Saturday, February 10, 2007

(3089/898) Juries - part 1

552) Jurors can't function effectively if they don't understand from the start what laws have allegedly been broken, the meaning of key terminology, and how witnesses' testimony is intended to relate to the charge. Yet court procedures dictate that juror's won't be briefed on these issues, if at all, until after the evidence is in. [...] No law anywhere in the nation prevents judges from [providing legal instructions at the start of trial]. [...] [Legal instructions] also have to make sense. Frequently they do not. When jurors can't understand their marching orders, it doesn't matter when they receive them; there's little chance that justice will prevail. [...] The fear of getting reversed on appeal ... naturally deters judges from getting too creative with jury instructions. To enable all jury instructions to be made understandable to nearly all jurors, appeals courts, too, will have to change. Appellate judges will have to cease demanding that the precise wording of court decisions will be parroted by a trial judge's instructions. The new question will have to be merely whether the instructions were faithful to the law in spirit and meaning and whether they made sense to the jury.
Stephen J. Adler
The Jury (1994)
[Note: Other reforms advocated by Adler: allowing jurors to ask questions through the trial judge; shortening trials by dealing with likely procedural and legal disputes in advance, by setting time limits for witnesses and by discouraging repetitious testimony; allowing jurors to take notes and to bring written copies of legal instructions into the jury room during deliberations; and allowing "mini-summations" during the course of long and complicated trials]
553) In a justice system structured to seek the truth by letting opposing parties clash, what's wrong with strengthening the weapons at the adversaries' disposal? That's all [jury consultants] say they're doing: replacing stereotypes and myths with scientific data.

But one obvious consequence is that the jury system loses much of its moral authority. Why should we defer to the decision of a group of individuals who have been selected for their likely partisanship and then persuaded by many of the same techniques that sell soap and breakfast cereal? When verdicts come to seem moremanipulated then majestic, one thinks of Brave New World more readily that 12 Angry Men.
Stephen J. Adler
The Jury (1994)

554) The affluent people and the corporations can buy ["scientific" jury selection], the poor radicals get it free, and everybody in between is at a disadvantage. And that's not the kind of system we want.
Amitai Etzioni
quoted by Stephen J. Adler in
The Jury (1994)

555) Empirically, there is not evidence that [scientific jury selection] works. There is no scientific way to predict whether an individual juror will conform, in any one case, to the general attitudes of his or her group. Moreover, even generalizations about groups are of limited use in the jury context, because the behavior of jurors [...] is so specific to the particular case on trial. In the end, we all belong to so many overlapping groups that science cannot forecast whether a juror will respond to the evidence more as, say, a woman, a white, a thirty-year-old, a Lutheran, a Norwegian, a college graduate, a member of the middle class, a Republican, or whatever.

Ethically, the failure of scientific jury selection is its saving grace. Still, its continued popularity fuels public skepticism about the fairness of jury justice and caters to a view that sees justice as a game, won by those best at stacking the jury in its favor. The overselling of jury selection's importance is itself responsible for a declining faith in the jury and the rise of cynicism about the possibility of achieving justice across group lines.

[...] In the end, the questions raised by scientific jury selection are more of an ethical nature than an empirical nature. Scientific jury selection, as currently practiced, is not possible without the use of peremptory challenges based largely on inferences about a prospective juror from the person's group background. The suspicions are now based on polls and surveys rather than mere stereotypes.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

556) I have argued for abolishing the peremptory challenge, which is so frequently wielded by lawyers to deprive a person from a place on the jury simply because of the person's religion, national origin, age, or occupation. The time has come to fully practice what we preach and to prohibit discriminatory, exclusionary practices from occurring under cover of the peremptory challenge.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

557) Philosophically, jury nullification is a close cousin to the theory of civil disobedience. In our own time, Martin Luther King, Jr., was a leading advocate for the view that individuals have a "moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." But King accepted the state's authority to punish his acts of lawbreaking. In fact, willingness to accept punishment was a sign that the disobedience was a challenge to a particular unjust law and not to the state as a whole.

Jury nullification takes the classic theory of civil disobedience one step further by inviting the jury not to punish justified acts of lawbreaking. If the jury agrees that the broken law is unjust, then, say proponents of jury nullification, it should acquit rather than convict the defendant. The jury should also acquit when it finds the broken law just but agrees that enforcing it against the particular defendant on trial would be unjust.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)
[Note: For more on juries and the jury system, see "Juries - Part 2" and "Juries - Part 3 (OJ)", #558-563 and #1368-1377.]

