Saturday, December 09, 2006

Must be something in the air

A couple of days ago I had a stray thought about Godwin's Law -- that like the attachment to bipartisanship in old-line Democrats, it's something from a previous era, before the recent ascendancy of the right-wing, and probably ought to be temporarily retired until we've managed to undo some of the authoritarian restructuring they did -- but never quite got around to posting it. Then, yesterday, Kevin Drum quotes from a reader of Andrew Sullivan:
I do think Godwin's rule needs to be amended somewhat in the age of Cheney and Bush.

Later that same day, Chester Scoville details a new right-wing science fiction novel and comments that

I'm thinking it's time to retire Godwin's Law, or at least put limits on it.

This sort of apparent synchronicity seems to happen a fair amount in the blogworld, but, of course, we're all basically swimming in the same ocean, or, in fact, in the same bay of the ocean.

But on to more important considerations, such as: if we retire Godwin's Law, what would we replace it with? My candidate is Fudd's First Law of Opposition:

If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.

[See also Teslacle's Deviant to Fudd's Law.]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/09/2006 02:44:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Why blog?

A Rational Being gives one of the best succinct explanations I've seen for why we blog:
It's safer than howling at the moon because you can't hit me with a shoe.


Ed Fitzgerald | 12/09/2006 02:37:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Gould on science and religion

332) In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils to both religion and to science, and invariably; on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion and of science.
Andrew Dickson White
A History of the Warfare of Science
with Theology in Christendom
quoted by Stephen Jay Gould in
"The Persistently Flat Earth" in
Natural History magazine (3/94)

333) [T]he myth of a war between science and religion remains all too current and continues to impede a proper bonding between these two utterly different and powerfully important institutions of human life. How can a war exists between two vital subjects with such different appropriate turfs - science as an enterprise dedicated to discovering and explaining the factual basis of the empirical world, and religion as an examination of ethics and values?

I do understand, of course, that this territorial separation is a modern decision - and that differing past divisions did entail conflict in subsequent adjustment of boundaries. After all, when science was weak to nonexistent, religion's umbrella did cover regions now properly viewed as domains of natural knowledge. But shall we blame religion for these overextensions? As thinking beings, we have no option not to ponder the great issues of human origins and our relationship with the earth and other creatures. If science once had no clue about these subjects, then they fell, albeit uncomfortably and inappropriately, into the domain of religion by default. No one gives up turf voluntarily, and the later expansion of science into rightful territory temporarily occupied by religion did evoke some lively skirmishes and portentous battles.
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Persistently Flat Earth" in
Natural History magazine (3/94)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/09/2006 02:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, December 08, 2006

A progressive populist party

Sherrod Brown thinks that the Democratic candidate for President should be
an economic populist, that will stand up for the middle class, that doesn't just want to increase the minimum wage but somebody that will work to put the government on the side of working families. And that means different trade policy, standing up to the drug industry, taking on the oil industry. It means showing that the Democratic Party is a progressive, populist party.

In other words, progressive populism.

Where have I heard that before? (Or here or here or here or here.)

[via Drum via Sirota]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/08/2006 03:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I can't believe anyone with any political horse sense at all seriously thinks that impeachment of Bush is either (A) possible, or (B) a good thing to spend time and energy on. Please note, this is not a statement about whether Bush is deserving of being impeached -- I take it for granted that in the best of all possible worlds, a fairy-tale political vacuum world in which everything that should take place does take place, Bush would be impeached. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and have to judge the cost of things we want to do and take a realistic assessment of whether they're actually possible to carry through. (And if you think that's not important, that's precisely what the Bush Administration didn't do in regard to Iraq.)

Anyway, in case anyone's still fantasizing about impeachment (Payback!! Payback!!), both Kos and Chris Bowers make the case against it. Frankly, I don't think there's really much of a case to make for it, however much it is deserved. We're going to take back the White House in 2008, just two years from now, impeachment would take a minimum of a year to pull together, probably more -- why is it worthwhile to expend all that energy for maybe six to eight months of President Cheney? (And anyone who thinks we're going to get rid of both Bush and Cheney is living in cloud-cuckoo land.)

Folks, impeachment is a complete non-starter, and people who espouse it are letting their emotions run away with them.

Update: I've been saying this since at least back in March. Retaking the Congress changes the equation a little, but not enough to be significant. The impeachment of Clinton was unwarranted, unpopular and divisive. An attempt to impeach Bush would be warranted, but almost as unpopular, and just as divisive. There is practically no upside to it, except (Payback!! Payback!!) a certain amount of satisfaction.

It's not worth it, it won't work, and it ain't gonna happen. Move on.

Update: The past election was essentially about Bush's mishandling of Iraq, and as a result of it, the electorate put the burden of responsibility on the Administration to show that they know what they're doing. Everything the Democrats do now should serve to reinforce that, and to undermine Bush's attempts toward redemption. If they instead decide to take up impeachment, than all of a sudden the burden falls on the Democrats to prove their case. Bush may still be on the defensive, but he's off the hook, and the issue switches from the general case that Bush has done a stupendously bad job in conceiving and prosecuting the Iraq war, to a much more specific case about impeachable offenses. This can only serve to help Bush and raise sympathy for him as a newly minted underdog.

Impeachment? Run away!! Run away!! Pelosi's pre-election statement that impeachment was "off the table" wasn't a mistake, the back of her hand to progressives or a sop to the DLC/centrists/moderates, it was a very smart political move.

Gee, I wish more people on out side understood the basics of political reality.

Update: Kagro X argues that the potential for impeachment is part and parcel of Congressional oversight. Well... yes and no. Yeah, if you can't get the Administration to cooperate with your oversight hearings then impeachment might be an option, but it's a pretty damn flimsy excuse for using such a serious remedy. (In fact, the stuff that Bush has already done is much more serious than that.) Impeachment is to oversight as a nuclear strike is to ordinary military operations -- the option is obviously always there, but there are serious impediments to using it, and you don't start off with it as your goal.

People are just too damn intoxicated by the prospect of impeaching Bush. Big Tent Democrat is exactly right when he says that "excepting blogs, no one will be discussing this." Pity the poor commenter whose view of life and politics is so damned limited that impeachment, and only impeachment must be the course of action.

