Saturday, August 26, 2006

(3089/898) The City of Angels 2

64) The universal and ineluctable consequence of [the] crusade to secure the city is the destruction of accessible public space [...] To reduce contact with untouchables, urban redevelopment has converted once vital pedestrian streets into traffic sewers and transformed public parks into temporary receptacles for the homeless and wretched. The American city [...] is being systematically turned inside out - or, rather, outside in. The valorized space of the new megastructures and super-malls are concentrated in the center, street frontage is denuded, public activity is sorted into strictly functional compartments, and circulation is internalized in corridors under the gaze of private police [...] The decline of urban liberalism has been accompanied by the death of what might be called the 'Olmstedian vision' of public space [...] [Olmstead] conceived public landscapes and parks as social safety-valves, mixing classes and ethnicities in common (bourgeois) recreations and enjoyments [...] This reformist vision of public space - as the emollient of class struggle, if the not bedrock of the American polis - is now as obsolete as Keynesian nostrums of full employment. In regard to 'mixing' of classes, contemporary urban America is more like Victorian England than Walt Whitman's or LaGuardia's New York. In Los Angeles, once-upon-a-time a demi-paradise of free beaches, luxurious parks, and 'cruising strips,' genuinely democratic space is all but extinct.
Mike Davis
City of Quartz (1990)

65) As reformed in the early 1950's by the legendary Chief Parker (who admired above all the elitism of the Marines), the LAPD was intended to be incorruptible because unapproachable, a 'few good men' doing battle with a fundamentally evil city. Dragnet's Sergeant Friday precisely captured the Parkerized LAPD's quality of prudish alienation from a citizenry composed of fools, degenerates and psychopaths.

Mike Davis
City of Quartz (1990)

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 879 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/26/2006 04:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Mee-dee-ya, hurrah!

What a great time we live in!

Until recently, commercial network televisions consisted of 6 networks: CBS (owned by CBS), NBC (owned by General Electric), ABC (owned by Disney), Fox (run by right-wing mogul rupert Murdoch), UPN (owned by CBS) and The WB (owned by Time Warner).

Soon, when all the exciting changes have been come on line, we'll have 6 networks!: CBS (owned by CBS), NBC (owned by General Electric), ABC (owned by Disney), Fox (run by right-wing mogul rupert Murdoch), The CW (owned by CBS and Time Warner) and MyTV (owned by Fox).

What diversity!! Amazement and astonishment all around!!

Not only that, but with my cable service (Time Warner), I get about umpteen billion channels, covering many, many different subjects with, preumably, many, many, many different points of view. Several million of the channels are owned by NBC, another million or three are owned by Fox, some thousands of thousands are owned by Disney, tons and tons are owned by Time Warner, and a bunch of millions of them are owned by CBS. (To be fair, other companies own bunches of stations too, and I used to keep close track of who they were and who owned what with whom, but the proliferation of channels just wore me down, so I had to stop.)

Like Louis Armstrong sang "I think to myself, what a wonderful world!"

Oh, yeah!

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/26/2006 03:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, August 25, 2006


Were we better off with the hard-drinking under-educated unsophisticated working-class slobs who were the fabled newsmen of yore:

instead of the college-educated upwardly-mobile middle-class sophisticates we have in the journalists of today?

Zachary Roth on Political Animal:
Top NYT political reporter Adam Nagourney gives us a tantalizing taste of what he likes to do for fun, with this piece on DC for the NYT's Escapes section.


As for the townhouses of Georgetown: "Some friends and I could hardly contain ourselves when we visited a $2.5 million, one-bedroom town house that had a mahogany paneled bathroom and a jungle-canopy bed."

It's a very real question, and an important one considering the behavior of our news corps in the years since Watergate: has the professionalization of news reporting diminished the capacity of journalists to understand and empathize with the needs and dreams of the everday American? Is the bias in the media not a matter of left and right, but simply an inclination to prefer the kind of people one hangs out with during and after-hours, and to understand them better because of the constant exposure to their views? Have our reporters lost any sense of what the America of most people is really like, because they've become too integrated into the world of our elite leadership?

