269) You live on the surface of your life. And you think if you just touch another person's skin, that's living.
Philip Kan Gotanda Day Standing On Its Head (1993)
270) Wake up Harry. You're dying and the hour is late. The flesh is falling from our bodies. Moments of exquisite perfumed pleasure are slipping away into oblivion [...] Harry, you, this divine animal - what an incredibly intricate piece of imagination beating inside of you. Take it out, take it out and share, dream, I give you permission [...]
Philip Kan Gotanda Day Standing On Its Head (1993)
271) The Future [...] something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters_(1941)
272) All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
George Orwell Animal Farm (1946)
273) The theatre needs continual reminders that there is nothing more debasing than the work of those who do well what is not worth doing at all.
Gore Vidal quoted in Newsweek (3/25/68) [B16]
274) Off-Off-Broadway is the cutting edge of the knife of theatre.
Ed Fitzgerald (c. 1976)
275) It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.
Woody Allen "Death (A Play)" (play) in Without Feathers (1975) [B16]
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 788 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
Why, I wonder, does Robert Novak have a reputation for political acumen? Take, for instance, the current issue of the Evans-Novak Political Report, in which Novak writes:
Never before has a new speaker entered office on such a sour note as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her vigorous and totally rejected campaign for Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) supports widespread cloakroom sentiment that she is not qualified for her high office and is there because of her gender and the support of the huge California delegation.
Does this make any sense at all? Let's see:
"Never before..." Never? Not even once before in the entire history of the Republic? I guess I find that a little hard to believe, given the rough-and-tumble nature of American politics during some eras.
What this is, is a statement made for rhetorical purposes, not a statement of fact or rational analysis.
"...has a new speaker entered office..." Gee, Bob, haven't you noticed that Pelosi hasn't entered office yet? Damn, those little details are so darn hard to keep track of, aren't they?
So we're supposed to believe that Pelosi was put in office by a bunch of men because she's a woman, and because the California delegation has a lot of clout, but not enough clout, apparently, to elect Murtha to a subsidiary position? Is there a shred of logic to this contention?
Hey, Robert, sweetie, how about this, darling -- the Democrats elected Pelosi Speaker for the next Congress because she's done a good job as Minority Leader and there was no reason to make a change, and they elected Hoyer not as a rejection of Pelosi, but because more of them preferred Hoyer to Murtha. Whaca think of that, bubby?
Too complicated, Bob, people voting for the candidate they prefer? We call it democracy, Bobbie, and it's no wonder you forgot what it is and how it works, considering that your people seem to be allergic to it and work their little tushies off trying to undercut and subvert it whenever possible.
Just so everyone recalls, Novak's prediction for the outcome of the election was:
I just learned about the death, from cancer, of Robert Altman. Although his work was very inconsistent, he was still one of my favorite filmmakers. While films such as M*A*S*H and Nashville are sure to be cited as his best, I also enjoyed the light entertainments like Cookie's Fortune, The Player, and Gosford Park. But I think the film that most mesmerized me was 3 Women, which I've seen numerous times and have never really figured out. I also like his deconstruction of the hard-boiled detective movie, The Long Goodbye, quite a bit, despite the critical drubbing it received for daring to undercut an iconic American character like Chandler's Philip Marlow.
(I will note, however, that I saw Nashville again recently and it didn't quite hold up, although the ending still had a lot of impact. Still, it raises the question of how Altman's work will be perceived by future generations. It may be that one had to come of age in a certain period of American social turmoil to truly appreciate his work.)
265) University of California at Berkeley [...] anthropologists Brent Berlin and Paul Kay [...] showed that the color terms used by diverse societies all follow a systematic pattern. That is, if a society has only two color terms, these terms will divide the spectrum between black and white; if a language contains three terms, then it contains a term for red; if it contains four terms, the it contains a term for green or yellow (but not both) and so on to the most complete languages which contain eleven basic color terms (white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, pink, purple, orange, and gray). [...] But some anthropologists feel that the conclusions drawn by Berlin and Kay are too broad. John Bousfield, for example, suggests that it is one thing to know that the color spectrum is divided into two segments, but quite another to translate the terms into "black" and "white." In his view, such a pair of terms would acquire far more meaning (since they are the only ways to talk about colors) then they do in a multicolor-term culture [...]