Things are broke, we have to fix them, It's gonna be a long hard slog, but we've gotta do it. You don't start by breaking them some more and making things worse.

Update: I can't help but think back on how smug we are whenever the Republicans would throw out some "red meat" to their supporters in the religious right -- but, essentially, that's what the call for impeachment is, the left demanding red meat from the Democrats as the cost of their support. To do so is to place retribution over restoration, and would make more mundane oversight efforts look like nothing more than pure partisanship, instead of the first steps to fixing the massive problems caused by Bush.

I am so happy that our leadership, at least, for all their faults and miapprenhension of the new world of politics, understand that impeachment is a nuclear option, and that, unlike the Republican leadership we've just gotten rid of, they understand that one doesn't go nuclear (or even threaten to go nuclear) except at the most dire need.

It's shit like the call for impeachment that makes political professionals feel justified in looking down on amateur online activists.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/08/2006 05:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Friday Photography: Greek Column

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel (1993)

Location: The Erechtheion (or Erechtheum),
the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Previous: Hands With Softball / On Alcatraz / Cameras / Lighthouse / Photographer At Work / Patio Chairs / Greek Church / Santa Fe Mailboxes / Rocking Horse / Sunset Sandpiper / Hands / Bird of Paradise / Feeding the Pelican / Sunset Silhouette / Staircase / Mallards / Masts

Note: I think that, technically, it's the capital and entablature
of the column in the picture.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/08/2006 12:23:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Needs title

327) With councilmen, municipal judges and sewer bonds I vote the straight [eeney-meeney-miney-] moe ticket.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (TV series)
Episode #2.24: "His Two Right Arms" (3/4/1972)
written by Arnold Margolin and Jim Parker,
directed by Jay Sandrich,
spoken by the character "Murray Slaughter"
played by Gavin MacLeod

328) Am i awake imagining i am dreaming or am i dreaming i am awake when i am really... - joe ozu -
Philip Kan Gotanda
Epigraph to Day Standing On Its Head (play, 1993)

329) I do not know whether then I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.
On Leveling All Things [B16]
quoted by James Trefil in
A Scientist In The City (1994)

330) I can state that I am personally responsible for making the American people the only people in the world who will interrupt sex to answer the telephone.
Bell Telephone advertising manager (1919)
quoted by James Trefil in
A Scientist In The City (1994)

331) I like big cities. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in the Chicago area and I still get a little thrill when my plane passes the lakefront on its way to O'Hare. I agree with Norman Mailer that "Chicago is the great American city" - a comment, incidentally, that puts another of my prejudices on the table. I've lived in three other of America's great metropolitan areas - Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. (my current home) - and am frequently in a fourth (New York). I understand the attractiveness of city life - being able to find new and unusual restaurants, being able to read a great newspaper with your morning coffee, having a choice of plays and concerts every evening. As my wife once remarked during a sabbatical we were spending in Chicago, "A city is a place where there's always something interesting to do on Tuesday night."

I like small towns. For the past 20 years, I have spent my summers in my wife's hometown of Red Lodge, Montana (population 1000, elevation 5500 feet). I have developed a real appreciation for the intense effort people in small towns put into maintaining the web of interpersonal relationships that make one "belong." I understand the attractiveness of small-town life - never having to present identification when you cash a check, never being able to walk down Main Street without chatting with half a dozen people, never having to lock the doors of your house or car.

I like the country. During the 1970s I bought an abandoned farm in the Blue Ridge foothills of Virginia, built a house on it with my own hands, raised bees and vegetables, and generally participated in the "back to the land" movement. I can appreciate the country life - the feeling of connectedness that comes from being close to nature, the sense of wholeness that comes from working with your hands.

Oddly enough, this rural experience has made me much less tolerant of urban critics that I might otherwise be. Whenever I hear (or read) someone going on and on about the wonders of living in tune with nature, I always wonder how many times he or she has nursed plumbing through a subzero night, how often he or she has tried to run a household for a week without electricity.

I like the suburbs. Since 1987, I have lived in a classic suburb of Washington. I like living on a quiet street lines with old trees, but with restaurants and theatres a 20-minute drive away. I like the fact that I can send my kids to a neighbor's house without worrying about their safety. I understand why the suburbs have become the home of the majority of Americans, and suspect that they will service that function for some time to come.

What I have learned from a lifetime spent sampling different modes of life is that there is no "right" setting for a home, no "best" way to organize society. There are pluses and minuses to urban life, and I think I can evaluate them realistically.
James Trefil
A Scientist in the City (1994)


[B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (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 774 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/08/2006 12:10:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, December 07, 2006

(3089/898) Cage

321) I always had a chip on my shoulder about psychoanalysis. I knew the remark of [Rainer Maria] Rilke to a friend who wanted him to be psychoanalyzed. Rilke said, "I'm sure they would remove my devils, but I fear they would offend my angels."
John Cage
Silence (1961)

              I have nothing to say
and I am saying it and that is
John Cage
"Lecture on nothing" in
Silence (1961)

323) It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of "culture."
John Cage
Silence (1961)

324) The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences.
John Cage
Silence (1961)

325) The study by [John] Cage of the work of [Art historian Ananda] Coomarasswamy deepened his knowledge of the nine permanent emotions of Indian aesthetics. Four were white: the heroic, the erotic, the mirthful and the wondrous. Four were black: fear, anger, sorrow and disgust or "the odious". At the center, without color, was tranquillity, to which the others tended.
David Revill
The Roaring Silence: John Cage: A Life (1992)

326) The important work of Ekman, Levinson, and Freisen (1985) vindicates Darwin's hypothesis that the emotions of fear, anger, surprise, disgust, happiness, and sadness occur across cultures. The universality of these emotions, their early emergence in our development (very possible in primate development), and the evolutionary rationale that can be given for them make a strong case for their natural selection.
Owen Flanagan
Consciousness Reconsidered (1992)
referring to P. Ekman, R.W. Levinson, W.V. Freisen
"Autonomic Nervous-System Activity Distinguishes
Among Emotions" in Science magazine (1985,221)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/07/2006 04:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Gored again?