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/25/2006 05:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Friday Photography: Cameras

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel

Location: flea market, Manhattan, New York City

Previous: Hands With Softball / On Alcatraz

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/25/2006 05:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Storm on the way?

click for current predictionTropical Storm Debby is a bust, but it looks as if Tropical Depression Five could be something to look out for. Computer models show it heading into the Gulf, and how it turns when it gets there is of great interest, I would imagine, to New Orleans, especially since it's predicted to be at hurricane strength by Monday morning, and Tuesday is the anniversary of Katrina hitting last year. If another hurricane were to hit New Orleans in its (still) weakened state it could be devastating (again).

I've turned on the "Storm Watch" maps on the sidebar to follow the storm's progress and the conditions in the Gulf -- sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface height (SSH).

Update (8/26): The current 5-day cone (11am Saturday 8/26) shows Ernesto (Tropical Depression Five's new name) turning directly towards New Orleans, although one of the computer models still holds out the hope that it will graze the Yucatan instead. (Use the links in the "Storm Watch" box for the most up-to-date information.)

Update (8/28): The computer models and the official forecast track now show Ernesto taking a right-hand turn and crossing Florida, making landfall somewhere around Fort Meyers as a category 1 hurricane. That's good for New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf coast, and means they won't have to deal with a hurricane just after going through the 1 year anniversary of Katrina, but (obviously) not so good for some folks in Florida.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/25/2006 05:30:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The City of Angels 1

61) To begin with, [very old jokes about Los Angeles] only made sense if there continued to be some kind of dialectical relationship between New York and Los Angeles. After all, there is nothing particularly funny about making fun of the antithesis, that is, of L.A., unless the thesis, New York, still burns brightly as an ideal of city life. But New York, as all of us who live there know - however quiet we keep the news - is a specter of what it once was, and grows dirtier, more desperate, and more expensive with every passing year. It hardly exemplifies anything these days, except perhaps the bleaker assertions of Thomas Hobbes.
David Rieff
Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (1991)

62) This city runs on brown wheels. [i.e. Mexican laborers]
A Los Angeles resident
quoted by David Rieff in
Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (1991)

63) To be an American has always meant being able, precisely, to exercise one's right to opt out of the continuum of history, choosing isolation over community, and one's desires over one's obligations. In the grand rhetoric of Emerson, it is to be "a seeker with no past at his back." More prosaically, the notion is embodied in the great American expression "Don't fence me in." Inevitably, this model of utopia depends on solitude and space to spare and is as contemptuous of any particular place as it is of the past. Perhaps that is why Americans have been so oddly complacent about the decay of their older cities. If New York or Philadelphia doesn't "work" anymore, it must be time to move on.
David Rieff
Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (1991)

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 880 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/25/2006 12:29:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto demoted!

The anti-Pluto insurgency was successful, and Pluto is no longer recognized by the IAU as a planet. Not only that, but the new category of celestial objects it's been relegated to isn't called "plutons" or "small solar system bodies" or "minor planets", it's called "dwarf planets." (Ceres, the first discovered and largest asteroid, is also a member, as is "Xena" [2003 UB313]. What about Charon?)

How will Pluto ever live down this slight?

(It should be noted that although it's framed in scientific terms, and was voted on by scientists, the new definition of "planet" isn't really a scientific definition per se, since, as far as I understand, there's no necessity for it in any scientific theory -- which makes the whole thing rather ad hoc.)

Jenny Hogan blogs from the IAU meeting on nature newsblog.

[Link corrected]

Correction: The class of objects that Pluto now belongs to (and which includes Ceres and "Xena") has, as of yet, no official name, however the astronomers of the IAU who voted were clear that those objects are not planets.

Correction to the Correction: I think disputo in comments is correct, that I misread the story about the unnamed category. "'Dwarf' planet" is still a valid category, which currently contains Pluto, Ceres and UB313 (aka "Xena"), but not Charon, Pluto's moon. What is unnamed is a new category of trans-plutonian objects.