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 710 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/10/2007 10:40:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 09, 2007

(3089/898) Secrets

547) Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet)
Questions sur les miracles (1765)
quoted by Sissela Bok in
Secrets (1983)
[Note: This quote, although tremendously popular at the present moment, appearing on t-shirts and bumper stickers, is also very hard to pin down. It appears in none of the standard references, nor in any other book of quotations I've consulted. Wikiquote, however, has this extended quotation, along with the French original:

"Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world."]
548) The reasons for collective secrecy are sometimes overriding, as in certain kinds of administrative and military secrecy; but [...] the reasons cannot simply be extrapolated from claims individuals might make. It is fallacious to argue, for instance, from individual privacy to corporate privacy, or from an individual's right to keep personal documents secret to a government's right to classify information as it sees fit.
Sissela Bok
Secrets (1983)

549) The moral arguments for any secret practices must be capable of being publicly discussed. They should never themselves require secrecy; nor should the existence of the practices themselves. Thus there should be no secrecy about the moral principles supporting medical confidentiality about what patients reveal to their physicians; but in order to debate these principles, and the limitations upon them in different circumstances, it is not necessary to reveal the secrets of individual patients.
Sissela Bok
Secrets (1983)

550) [A] three step procedure for weighing a problematic moral practice such as that of lying to voters and to the seriously ill: first, to ask whether there are alternative courses of action that will achieve the aims one takes to be good without requiring deception; second, to set forth the moral reasons though to excuse of justify the lie, and the possible counterarguments; and third, as a test of these two steps, to ask how a public of reasonable persons would respond to such arguments.
Sissela Bok
Secrets (1983)
summarizing an argument she made in
Lying (1978)

551) If there was any race other than the human race, I'd go join it.
Thomas Gore
Senator from Oklahoma (c. 1935)
quoted by Gore Vidal (his grandson) in
a speech to the National Press Club
carried by C-SPAN (11/4/94)

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 710 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/09/2007 11:56:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Mediology

546) One of the best monitors of voter attitudes is the Times Mirror Center for The People and The Press. It has just broadened its classification of Americans into 10 new groupings, an exercise that illuminates the tensions between and among Republicans, Democrats and independents. In the process, the Center measured voters' media habits, suggesting that Americans are more likely to be defined by their choice of media than they are by the content of the media.

[...] Three groups form what the Times Mirror Center calls "The Divided Right."

Enterprisers (12 percent of registered voters) - anti-government, pro-business, anti-welfare; fiercely Republican, white, mostly married. Media: TV networks (watch it but dislike it), daily paper (Wall Street Journal?), Fortune, "MacNeil/Lehrer."

Moralists (20 percent) - religious, socially intolerant, anti-welfare, anti-business, anti-government; heavily Republican, mostly white. Media: Radio news, Rush Limbaugh.

Libertarians (4 percent) - pro-business, anti-government, anti-welfare, highly tolerant, not religious; leaning Republican, mostly white, male. Media: Daily paper, Forbes, CNN, C-Span.

[...] At the other end of the spectrum, Times Mirror finds four types grouped in "The 'Not So' Left".:

Partisan Poor (8 percent) - strongly pro-government, anti-business, religious and socially intolerant; overwhelmingly Democratic, poor, 40 percent nonwhite. Media: Network news (like it), MTV, "60 Minutes" et. al., "A Current Affair" et. al.

New Dealers (8 percent) - conservative on race and welfare, religious, patriotic, pro-government, mistrust politicians and business; strongly Democratic, elderly. Media: Network news, TV magazines like "Hard Copy."

New Democrats (8 percent) - pro-business, pro-government, religious, socially tolerant; for Bush in 1988, Clinton in 1992. Media: Every kind of television, lots of newspapers, MTV, The National Inquirer, Imus.

Seculars (10 percent) - pro-government, mistrustful of business, strong on environment, sympathetic to minorities, low church attendance; proudly "liberal," heavily Democratic, 90 percent white. Media: Daily paper, Newsweek or Time, "All Things Considered," "MacNeil/Lehrer," C-Span.

[...] Most important to political understanding are two of the three groups that make up "The Detached Center." Beyond the totally uninvolved Bystanders there are:

The Embittered (7 percent) - distrust government, politicians and business, religious and tolerant' half for Clinton, 25 percent black, very poor. Media: Average commitments to daily paper and TV news.