There seems to be some lefty blogosphere sentiment in favor of Al Gore running for President again, so I did a little research, using Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. This is what I found:

In 55 Presidential elections since the first in 1789, there have been 7 men who have run for President and failed, who subsequently ran again and were elected to the Presidency. Of these 7 men, only one (Richard Nixon) accomplished this feat in the 20th Century. In fact, except for Nixon, no one has managed to do it since 1892, when Grover Cleveland was elected.

As they say on the TV ads, past performance is no guarantee of future results, so there's no saying that Gore couldn't run and win, but it does look a bit like the realities of contemporary Presidential politics are against him.

The men who did it are:
  1. John Adams - ran 1789 and 1792, elected 1796

  2. Thomas Jefferson - ran 1796, elected 1800

  3. John Quincy Adams - ran 1820, elected 1824

  4. Andrew Jackson - ran 1824, elected 1828

  5. William Henry Harrison - ran 1836, elected 1840

  6. Grover Cleveland - ran 1888, elected 1892

  7. Richard Nixon - ran 1960, elected 1968

You'll note that besides being the only contemporary candidate to pull this off, Nixon's the only one to do it without being winning in an election immediately following one he lost in.

When I'm a little less bleary-eyed, I'll try to compile a list of all the candidates who ran in more than one Presidential election. In the meantime, take a look at this list of Presidential rankings. The consensus seems to be that Warren G. Harding was our worst president, followed by James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and Andrew Johnson. George W. Bush is currently listed at #22 (just below Clinton at #21) but there's no way that position's gonna hold -- he's got nowhere to go but down. (Whereas in the middle of the pack is probably the right place for Bill.)

P.S. I'm inclined to think Gore shouldn't run, that it would be too hard for him to win. I don't have anything much against him, except that he ran a lousy campaign and he's generally a weak candidate, despite his current resurgence. We should remember that the election was Gore's to win, and that Bush was only able to steal it because Gore allowed it to get close enough to steal. That doesn't exactly speak to Gore as being a great candidate to hang our hopes on.

Update: In comments, Roger Keeling has a good rebuttal:

And as for Gore: first, he WON the 2000 election. He WON. Okay? And unlike quite a few folks out there, Gore has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to learn from mistakes. He may be "lackluster" as a campaigner -- I know, I know, a violation of your belief that we should "cast" our candidates -- but I suspect he'd run a vastly better race next time out. Especially since he could count on something that didn't exist last time: a well-entrenched infrastructure of bloggers and their readers, and alternative media, that now understand the urgency of IMMEDIATE response to every burp that comes from the Mighty Rightwing Wurlitzer. That was utterly missing in the 1990s, but has emerged now and -- hopefully -- will continue to find ways to counter the rightwing hate machine out there.

In TODAY'S environment, I think Gore would have an excellent chance of winning again ... and this time, by a margin big enough to drown out any rightwing electoral fraud. (Not to mention that if the new Democratic Congress does what it should, there will be some solid election reforms in place by the 2008 elections anyhow).

I truthfully worry that, with Al out of the equation, Democratic ranks are a bit thin for a run on the White House next time. We have a slew of great people coming up through the trenches, now, thanks to Dean's 50-state strategy. But it will take some years for those folks to season, and for the real winners to emerge. Right now, who realistically do we have ready and able to run? Hilary? Yeah, she's gonna do it, and I hope to hell she loses. Edwards? He's all but vanished. Who on our side has the intellectual heft, name recognition, and experience to make a serious run? And of that list, who would you really like to see up there?

Good points, but I would hesitate to overestimate the influence of the lefty blogosphere based on this last election, which was much more about widespread disatisfaction with the morass of Iraq than anything else. That happened to resonate with the lefty blogosphere's concern, but if the electorate was on a different wavelength, I doubt online progressive activism would have much influence at all, certainly not as much as the Mighty Wurlitzer, or even, really, one component of it, talk radio.

[See Roger's response, and further continuation of the discussion, in Comments.]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/07/2006 03:55:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Gates' in, so what?

Geez, all the geschreing over the supposed Democratic cave in on the Gates nomination for BushSecDef should just please stop already, it's just plain silly.

It's a basic fact that no one that Bush nominates is going to start off without being in rough agreement with the legitimacy and aims of the Iraq War -- that's just a given, so the universe of candidates for the job just does not include people who are in accord with Democrats with an anti-Iraq orientation. And no one who runs the DoD for Bush is going to make any drastic change in policy without first convincing Bush about it (or, rather, Cheney, who would then sell it to Bush), so what you want isn't someone who's already on your side (who isn't going to be nominated in the first place), but someone who has more than a passing acquaintance with reality and is capable of dealing rationally with it. Such a person, when presented with the facts of the situation, has a least chance of coming around to a realistic perspective on the war, and then might have a chance of selling it to those at the top. That's the kind of person you're hoping for, and the proof of whether the nomineee is that kind of person is not going to be found in the broad statements of policy belief which the nominee will make under Senatorial questioning, but in the tone that underlies those statements, and other hints and indications.

In short, the devil is in the details, and, using this criteria, it seemed to me that Gates gave a passable performance and provided enough evidence of being an empiricist that there was no particular justification for turning him down. It's not that I think that Gates is a great guy, or the best possible choice for the job, or unsullied by his past history, it's just that he gave very little reason for Senators to withhold their consent, and enough of a glimmering of possible realistic skepticism to make the vote slightly easier.

Politics is the art of the possible, and does not traffic with perfection. As we've seen with the right-wing takeover of Congress and the White House, obsession with absolutes is not a good thing and does not lead to positive results. We should be careful and not fall into the same trap of prizing ideological purity over empirical value, realistic evaluation and the dictates of practicality.

So stop the whining, please, this was not a fight worth waging, or that we were going to win.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/07/2006 01:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Father, please! I'd rather do it myself!

Dan Froomkin on Bush's interview with Brit Hume:
Bush's explanation for why he doesn't talk policy with his dad simply doesn't hold water.

"You know, I love my dad," Bush said. "But he understands what I know, that the level of information I have relative to the level of information most other people have, including himself, is significant."

