Saturday, February 17, 2007

(3089/898) A Touch of Twain

605) [Citing a familiar "American joke":] In Boston they ask, How much does he know? in New York, How much is he worth? in Philadelphia, Who were his parents?
Mark Twain
(Samuel Clemens)
"What Paul Bourget
Thinks of Us" (1895) [B16]

606) It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Following the Equator (1897) [B16]

607) Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has laid an egg will cackle as if she had laid an asteroid.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Following the Equator (1897) [B16]

608) Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Following the Equator (1897) [B16]

609) [Man] has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race -- and of ours -- sexual intercourse!

It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water!

His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing, grotesque. I give you my word, it has not a single feature in it that he actually values. It consists -- utterly and entirely -- of diversions which he cares next to nothing about, here in the earth, yet is quite sure he will like them in heaven. Isn't it curious? Isn't it interesting?
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Letters from the Earth (1962) [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 703 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/17/2007 07:35:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Photography: Bridge at Sunset

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel (1991)

Location: Gulf coast of Florida

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 / Finger Piano

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/16/2007 12:18:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Hen, Hell, Hawking etc.

596) A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
Samuel Butler
Life and Habit (1877) [B16]

597) Hell is - other people!
Jean Paul Sartre
No Exit (play, 1944)

598) During the inflationary period the universe borrowed heavily from its gravitational energy to finance the creation of more matter. The result was a triumph of Keynesian economics: a vigorous and expanding universe, filled with material objects. The debt of gravitational energy will not have to be paid until the end of the universe.
Stephen Hawking
"The Origin of the Universe" in
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)

599) The illustrations were woodcuts, executed with the crude haste to see the finished product that marks the amateur. True pornography is given to us by vastly patient professionals.
Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

600) San Narciso lay [...] near L.A. Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts - census tracts, special purpose bond-issue districts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway.
Thomas Pynchon
The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

601) [Of Oakland, California]: There is no there there.
Gertrude Stein
Everybody's Autobiography (1937) [B16]

602) In the Unites States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.
Gertrude Stein
The Geographical History of America (1936) [B16]

603) Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from its readiness to fit in with our instinctual wishful impulses.
Sigmund Freud
New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1933) [B16]

604) NOW ELEANOR: Q-vo le, Can't Wait Much Longer. Your miedos make me realize in amazement how long una idea estupida can stay around to hurt people. I even hear people who should know better, say these things once in a while. [...] Que lastima, your problema is Aristotle. He was one of those vatos I'm talking about, un maderista in some things, but a real macho fool in other things and sometimes pendejo about la gente. His familia eran the local padrones. Instead of all those things that you have had to go through to find out la differencia between right and wrong, he spent all of his time reading books, and I don't think los libros were a toda madre in those days. Then he repeated all those cuentos raros that he had just read, without even checking to see if they were verdad. That story about the Greek girl, Helis, is just a mentira and they should have locked him up for telling it.
Robert Ashley
Now Eleanor's Idea (opera, 1992)


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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/16/2007 12:13:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spread the appeal

Yesterday, Kevin Drum mentioned a political typology test put out by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. As it happens, the Pew Center used to be called the "Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press," whose media/political typology I posted about last week.

A friend of mine pointed out that of the nine current groupings, the one which represents the largest percentage of the general public, of registered voters, and of Democrats is the one called "Liberals," with 17% of the population and 19% of registered voters.

If the nine groups had a equal distribution, each would have about 11%. In actuality, they break down like this (showing percentage of the general population and percentage of registered voters):
 9% / 10% Enterprisers
11% / 13% Social Conservatives
9% / 10% Pro-Government Conservatives
11% / 13% Upbeats
9% / 10% Disaffecteds
14% / 15% Conservative Democrats
10% / 10% Disadvantaged Democrats
17% / 19% Liberals
10% / 0% Bystanders

These numbers make it clear why to be successful, a Democratic candidate cannot appeal only to Liberals -- even though we are the largest group, there are not enough of us to carry the day by ourselves. The good news is being the biggest, we have a reasonable expectation that any candidate we support is going to have to back what is basically a liberal agenda. The bad news is that we need the voters in those other groups to win. This is a fact of life in contemporary American politics that too many progressives are blind to.

Even if we were to get all the votes of the Conservative Democrats and Disadvantages Democrats (not necessarily a foregone conclusion), that still gives us only 44% of the registered voters. That's enough for a plurality in a three-way race where a strong third party candidate syphons off some votes, but is not enough to win in a two-way race in most circumstances. We know we're not going to get the Social Conservatives, but there's enough overlap in ideas and agenda with the Disaffecteds, Upbeats, Pro-Government Conservatives and Enterprisers that we can expect to pull some of their vote if the message of the candidate is shaped with them in mind.