Here's how the IAU's website put it:
The IAU members gathered at the 2006 General Assembly agreed that a "planet" is defined as a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

This means that the Solar System consists of eight "planets" Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A new distinct class of objects called "dwarf planets" was also decided. It was agreed that "planets" and "dwarf planets" are two distinct classes of objects. The first members of the "dwarf planet" category are Ceres, Pluto and 2003 UB313 (temporary name). More "dwarf planets" are expected to be announced by the IAU in the coming months and years. Currently a dozen candidate "dwarf planets" are listed on IAU's "dwarf planet" watchlist, which keeps changing as new objects are found and the physics of the existing candidates becomes better known.

The "dwarf planet" Pluto is recognised as an important proto-type of a new class of trans-Neptunian objects. The IAU will set up a process to name these objects.

Update: Matthew Yglesias puts on his old fuddy-duddy costume and complains:

I think this is silly. If astronomy has been proceeding since Copernicus without a rigorous definition of "planet" -- which is certainly my understanding -- then obviously the world doesn't need a rigorous definition. It's just a folk-cultural term and it denotes nine entities, one of which is Pluto. There's no need for a bunch of busybody astronomers to make trouble for everyone else.

To which I respond:

Your conclusion doesn't follow from your premise. Science is not in need of a definition of what a planet is or isn't, and the new definition, for all its being framed in scientific terms and voted on my scientists. doesn't flow from any scientific theory that I'm aware of.

However, it was science and scientists (or natural philosophers) who came up with the previous definition of a planet, the one that's got the inertia of cultural baggage you refer to, and Pluto was accepted as one because of that. Sure, everyone eventually became comfortable with nine planets instead of eight, but I'm sure some dunderheads complained at the time that there was no need to upset the well-known system with the brash newcomer.

So science made the old definition, and science deteremined that Pluto fit that definition and added it to the roles when it was discovered, so how does the years of cultural acceptance of that circumstance add up to it not being up to scientists to revise the definition once a better understanding of Pluto called for a change?

It doesn't. A planet is indeed a cultural thing, but it got that way because science defined it that way, and science can undefine it if it suits their purposes -- not every scientific term is supported by strict theoretical framework, sometimes it's all just ad hoc until someone ties it all together.

This ranks right up there with your complaint about the names of foreign cities (here -- and my response here) -- such curmudgeonly behavior in one so young is not terribly becoming.

Update (8/29): Just for the sake of completeness, and defintiely not worthy of a new post: the demotion of Pluto causes Yglesias to become completely unhinged.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/24/2006 01:06:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) In fingo veritas

58) There is a straight ladder from the atom to the grain of sand, and the only real mystery in physics is the missing rung. Below it, particle physics; above it, classical physics; but in between, metaphysics. All the mystery in life turns out to be this same mystery, the join between things which are distinct and yet continous, body and mind, free will and fate, living cells and life itself; the free moment before the foetus.
Tom Stoppard
Hapgood (play, 1988)
spoken by the character "Kerner",
an emigre Russian physicist and double agent

59) "It's a question of where to draw the line," he said. "Lines have to be drawn; even I realize that. But the line is constantly moving. In a progressive society, the line should be moving. Do you know it was once illegal to terminate a pregnancy? [...] They'd decided that a fetus was human. Later, we changed our minds. Society used to keep dead people hooked up to something called 'life support,' sometimes for twenty or thirty years. You couldn't turn the machines off [...] They were dead [...] by our standards. Corpses with blood being pumped through them. Bizarre, creepy as hell. You wonder what they were thinking of, what their reasoning could possibly have been. When people knew they were dying, when they knew that death was going to be horribly painful, it was thought wrong of them to kill themselves [...] A doctor couldn't help them die; he'd get prosecuted for murder. Sometimes they even withheld the drugs that would be best at stopping the pain. Any drug that dulled the senses, or heightened them, or altered consciousness in any way was viewed as sinful - except for the two most physically harmful drugs: alcohol and nicotine. Something relatively harmless, like heroin, was completely illegal, because it was addictive, as if alcohol was not. No one had the right to determine what he put into his own body, they had no medical bill of rights [...] I've studied their rationalizations. They make little sense now."
John Varley
Steel Beach (1992)

60) Around them, men in white went about their business with the insect-intensity of technicians everywhere.
Dan Simmons
Phases of Gravity (1989)

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 881 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/24/2006 03:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Did I miss it?