Oh, please. That's obviously not the real reason.

So here are two more-likely possibilities: Either Bush does talk to his dad and doesn't want people to know; or he truly has no interest in what his dad thinks.

The latter still strikes me as the most likely. Bush, after all, remains the son whose actions can be seen in large part as a reaction to his father -- rather than an homage.
Bush's personal history is replete with mano a mano conflicts with his father, and with his screwing up and having to be rescued by Poppy's posse, so actually (and my apologies for stooping to cheap folk psychoanalyzin') a third possibility seems most likely -- that Georgie Bush is so very concerned about what his father thinks, that he goes to the greatest possible lengths to do as much as he can without any assistance at all from his father. He wants to impress Poppy with what a big and independent boy he is, and, at the same time, to shtup his father's dead and decaying body in the eyeholes (I speak metaphorically, of course) -- hence his eagerness to invade Iraq and show H.W. up for his unmanly unwillingness to take out Saddam Hussein when he had the chance.

Update: Video (Olbermann)

Update: Steve Gilliard on the Bush family soap opera.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 11:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Days go by

Letting the days go by / let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by / water flowing underground
Into the blue again / after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime /water flowing underground.

You know, I get so caught up in doing this and that and that and this that I sometimes miss things out in the big old world out there -- wasn't there supposed to be some kind of report due out around this time that was going to solve the riddle of what to do about Iraq?

Whatever happened to that? Is the problem solved? Drop me a line and let me know, I sure would like to stop worrying about Iraq.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
David Byrne
"Once In A Lifetime"
from Remain in Light (1980)
by Talking Heads

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 09:14:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Transitioning

314) All of a sudden, this morning I realized that I was old. That's just it. I never noticed before, not really. I realized that there was no longer any given week in which I didn't have a doctor's appointment. I can't help but notice my diminishing energy. It is more difficult to hear, to see, to endure long walks, the cold, the heat. I have a more difficult time walking my black lab on a leash. I see from my friends that a broken limb is not a small matter. We are not back on our feet in a matter of weeks. Often it is the beginning of a fearful and eternal process - operations, recovery in bed, which weakens our limbs, our muscles, makes us more brittle, nursing or hospital care that clouds our minds, confuses us. My children are angry with me. They want me to be vital, helpful, present, and they simply can't accept that I can't.
posted on Prodigy
quoted by Jon Katz in
"The Tales They Tell in Cyber-Space
Are A Whole Other Story"
Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure Section (1/23/94)

315) Harold Pinter [...] once interrupted a rehearsal of his own [play] "Lover" with the murmur "We don't know the author's intentions here."
Benedict Nightingale
"In Pinter Country, There Are Only Questions"
Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure Section (1/23/94)

316) -What I held as true yesterday, today I see as banality.
317) -The sense of horrible [is] reinforced by distance.
318) -Exhaustion does not mean that you simplify but that you complicate; you sink your teeth into something and do too much.
Ingmar Bergman
Images: My Life In Film (1993)
quoted by John Simon in
"The Magician" [review] in
New York Times Book Review (1/30/94)

319) The majority of new [AIDS] infections have always been from heterosexual contact, as far back as the AIDS epidemic can be traced. Although homosexuals, hemophiliacs and people who inject drugs have borne the brunt of the epidemic in industrial countries, they have always constituted a minority of the world's HIV infections. Thus, AIDS was, is and will continue to be primarily a heterosexual disease.
Russell Mills
Letter to the editor,
Scientific American (2/94)

320) Contrary to the stereotypic view of injecting drug users, many travel frequently, for business and pleasure. For instance, a recent study found that 62 percent of drug users from Berlin had injected drugs outside their home city in the past two years; 14 percent of users from New York City had injected outside the area in the past two years. [...] The fact that cocaine, heroin and related drugs are illegal encourages the use of injection. Severe statutory restrictions greatly increase the cost of illicit substances to nonmedical users. Injecting provides a way to economize. Injectable forms of opiates and coca are much more concentrated than traditional forms, such as opium and coca tea. Injection provides an intense and economical effect by maximizing the amount of drug that reaches the brain. People who sniff or smoke drugs say that if they inject they need only one third of the amount of the drug to maintain a habit.
Don C. Des Jarlais and Samuel R. Friedman
"AIDS and the Use of Injected Drugs"
Scientific American (2/94)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 05:30:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Gopnik on Darwin

I thought this take by Adam Gopnik on the effect of Charles Darwin's writing was charming:
Darwin was humble and modest in exactly the way that Inspector Columbo is. He knows from the beginning who the guilty party is, and what the truth is, and would rather let the bad guys hang themselves out of arrogance and overconfidence, while he walks around in his raincoat, scratching his head and saying, “Oh, yeah—just one more thing about that six-thousand-year-old Earth, Reverend Snodgrass . . .”

Poor creationists, it's been "just one more thing" for years and years and years now. If it wasn't for the fact that they're close personal friends of the commissioner and the mayor (and political contributors as well), Lt. Darwin could have closed the case ages ago.

(Note to Gopnik: Columbo's rank was "Lieutenent" not "Inspector".)

Update: Another nice pull from Gopnik's piece:

By humanism, we can mean two things. One is that man is the measure of all things; the other, that all things can be measured by man. The first view, essentially religious in origin, inspires Renaissance painting and the Sistine ceiling and Vitruvian proportions. The second view — that what makes people uniquely interesting is their capacity for gauging their environment and changing it; that the more we measure, the more accurately we see what things are actually like — has been what we have meant by humanism since the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and Darwin is one of its greatest exponents and examples.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 04:51:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Poppy weeps

Former President George H.W. Bush broke down in tears as he cited his son Gov. Jeb Bush as an example of leadership.

Bush was addressing state lawmakers, his son's top administrators and state workers gathered in the House chamber Monday for the last of the governor's leadership forums.

He said he was proud of how his son handled the loss of the 1994 governor's race to popular incumbent Democrat Lawton Chiles and referred vaguely to dirty tricks in the campaign.

"He didn't whine about it. He didn't complain," the former president said before choking up. As he tried to continue, he let out a sob and put a handkerchief to his face. When he spoke again, his words were broken up by pauses as he tried to regain composure.

