So many things slipping my mind these days. I meant to mention this article from The New Yorker about Wikipedia, from which I learned that I am a "WikiGnome": "a user who keeps a low profile, fixing typos, poor grammar, and broken links." That's a pretty good description of my own participation there.
I don't have any hard facts to support it (at the moment), but it's my impression from the totality of the Republican/right-wing reaction to the British revelation of London plot, coming on top of the Lamont win, that they are all of a sudden very concerned that this particular trope of theirs is not delivering the goods the way it used to. In the immediate future I look for them to continue to press it hard in the hopes that continued emphasis will help to give it some traction, but I really don't think that's going to work, not in a major way. In fact, it's my belief that the moment for that particular tactic is over, that we've passed a tipping point in the public's perception, and if the GOP doesn't shift gears away from the national security / Iraq / terrorism shtick onto something else, they are going to lose big this year.
I'll continue to look for some concrete evidence to back up my feeling about this.
P.S. A note to those inclined to misinterpret what I'm saying here -- it's not that terrorism and national security are somehow less important than they once were -- in fact, precisely the opposite is true, since the Bush Administration's policies have, overall, made us much less secure than we would have been if rational, reasonable and practical responses to 9/11 had been carried out -- but that the scurilous Republican political technique of slurring Democrats as being soft on terrorism or in some way the preferred candidates of our enemies is no longer going to pay off for them the way it once did, because the public is sick of the war in Iraq and suspicious of the motivations of the people behind it.
Ben Metcalf, writing in the same issue of Harper's which had Kevin Baker's often-cited essay Stabbed in the Back, lays out the "conventionally approved tropes" about Bush:
Here are those tropes: the president is ignorant; the president is cruel; the president is a zealot; the president is a tool of the corporations; the president hides his agenda from the people; the president's agenda endangers the people; the president is a thief; the president is a madman; the president is a fraternity boy; the president is a warlord; the president is a drunkard; the president is a criminal; the president is protected by his cronies; the president is a smug prevaricator; the president should be removed from office.
Here's one collection of conventional wisdom that's right on.
28) Hierarchies are common partly because they provide a very economical way of coordinating large numbers of people. In principle, decision makers in a hierarchy can consider all the information known to anyone in the group with much less communication that would be needed if each person communicated with everyone else.
In practice, however, hierarchies have severe limitations. Central decision makers can become overloaded and therefore unable to cope effectively with rapidly changing environments or to consider enough information about complex issues. Furthermore, people at the bottom may feel left out of the decision making and as a result be less motivated to contribute their efforts.
Thomas W. Malone and John F. Rockart "Computers, Networks and the Corporation" Scientific American (9/1991)
29) On the morning of November 22nd, a Friday, it became clear the gap between living and dying was closing. Realizing that Aldous [Huxley] might not survive the day, Laura [Huxley's wife] sent a telegram to his son, Matthew, urging him to come at once. At ten in the morning, an almost inaudible Aldous asked for paper and scribbled "If I go" and then some directions about his will. It was his first admission that he might die ...
Around noon he asked for a pad of paper and scribbled
LSD-try it intermuscular 100mm
In a letter circulated to Aldous's friends, Laura Huxley described what followed: 'You know very well the uneasiness in the medical mind about this drug. But no 'authority', not even an army of authorities, could have stopped me then. I went into Aldous's room with the vial of LSD and prepared a syringe. The doctor asked me if I wanted him to give the shot- maybe because he saw that my hands were trembling. His asking me that made me conscious of my hands, and I said, 'No, I must do this.''
An hour later she gave Huxley a second 100mm. Then she began to talk, bending close to his ear, whispering, 'light and free you let go, darling; forward and up. You are going forward and up; you are going toward the light. Willingly and consciously you are going, willingly and consciously, and you are doing this beautifully - you are going toward the light - you are going toward a greater love ... You are going toward Maria's [Huxley's first wife, who had died many years earlier] love with my love. You are going toward a greater love than you have ever known. You are going toward the best, the greatest love, and it is easy, it is so easy, and you are doing it so beautifully.'
All struggle ceased. The breathing became slower and slower and slower until, 'like a piece of music just finishing so gently in sempre piu piano, dolcamente,' at twenty past five in the afternoon, Aldous Huxley died.'
Laura Huxley This Timeless Moment (1971) quoted by Jay Stevens in Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987)
Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began). As of today, there are 893 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
Much of the time, I watch TV off of the DVR, which means I can skip most of the commercials, but a couple of weeks ago I happened to catch a commercial for Eliot Spitzer, New York's Attorney General who's running for Governor (and way ahead in the polls -- also here) and I was blown away by it. It was totally unlike most political commercials -- it had lots of shots of kids in a playground (the topic was education), and seemed more like a normal commercial than a political ad.