Wasn't the world supposed to end or something on August 22nd -- some kind of apocalypse, something to do with Iran?

Did I miss it?

Ah well, not to worry, I may still have a chance to "experienc[e] the joys of vaporization" (in the words of the anchor of a major media outlet's showcase news program).

I often think that some fool actually followed through on those threats made back in the 60's and 70's and put LSD in the drinking water -- there are just too many people who blithely accept some really, really weird ideas. Or perhaps Ripley in Aliens hit on the explanation:
Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

Maybe so, maybe so.

P.S. Apparently, we may have dodged one bullet, but danger nevertheless lurks in the bushes.

P.P.S. Somehow it escaped me that Bernard Lewis was one of the perpetrators of the August 22nd b.s. (or at the very least acted as an enabler) -- what a shame. I've read a number of his books and learned a lot from them. How disappointing. I mean, I know he advised the Bush administration, and was in some manner fairly tight with the neocons, but I somehow managed to believe that he had maintained some measure of academic impartiality and standards. As commenter Jasperthecat said elsewhere: "If Bernard Lewis had any credibility left, it must surely have been the first and only vicitm of this apocalypse."

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/24/2006 12:51:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


This TV ad for Ligne Roset furniture is one of the oddest I've seen in a while. This is clearly a European version, since it's considerably longer and has more near-nudity that the version I've seen on cable TV here in New York.

I wish I knew what the music is, and who directed the spot.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/23/2006 11:41:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Political ignorance

No, not another post about the intellectual disinclinations of the current resident of the White House, this is something important to know if we're going to be able to undermine his position and prevent him from doing even more extensive damage before he leaves office.

On The Democratic Strategist Scott Winship discusses an article by Stephen Earl Bennett in Public Opinion Pros which explores the extent of political ignorance in the general populace. Winship draws an interesting conclusion:
The whole point of polling is to obtain an accurate picture of the state of public opinion and preferences, but if voters are generally uninformed, then we might hesitate to craft public policies around those preferences. Furthermore, uninformed voters might be vulnerable to deceptive framing of policy debates, such that their preferences may be quite malleable, which of course renders polling data problematic as a guide to strategy. The textbook example illustrating both points is the majoritarian belief that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, which greatly facilitated the Administration’s goal of invading Iraq and overthrowing Hussein.


Finally, in an intriguing finding, Bennett shows that consistency in positions taken across issue areas increases as political knowledge increases. Those who have little knowledge tend to have unconventional combinations of issue positions. If it is also the case that those with little political knowledge are less consistent in their positions on individual issues over time than other people are, then the result might be a sizeable constituency for demagoguery and misdirection. Bennett’s results imply that that bloc would be as large as one-third of the population.

And commenter T.Raleigh Fisher follows up on the ramifications of that:

If this is the case, then it would be wise to run two campaigns: one campaign to remind your base that you are on their side, and a second campaign to sway the uninformed with good feelings, warmth, happiness, deception, demogoguery and misdirection. Put 80% of your campaign funds into the second category, and treat it like the latest Coca-Cola marketing campaign against Pepsi, which is to say, meaningless good fun, smug self-indulgence, and attacking the opponent at every opportunity.

Republicans did this perfectly last two elections. Their base - big business and big business people - knew exactly of the Republicans' true agenda. Make the rich richer, less regulated, less accountable, and lock in their advantages. No need to convince their base of that notion, so Republicans dedicated at least 80% of their campaign to misdirecting the uninformed third of Americans, a group that lost much more than they ever gained in the last six years.

While it's fun for me to be part of big business, we sure set back the common-good by about 50 years, and shattered any illusion of the American Dream for most Americans and the world.

[via Talking Points Memo]

Update: Digby has more.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/23/2006 09:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The other half-Nelson


As far as I can tell these are the techniques used by bright people who want to learn something other than by taking courses in it. [...]
  1. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO LEARN. But you can't know this exactly, because you don't know exactly how any field is structured until you know all about it.

  2. READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON IT, especially what you enjoy, since that way you can read more of it and faster.

