City: Drop Dead" when the president refused to help the city avoid default), the City's return from the near-dead has been pretty extraordinary.
Of course, as the article points out, as New York gets larger, it also gets wealthier, and as it gets wealthier, it gets more and more expensive to live here, especially in most of Manhattan, so that a poor working slob like myself finds it more difficult to make ends meet.
Still, as often as the topic of leaving the city comes up in family conversation, or of leaving Manhattan for Brooklyn or Queens, after 30 years here it's now hard to imagine living anywhere else.
(BTW, as of the last census, New York's population density -- 8,008,278 people in 303 square miles -- was 26,502.9 people per square mile. Manhattan (New York County) had 1,537,195 people in 23 square miles, for a density of 66,940.1 people per square mile. According to the Census Bureau, our estimated 2004 population is 1,562,723, and, according to the article in the Times, it's expected to go to 1,694,200 by 2025, which will be a population densty of 73,660.9 -- pretty squishy.
Hey, Angelenos! -- give us a call when you've got density figures like that. Then you'll be a real city.)
One thing the article didn't deal at all with was the growth of the suburbs and exurbs which together with the City make up the Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area. In general, they've been out performing the City in growth rates for decades, but are apparently reaching something of a saturation point.
I guess that will make my relatives who live up there happy, as increasing population density has brought more and more of the problems usually associated with cities much closer to their doorstep. Me? I think if you're going to have the problems anyway, you might as well have the advantages that the density of a traditional city brings.
Update (3/5): According to Census Bureau projections, in 2030, Florida will pass New York as the third most populace state (after California and Texas), by a substantial margin. Also North Carolina and Georgia will move up to 7tha & 8th place (from 11th & 10th), pushing Ohio down to 9th, and Arizona moves from 25th to 10th, pushing Michigan from 8th to 11th.
Other winners are Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, so it looks like the Pacific Northwest is in for some population pressures. Losers are DC (losing almost a quarter of its population!), North Dakota, West Virginia, Iowa, Pennsyvania, Wyoming, Nebraska and Louisiana (not even accounting for Katrina). [via Atrios]
Here's an interesting case study in the presentation of data.
As part of a post about Bush falling to a low 34% approval rating, Josh Marshall linked (via a reader's suggestion) to a page on the site of the Roper Center of the University of Connecticut showing Presidential Job Performance, including highs and lows for recent presidents. On that page, there's a graph titled "General Approval Trend for President Bush," which looks like this:
What's fairly remarkable about this graph is that because the vertical dimension is so small, it looks rather as if Bush's approval has been fairly flat, if generally falling off a bit. One gets very little impression of the large swings in Bush's approval ratings prompted by events both unexpected (the attacks of 9/11) and all too expected (the invasion of Iraq), nor is there the strong sense that Bush's ratings fall off after each jump up, or that each jump up is smaller than the last, and that each decline is rather steep.
In other words, in extremis, people rally around their President, and then rather quickly are disappointed in his performance.
It's obviously not impossible to present the data in a way that makes this clear, because Professor Pollkatz does exactly that with a similar data set. (I've adjusted the horizontal scale to be approximately the same as the Roper graph):
In fact, the Roper graph itself could tell pretty much the same story, if they had chosen to use a more reasonable vertical scale -- here it is with the vertical dimension stretched 2.5 times, to be about the same as the Pollkatz graph:
It's still not as strong or clear a presentation of the data, but it's certainly less deceptive than the original.
I'm not accusing the Roper Center of deliberately skewing the graph to downplay Bush's falling approval ratings or minimizing the extent of his ups and downs (and downs, and downs), I think it's just sloppy presentation.
Addenda: I got curious about what the Pollkatz graph would look like if the vertical dimension of it was the same as the original Roper graph, so I squashed it, and got this:
Although even squashed like this the Pollkatz presentation is, in my opinion, superior, it's clear that it's the choice of vertical scale which is determinative, not the graphic design.
The most interesting thing [Zogby] said [at a recent college appearance] was the suggestion that in the next several years, he thinks that Hurricane Katrina will prove to have a bigger effect on American politics than the September 11 attacks. He said that, in his opinion, it will lead to a re-envisioning of the relationship between people and the government, similar to the New Deal or the conservative revolution, and that the party that positions itself to take advantage of that will dominate American politics for the next couple of decades. Unfortunately, he was a little vague about what form the re-envisioning would take, other than that it will involve some form of universal health care, and something to do with government assistance to community and charitable organizations. It's an interesting idea, though I'm not sure I really buy it.
It should be obvious that the party best positioned to take advantage of this is the Democratic Party -- it was, after all, the Republican Party that was totally in charge when the mess occured. That's something we really should be pounding on, that the Bush Administration has been a total and utter disaster when it comes to one of the most basic functions of government: providing services, and that Katrina wasn't a fluke, it was simply the most flagrant case among many failures.
I know that Democrats are understandly shy of playing the Competency Card, because of the way Dukakis screwed up using it, but we can take from Zogby some insight on a better way to go about it.