I meant to write about it at the time, but forgot to do so, so I was happy to see that Kos did a nice entry about Spitzer's ads today (citing John Aravosis). I was interested to learn that the ads are indeed done by someone who doesn't specialize in political advertising
The ads are written by screenwriter, Madison Avenue maven, and political novice Jimmy Siegel and produced by Moxie Pictures. Siegel worked until recently at the legendary firm BBDO. He put together the Super Bowl Visa ad with Bob Dole and the "Yo, Yao" ads with Yao Ming.
The ad I saw tonight was somewhat different from the first one I saw. The visuals were more in the line of the standard candidate-on-the-road stuff, if better shot and more interesting, but Spitzer's voiceover sounded like something from a PBS documentary -- firm, authoritative, but reassuring and friendly:
If we're ever going to reform Albany, it's gonna start in Manhasset, and Brooklyn, and Buffalo -- because if one man can stand up to the powerful, so can you. He'll ask, and you'll answer, and with one collective roar we'll wake this state government right out of its long sleep. And on that day, government will stop being that thing we complain about, and start being that thing we can do something about.
Update: Spitzer's ads are listed here. The first one I mentioned is Let It Shine, and the second, more conventional one, is Where It Starts. (Of note, the towns listed in this version of "Where It Starts" are Lackawanna, Saratoga Springs and Buffalo, confirming my suspicion that the ads were regionally customized.)
Update (8/17): I finally bit the bullet and learned how to post You Tube videos, so I've posted these two ads here.
23) Back in the old days, as a stage manager, I had a lot to do during the show. On big shows on Broadway, we had 40 or 50 people working backstage, all running around like crazy. I had to use a flashing light to signal cues, talk to people on headsets and follow the script on paper! You know, in some ways, I almost miss those days ... I didn't get quite as bored during the show then.
Now we have these voice and music recognition systems, and they interface on the network to the lighting, sound and automation systems. There's only a few technical people backstage, mostly in the wardrobe and props departments, because they haven't quite got the robotics cost effective yet.
The only reason I'm even here is in case something goes wrong, and the press the 'Authorize' button on the dangerous cues, once the actor is in the right position. Other than that, I watch a lot of HDTV and play 3-D video games!
John Huntington "Methods of System Synchronization and Interconnection for Live Performances" (master's thesis, Yale U, 5/90) quoted by Charlie Richmond in "Automated Redundancy(through Redundant Automation)" in TD&T magazine (Winter 1991)
24) There are other problems with putting the [sound] operator in the house, however. Reel-to-reel decks, currently the primary sound source for these shows, make a loud 'kerchunk' on start-up as relays fire and the pinch roller slams into the capstan. Tom Mardikes has come up with a novel solution to this problem which, with the cooperation of the producer, enables him to put the operator into the theatre's house. 'I've had operators in booths before' explains Mardikes, 'who made mistakes and didn't even know they made a mistake [because they couldn't hear the show]. So I pretty much insist on operating in the house.' All of the decks which Mardikes uses are equipped with auto stops, which stop and re-cue at the end of each piece of tape, and are placed in a sound-isolated room. The operator then controls the decks via a remote control, and watches the decks on video monitors. 'We get these inexpensive black and white video surveillance systems,' Mardikes explains, 'and we'll put a camera on each deck, and then put a video monitor in the house that could have four cameras feeding into it. We'll set it up so that the operator can see the actual cue number written on the leader tape.' The only time this creates a problems for the operator is when jumping around the sequence of the show during a tech rehearsal, when the operator must go upstairs and change reels. 'That's no inconvenience,' the designer explains, 'because the whole set crew is having to get set pieces and props in place to do that, so it works out great.'
John Huntington "Working With the Sound Operator" Theatre Crafts magazine (9-10/91)
25) The 'Scenographic Revolution' succeeded in achieving the total liberation and integration of scenic and lighting design. Scenography today is free. It can be anything - architecture, painting, obviously fake, composed of real elements, fog, light or sound. But costumes always start out, or wind up, as clothes. That just seems to be the way it is. But why should it be that way?
Delbart Unruh "Postmodern Issues in Action Design, Part III: The Problem of Costumes" TD&T magazine (Winter 1991)
26) Danger is the word heard again and again in relation to [George] Tsypin's sets. There is often a physical danger, the risk of actors falling through gaps in the floor or tumbling from overhead structures, but there is also an artistic danger ... 'The stage is a dangerous machine,' he says. ...
A working model was made of paper and given to [Peter] Sellars to play with on the all-night flight from New York to London just before rehearsals began. Obviously, paper can twist and turn more than normal walls, but by the time he arrived, Sellars was so enamored of the flexibility that he insisted on a set that could function like the model.