New Economy Independents (19 percent) - pro-welfare but not sympathetic to minorities; largely in service industries, precarious economically; 30 percent for Perot, mostly female. Media: Average commitments to daily paper, Times or U.S. News.
Max Frankel
"Word & Image: Mediology" in
New York Times Magazine (10/30/94)
[Note: Emphasis has been added in the names of the groupings for clarity of presentation. Also, please note that this analysis dates from 1994.

Update: The Center is now (2007) called the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and its current political typology includes these groupings:
Enterprisers, Social Conservatives, Pro-Government Conservatives, Upbeats, Disaffecteds, Conservative Democrats, Disadvantaged Democrats, Liberals and Bystanders]

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 711 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/09/2007 10:47:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Friday Photography: Finger Piano

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel

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 / Greek Column / Paddlewheel / Olive Trees / Madison Square Park in the Snow / Pagoda / Ferry / Sand Tracks / General Store / Taverna Tables

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/09/2007 02:34:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The realist's perspective

You know we are living in one topsy-turvey world when I'm in agreement with Zbigniew Brzezinski -- but at base he's a realist, which means, of course, that he sees that Bush's Iraq policies have been a disaster. Here, fron Steve Clemons' Washington Note, is the preview of his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from last week:

February 1, 2007

Mr. Chairman:

Your hearings come at a critical juncture in the U.S. war of choice in Iraq, and I commend you and Senator Lugar for scheduling them.

It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran -- though gaining in regional influence -- is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about "a new strategic context" which is based on "clarity" and which prompts "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world. Those in charge of U.S. diplomacy have also adopted a posture of moralistic self-ostracism toward Iran strongly reminiscent of John Foster Dulles's attitude of the early 1950's toward Chinese Communist leaders (resulting among other things in the well-known episode of the refused handshake). It took some two decades and a half before another Republican president was finally able to undo that legacy.

One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture.

It is obvious by now that the American national interest calls for a significant change of direction. There is in fact a dominant consensus in favor of a change: American public opinion now holds that the war was a mistake; that it should not be escalated, that a regional political process should be explored; and that an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation is an essential element of the needed policy alteration and should be actively pursued. It is noteworthy that profound reservations regarding the Administration's policy have been voiced by a number of leading Republicans. One need only invoke here the expressed views of the much admired President Gerald Ford, former Secretary of State James Baker, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and several leading Republican senators, John Warner, Chuck Hagel, and Gordon Smith among others.

The urgent need today is for a strategy that seeks to create a political framework for a resolution of the problems posed both by the US occupation of Iraq and by the ensuing civil and sectarian conflict. Ending the occupation and shaping a regional security dialogue should be the mutually reinforcing goals of such a strategy, but both goals will take time and require a genuinely serious U.S. commitment.

The quest for a political solution for the growing chaos in Iraq should involve four steps:

1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.

Ambiguity regarding the duration of the occupation in fact encourages unwillingness to compromise and intensifies the on-going civil strife. Moreover, such a public declaration is needed to allay fears in the Middle East of a new and enduring American imperial hegemony. Right or wrong, many view the establishment of such a hegemony as the primary reason for the American intervention in a region only recently free of colonial domination. That perception should be discredited from the highest U.S. level. Perhaps the U.S. Congress could do so by a joint resolution.

2. The United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.

It is necessary to engage all Iraqi leaders -- including those who do not reside within "the Green Zone" -- in a serious discussion regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for U.S. military disengagement because the very dialogue itself will help identify the authentic Iraqi leaders with the self-confidence and capacity to stand on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi leaders who can exercise real power beyond "the Green Zone" can eventually reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much of the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration as "representative of the Iraqi people," defines itself largely by its physical location: the 4 sq. miles-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad, protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed U.S. military, popularly known as "the Green Zone."

3. The United States should issue jointly with appropriate Iraqi leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi leaders issue, an invitation to all neighbors of Iraq (and perhaps some other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Pakistan) to engage in a dialogue regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in conjunction with U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually in a conference regarding regional stability.

The United States and the Iraqi leadership need to engage Iraq's neighbors in serious discussion regarding the region's security problems, but such discussions cannot be undertaken while the U.S. is perceived as an occupier for an indefinite duration. Iran and Syria have no reason to help the United States consolidate a permanent regional hegemony. It is ironic, however, that both Iran and Syria have lately called for a regional dialogue, exploiting thereby the self-defeating character of the largely passive -- and mainly sloganeering -- U.S. diplomacy.