Rather than emphasizing the cold and technocratic issue of competency and incompetence, let's tell everyone about our New Covenant, a new relationship between The People and Their Government as it will be run by Democrats, who care about the needs of the people, who listen to what the people are saying, and who want every man, woman and child in America to be able to live full, satisfying and healthy lives.
Government as the servant of the people -- there's a "re-envisioning" that's a radical departure from the philosophy of the Bush Failures.
John Zogby, head of the Zogby polling organization, and an Arab-American, made an appearance at a small liberal-arts college recently, as reported on Uncertain Principles:
The one moment when [Zogby] got really animated, and departed from the objective-pollster act in a serious way, came when somebody asked him if he had polled Iraqis on what they thought would happen when the US pulls out. He said that fretting about whether the country would slide into civil war is foolish because they're already having a civil war. When the questioner asked "wouldn't it get worse if we left?," he shot back "How could it?"
That's really the crux of the problem we're in right now: The United States has the moral responsibility for the mess we've made in Iraq, regardless of whether any of us individually and personally were in support of the war, so our decisions about how to proceed have to be on the basis of "will this help or will it hurt," not simply on the basis that we're losing badly and that Americans continued to be killed over Bush's Folly. While we cannot know for certain what the effect of our leaving will be, it's a certainty now that we cannot hope to undo the damage we've done, or put the genie we've released back into the bottle, and that means that the remaining question is simply "will leaving make things worse"?
According to the frequently cited — if incorrect — explanation of why ice is slippery under an ice skate, the pressure exerted along the blade lowers the melting temperature of the top layer of ice, the ice melts and the blade glides on a thin layer of water that refreezes to ice as soon as the blade passes.
"People will still say that when you ask them," Dr. Rosenberg said. "Textbooks are full of it."
But the explanation fails, he said, because the pressure-melting effect is small. A 150-pound person standing on ice wearing a pair of ice skates exerts a pressure of only 50 pounds per square inch on the ice. (A typical blade edge, which is not razor sharp, is about one-eighth of an inch wide and about 12 inches long, yielding a surface area of 1.5 square inches each or 3 square inches for two blades.) That amount of pressure lowers the melting temperature only a small amount, from 32 degrees to 31.97 degrees. Yet ice skaters can easily slip and fall at temperatures much colder.
The pressure-melting explanation also fails to explain why someone wearing flat-bottom shoes, with a much greater surface area that exerts even less pressure on the ice, can also slip on ice.
Two alternative explanations have arisen to take the pressure argument's place. One, now more widely accepted, invokes friction: the rubbing of a skate blade or a shoe bottom over ice, according to this view, heats the ice and melts it, creating a slippery layer.
The other, which emerged a decade ago, rests on the idea that perhaps the surface of ice is simply slippery. This argument holds that water molecules at the ice surface vibrate more, because there are no molecules above them to help hold them in place, and they thus remain an unfrozen liquid even at temperatures far below freezing.
According to the article, there's apparently no agreement on which of these alternatives is correct.
The article, by Kenneth Chang, also looks at more exotic forms of ice, numbered with Roman numerals (just like Vonnegut said!), I through XII.
Related:Chang also has a piece about the Discovery Institute's anti-evolution petition, supposedly signed by over 500 scientists. (I did a somewhat similar analysis of the DI's amicus brief in the Kitzmiller case.)
In an aside, Roy at alicublog offers a powerful weapon to wield in the culture wars -- Just say "So what?"
[I]t is instructive to consider how many of the complaints of today's lifestyle conservatives invite, nay demand, just such an answer. Hollywood doesn't make movies I like! So what? TV commercials make men look stupider than women! So what? Young girls are exposing their midriffs! Where? I mean, so what?
I have no doubt that some folks reading this website harbor doubts about the official story of 9/11 (some of my acquaintance have a tendency to doubt any "official" explanation of any type, no matter how heartfelt or reasonable), since in the age we live in, conspiracy theorizing is rather a bullish phenomenon, and the lies and incompetence of the Bush Administration only exacerbate that tendency. The reality is bad enough, that the Bush administration downgraded al Qaeda as a potential threat because it didn't fit in with their ideological preconceptions of the moment, but that aside (and I'm certain there's much more to tell about that part of the story which won't come out for many years, if ever), there's no real reason to doubt the basics of the accepted scenario. As A Rational Being points out, the application of Occam's Razor (the simplest answer is to be preferrred) is to be encouraged whenever possible, and in this case it should lead us the understanding that the 9/11 conspiracy theories are not supported by the evidence.
Popular Mechanics (of all places!) has a good check against the conspiracists, and it's always worthwhile to check out what Snopes has to say as well (although they've been known to get things wrong as well, on occasion).