Arnold Aronson "Contemporary American Designers: George Tsypin" TD&T magazine (Summer 1991)
27) 'These days you don't really need an artist to make a record,' agrees Rodney Mills, whose production credits include albums by Gregg Allman, .38 Special and Lynyrd Skynyrd. 'What was done with Milli Vanilli could be done any time you make a record with a new act. In some ways, it would make it a lot easier to start with the visual image and then fabricate a record to go along with the video. It'd make things a lot easier - you'd product cut a lot faster and cheaper, and you wouldn't have so many egos to deal with. It's totally wrong, but as the technology becomes more available the temptation to use it in a dishonest way.'
Howard DeMuir "The Emperor's New Lycra Bicycle Shorts" Pulse magazine (2/91)
Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began). As of today, there are 894 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
One of the hallmarks of liberalism is its belief in empiricism. When things aren't working we try to figure out why and solve the problem. Despite our unfounded reputation for starry-eyed naive belief in human perfectability, we are the practical thinkers who are looking to the future and trying to figure out a way to make things better. It is a grave misreading of the current sentiment to assume that we don't care about national security. The reason we are trying so hard to change things is because we do care about it. I don't think I'm the only who feels much less secure than I once did knowing that we have alienated half the world out of some misplaced faith in machismo as a diplomatic strategy. The world stage isn't high school and I'd like to see something a little more sophisticated than locker room psychology brought to bear to solve these problems. In case nobody's noticed, the middle east isn't looking so good right now and the Republicans are shrieking like banshees in ever more hysterical terms. Far be it for me to object, what with the need to live down the summer of love and all, but that just doesn't seem like a good situation to me.
Perhaps it's fashionable to adopt Weisberg's disdainful pose, but it's completely worthless on both a political and policy level. It's as if they are living in an endless feed-back loop and haven't thought a new thought in decades. I doubt that even winning a majority will convince these timorous chatterers that objecting to Republican national security policy isn't a death wish, but it won't matter. The only thing that matters is that the Democratic party stops listening to them.
The valid parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are in the wooden-headed approach of the American leaders to policy in both cases -- it's what made reading Tuchman's The March of Folly so chilling for me -- not in the domestic political considerations surrounding the wars. We are, in fact, well past the point with Iraq in which not supporting the wall can do any great political damage. It won't gain any fervent pro-Iraq voters, of course, but those folks were never going to be with us in the first place. More to the point, it won't lose any great number of voters now, as it did in 1972.
In 1972, supporting the war effort was the general default condition; now, lack of support for the war in Iraq (which, it should be emphasised, is not the same thing as being ardently opposed to the war) is the general state of the electorate. How that possibly translates into a repeat of 1972, I don't know. Even if Rove can pull off some major manipulations, I don't think it's going to push public opinion back to what it was when the majority of the electorate strongly supported the war.
It's certainly true that Cheney & Rumsfeld and (to a certain extent) the military don't seem to have learned the lessons of Vietnam, and, in fact, "learned" precisely the wrong message, but that's no reason for us to repeat their error in our own way.
Update:This post on Tiny Revolution quotes a Gallup poll from 1971 saying that 73% of adults polled were in favor of full withdrawal from Vietnam. That seems odd to me, as it doesn't accord with my memory of the siuation in 1971 (when I was a junior in high school) -- which, of course, could well be completely wrong, or I could be telescoping several years together. By 1971 we'd had the Tet Offensive (1968), the My Lai massacre (1969), the incursions into Laos and Cambodia (1970), the incident at Kent State (1970) and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers (1971). "Vietnamization" of the war had been announced by Nixon and there was a gradual US troop withdrawal in effect, in favor of bombing. Given all of that, it wouldn't be unusual for opposition to the war to be a majority opinion.
It's worth noting that Nixon's relection, defeating George McGovern, wasn't actually a repudiation of anti-war sentiment. Nixon's victory was in large measure guaranteed because he and Kissinger assured everyone that "peace is at hand." Given that and the classic reluctance of the electorate to make a change if it isn't necessary, Nixon won, and won very very big, but drawing the lesson that McGovern's anti-war position was the cause of his defeat is rewriting history.
17) And lastly there is the oldest and deepest desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death. Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this ... Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human-stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness.
18) The mind that thought of *light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we have taken green from the grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's power.
J.R.R. Tolkien "On Fairy-Stories" (1947) in Tree and Leaf (1964)
19) Deserve death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.
J.R.R. Tolkien draft for The Lord of The Rings (c. 1944) quoted in The War of the Ring (1990), edited by Christopher Tolkien
20) 'It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange ... How shall a man judge what to do in such times?' 'As he ever has judged,' said Aragorn. 'Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.