  3. GRAB FOR INSIGHTS. Regardless of points others are trying to make, when you recognize an insight that has meaning for you, make it your own [...] Its importance is not how central it is, but how clear and interesting and memorable to you. REMEMBER IT. Then go for another.

  4. TIE INSIGHTS TOGETHER. Soon you will have your own string of insights in a field. [...]

  5. CONCENTRATE ON MAGAZINES, NOT BOOKS. Magazines have far more insights per inch of text, and can be read much faster. But when a book really speaks to you, lavish attention on it.


  7. GO TO CONVENTIONS. For some reason, conventions are a splendid concentrated way to learn things; talking to people helps. [...]

  8. "FIND YOUR MAN." Somewhere in the world is someone who will answer your questions extraordinarily well. If you find him, dog him. [...]

  9. KEEP IMPROVING YOUR QUESTIONS. Probably in your head there are questions that don't seem to line up with what your hearing. Don't assume that you don't understand; keep adjusting the questions till you get an answer that relates to what you wanted.

  10. YOUR FIELD IS BOUNDED WHERE YOU WANT IT TO BE. Just because others group and stereotype things in conventional ways does not mean they are necessarily right. Intellectual subjects are connected every which way; your field is what you think it is. [...]
Ted Nelson
Dream Machines (1974, rev. 1987)

Ted Nelson
Dream Machines (1974, rev. 1987)

57) AI is easy! When they say "knowledge" read "data." When they say "heuristics" just read "a bag of programming tricks." When they say "expert system," read "hack."
"A cynic from Michigan"
quoted by Ted Nelson in
Dream Machines (1974, rev. 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 882 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/23/2006 08:38:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



If you believe the reports, over 60 books already this year.

Of course they are some pretty good reasons not to believe the reports.


Ed Fitzgerald | 8/23/2006 01:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

(3089/898) Spilled whine

54) If life gets more and more annoying - well, people get annoyed, and that's that. Individually, a million irritated people accomplish nothing. And the slow-acting poison of loudness, callousness and obtuseness that has leached so deeply into public life is clearly not important enough to deserve attention from the politicians, TV anchors and movie stars to whom we have entrusted the Official Setting of the Public Agenda. Have a heart. These people are busy.

When was the last time you heard a politician call a news conference to reflect thoughtfully that ... "collecting tolls is an idea that made sense when roads were a lot less busy than they are today. It was never intended when we installed these things that they'd cause backups stretching for miles - wasting fuel, fouling the air and squandering billions of hours of the public's time. This is a stupid way to collect money."
David Gelernter
Mirror Worlds (1991)

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 883 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/22/2006 08:21:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The end of the trip

One always has to read Billmon, lest one miss gems such as his referring to Bush as "acting like a hedgehog on hallucinogens."
His one big integrative idea -- exporting American-style "democracy" to Iraq at the point of a gun -- has proven fatally, disasterously wrong, but he can't let go of it, because it's the only idea he's got. He's fully vested in it, like a '90s e-trader who decided to throw caution to the wind, empty his retirement account and bet it all on

I think if Shrub were ever forced to let go of his vision, his one big idea, it would not only crush his fragile ego, it would leave him completely incapable of making any sense at all out of his presidency, out of America's role in the Middle East, out of the universe.

So now he's imitating the hedgehog as literally as any human being can -- he's rolled himself up into a defensive ball, spines out. He has nothing useful to say and absolutely no strategy beyond hunkering down and passively defying reality. Which leaves the generals and the troops no choice but to hunker down with him.

Unfortunately for all of us, it's hard to disagree with his conclusion:

The next two and a half years are going to be very long ones.

Update: Atrios compares wingnut Michael Barone to "a blind squirrel on LSD."

A hedgehog on hallucinogens, a blind squirrel on LSD ...

I smell a trend.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/22/2006 12:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Champion of dual-press sandwich makers!