Howard Gardner The Mind's New Science (1985) citing Berlin, B. and Kay, P. Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution (1969) and Bousfield, J. The World Seen As A Color Chart (1979)
266) Whenever there is a simple error that most laymen fall for, there is always a slightly more sophisticated version of the same problem that experts fall for.
Amos Tversky possibly from Tversky, A. and Kahnmen, D. "Extensional vs. Intuitive Reasoning: The Conjunction Fallacy in Probability Judgment" (1983) quoted by Howard Gardner in The Mind's New Science (1985)
267) People seem to have little difficulty in accepting the modifiability of "environmental" effects on human development. If a child has had bad teaching in mathematics, it is accepted that the resulting deficiency can be remedied by extra good teaching the following year. But any suggestion that the child's mathematical deficiency might have a genetic origin is likely to be greeted with something approaching despair: if it is in the genes "it is written", it is "determined" and nothing can be done about it; you might as well give up attempting to teach the child mathematics. This is pernicious rubbish on an almost astrological scale. Genetic causes and environmental causes are in principal no different from each other. Some influences of both type may be hard to reverse; others may be easy to reverse. Some may be usually hard to reverse but easy if the right agent is applied. The important point here is that there is no general reason for expecting genetic influences to be any more irrevocable than environmental ones.
Richard Dawkins The Extended Phenotype (1982)
268) [W]ith the rise of many scientists to prominence in our nation's life, something was triggered in the American response which is perhaps idiosyncratic for this country but in fact is fundamentally healthy - namely, skepticism against this, as against any, form of strong, organized authority. As the astute political scientist Don K. Price has pointed out, Americans tend to have a special response to science, one that has roots in our ingrained political philosophy. From the beginning, the predominant attitude toward any large-scale organized authority in the United States has been essentially negative, and our political institutions are set up with the purpose of impeding the assertion of centralized authority as much as possible. In the first century and a half of the Republic, scientists and engineers were seen as outsiders, even as a force against established authority, as challengers of all dogma and successors of the religious dissenters who founded this country [...] But, Price says, "during the past generation there has been a sharp break with this tradition." As scientists have become far more numerous and their work, directly or indirectly, has begun to change our daily lives, they have come to be identified not with dissent but with authority. Thus, although science itself is still seen as a positive force by a majority of Americans, scientists - who have been slow to understand this reaction - have become increasingly targets of suspicion.
Gerald Holton Science and Anti-Science (1993) citing Don K. Price America's Unwritten Constitution (1983)
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 791 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.
Roger Keeling has an interesting idea on how to generate a priority list for Democratic action:
I provide this link to a Kevin Drum posting from a few days ago because I think it's good common sense. But, more, it inspired an idea that -- were I even vaguely capable in mathematics and computer programming -- I'd be very inclined to put into action myself, just to see if it ultimately proved of value.
It seems to me that with some simple polling (or perhaps even just a close reading of the stated positions of all Democrats in the next Congress), combined with an application of Set Theory, you could pretty easily arrive at a priority list that would maximize the probability of successful passage of a vast range of Democratic policies while minimizing intra-Party friction ... _and_ minimizing the odds of the public turning against the Democrats in 2008.
I dunno, maybe this is nothing new. Maybe one or more mathematicians have done this in the past. But if so, I've never heard of it. I've never, for example, seen an illustration of it in, say, the textbooks I used to have on political game theory, which are nothing but mathematics.
So, if I had the brain for it, here's what I'd do, stated here on the off-chance that someone else -- someone who _does_ have head for math and programming -- might be inspired to act.
Start with one of your elaborate compilations of public opinion surveys, only this one being of what the public broadly claims to believe about various issues. Which issues are most salient to the general public? Which are the highest in priority? There's a big difference between those two things. For example, a substantial majority favor tough gun control laws. But they favor it, most of them, the way we favor world peace and an end to the illicit drug trade: "Gee, wouldn't it be a good thing if ..." On the other hand, folks who oppose gun controls REALLY oppose them. They aren't a majority or even very close to one, but because they can quickly become single-issue voters, they wield a lot of power. In short, they have high salience on this issue; taking it on can consume a _lot_ of political capital, especially if it's something you're likely to alienate a lot of your own erstwhile supporters over.