J.R.R. Tolkien The Two Towers (1954) part two of The Lord of the Rings
21) [Gollum] wandered in loneliness, weeping a little for the hardness of the world, and he journeyed up the River, till he came to a stream that flowed down from the mountains, and he went that way. He caught fish in deep pools with invisible fingers and ate them raw. One day it was very hot, and as he was bending over a pool, he felt a burning on the back of his head, and a dazzling light from the water pained his eyes. He wondered at it, for he had almost forgotten about the Sun. Then for the last time he looked up and shook his fist at her.
But as he lowered his eyes, he saw far ahead the tops of the Misty Mountains, out of which the stream came. And he though suddenly: "It would be cool and shady under those mountains. The Sun could not watch me there. The roots of those mountains must be roots indeed; there must be great secrets buried there which have not been discovered since the beginning."
So he journeyed by night into the highlands, and he found a little cave out of which the dark stream ran; and he wormed his way like a maggot into the heart of the hills, and vanished out of all knowledge. ...
... All the "great secrets" under the mountain had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated the light more: he hated everything.
J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) part one of The Lord of the Rings
22) At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road.
At last they road over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland, and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And we went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back," he said.
J.R.R. Tolkien The Return of the King (1955) part three of The Lord of the Rings
Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began). As of today, there are 895 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
I noticed last night for the first time that Hummer is paying for plugs on the Yankees telecasts which promote their gas mileage, which they say is 20 mpg (presumably that's the highway figure). That's an interesting turn of events, when a car whose entire purpose is to appeal to aficiandos of I don't give a shit about the environment or highway safety or traffic congestion, I just want the biggest goddamn car I can get my hands on starts to talk about fuel efficiency.
Of course, they're also running a series of ads which suggest that the answer to being dissed at the supermarket or having your masculinity impugned is to go out and buy one of their enormously expensive oversized vehicles -- even if you have to spend the kids' college money to do so.
[W]e’re not asking for a lot. We’re certainly not asking for doctrinaire loyalty. If you disagree with the party, fine. Great, in fact. But let’s get over the whole gratuitous Dem-bashing just for the sake of appearing conspicuously centrist. That’s what annoys us. We’re tired of it. We’re tired of Marty Peretz. We’re tired of Marshall Wittman. If you don’t like the party, leave. If you think “the Left” is a bigger problem than the people currently running our country, there’s the door buddy. (At the very least, please stop appearing in high-profile media outlets to give the “disgruntled Democrat” quote.)
In addition, we’re tired of cowardice. We want elected officials to stop apologizing for being Democrats in the face of massive policy failures. We’re tired of the Rose Garden. We’re tired of Dick Durbin crying on the Senate floor for denouncing torture. We’re tired of people acting scared and trying to meet people in the middle that have no intention of reciprocating. Bipartisanship is a pre-9/11 worldview — at least until the GOP loses power. Lieberman simply didn’t understand the new world that Rove built.
As will perhaps be clear from the previous entry in this series, aside from those excepts I extracted from my own reading, I also started to collect stuff from various reference books of quotations, with the subject or author frequently suggested by my recent reading. (I still have an extensive library of quotation reference books, which continue to come in handy.)
12) -True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant. 13) -Consciousness is a disease 14) -Science is a cemetery of dead ideas, even though life may issue from them.
15) The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks he has found.
Miguel de Unamuno "My Religion" in Essays and Soliloquies (1924) [CQ]
16) Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.
Miguel de Unamuno The Agony of Christianity[B16]
[B15] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th edition (1980) [B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (1993) [CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).
As of today, there are 896 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
Lieberman says he'll continue to run as an independent in the general, so I'm unhappy.
I'm hopeful that some grown-up Democrats will be able to talk to their naughty errant child and set him straight: back out, or you will be stripped of all party-related perks. Stay in, and you will receive no funds from organs of the Democratic Party, which will go to the winner of the Democratic primary, Ned Lamont. Get out now, and you can continue to be a part of the Democratic Party.
Lieberman has now put the people who run the party on the spot -- this is a defining moment: are they about electing Democrats or are they not?
Democratic Leader Harry Reid and DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer issued the following joint statement today on the Connecticut Senate race:
“The Democratic voters of Connecticut have spoken and chosen Ned Lamont as their nominee. Both we and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) fully support Mr. Lamont’s candidacy. Congratulations to Ned on his victory and on a race well run.
Now, if Joe doesn't take the hint, strip him bare.
I see that Mel Gibson got himself into some trouble again while I was away. I thought this short article from the NY Times was an excellent look at the effects of alcohol on what people say.