Call me prejudiced against small kitchen appliances (go ahead, I can take it; besides some of my best friends are toasters), but this is pretty darn funny.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/21/2006 11:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Half-Nelson

52) In order for something to Catch On, it has to be standardized. Unfortunately, there is motivation for different companies to make their own little changes in order to restrict users to their own products. The best example of how to avoid this: Philips patented its audio cartridge [i.e. the standard audio "cassette"] to the teeth, but then granted everyone free use of the patent provided they adhered to the exact standard. The result has been the system's spectacular success, and Philips, rather than dominating a small market, has a share of a far larger market, and hence makes more money. That's a virtue-rewarded kind of story.
Ted Nelson
Dream Machines (1974, rev. 1987)

53) Everybody has only a 24-hour day. Most people, if they increase consumption of one medium (like magazines or books) will cut down on another (like TV). This drastically reduces the sort of growth some people have been expecting.
Ted Nelson
Dream Machines (1974, rev. 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 884 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/21/2006 09:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Start without end

An excellent post by dKos diarist Pericles on asymmetrical warfare has some advice on how to cope with an insugency:
All effective anti-insurgent strategies involve drying up the supply of recruits by isolating the insurgents from the larger population. In the so-called "ink spot" strategies the isolation is geographic: a small area is pacified and reconstructed to the point that it becomes governable. The population, seeing the benefits of peaceful governance, resists insurgent efforts to infiltrate. The surrounding areas come to envy the pacified area, and the governable "ink spot" spreads. Other kinds of isolation can also work, as long as the population comes to see a clear separation between itself and the insurgents rather than a slippery slope.

Insurgency by its nature is a low-lifespan occupation. Lenin's line about revolutionaries - that they are dead men on furlough - applies even moreso to insurgents. They must take action to stay relevant, and any action they take carries great risk. Without a constant resupply of recruits ready to die, an insurgency withers.

In order to disrupt that supply, the occupier need not be loved. It need only convince the population that ending the occupation is not worth dying for.

Of course, this is not new, it's well-known by the experts on this kind of warfare. However, it has little to no chance of being understood and acted upon by the Bush administration, which propelled us into a war we couldn't win from the get-go without an understanding of what kind of war we were going to be fighting. They didn't understand, they continue to not understand (or, far worse, to pretend that they don't understand), which means that we were screwed from the moment Baghdad fell and our troops didn't protect the city's infrastructure from looting, and we continue to be screwed -- and our soldiers will continue to die for no particular purpose at all, because Bush doesn't know how to end a war that never should have been started.

P.S. After reading this, I did some checking about when I first referred to the situation in Iraq as a "civil war". There's this post in March 2004 where I predicted a devolution into civil war once the US pulled out, but the first in which I acknowledged that a civil war was actually in progress was here, on February 23, 2006, which is indeed 6 months ago.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/20/2006 11:48:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Another look at the Rockies

Since my family went to the NY Mets/Colorado Rockies game at broiling-hot Shea Stadium this afternoon (where the Mets beat the Rockies to sweep their 3-game series), and since we've now past the three-quarters mark for the baseball season, it seems like a good time to look in on how the Rockies great experiment in Christian Professional Baseball is going.

The Rockies at the three-quarters mark; click to enlarge

(To those who are unfamiliar with the Rockies announced status as a Christian ballclub, see this post and my followups here and here.)

Before we look at how they're doing, I would like to emphasize that I keep returning to this subject not out of any particular animosity towards Christians or Christianity (or ballplayers who happen to be Christian), but because I'm appalled that a professional baseball team would make decisions about how to run their team (which players to retain or release, for instance) on any other basis except those pertinent to baseball. It's bad enough that monetary issues play a significant part in a general manager's decisions in the modern game, to overlay religious criteria on top of that is wrong, just as wrong as the the banning of black players prior to Jackie Robinson.

So, how has a commitment to being a Christian team worked out for the Rockies? It certainly hasn't been a recipe for success in any absolute way, as a look at their stats will show:

  • currently: 59-65 / 6 games under .500 / division: tied for last (3rd) place, 7 games behind the Dodgers / wild card: 4-way tie for 4th place, 5 games behind Cincinatti.