As my friend Tom F., a civil attorney from Northern California, wrote some years ago:
[T]here's something about a facile charge of conspiracy. It eats away at your powers of reason and makes you delusional and at least slightly psychotic. It's a stain, and you can't get it off. It makes you incapable of distinguishing reality from unreality. It throws your sense of proportion all out of whack, and you stop trusting your common sense. What can you trust? You never know. Is what I see really what I see, or is it an illusion being foisted upon me by the conspirators? It burrows into your brain, like termites, and turns it into sawdust.
There are conspiracies, to be sure, and when there is evidence of one, we should follow it up and get to the bottom of it, but there's a tendency these days to doubt absolutely everything without any rhyme or reason or rational thought put into evaluation of the available facts.
(This doesn't mean we throw away our own experiences. The Bush Administration, for instance, has shown over and over again that it doesn't really know how to tell the truth at any time, so Occam's Razor demands that everything it says should be taken as a lie until proven otherwise.)
Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, has started a weblog. There's not a lot of content so far, but I'm hanging on to the URL in case I want to comment on his next contribution to The New Yorker.
Liberals and Progressives need to stop self identifying with the Democratic party. They need to understand, as the Christian right did with the Republicans (and they got their payoff in two anti-abortion justices, so those who said that the Republicans never give them anything were simply wrong) that the Democratic party is a tool, and that your job is to become the stronger party within that party, so that when it comes into power, it carries out progressive and liberal policies, not conservative ones.
What this means, individually, is that while you always vote Democratic (because conservatives are prefferable to reactionaries) you shouldn't be working for or donating to Conservative democrats. Because, bottom line, they will sell you down the river on key votes like the bankruptcy act or Alito. So, no money, no time, for them.
Not ever. You only have so much money and time and it should go to people who will actually represent your views. If your local candidate isn't a liberal or progressive by all means vote for him, but find someone else to donate to, to give time to. There are always progressive candidates who need help.
Welsh's basic ideas -- help progressive candidates, save our limited resources for people who support our views -- is certainly a defensible one, but the basic attitude of the piece, which is something on the order of "the heck with you, we're taking care of our own" is wrong-headed and unecessarily divisive at a time when we need to be working together to remove the Republican Party from power.
I spent most of my early years identifying myself as an "Independent". I even registered to vote that way (in 1972), until it was clear that (at the time) winning a Democratic primary in New York City was tantamount to winning the election, so I changed my registration in order to have some voice about who was on the ballot.
Even then, though, I thought of myself as an Independent, not particularly connected to our beholden to any party, despite the fact that I almost always voted for Democrats. (I would usually vote for them on 3rd party lines when I could, something that's allowed here in New York, where all votes for a candidate, on whatever line, are added together.)
That changed, and what changed it was the election of 2000 and the dawning of the Bush Era. It wasn't an immediate thing, but more and more as time went on and the horrors of the Bush admnistration continued, I came to identify more and more with the Democratic Party, until now, I'm committed to thinking of myself as a Democrat.
That may seem odd, given the very weak job that the party as a whole has done in opposing Bush, and in keeping the progressive agenda moving forward, but it was actually utterly necessary, and, in effect, forced upon me by the structural peculiarities of our system. Not being a Parliamentary system, where splinter parties can survive as partners with larger parties in forming governments, we are always going to have at any one time only two major parties that count, that have any chance at all of governing. One is going to be center-right, and the other center-left, and the only way another party can come to the forefront is by one of the prevailing parties disintegrating and leaving a hole to be occupied.
Given that, and given that the Republican party has been hijacked lock, stock and barrel by the radical right-wing, which now controls the entire apparatus of the Federal government, if I want to stop them, there's really only one viable way to go about that -- and that's through the other major party.
That's why I'm a Democrat, and why I'll continue to identify myself as a Democrat, in spite of the Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons and Mary Landrieus. I'm a Democrat because the Democratic Party is without a doubt the one and only way to remove the Republican Party from power. I may not like that, and it may well be that under future circumstances I will no longer feel as strongly about supporting a party which doesn't have the same progressive agenda that I do, but for now and the foreseeable future I am a Democrat.
Since the beginning of time, water has and always will be our most precious resource. The seas and the deep waters of the Earth carry with them the primordial rhythms of life, and water is considered to be the life giving blood of the Universe. As powerful as water is, it is mutable, receptive and sensitive. Water registers and faithfully transmits any frequency it is exposed to. In fact, scientific studies have proven that water is directly effected by the words, sounds and thoughts it is exposed to.
Water exposed to loving words and music showed brilliant, and complex crystallized patterns under the microscope at near freezing temperatures. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts and words, formed incomplete, asymmetrical patterns. * Over seventy five percent of the human body is made of water, and the Earth is made up of over seventy percent water. The implications of such scientific findings are extraordinary.
Inspired by these studies, H2Om was created. A crystal clear natural spring water brand infused with the power of intention through words, music and thought. We gratefully offer you an interactive invitation to drink in and resonate with the vibrational frequencies of Love and Perfect Health.
Now absolute purity comes in Five Fantastic Infusions
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.