Science, as it happens, has been hard at work trying to understand the how and the why of what everyone at a college mixer learns: alcohol can make people do, and say, stupid things. But does it make people say things that they do not believe at all, that are, as Mr. Gibson insisted in his statements, antithetical to one’s own views and faith?
Experts generally suggest that the answer is “Nope.”
When asked where those vicious words came from, Dr. Kevin J. Corcoran, a psychology researcher who has studied the effects of alcohol on perception and judgment, replied, simply, “his mouth.”
Dr. Corcoran said comments do not spring from nothing; for example, Dr. Corcoran said, he himself would not make anti-Semitic statements under the influence of alcohol.
“I say other outrageous things when I’m drunk,” he said.
He added that Mr. Gibson “may not fully believe” his statements about Jews, “but they were waiting to be delivered,” once his inhibitions were lowered and he was subjected to the stress of being pulled over by the police.
It seems likely to me (given his background, and the religious views of his father), that Gibson both believes and doesn't believe the things he said. That is, he said things that in some core way he suspects to be true statements about the essence of the world, but he's been successfully socialized against saying things like that outright under normal circumstances, so on an everyday basis he can truthfully say that they're not his real thoughts. He probably would behave in most respects as if he didn't believe them, but they also color his perception of the world in ways that would definitely effect his behavior. So he'd make a film like The Passion of the Christ which (according to reviews I've read) is not overtly anti-Semitic, but which nonetheless has about it an uncomfortable tinge of blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus (a classic anti-Semitic viewpoint).
Gibson is 50 years old -- no amount of therapy or encounter sessions with Jews or gays or women is going to alter his fundamental understanding of the world (the stuff that slipped out when he was drunk and under stress), all it's going to do is reinforce the socialization which prevents him from saying it normally. The stuff he's doing now is basically just careerist P.R. -- as an movie star Gibson relies on people liking him and that's been damaged by this incident. He needs to re-establish his positive connection with his potential audience. That doesn't mean he's not sincere about wanting to reform, both things can simultaneously be true -- I just wouldn't take it too seriously. The Mel Gibson who comes out of the aftermath of this incident proclaimed as a better man will be pretty much the same Mel Gibson who went into it, maybe just a little wiser and wearier, and more apt to STFU.
By the end of the day when the [USA Today] article was published, one third of the way through the season, the Rockies were at .500 (27-27), in last (5th) place in the National League West, 4.5 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. They were in the middle of what would be a six-game losing streak. In the Wild Card, they were in 7th place, 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers
Since then, they've played another 33 games, winning 17 and losing 16 for a record of 44-43, just one game over .500. They've moved from last place to third place in their division, 3.5 games behind the San Diego Padres. In the Wild Card race, they've done better: they're in second place, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers.
At the moment, the team is 3 games under .500, in 4th place in their division, 4 games behind San Diego, a half game back of where they were when I last reported on them. Wild Card-wise, they continue to be somewhat better placed than in the division (thanks, presumably, to their Christian morality and clean living), but have still fallen back a game -- in 4th place, 2.5 games behind the Reds.
They're in no way out of it -- their league and division is so weak that they can still pull off a win of some sort -- but there's also no particular indication from their record that making baseball decisions on the basis of religion has any particular value as a team-building strategy. I doubt it'll become the new "Moneyball".
I've been away, not posting, not keeping up with things, so I was pretty interested to see that Quinnipiac has Lamont up by 6 over Lieberman (+/- 3.5, so it's still inside the margin), with the primary happening today. It looks as if there's a distinct possibility that Lamont could actually upset Lieberman, which would make me happy (or, at least, happier).
My understanding is that if Lieberman loses, it's the blogs that did it. I have a blog, therefore that means if Lamont wins I am, Q.E.D., very powerful (politically speaking).
The idea that Lieberman is some sort of "centrist Democrat" and that the effort to defeat him is driven by radical leftists who hate bipartisanship is nothing short of inane. Why would Sean Hannity and Bill Kristol be so eager to keep a "centrist Democrat" in the Senate? Lincoln Chafee is a "centrist Republican." Are there any Democrats or liberals who care if Lincoln Chafee wins his primary? Do leftist ideologues run around praising and defending and working for the re-election of Olympia Snowe or Chris Shays or other Republican "centrists"? Do Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity love other Democratic "centrists," such as, say, Mary Landrieu or Joe Biden? The answer to all of those questions is plainly "no".
The love which right-wing extremists have for Joe Lieberman isn't based on the fact that he's a "centrist." If Lieberman were a "centrist," extremists would not care about him. They would not be vigorously urging his re-election, or praising his potential appointment as Bush Defense Secretary, or touting him as a Vice-Presidential running mate for George Allen. They do that because he is one of them -- a neoconservative extremist who is with them on virtually every major issue of the day.