A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or indirectly by the U.S., could be buttressed at some point by a wider circle of consultations involving other powers with a stake in the region's stability, such as the EU, China, Japan, India, and Russia. Members of this Committee might consider exploring informally with the states mentioned their potential interest in such a wider dialogue.

4. Concurrently, the United States should activate a credible and energetic effort to finally reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, making it clear in the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final accommodation ought to involve.

The United States needs to convince the region that the U.S. is committed both to Israel's enduring security and to fairness for the Palestinians who have waited for more than forty years now for their own separate state. Only an external and activist intervention can promote the long-delayed settlement for the record shows that the Israelis and the Palestinians will never do so on their own. Without such a settlement, both nationalist and fundamentalist passions in the region will in the longer run doom any Arab regime which is perceived as supportive of U.S. regional hegemony.

After World War II, the United States prevailed in the defense of democracy in Europe because it successfully pursued a long-term political strategy of uniting its friends and dividing its enemies, of soberly deterring aggression without initiating hostilities, all the while also exploring the possibility of negotiated arrangements. Today, America's global leadership is being tested in the Middle East. A similarly wise strategy of genuinely constructive political engagement is now urgently needed.

It is also time for the Congress to assert itself.

I will note that working to craft some kind of forward movement in the Israel-Palestinian situation (Brezezinski's point #4 above) is pretty much a prerequisite for getting anything done in the Middle East that we would consider positive for our security. It should have been step one, but for Bush it's been step zero, all the way -- he's devoted about as much time to it as he has to reading the collected works of Balzac.

(It's unfashionable in the progressive blogosphere to say so, and I'd probably get in trouble for it if anyone actually read this blog, but calming down, if not actually settling, the Israel-Palestianian situation was one of the major requirements set forth by Ken Pollack in his book The Threatening Storm. It was Pollack's contention that until that -- and a list of other vitally necessary actions and preparations -- was undertaken, no invasion of Iraq could be successful. Nowadays, Pollack's book is seen by most liberals as having given "cover" for "liberal hawks" to support the war, which gave Bush the extra impetus he needed to mount the attack, but, in fact, Pollack's sin was not in the program laid out in the book, it was in supporting the war even though Bush has fulfilled none of Pollack's previously espoused requirements.

There's no guarantee, of course, that Pollack was right, but his list seemed to me, at least, to be a reasonable minimum to create the circumstances for a positive result. Liberal hawks who continued to support Bush even in the face of his clear lack of interest in doing what seemed necessary for success share a portion of the blame for the state we're in, as does Pollack for that reason -- but not for the thesis of his book.)

[Thanks to Romaine]

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/08/2007 05:04:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Lincoln

540) Politicians [are] a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greatest freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal.
Abraham Lincoln
Speech to the Illinois Legislature (1/11/1837) [B16]

541) Public opinion in this country is everything.
Abraham Lincoln
Speech at Columbus, Ohio (9/16/1859) [B16]

542) Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.
Abraham Lincoln
Speech in the House of Representatives (1/12/1848) [B16]

543) It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.
Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address (3/4/1861) [B16]

544) This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address (3/4/1861) [B16]

545) Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
Abraham Lincoln
Letter to Secretary Stanton, refusing to dismiss
Postmaster-General Montgomery Blair (7/18/1864) [B16]


[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 712 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/08/2007 02:05:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The amateur outlook

I see discussion about why Bush is trying to get us involved in a war with Iran in which people talk about him being "crazy" or "nuts" a "psychopath." I understand the feeling -- the idea of engaging with Iran just at the time when we're unable to cope with our current engagement with Iraq, is pretty much crazy, in the colloquial sense. But as for the other...

I'm not a psychologist or even well-versed in the subject, but from the evidence I've seen I would disagree that Bush is a psychopath. I think he's probably got serious psychological problems, especially in regard to his relationship with his father, and with his own comfort with his manhood -- it seems to me as if in his mind he's constantly in competition with Poppy, who's always been his protector and savior and has never allowed him to do anything totally on his own, and he's latched on to Cheney as a surrogate father that he follows rather slavishly. (There's a lot less evidence, but if anyone is close to being psychopathic, it would be Cheney and not Bush, but even he is probably just an ultra-authoritarian type.) Bush always seems to me to need to show off his manhood, to display to everyone that he's really a man and not his father's child. The combination of Bush's weaknesses of personality and Cheney's authoritarianism and thirst for revenge (against Democrats who impeached Nixon, against Saddam who turned against us, against Iran who held us hostage) can explain a lot about their choices post-9/11 without speculating on their being psychopaths.