"A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat, so in '94 Floridians chose to rehire the governor. They took note of his worthy opponent, who showed with not only words but with actions what decency he had," Bush said before starting to sob again.

I have to wonder if Poppy's teariness about Jeb is because he realizes that his idiot son George has ruined everything and made it impossible for his smarter son, Jeb, to ever be President. No Bush will ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office again, no matter how much money they're willing to throw at the problem.

Update: Video (Olbermann)

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 04:51:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Replacing Bolton

Progress Report says about replacing John Bolton:
Early reports indicate that some promising candidates are being considered for the post, including Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), former Sen. George Mitchell, and former 9/11 Commission executive director Philip Zelikow. "Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. James Walsh (R-NY) are circulating a letter among colleagues suggesting Leach be named." Among other names receiving mention are U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, former deputy ambassador to the U.N. Richard Williamson, outgoing Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani would be the closest to Bolton in temperment, but he's too ideologically suspect for Bush to nominate. (Plus, Rudy is clearly still politically ambitious, and the UN Ambassador is a political dead end.) Mitchell is a Democrat, and a moderate, so he'll never get the nod (where are they getting this dope from?). Lieberman (not mentioned here), although he's been kissing Bush's ass on the Iraq War, is also generally too liberal.

Of the names here, Republican stalwart Richard Williamson seems the most likely, although outside this list I wonder about Paul Wolfowitz (who seems more suited to the UN then the World Bank, which he currently runs), Elliot Abrams (currently Deputy NSA), and Richard Perle as possible nominees.

I don't think Bush is inclined to reach outside of his extended rotating stable of people, and he's already smarting from having to go into Poppy's pocket to get Gates to replace Rumsfeld, so he won't do that again so soon. I would guess the new Ambassador-designate will be someone we're all familiar with, and almost certainly someone we wouldn't want in the job. (Amazing prediction, huh?)

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/06/2006 04:32:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fixing art

Malcolm Gladwell had an interesting piece recently in The New Yorker called The Formula, about companies which attempt to use neural networks to predict the commercial success of songs and movies based on an anaysis of their component parts:
In a small New York loft, just below Union Square, for example, there is a tech startup called Platinum Blue that consults for companies in the music business. [...] It has a proprietary computer program that uses “spectral deconvolution software” to measure the mathematical relationships among all of a song’s structural components: melody, harmony, beat, tempo, rhythm, octave, pitch, chord progression, cadence, sonic brilliance, frequency, and so on. On the basis of that analysis, the firm believes it can predict whether a song is likely to become a hit with eighty-per-cent accuracy. [...] The head of Platinum Blue is a man named Mike McCready, and the service he is providing for the music business is an exact model of what Dick Copaken would like to do for the movie business.

[...] [O]ne morning recently McCready sat down and opened his laptop to demonstrate the Platinum Blue technology. On his screen was a cluster of thousands of white dots, resembling a cloud. This was a “map” of the songs his group had run through its software: each dot represented a single song, and each song was positioned in the cloud according to its particular mathematical signature. “You could have one piano sonata by Beethoven at this end and another one here,” McCready said, pointing at the opposite end, “as long as they have completely different chord progressions and completely different melodic structures.”

McCready then hit a button on his computer, which had the effect of eliminating all the songs that had not made the Billboard Top 30 in the past five years. The screen went from an undifferentiated cloud to sixty discrete clusters. This is what the universe of hit songs from the past five years looks like structurally; hits come out of a small, predictable, and highly conserved set of mathematical patterns. “We take a new CD far in advance of its release date,” McCready said. “We analyze all twelve tracks. Then we overlay them on top of the already existing hit clusters, and what we can tell a record company is which of those songs conform to the mathematical pattern of past hits. Now, that doesn’t mean that they will be hits. But what we are saying is that, almost certainly, songs that fall outside these clusters will not be hits—regardless of how much they sound and feel like hit songs, and regardless of how positive your call-out research or focus-group research is.”

Epagogix is the name of the company that's developed a similar formula for determining hit movies:

If you were developing a $75-million buddy picture for Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell, Epagogix says, it can tell you, based on past experience, what that script’s particular combination of narrative elements can be expected to make at the box office. If the formula says it’s a $50-million script, you pull the plug.


[A Hollywood studio gave Epagogix] nine unreleased movies to analyze. [They] worked only from the script—without reference to the stars or the director or the marketing budget or the producer. On three of the films—two of which were low-budget—the Epagogix estimates were way off. On the remaining six—including two of the studio’s biggest-budget productions—they correctly identified whether the film would make or lose money. On one film, the studio thought it had a picture that would make a good deal more than $100 million. Epagogix said $49 million. The movie made less than $40 million. On another, a big-budget picture, the team’s estimate came within $1.2 million of the final gross. On a number of films, they were surprisingly close. “They were basically within a few million,” a senior executive at the studio said. “It was shocking. It was kind of weird.” Had the studio used Epagogix on those nine scripts before filming started, it could have saved tens of millions of dollars. “I was impressed by a couple of things,” another executive at the same studio said. “I was impressed by the things they thought mattered to a movie. They weren’t the things that we typically give credit to. They cared about the venue, and whether it was a love story, and very specific things about the plot that they were convinced determined the outcome more than anything else. It felt very objective. And they could care less about whether the lead was Tom Cruise or Tom Jones.”


The team once gave a studio a script analysis in which almost everything they suggested was, in Hollywood terms, small. They wanted the lead to jump off the page a little more. They wanted the lead to have a young sidekick—a relatively minor character—to connect with a younger demographic, and they wanted the city where the film was set to be much more of a presence. The neural network put the potential value of better characterization at an extra $2.46 million in U.S. box-office revenue; the value of locale adjustment at $4.92 million; the value of a sidekick at $12.3 million—and the value of all three together (given the resulting synergies) at $24.6 million. That’s another $25 million for a few weeks of rewrites and maybe a day or two of extra filming. [They] ran the numbers and concluded that the script would make $47 million if the suggested changes were not made. The changes were not made. The movie made $50 million.