Incidentally, while I don't think he's being deliberately disingenuous, it's rather naive (if politically and socially convenient) of Kos to continue to downplay his role in promoting the idea that Lieberman could be taken down. My read is that without his pushing it, the whole thing would have died on the vine.
It's a thing that people say when they're trying to start a movement that relies on the active participation of many people, "It wasn't me, it was all of you." It's polite, it's helpful to the development of the movement, it's convenient, and there's some truth to it, but it too radically underplays the value of the spokesman or figurehead or point-person, or whatever it is Kos sees his role as being.
Like C.J. Cherryh's alien Mahendo'sat in the Chanur universe, human psychology needs a personage to relate to.
4) He felt old and miserable, going through life trying to peddle a personality of which people would not even accept a free sample.
Cyril Connolly The Rock Pool (1936)
5) A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today. - 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance (1841) [B15]
6) Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.
Aldous Huxley "Wordsworth in the Tropics" in Do What You Will (1929) [CQ]
7) Consistency is a virtue for trains: what we want from a philosopher is insights, whether he comes by them consistently or not.
Stephen Vizinczey "Good Faith and Bad" in London Sunday Telegraph (4/21/1974) reprinted in Truth and Lies in Literature (1986) [CQ]
8) Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Oscar Wilde "The Relation of Dress to Art" in Pall Mall Gazette (2/28/1885) reprinted in Aristotle at Afternoon Tea: The Rare Oscar Wilde (1991) [CQ]
9) Consistency is the enemy of enterprise, just as symmetry is the enemy of art.
[George] Bernard Shaw quoted by Michael Holroyd in Bernard Shaw: The Lure of Fantasy (1991)
10) The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald "The Crack-Up" in Esquire magazine (2/36) [CQ]
11) If a person never contradicts himself, it must be that he says nothing.
Miguel de Unamuno quoted by Douglas R. Hofstadter in Godel, Escher, Bach (1979)
[B15] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th edition (1980) [CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).
As of today, there are 897 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
Barbara W. Tuchman's The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984) examines three classic examples of monumental political and governmental folly: the rampant greed and secularism of the Renaissance popes, which lead to the Protestant break with the church; the lose of America by the British; and the "classic humiliation" of the United States in Vietnam. Reading it was painful, because it brought out once again the obvious parallels between the folly of Vietnam, and our own current mess in Iraq (as well as Israel's with Lebanon). It's not that the specific circumstances of the war in Indochina are the same as those which prevail in Iraq, but that in both cases a totally wrong-headed policy was set upon and maintained without deviance. The result in Vietnam was defeat, which will almost certainly be the case in Iraq as well.
I've quoted from the book already several times before (here, here, and here), but nevertheless, here are some additional quotes and excerpts:
[F]olly is a child of power. We all know, from unending repetitions of Lord Acton's dictum, that power corrupts. We are less aware that it breeds folly; that the power to command frequently causes failure to think; that the responsibility of power often fades as its exercise augments. The overall responsibility of power is to govern as reasonably as possible in the interest of the state and its citizens. A duty in that process is to keep well-informed, to heed information, to keep mind and judgment open and to resist the insidious spell of wooden-headedness. If the mind is open enough to perceive that a given policy is harming rather than serving self-interest, and self-confident enough to acknowledge it, and wise enough to reverse it, that is a summit in the art of government.
[T]he disease of divine mission [is] so often disastrous to rulers.
The ultimate outcome of a policy is not what determines its qualification of folly. All misgovernment is contrary to self-interest in the long run, but may actually strengthen a regime temporarily. It qualifies as folly when it is a perverse persistence in a policy demonstrably unworkable or counter-productive.
In the search of meaning we must not forget that the gods (or God, for that matter) are a concept of the human mind; they are the creatures of man, not vice versa. They are needed and invented to give meaning and purpose to the puzzle that is life on earth, to explain strange and irregular phenomena of nature, haphazard events and, above all, irrational human conduct. They exist to bear the burden of all things that cannot be comprehended except by supernatural intervention, or design.
[S]erious thoughts is not a habit of government.
[T]he tragic side of folly [is] that its perpetrators sometimes realize that they are engaged in it and cannot break the pattern.
Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered a policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better, for the sake of his position, not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information "cognitive dissonance," an academic disguise for "Don't confuse me with the facts." Cognitive dissonance is the tendency to "suppress, gloss over, water down or 'waffle' issues which would produce conflict or 'psychological pain' within an organization." It causes alternatives to be "deselected since even thinking about them entails conflicts." In the relations of subordinate to superior within the government, its object is the development of policies that upset no one. It assists the ruler in wishful thinking, defined as "an unconscious alteration in the estimate of probabilities."
quoting Jeffrey Race from "Vietnam Intervention: Systematic Distortion in Policy Making" in Armed Forces and Society (5/1976)
[Lyndon] Johnson faced the Presidential election of 1964. Since his opponent was the bellicose Senator Barry Goldwater, he had to appear as the peace candidate. He took up the chant about "their" war: "We are going ... to try to get them to save their own freedom with their own men." "We are not going to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." "We don't want our American boys to do the fighting for Asian boys." When, six months later, American boys were sent into combat with no dramatic change of circumstances, these phrases were easily recalled, beginning the erosion of Johnson's own credibility. Long accustomed to normal political lying, he forgot that his office made a difference, and that when lies came to light, as under the greater spotlight on the White House they were bound to, it was the presidency and public faith that suffered.
[O]ne would like to think that government agencies write reports for more than wallpaper.
War is a procedure from which there can be no turning back without acknowledging defeat. This was the trap into which America had walked [in Vietnam]. Only with the greatest difficulty and rarest success, as belligerents mired in futility have often discovered, can combat be terminated in favor of compromise.
Because it is a final resort to destruction and death, war has traditionally been accompanied by the solemn statement of justification, in medieval times a statement of "just war," in modern times a Declaration of War ... However false and specious the justification may be, and usually is, a legalism of this kind serves to state the case and automatically endows the government to enlarged powers.
Acquiescence in Executive war, [Senator J. William Fulbright] wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only was this questionable, but major policy decisions turn "not upon available facts but upon judgment," with which policy-makers are no better endowed that the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge "whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve their overall interest as a nation."
quoting from Fulbright's preface to The Vietnam Hearings (1966)
Silent departures of its members is an important property of government. To speak out after leaving is to go into the wilderness; by exhibiting disloyalty to bar return within the circle. The same reasons account for reluctance to resign. The official can always convince himself hat he can exercise more restraining influence inside, and he then remains acquiescent lest his connection with power be terminated. The effect of the American Presidency with its power of appointment in the Executive branch is overbearing. Advisers find it hard to say no to the President or to dispute policy because they know that their status, their invitation to the next White House meeting, depends on staying in line. If they are Cabinet officers, they have in the American system no parliamentary seat to return to from which they may retain a voice in government.
When objective evidence disproves strongly held beliefs, what occurs, according to theorists of "cognitive dissonance", is not rejection of the beliefs but rigidifying, accompanied by attempt to rationalize the disproof. The result is "cognitive rigidity"; in lay language, the knots of folly draw tighter.
[T]he Joint Chiefs and the inner circle of the President's advisors ... were frozen in the posture of the last three years, determined on pursing combat and giving [General] Westmoreland what he wanted. They were "like men in a dream," in George Kennan's words, incapable of "any realistic assessment of the effects of their own acts."
In the operations of government, the importance of reason is serious because it effects everything within reach -- citizens, society, civilization.
Mental standstill or stagnation -- the maintenance intact by rulers and policy-makers of the ideas they started with -- is fertile ground for folly. ... Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practiced. .. In its first stages, mental standstill fixes the principles and boundaries governing a political problem. In the second stage, when dissonances and failing function begin to appear, the initial principles rigidify. This is the period when, if wisdom were operative, re-examination and re-thinking and a change of course are possible, but they are rare as rubies in a backyard. Rigidifying leads to increase of investment and the need to protect egos; policy founded upon error multiplies, never retreats. The greater the investment and the more involved in it the sponsor's ego, the more unacceptable is disengagement. In the third stage, pursuit of failure enlarges the damages until it causes the fall of Troy, the defection from the Papacy, the loss of a trans-Atlantic empire, the classic humiliation in Vietnam.
Persistence in error is the problem. Practitioners of government continue down the wrong road as if in thrall to some Merlin with magic power to direct their steps. ... [T]o recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government.
For a chief of state, admitting error is almost out of the question. The American misfortune during the Vietnam period was to have had Presidents who lacked the self-confidence for the grand withdrawal. We come back again to [Edmund] Burke: "Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great Empire and little minds go ill together." The test comes in recognizing when persistence in error has become self-damaging. A prince, says Machiavelli, ought always to be a great asker and a patient hearer of truth about those things of which he has inquired, and he should be angry if he finds that anyone has scruples about telling him the truth. What government needs is great askers.