But ultimately that's neither here nor there, really -- the actual reasons (if any) that Bush & Cheney are trying to start a war with Iran are irrelevant, because they're clearly trying to do it, and it's an extremely stupid and dangerous thing to do. Whatever "short, sharp, shock" they're hoping to strike at Iran (presumably air and missile strikes -- I don't think the fear that they'd use nuclear weapons in a first strike over what will inevitably be a flimsy excuse is in the least credible) is not going to simply be absorbed by Iran and that's it. If the history of the Iran/Iraq war, which ran for many years and killed millions, tells us anything, it's that they won't take provocation lightly, they will fight back -- and when they do so, it will not be to challenge us in the arena where we have the greatest advantage, it will be on the ground. They can send a massive army into Iraq and engage us in ground fighting there which we are in no condition to respond to. Not only are we already drastically overextended in Iraq, our troops are tired from being in service too long. We would certainly have the material advantage over a mass Iranian army, but their manpower advantage will negate that, esepcially since they've shown as little compunction about wasting their manpower as the World War I generals on the Western Front did.

That I think, is the great danger from Bush & Cheney's attempt to provoke an attack on Iran -- not a nuclear war, not the sinking of ships, not even the downing of fighters and bombers (although that will happen, I presume), nor any kind of asymmetrical response similar to bin Laden's 9/11 attacks (the Iranians are a country, with all the resources available to it, and will be inclined to respond using those capabilities before it even starts to think "outside the box".) The danger is, I think, a vast increase in the size and scope of the ground war in the region at just the moment when we cannot cope with it, and have our hands full dealing with the Iraqi insurgency. Not only that, but I presume that because of our manpower disadvantage we will try to compensate, as are capabilities encourage us to do, with massive airstrikes against the Iranians, which, in time will shift from purely military targets and will concentrate on the centers of population in an attempt to destroy the country's industrial infrastructure, demoralize the people and bring down the government. That's the pattern of how we fought our wars since World War II, and I think that a response by Iran with mass troops will push our generals to counter with tactics that they're comfortable with, and which, indeed, our armed forces are set up to do.

So, in a phrase, massive ground war -- that's what I think is the real danger in attacking Iran. If that's at all likely, then the fact that Bush and Cheney are pushing us in that direction is indeed "crazy".

P.S. "Amateur" because I'm neither a psychologist nor a military analyst or strategist. All I know how to do is stage manage plays and write a weblog -- and, given my level of success with both of those, I wouldn't bet the farm on anything I say.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/07/2007 08:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Mr. Co-President

The Libby trial has provided a constant stream of insights into the workings of the Bush Administration. Today, Dan Froomkin writes in the Washington Post:
Another memorable scene of the inner workings of the Bush White House unfolded yesterday in the federal courthouse where former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby is on trial.

This one is particularly significant because it gives credence to the widespread view that Vice President Cheney oversees his own intensely secretive, highly defensive and sometimes ruthless operation within the White House -- and that he does so with President Bush's approval, but often outside the view of Bush's top aides.


As Laura Rozen recently wrote in the Washington Monthly: "He has long surrounded himself with impeccably loyal aides who both share his worldview of a powerful presidency unchecked by the legislative branch, and who have also installed like-minded allies throughout the government. Such allies provide crucial intelligence of inter-departmental debates, enabling Cheney to make end-runs around the bureaucracy and head off opposing views at key meetings. Call it Cheney's state within the state."

The vice president's devotion to secrecy extends so far that he doesn't even want anyone to know how many people work for him, or who they are.

It's interesting that at the beginning of Clinton's presidency, there was speculation that because of the close relationship they had forged in the election, and Clinton's apparent desire to give Gore more responsibility than is usual for a Vice President, the Clinton-Gore Administration would be something close to a co-Presidency. It didn't quite turn out that way, as Gore started to distance himself from Clinton when Clinton's personal problems started to mount. Now, it turns out that the Bush-Cheney relationship is much more like a co-Presidency than Clinton-Gore ever was, except that in the current case the Vice President is arguably the stronger and more powerful half.