So anyhow, you list every issue you might imagine -- the Iraq War, national health care, gun control, raising the minimum wage, corporate reforms, abortion rights, and so forth -- and to each, you assign a composite image of what the public, nationally, thinks about them ... along with a composite "salience" calculation. So, for example, I'd bet that the Iraq war will stay right at the top where, most of us on the left, believe it to be and believe it deserves to be; that's because a substantial majority of the public are fed up with the direction, and they feel pretty strongly about it. Gun control would probably fall pretty far on the list, very nearly to the bottom.
That's one set.
To build the second set, you examine the stated national issues of concern to each Democratic Senator or Congressman. How does each of these elected leaders stand on the issues? How high is the salience of the issue to each of these people (perhaps one of the hardest -- or at least most subjective -- values to determine)? How about his or her constituents -- where do they, overall, stand on it? (Perhaps this is two numbers: overall public opinion _and_ the opinion of Democratic voters in his or her state or district). So, Casey of Pennsylvania is anti-abortion, and it might be of high personal salience to him, but probably isn't a key issue or his state's voters (indeed, many probably voted for him despite rather than because of his views on this). Tester, on the other hand, is very pro-gun rights, has high salience on it, and would get his butt kicked out of office if he crossed that. So ... mix all of this information together, and you come up with your second set.
Finally, the most subjective consideration of all: what issues can realistically be dealt with, with or without nearly unified Democratic support. A national healthcare plan ought to be in the cards, for example -- God, I'd give anything for it -- but, realistically, it might have no chance at all with Bush in the White House and Republicans still very powerful in the Senate (hence able to kill legislation with filibusters and / or by merely attracting a stray Democrat or two to their position). Election reform and a better energy plan, however, might be issues that Bush would have a harder time blocking.
Anyhow, this is your third set.
Now crunch them altogether, and a rational priority list should emerge. Not perfect, not something to completely substitute for the experienced judgment of Democratic political leaders, but a lot better than the black box they use to figure out these things now (e.g., every member of Congress dropping things into the hopper, and all the committee leaders mostly exercise their own biases with little outside guidance).
I'm not suggesting that Henry Waxman or Charles Rangel or anyone else up there is going to allow a computer program to dictate what they do. But if all or most of these leaders are convinced that this would maximize ultimate effectiveness -- and, thus, their re-election prospects -- then they might be very inclined to give heavy value to such a priority list.
In truth, people like Reid and Pelosi already try to do this anyhow. I'm just inclined to think that a way to let a computer generate such a priority list might be recognized as a useful -- powerful -- tool.
I don't think I've ever seen a suggestion similar to what Roger's presented here, and I'd be interested in hearing if anyone's done something like it before.
Of course, I think resistance to a list generated in this manner would be high among the party leaders (who might feel that their perogatives were being usurped and their authority threatend), but it would still be useful for some progressive organization to put it together and find out what the exercise comes up with: perhaps the list would be just the right kernel for Democratic action to coalesce around.
There's an interesting piece on the structure of the Democratic Party, in particular the relationship of the various state parties to the National Committee, on The Next Hurrah. [Link fixed]
My only objection is that while it's certainly true that, structurally, the DNC is a creature of the state parties, the writer rather overlooks the real-world fact that the DNC's constituency is a lot broader than that (as it pretty much has to be if the DNC is going to be an effective instrument for the Party), and includes, at its largest extent, all Democrats, including even idiots and assholes like James Carville. While it's true that it's the state parties who elect the head of the DNC, they don't exist in a vaccuum, and are subject to the same kind of spin and propaganda and persuasion that we all are subjected to. If Carville's stupid trial balloon had generated a lot of anti-Dean fervor among Democrats (which it didn't, as far as I can tell), that could well have caused problems for Dean whether or not Carville has any real actual say in who the head of the DNC should be. That is, after all, how guys like Carville get things done, through manipulation and suggestion, not through any direct power.
Update:Chris Bowers says that Carville's attempted coup is dead in the water, and the 50-state strategy is safe for the moment.