Above all, lure of office, known in our country as Potomoc fever, stultifies a better performance of government. The bureaucrat dreams of promotion, higher officials want to extend their reach, legislators and the chief of state want re-election; and the guiding principle in these pursuits is to please as many and offend as few as possible. Intelligent government would require that the persons entrusted with high office should formulate and execute policy according to their best judgment, the best knowledge available and a judicious estimate of the lesser evil. But re-election is on their minds, and that becomes the criteria.
Aware of the controlling power of ambition, corruption and emotion, it may be that in the search for wiser government we should look for the test of character first. And the test should be moral courage. ... The Lilliputians in choosing persons for public employment ... "have more regard for good morals than for great abilities," reported Gulliver, "for, since government is necessary to mankind, they believe ... that Providence never intended to make management of Publick affairs a mystery, to be comprehended only by a few persons of sublime genius, of which there are seldom three born in an age. They suppose truth, justice, temperance and the like to be in every man's power; the practice of which virtues, assisted by good experience and a good intention, would qualify any man for service of his country, except where a course of study is required."
While such virtues may in truth be in every man's power, they have less chance in our system than money and ruthless ambition to prevail at the ballot box. The problem may be not so much a matter of educating officials for government as educating the electorate to recognize and reward integrity of character and to reject the ersatz.
That we're being forced to live once again through the very same mistakes that we lived through only a few decades ago is maddening, and horrifying, and makes me extremely angry.
Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. Many will read the book before one thinks of quoting a passage. As soon as he has done this, that line will be quoted east and west.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals v. 16 (1867) [CQ]
In November of 1990, I began collecting from the stuff I was reading interesting quotes, excerpts and ideas, at first informally, and then in a slightly more organized manner. When I had a hard disk crash about 4 years ago (for a drive I hadn't backed up in quite some time) I had (if I remember correctly) about 4500+ selections. Of these, 3089 remain, the latest dated 1998. (I have more collected since then, but I've sorta given up numbering them.)
It's now August 7 of 2006, and, barring any unanticipated events, such as resignation or impeachment and conviction, there remain 898 days for us to suffer through the reign of George W. Bush.
So, that's 3089 quotes dying to be shared, and 898 days in which I desperately need to be distracted. The math works out to an average of just under 3.5 quotes a day, so here's the first three -- let's see how long I can keep this up.
1) Nearly everyone in the art professions positively beams when I say that I believe in an integration of stage and film arts. Subsequent to this enthusiastic approval, however, I have seldom experienced anything but timidic back-pedaling, from either filmmakers or choreographers, because of an imagined threat to their particular specialties. "The Bewitched" endured more of this than any other work of mine.
Fairly early in my creative life I discovered that what filmmakers and choreographers really want is musical yardage goods, to constitute 'background' for whatever spur-of-the-moment ideas they might concoct. To them it is literally inconceivable that a dramatic composer could fashion a purpose in drama that is equal to theirs. Collaboration is just a word. If they are not autocrats what can life be worth?
At first I was amused. Later, this turned into a feeling of contempt. Tentatively. I outlined something called "Yardage Goods", to offer "background" for every human emotion or reaction, from moral depravity to volcanic cataclysm. It was to be sold by the piece, or - more inexpensively- by the bolt. There was even an outline for "Background Music for Filibusters in the U.S. Senate." But my daimon does not function through negativism, and the idea barely got beyond an outline.
Harry Partch liner notes for The Bewitched (LP recording, 1957)
2) The difference between a good administrator and a bad one is about five heartbeats. Good administrators make immediate choices ... [that] usually can be made to work. A bad administrator, on the other hand, hesitates, diddles around, asks for committees, for research and reports. Eventually, he acts in ways which create serious problems ... A bad administrator is more concerned with reports than with decisions. He wants the hard record which he can display as an excuse for his errors ... [Good administrators] depend on verbal orders. They never lie about what they've done if their verbal orders cause problems, and they surround themselves with people able to act wisely on the basis of verbal orders. Often, the most important piece of information is that something has gone wrong. Bad administrators hide their mistakes until it's too late to make corrections ... One of the hardest things to find is people who actually make decisions.
Frank Herbert God Emperor of Dune (1981)
3) Most moral philosophers consciously or unconsciously assume the essential correctness of our cultural sexual code - family, monogamy, continence, the postulate of privacy, ... restriction of intercourse to the marriage bed, etcetera. Having stipulated our cultural code as a whole, they fiddle with details - even such piffle as solemnly discussing whether or not the female breast is an "obscene" sight! But mostly they debate how the human animal can be induced or forced to obey this code, blandly ignoring the high probability that the heartaches and tragedies they see all around them originate in the code itself rather than the failure to abide by the code.
Robert Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land (orig. 1961, uncut 1991)
[CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
There's no rhyme or reason to this -- I just plan on posting them as I collected them, at an average pace of 3.5 quotes per day.
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.