I'm going to try to keep this in mind once Bush is out of office, because one way to salvage Bush's historical reputation is to blame all the bad stuff on Cheney. It'll be interesting to see if Bush's admirers (those that are left) and Poppy's people use that particular tack in renovating Bush's rep.

[Thanks to Romaine]

P.S. Before the trial began, an online acquaintance of mine predicted that one of its results would be the indictment of Cheney. I didn't think that was probable then, and I think it's even less probable now.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/07/2007 08:38:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Potpourri

GRONAM OX: You promise to keep silent?
SHLEMIEL: Do I have a choice?
GRONAM OX: Absolutely not!
SHLEMIEL: Then you don't believe in free choice?
GRONAM OX: Of course I believe in free choice, I have no choice.
Shlemiel the First (play, 1994)
musical based on the writings of Isaac Bashevis Singer
(including his play Shlemiel the First),
adapted by Robert Brustein
edited by David Gordon

536) I'm American, honey, our names don't mean shit.
Pulp Fiction (film, 1994)
written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
based on stories by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
spoken by the character "Butch Coolidge"
played by Bruce Willis

537) What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?
Lin Yutang
quoted by Harlan Ellison in
"Harlan Ellison's Watching, Installment 48:
In Which the Wee Child's Icons are Demeaned" in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (12/94)

538) Left to their own devices, the three networks would televise live executions. [But not] Fox - they'd televise live naked executions.
Gary David Goldberg
TV producer (1993)
quoted in The World Almanac
and Book of Facts 1994

539) Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872) [B16]


[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 713 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/07/2007 04:39:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

(3089/898) Good as Gould

532) If triangles made a god, they would give him three sides.
Charles de Montesquieu
Essays (1580) [CQ]
[Note: cf. #1001 Xenophanes]
533) I call this experiment [to determine the nature of the history of life] "replaying life's tape." You press the rewind button and, making sure you thoroughly erase everything that actually happened, go back to any time and place in the past [...][t]hen let the tape run again and see if the repetition looks at all like the original. If the replay strongly resembles life's actual pathway, then we must conclude that what really happened pretty much had to occur. But suppose that the experimental versions all yield sensible results strikingly different from the actual history of life? What could we then say about the predictability of self-conscious intelligence? or of mammals? or of vertebrates? or of life on land? or simply of multicellular persistence for 600 million difficult years?

[...][A]ny replay of the tape would lead evolution down a pathway radically different from the road actually taken. But the consequent differences in the outcome do not mean that evolution is senseless, and without meaningful pattern; the divergent route of the replay would be just as interpretable, just as explainable after the fact, as the actual road. But the diversity of possible itineraries does not demonstrate that eventual results cannot be predicted at the outset. Each step proceeds for cause, but no finale can be specified at the start, and none would ever occur a second time in the same way, because any pathway proceeds through thousands of improbable stages. Alter any early point, ever so slightly and without apparent importance at the time, and evolution cascades into a radically different channel.
Stephen Jay Gould
Wonderful Life (1989)

534) [The history of life on earth] includes too much chaos, or extremely sensitive dependence on minute and unmeasurable differences in initial conditions, leading to massively divergent outcomes based on tiny and unknowable disparities in starting points. And history includes too much contingency, or shaping of present results by long chains of unpredictable antecedent states, rather than immediate determination by timeless laws of nature.

Homo sapiens did not appear on the earth, just a geological second ago, because evolutionary theory predicts such an outcome based on themes of progress and increasing neural complexity. Humans arose, rather, as a fortuitous and contingent outcome of thousands of linked events, any one of which could have occurred differently and sent history on an alternative pathway that would not have led to consciousness.

[...] Such a view of life's history is highly contrary both to conventional deterministic models of Western science and to the deepest social traditions and psychological hopes of Western culture for a history culminating in humans as life's highest expression and intended planetary steward.
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Evolution of Life on Earth" in
Scientific American (10/94)


[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 714 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/06/2007 12:36:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 05, 2007

(3089/898) Through the looking glass

529) "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said ... "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be the master - that's all."
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
Through the Looking Glass (1872)

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome rats outgrabe.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
the frumious Bandersnatch!
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
"Jabberwocky" from
Through the Looking Glass (1872)

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax -
Of cabbages - and kings -
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings."
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
"The Walrus and the Carpenter" from
Through the Looking Glass (1872)

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 715 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/05/2007 11:55:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
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Here I am...
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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

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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.

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the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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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.

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© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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