For the life of me I cannot understand why, when a political analyst produces a range for their prediction of election results, Ed Fitzgerald would arbitarily pick the lowest number of the range. Logic would suggest that if a fair-minded person were going to reduce a range to a single number, they would pick the mid-point in that range.
My predections were, 4-6 seat loss for Republicans in the Senate (the midpoint would be 5, the final result was 6), a GOP loss of 6-8 governorships (midpoint 7, final 6) and 20-35 in the House (midpoint 27.5, as of 11/19, it is 29).
Is someone wants to quibble about us being off by one seat in the Senate and governorships and 1.5 seats off in the House, fine, go ahead, but to pick the lowest number in a range is methodologically nonsense and grossly unfair.
Thank you for your note.
I did not approach this election as a non-partisan analyst, I approached it as a very concerned Democrat (as I clear stated in my explanatory notes) with a vital interest in understanding what was likely to happen in the election. As such, and since I included prediction of both partisan and non-partisan analyists, I did not want to be lulled by perhaps overly optimistic predictions of a Democratic win, I wanted instead as conservative an estimate of what would occur as possible.
This is why I decided to use the lower number whenever an analyst provided a range of numbers except when the analyst specifically flagged a number in the middle of the range as the most likely result, in which case I used that number.
(In the penultimate report of my survey, I also ran the numbers using the highest number in the ranges and found that the resulting averages where not significantly different from those that resulted using the lower estimates. This was because only a few analysts -- 9 to be exact -- resorted to ranges instead of specific projections. [Correction: Although 9 analysts had ranges, only 4 of them, including Cook, did not indicate a preferred number for the House pick-ups.])
Larry Sabato, for instance, in his prediction for the House had a range of 25-33, but said that 29 was the most probable, so I used 29 for his line. If you thought that the most likely outcome within your range of 20-35 was something close to the midpoint of that range ( 27 or 28 ), perhaps you might have made that clear in your report.
I will concede this, however, that in my aftermath report, I did not make the conceptual leap to change from the conservative prediction model I had been using before the election to one designed to best represent the projection of each analyst, and so I simply re-used the same numbers I had used before. (The chart was, basically, simply a re-sort of the previous one.) I regert that error, and I will make an effort to correct in when I re-do the chart again -- which I plan to do once all the House races are decided.
As for the contention that the midpoint best represents your prediction, I'm not sure I totally agree with you. 27.5, after all, is the midpoint not only of your prediction (20-35), but also of an infinite number of other predictions: 19-36, 18-37, 17-38, 16-39 etc. If Joe Blogger had predicted a Democratic gain of 14-41 seats, would you believe that he should be credited with the same accuracy as you, simply because your projections both shared a midpoint of 27.5?
But, really, it seems to me that the best way to insure that your predictions aren't mispresented is to make them a little more specific and less broadly general. A 15 seat range, after all, is hardly the model of pinpoint accuracy.
One correction: Mr. Cook's prediction of a 20-35 seat pick-up by the Democrats encompasses 16 different possible outcomes, and not 15.
Since Mr. Cook didn't state a preference for any particular result within his fairly broad range as being more likely than any other (and such a choice would not necessarily have to be the mid-point, since the possible outcomes could, conceivably, be weighted, with some more likely than others), than all the results are fair fodder for analysis. If the pick-up had been 20 seats, surely Mr. Cook would be claimiing some measure of success for having included that within his predicted range, just as he would have if the result had been 35 seats. With that in mind, I don't see that using 20 seats for his prediction in an effort to generate a conservative projection of the election's likely results can be considered a gross misrepresentation.
Update: I was a little perplexed about what brought Mr. Cook's attention to my survey after all this time, and provoked his ire in the process, but perhaps it was this.
Update: I've had a reply via e-mail from Mr. Cook. I don't as yet have permission to quote directly from it, but it basically said that I shouldn't use his numbers in the future if I was going to misrepresent them. He also pointed out that he became aware of my survey through journalism.org, presumably the post I referred to above, and suggested, somewhat sarcastically, that this was an example of "excellence in journalism". (If Mr. Cook responds with permission, I'll post his e-mail here in full. [See below. - Ed])
My reply was this:
I'm sorry, your reply assumes that I have misrepresented your figures, and I don't believe that is the case, for reasons that I think I've adequately explained. In any event, your figures are publicly available, and as long as they remain so, I will continue to use them in any way that I deem appropriate.