That was the thing about the formula: it didn’t make the task of filmmaking easier. It made it harder. So long as nobody knows anything, you’ve got license to do whatever you want. You can start a movie in Africa. You can have male and female leads not go off together—all in the name of making something new. Once you came to think that you knew something, though, you had to decide just how much money you were willing to risk for your vision. Did the Epagogix team know what the answer to that question was? Of course not. That question required imagination, and they weren’t in the imagination business. They were technicians with tools: computer programs and analytical systems and proprietary software that calculated mathematical relationships among a laundry list of structural variables. At Platinum Blue, Mike McCready could tell you that the bass line was pushing your song out of the center of hit cluster 31. But he couldn’t tell you exactly how to fix the bass line, and he couldn’t guarantee that the redone version would still sound like a hit, and you didn’t see him releasing his own album of computer-validated pop music.

The danger of these systems (if they are as accurate as Gladwell portrays, which I don't have any reason to doubt beyond the normal exaggerations of entrepreneurs selling themselves and their goods) is not, in my opinion, that the people who develop them aren't artists -- in any collaborative entertainment or art enterprise there are artists and there are technicians and there are money-people and they are all a necessary part of the project. In one sense these predicive systems simply provide another tool to be used, although this tool is probably more useful to the business side of show business than to the creative side.

No, what concerns me are those 60 clusters of hit songs that Platinum Blue found, and their movies equivalents, and I want to know more about them -- have there always been the same clusters?, do they wax and wane over time?, are there other locii that are not ascendant now but used to be, and may be again in the future?, what is the lifespan and lifecycle of a cluster?, do the clusters change shape and position over time? -- stuff like that. I suspect, but I don't know (of course) that given the constraints of human psychology and physiology there will be a limited number of potential hit song or hit movie clusters, but that the shape, center and intensity of those clusters will change over time as tastes change under the influence of things like fashion, technology, and the demand for (apparent) novelty working against the comfort of the recognizable. That's been the way things seem to be falling out in the sociobiological sciences, that we are simultaneously constrained by our heredity and free within those limits -- the clusters exist, but they can mutate or float somewhat as the zeitgeist changes.

Except, of course, if you reinforce the current state of the clusters by making songs and movies which land with some precision in their center, thus maximizing the chance for profit, but, at the same time, inhibiting the ability of the clusters to flex and change. The effect of this could be to fix the clusters in their current state, or, at least, to prevent them from evolving or changing over time. The general acceptance of the predictive systems in the arts and entertainment would make it even harder to find financing to make movies or songs which push the envelope and influence the shape and position of the clusters by their (surprise) success. Art, it seems to me, lives somewhere in the interstices between the clusters, and the continued existence of the entertainment industries depends on art or art-like projects which ignore (some of) the rules and yet turn out to be well-liked or widely influential.

It would be an interesting project, for instance, for Epagogix to remove from its database every film made before 1977, and then put the script for Star Wars through its analysis. Would it predict the great success of that film and the existence (and money-making ability) of its progeny, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews? Or would the system, as I suspect, merely encourage the making of the sort of films that were successful up to then, before Star War existed?

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 09:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Daily Kos

I'm probably in the minority on this, but it's long been my opinion that Daily Kos is best when Kos posts more. His new front page policies -- allowing alumni to post when they want, for instance -- and his cutback in his own contributions are already having an effect on my interest in reading the site. (There may also be a post-election let-down component as well.)

I prefer to read weblogs that have a strong personal point of view, rather than a magazine style collection of writers.

Update: Let me add also that although the size of Daily Kos obviously contributes to its influence, it's also at times a major drawback. I just read Kos' analysis of Obama's chances in 2008 and there were 1326 comments to the story, about 13 hours after it was posted. Such volume doesn't encourage discussion, it inhibits it. This is one of the negatives of the continuing concentration of blogging influence into a smallish number of sites, as opposed to the much more widely distributed landscape of only a few years ago.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 05:24:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Vision and reality

307) Compounding [the] problem, education throughout Indonesian New Guinea is in the national language, not in Ketengban and the 300 other indigenous languages. Radio, TV, newspapers, commerce, and government also use the Indonesian language. While the reasoning behind such decisions is, of course, understandable, the outcome is that all but 200 of the modern world's 6,000 languages are likely to be extinct or moribund by the end of the next century. As humanity's linguistic heritage disintegrates, much of our traditional, mostly unrecorded knowledge base vanishes with it. [...] The analogy that occurs to me is that final destruction, in A.D. 391, of the largest library of the ancient world, at Alexandria. The library housed all the literature of Greece, plus much literature of other cultures. [...] The ongoing loss today that draws most public attention is that of biodiversity. In that loss, nature is viewed as the victim, humans as the villains. But there is also a parallel loss in which humans are both victims and unwitting villains. Not only are species going extinct, but so is much of our information about those species that survive.
Jared Diamond
"Stinking Birds and Burning Books" in
Natural History magazine (2/94)

308) You see things; and you say "Why?" But I dream of things that never were; and say "Why not?"
[George] Bernard Shaw
Back to Methuselah (play) (1921)
used by Robert F. Kennedy
as a campaign slogan (1968)

309) Nothing displays human hubris more than the old textbook designation of recent geological times as the "age of man." First of all, if we must use an eponymous designation, we live today, and have always lived, in the "age of bacteria." Second, if we insist on multicellular parochialism, modern times must surely be called the "age of insects." *Homo sapiens* is one species, mammals a few thousand. By contrast, nearly a million species of insects have been described (and several million more remain undiscovered and uncataloged). Insects represent more than 70 percent of all named species.
Stephen Jay Gould
"In the Mind of the Beholder" in
Natural History magazine (2/94)

310) Scientists reach conclusions for the damnedest of reasons: intuitions, guesses, redirections after wild goose chases, all combined with a dollop of rigorous observation and logical reasoning [...] The myth of a separate mode [of scientific thought] based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling the public to regard [scientists] as a new priesthood, but must ultimately prove harmful in erecting barriers to truly friendly understanding and in falsely persuading so many students that science lies beyond their capabilities.
Stephen Jay Gould
"In the Mind of the Beholder" in
Natural History magazine (2/94)

311) Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. [...] I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy, and must be my excuse for dreaming.
J.B.S. Haldane
Possible Worlds (1927) [B16]

312) According to business school-types, when superstores [such as Home Depot, Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart] gather like a pod of whales [...] it's called a power center, a creation unique to our time. The superstore could only survive in a human ecosystem dominated by a genus of car owners for whom a spin on the interstate is but a few minutes drive. There are no buses or jitneys to [the power center]. It would be logistically impossible to walk there. [...] When predatory capitalists talk shop among themselves, they call superstores "category killers," for their destructive efficiency. [...] Not long ago a superstore tactician told a newspaper reporter that when hunting for a good corridor of [late-20th-century eco-wasteland] in which to roost, he searches in a strip that is "overstored" or "overmalled" because "the more stores we have in the area, the better. We call it cannibalizing."
Jack Hitt
"More and More and More and More"
New York Times Magazine (1/23/94)

313) Tragic as the [Vietnam] war was, it was not Vietnam's apocalypse. The Vietnamese see life in terms of centuries, and no matter how many bombs it dropped, harbors it mined or acres it poisoned, America is only an infinitesimal part of Vietnam's history. Vietnam has had 1,000 years of Chinese rule and 100 of the French. American hyperbole aside, the face of Vietnam is not the broken face of war, and the 1963-75 intervention [...] is just one fleeting image in a 2,000 year history.
Lan Cao
"The Details Are Vietnamese,
The Vision, Guilty American"
Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure Section (1/23/94)


[B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (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 778 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 04:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


"Ought" over "Is"

Reuters: Bolton to exit as U.N. ambassador

Bush's re-nomination of Bolton was widely seen as a slap in the face to the Democrats after the election, especially since Bush had been making much noise about "bipartisanship" at the time, but in reality it might be yet another indication of the Administration's withdrawal from reality. [See below.] If Bolton couldn't get through the Senate when it was firmly controlled by his party, there was no chance of him getting the job with a lame-duck Congress, especially since Chafee wasn't going to let it happen in any event.

Of course, it's nothing new that Bush & Company have difficulty maintaining an intimate relationship with the real world, but in the past this has been the result of a deliberate choice to raise ideology over empiricism. Now, as power inexorably drains away from the Republican Party, it can only be seen as pathetic, the behavior of people who can't, despite all the evidence to the contrary, change the way they see the world.

As I've said a number of times before, the (abnormal) psychology of Bush & Cheney and their ilk is going to be fodder for some very interesting books in the coming political generation. Having lived and suffered through the horror of this time, I don't know how many of them I'll be able to read, but historians and psychologists should have a field day.

Frank Rich:
In his classic study, “The Great War and Modern Memory,” Paul Fussell wrote of how World War I shattered and remade literature, for only a new language of irony could convey the trauma and waste. Under the auspices of Mr. Bush, the Iraq war is having a comparable, if different, linguistic impact: the more he loses his hold on reality, the more language is severed from its meaning altogether.

When the president persists in talking about staying until “the mission is complete” even though there is no definable military mission, let alone one that can be completed, he is indulging in pure absurdity. The same goes for his talk of “victory,” another concept robbed of any definition when the prime minister we are trying to prop up is allied with Mr. Sadr, a man who wants Americans dead and has many scalps to prove it. The newest hollowed-out Bush word to mask the endgame in Iraq is “phase,” as if the increasing violence were as transitional as the growing pains of a surly teenager. “Phase” is meant to drown out all the unsettling debate about two words the president doesn’t want to hear, “civil war.”

When news organizations, politicians and bloggers had their own civil war about the proper usage of that designation last week, it was highly instructive — but about America, not Iraq. The intensity of the squabble showed the corrosive effect the president’s subversion of language has had on our larger culture. Iraq arguably passed beyond civil war months ago into what might more accurately be termed ethnic cleansing or chaos. That we were fighting over “civil war” at this late date was a reminder that wittingly or not, we have all taken to following Mr. Bush’s lead in retreating from English as we once knew it.

It’s been a familiar pattern for the news media, politicians and the public alike in the Bush era. It took us far too long to acknowledge that the “abuses” at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere might be more accurately called torture. And that the “manipulation” of prewar intelligence might be more accurately called lying. Next up is “pullback,” the Iraq Study Group’s reported euphemism to stave off the word “retreat” (if not retreat itself).

In the case of “civil war,” it fell to a morning television anchor, Matt Lauer, to officially bless the term before the “Today” show moved on to such regular fare as an update on the Olsen twins. That juxtaposition of Iraq and post-pubescent eroticism was only too accurate a gauge of how much the word “war” itself has been drained of its meaning in America after years of waging a war that required no shared sacrifice. Whatever you want to label what’s happening in Iraq, it has never impeded our freedom to dote on the Olsen twins.

I have not been one to buy into the arguments that Mr. Bush is stupid or is the sum of his “Bushisms” or is, as feverish Internet speculation periodically has it, secretly drinking again. I still don’t. But I have believed he is a cynic — that he could always distinguish between truth and fiction even as he and Karl Rove sold us their fictions. That’s why, when the president said that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq before the midterms, I just figured it was more of the same: another expedient lie to further his partisan political ends.

But that election has come and gone, and Mr. Bush is more isolated from the real world than ever. That’s scary. Neither he nor his party has anything to gain politically by pretending that Iraq is not in crisis. Yet Mr. Bush clings to his delusions with a near-rage — watch him seethe in his press conference with Mr. Maliki — that can’t be explained away by sheer stubbornness or misguided principles or a pat psychological theory. Whatever the reason, he is slipping into the same zone as Woodrow Wilson did when refusing to face the rejection of the League of Nations, as a sleepless L.B.J. did when micromanaging bombing missions in Vietnam, as Ronald Reagan did when checking out during Iran-Contra. You can understand why Jim Webb, the Virginia senator-elect with a son in Iraq, was tempted to slug the president at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress. Mr. Bush asked “How’s your boy?” But when Mr. Webb replied, “I’d like to get them out of Iraq,” the president refused to so much as acknowledge the subject. Maybe a timely slug would have woken him up.