That's worse than the other times I checked on them:

  • May 30 (when the USA Today article came out): at .500 / division: last (5th) place, 4.5 games behind / wild card: 7th place, 3.5 games out

  • July 9 (All-Star Break): 1 game over .500 / division: 3rd place, 3.5 games behind / wild card: 2nd place / 1.5 games behind

  • August 8: 3 games under .500 / division: 4th place, 4 games behind / wild card: 4th place, 2.5 games behind

Things are not getting better for the Rockies, they're getting worse.

Of course, there are other ways to measure success. Compared to last season , for instance -- when they finished in last place in the NL West, 15 games behind the Padres, with a sub-.500 winning percentage (.414), and tied for dead last in the Wild Card, 22 games out -- they're actually not doing nearly as badly.

Also, they may have figured out how to survive playing baseball in the high altitude of Denver, where thin air allows balls to travel farther and prevents pitches from breaking. The Rockies pitchers usually have one of the worse earned run averages in baseball because of this, but this season that seems to have changed for some reason -- before the Mets' series, the Rockies were leading the entire NL in team ERA with 4.06, with the Mets right behind them at 4.11. (They've swapped places now, with the Mets at 4.05 and the Rockies at 4.08, but that's still fairly amazing considering the conditions they have to play their home games under.)

So... all is not lost, it's still possible (if increasingly improbable) that the Rockies could squeak into the post-season, but the evidence does seem to be mounting that choosing to shape and run your team on Christian principles rather than baseball principles is not a good winning strategy. That doesn't mean that baseball players and managers and management shouldn't live their lives by their moral codes, whether coming from religious belief or not, it just means that if your goal is to win baseball games, you'd better do the things that help you to win baseball games.

Update: Hello to folks visiting here from Unscrewing the Inscrutable -- please feel free to look around the place. (And thanks to ARB for the link.)

Update (8/28): More from Sane Wailings here and here.

Uodate (8/29): Apparently, at least part of the Rockies' improvement this year over their performance last year is not due to their devotion to god, but to the humidor the balls are kept in so they don't get dried out -- except that the humidor's been in use for the last five years.

More: 24-Sept

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/20/2006 11:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Taking care of business

49) The spirit of capitalism demands that winners in fair competition gain the fruits of their victory and that losers go off to try other things.
Martin Mayer
The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery:
The Collapse of the Savings and
Loan Industry

50) If you want to know the law and nothing else, you must look at it as a bad man, who cares only for the material consequences which such knowledge enables him to predict, not as a good one, who finds reason for his conduct, whether inside the law or outside, in the vaguer sanctions of conscience. A very high proportion of our richest and most famous lawyers today do look at the law from the perspective of a bad man, either because they are themselves bad men (not impossible) or because they have abdicated all judgment in their choice of clients. Disreputable clients, after all, pay better.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Address Delivered at the Dedication of
the New Hall of the Boston University
School of Law" (1/8/1897)
quoted by Martin Mayer in
The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery:
The Collapse of the Savings and
Loan Industry

51) While he had [Drexel lawyer Richard] Sandler's attention, [Drexel bond salesman Jim] Dahl wanted to talk about another issue of importance - his compensation. He'd seen the Drexel payroll and had been shocked to learn that while he was slated to earn $18 million plus a $5 million bonus in 1988, [Drexel investment banker] Peter Ackerman would be taking home nearly $60 million. While $23 million seemed like a lot of money to some people - and had once seemed like a decent living to Dahl - now he couldn't be satisfied with this paltry sum. Months ago, he told Sandler, he talked to Milken about a raise. He said Milken had agreed he should be paid more. But the payroll sheet showed no change, and Milken was denying that he's ever said it would.

... [In 1986] Milken's earnings topped $550 million. If you took crisp $100 bills and began to stack them, you would reach $100,000 when your pile was six inches high. A million dollars would reach the hairline of a very tall jockey. Five hundred and fifty million starts to make the pile significant - that stack would reach half a mile into the sky. ...

Within Drexel, Milken's earnings had long been kept a secret. Only four people at the firm knew the total - his immense compensation was, even in the early years, broken down into smaller amounts and paid from different accounts so the clerks wouldn't catch on.
Jesse Kornbluth
Highly Confident: The Crime and
Punishment of Michael Milken

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and idea (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 885 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/20/2006 10:53:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

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