Since you have been kind enough to offer me advice, please allow me to reciprocate. My suggestion to you, is that you might consider working a bit harder to provide predictions that are more specific and less broad and general, since it opens you up to the suspicion that you are deliberately playing it safe and hedging your bets. That's understandable, I suppose, but you are a professional analyst (the dean, according to some) who supposedly understands the political process better than most, with inside information and insight drawn from experience, and yet your predictions were so broad as to be practically useless, and you didn't end up doing all that much better than many amateur analysts.
Finally, if you believe that the failings, whatever they may be, of journalism.com are the sine qua non of the criminal lack of journalistic excellence in our political media, I suggest you take a giant step backwards and reconsider the contemporary media landscape, which includes the preference for conventional wisdom over skeptical inquiry, the dissemination of partisan received ideas in the guise of neutral reporting, collusion with official leaking for obvious political purposes, the profusion of anonymous sourcing even by outlets that in theory disallow it, print journalists doubling as pundits on TV, and steganography masquerading as reporting. It's a cesspool that in no way serves the vital function that the fourth estate was intended to provide, of keeping the public informed and acting as a brake on the use and misuse of government power. That a minor website repeated the, perhaps, errant work of an even more insignificant blogger, just doesn't stack up against that, however annoyed you personally might be about it.
Update: As I said above, I wasn't planning on doing another chart until the House races had been decided, but given Mr. Cook's objections to my representation of his election prediction (objections which have some validity in regards to my aftermath chart, if not in respect to the pre-election survey reports), I decided to re-run the chart, using the midpoint to represent Mr. Cook's prediction, as well as the prediction of the 3 other sites (Kos, Tradesports and Rothenberg) which also gave ranges without specifying a likely result.)
Comparison of this chart with the original one shows that of the 4 sites that had their numbers changed, Kos improved the most, moving from the middle of the pack to just above the Nov 9th estimate of what the final result may be, Rothenberg moved from close to that estimate to farther away from it (above), and Tradesports and Cook moved from the bottom third to the middle third, still well away from the jackpot. (Cook, specifically, moved from the top of the bottom third to the middle of the middle third, moving up 7 slots.)
So if Mr. Cook's ire stems from how I "misrepresented" his House prediction in a way that understated its accuracy, it doesn't seem that using his preferred representation, utilizing the mid-point of his range, really does an awful lot to salvage it. He still comes in significantly far away from whatever the final result ends up being, bettered by other professionals as well as inexperienced and unheralded amateurs.
Update: Mr. Cook responded to curtly deny permission to post his e-mail. Given the policy stated in the sidebar -- "All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses." -- I don't actually need his permission to publish it, but, what the heck, I don't want to be petty about it. In any case, my 51-word description above of his 58-word e-mail more than adequately conveys its content. If questions should come up about its actual contents in the future, I'll reconsider my decision and publish it should it seem advisable.
Update: On Election Day night, after the exit polls were available to the networks, but before actual results came out, Charlie Cook, interviewed on MSNBC by Chris Matthews, said that if someone told him that his estimate of 20-35 was wrong, he'd bet that it was low, that 35+ was more likely than under 20. Asked about his Senate prediction, he said that if it turned out to be 35+ it would be likely that the Democrats would take the Senate, but if it was around 22-25, the Republicans would likely hold on to the Senate.
This illustrates the difficulty of crediting Cook with any degree of accuracy, given the broadness and generality of his predictions. It turns out that his overall range, 20-35 will turn out to be correct, since in the unlikely event that all the disputed races so their way the Democrats would pick up exactly 35 seats, but since he now seems to feel that his prediction is best captured by the midpoint of the prediction, 27.5, that will turn out to be low -- how low depends on on how the disputed seats fall out.
Such non-specific punditry is a pretty good example of what I mean by Cook hedging his bets.
One thing is certain, though -- regardless of how accurate or non-specific Mr. Cook's predictions should turn out to be, we'll still be seeing him on TV interviewed by the likes of Matthews and Russert, while the amateurs who did as well or somewhat better than him will likely be nowhere to be found.
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.