Or at least sounded an alarm. Some two years ago, I wrote that Iraq was Vietnam on speed, a quagmire for the MTV generation. Those jump cuts are accelerating now. The illusion that America can control events on the ground is just that: an illusion. As the list of theoretical silver bullets for Iraq grows longer (and more theoretical) by the day — special envoy, embedded military advisers, partition, outreach to Iran and Syria, Holbrooke, international conference, NATO — urgent decisions have to be made by a chief executive who is in touch with reality (or such is the minimal job description). Otherwise the events in Iraq will make the Decider’s decisions for him, as indeed they are doing already.

Update: Speculation abounds that Bush might nominate Lieberman to replace Bolton. The Senate would, of course, consent, and Leiberman's replacement would be selected by the Republican Governor of Connecticut, thus flipping the Senate from the Democrats to the Republicans.

[Thanks to Romaine]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 01:14:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Obervations and opinions

295) When this vital business [of dubbing a foreign language film] is being conducted by nameless men in shirtsleeves among plastic coffee cups and half-eaten sandwiches, the director and the stars are basking in expensive sunshine.
Anthony Burgess
A Mouthful of Air (1992)

296) Pornography is about dominance. Erotica is about mutuality.
Goria Steinem
"Erotica vs. Pornography"
adapted from articles in Ms. magazine
(9/77 and 11/78), reprinted in
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions [CQ]

297) The virtue of dress rehearsals is that they are a free show for a select group of artists and friends of the author, and where for one unique evening the audience is almost expurgated of idiots.
Alfred Jarry
"Twelve Theatrical Topics", Topic 4 (1960)
reprinted in Selected Works of Alfred Jarry (1965) [CQ]

298) History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even with being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons nobody really understands at the time - and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)

299) The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it's dead for you.
Robert Wilson
in the International Herald Tribune (5/22/90) [CQ]

300) Once something becomes discernible, or understandable, we no longer need repeat it. We can destroy it.
Robert Wilson
in the London Sunday Times (11/17/91) [CQ]

301) Science is an integral part of culture. It's not this foreign thing, done by an arcane priesthood. It's one of the glories of human intellectual tradition.
Stephen Jay Gould
in the London Independent (1/24/90) [CQ]

302) If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
Thomas Szasz
in The Second Sin (1973) [CQ]
also in The Untamed Tongue:
A Dissenting Dictionary

303) I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term - meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching - there would be a vast improvement in total output. The shear ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.
Ansel Adams
"A Personal Credo"
in "American Annual of Photography" v. 58 (1944)
reprinted in Photographers on Photography,
Nathan Lyons ed. (1966) [CQ]

304) No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the sources of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
P.J. O'Rourke
"Studying for Our Drug Test"
in Give War a Chance (1992) [CQ]

305) If [...] men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no on would think of interfering.
Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871)
quoted by Helena Cronin in
The Ant and the Peacock (1991)

306) One can deny that x is a natural kind without denying that x exists. Dirt, gems, and things that go bump in the night exist. They are even kinds of a sort. They simply are not natural kinds. They don't figure in any interesting or unified way in scientific explanation.
Owen Flanagan
Consciousness Reconsidered (1992)


[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 777 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 01:28:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Credit where due

I thought this was interesting:

100% of Company’s energy usage in the U.S. to be replaced by wind power

SANDPOINT, Idaho, Aug. 23, 2006 – Coldwater Creek, one of the fastest-growing women’s apparel retailers in the United States, today announced its commitment to purchase renewable "green" energy for its headquarters, distribution center, customer contact centers, and retail stores across the nation.

Recognizing the global importance of climate change, Coldwater Creek made the decision to offset 100% of its energy consumption with renewable energy certificates in order to dramatically decrease its impact on the environment.

Over the next three years, the company has committed to buy more than 217,000 megawatt-hours of wind-generated electricity. By supporting wind energy, Coldwater Creek is preventing more than 299 million pounds of CO2 – a key greenhouse gas – from entering the Earth’s atmosphere between now and 2009. This is the equivalent CO2 savings of taking nearly 30,000 cars off the road for one year, or the same amount of CO2 absorbed by protecting more than 113,000 acres of trees.

"We’re extremely proud to join other industry leaders in taking this meaningful step forward by offsetting our total energy consumption with wind power," said Dennis Pence, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Coldwater Creek. "In addition to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, companies that have chosen to make this important move are creating a viable market for renewable energy sources and raising global awareness about alternatives to fossil-fuel power production."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fossil-fuel-based power plants are responsible for 67 percent of the nation’s sulfur dioxide, 40 percent of man-made carbon dioxide, and 23 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Beginning Aug. 1, 2006, Coldwater Creek entered into a three-year partnership with 3 Phases Energy Services, LLC, to offset the energy usage of its operation company wide with 100% new wind energy. This is being accomplished through the purchase of an innovative product known as renewable energy certificates. Renewable energy certificates provide a means for consumers to purchase and support wind power that is "injected" into the power grid by renewable energy producers. To ensure that the certificates it purchases from 3 Phases Energy actually support new wind farms, the certificates are independently monitored and verified by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions, before receiving the "Green-e®" certification.

"From the time the company was formed on the shores of a pristine lake in a small town in North Idaho, we have had a tradition of environmental involvement and stewardship," Pence said. "We plan to continue that tradition as we move toward our goal of operating 450-500 retail stores and establishing Coldwater Creek as a premiere, national women’s apparel brand."

Photo: Sean Fitzgerald

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/04/2006 12:39:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am...
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2008 rules of thumb
Progressive populism!
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Restore the balance
Cast the candidate
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"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking."
(Alex Gregory - The New Yorker)
new york city
another progressive slogan
The greatest good for the greatest number, with dignity for all.
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election prediction
Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 233 (+30) - Republicans 201 - TBD 1 [FL-13]

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Democrats 51 (+6) - Republicans 49

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Never a bridesmaid...

...and never a bride, either!!

what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
not candid
not "reality-based"
not trustworthy
out of control
without integrity

Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
recently seen
Island in the Sky (1952)

Robot Chicken

The Family Guy

House M.D. (2004-7)
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Elliott Abrams
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
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William Bennett
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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

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

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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