This is important stuff. We simply cannot say to those people "Screw you", because that's a recipe for continuing the current disaster we're in. If we had a Parliamentary system it would be different, we could count on our percentage alone being sufficient to get the largest number of votes, and we would put together the coalition that ran the government -- but that's not the way it works here (which is why it's practically impossible for a third party to gain traction).

We should keep these things in mind when we're judging candidates on the basis of how liberal they are. I don't necessarily want the most liberal candidate, I want the most liberal candidate who can win.

[Thanks to Rhea]

Update: This gives rise to a paradox: if you're examining a Presidential candidate with an eye for who to support for the Democratic nomination, and you agree with everything they say on a wide range of fundamental issues, you probably should not support that candidate, since their appeal is likely to be specific to your political typology and not broad enough to carry the election. You should look for people who are in basic agreement with you, but who stray on certain issues, or don't quite come up to your preferred solutions. The best candidate might be the one about whom you can say on most issues: "Yeah, I guess I can live with that."

That means that no matter how many times those "match the candidate to your opinions" quizzes tell me I match up best with Dennis Kucinich, I will not even consider supporting him, since he has no chance to win the election (and, in fact, is not even a serious candidate any more than Biden, Dodd or Vilsack are).

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/15/2007 09:39:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) The Moral Animal

Robert Wright - The Moral Animal
590) Between us and the australopithecine [...] stand a few million years: 100,000, maybe 200,000 generations. That may not sound like much. But it has taken only around 5,000 generations to turn a wolf into a chihuahua - and, at the same time, along a separate line, into a Saint Bernard.
Robert Wright
The Moral Animal (1994)

591) If utilitarians ran the world [...] [t]he courts would ask two questions: (a) Did the defendant commit the crime? and (b) What is the practical effect of punishment - on the criminal's own future behavior, and on the behavior of other would-be criminals?
Robert Wright
The Moral Animal (1994)

592) The enormous volume of mystico-religious bafflegab about atonement and penance and divine justice and the like [in discussions of crime and punishment] is the attribution to higher, detached authority of what is actually a mundane, pragmatic matter: discouraging self-interested competitive acts by reducing their profitability to nil.
Martin Daly and Margo Wilson
Homicide (1988)
quoted by Robert Wright in
The Moral Animal (1994)

593) In games where chance plays a role, we tend to chalk up our losses to the luck of the draw and our victories to cleverness.
Robert Wright
The Moral Animal (1994)

594) No one who actively seeks power is to be trusted. Leaders arise out of example and emulation. If someone is successful at growing corn, he is emulated and to that extent is a leader. If someone knows many verses to a curing chant, he is respected for that accomplishment and his high status as a "singer" is considerable. Politicking, handshaking [...] have no place in traditional Navajo society.
Daniel G. Freedman
"Cross-Cultural Notes on Status Hierarchies" in
Dominance Relations: An Ethological View of Human
Social Conflicts and Social Intercourse
Donald R. Omark, F.F. Strayer, and D.G. Freedman, eds.
quoted by Robert Wright in
The Moral Animal (1994)

595) Theories are a dime a dozen. Even strikingly elegant theories, which, like the theory of parental investment, seem able to explain much with little, often turn out to be worthless. There is justice in the complaint (from creationists, among others) that some theories about the evolution of animal traits are "just so stories" - plausible, but nothing more. Still, it is possible to separate the merely plausible from the compelling. In some sciences, testing theories is so straightforward that it is only a slight exaggeration (though it is always, in a certain strict sense, an exaggeration) to talk of theories being "proved." In others, corroboration is roundabout - an ongoing, gradual process by which confidence approaches the threshold of consensus, or fails to. Studying the evolutionary roots of human nature, or of anything else, is a science of the second sort. About each theory we ask questions, and the answers nourish belief or doubt or ambivalence.
Robert Wright
The Moral Animal (1994)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/15/2007 05:40:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) More observations and opinions

583) I have established an intuitive classification of the more serious and insidious perils that support our illusion of knowing, They are set out here, in a somewhat joking manner, as the Seven Deadly Sins:
  1. Overconfidence

  2. Illusory correlations (magical thinking)

  3. Predictability in hindsight

  4. Anchoring

  5. Ease of representation

  6. Probability blindness

  7. Reconsideration under suitable scripts
Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini
Inevitable Illusions (1994)

584) Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
David Hume
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) [B16]

585) Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.
David Hume
Essays: Of Tragedy (1741) [B16]

586) No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous that the fact of which it endeavors to establish.
David Hume
Essays: Of Miracles (1741) [B16]
[Note: cf. #501]
587) Why are some people turning toward alternative [medical] therapies? According to [a British Medical Association] report: "It is particular interesting that these criticisms of medicine should appear at a time when the great modern developments in rational therapeutics and in diagnostic technique have revolutionized the effective treatment of many diseases and since the 1950s have greatly enhanced our expectations of medical science. These changes have altered also in significant and subtle ways the relation between patient and doctor. Relatively few years ago, when little therapeutic help could be offered, the physician devoted much time to counsel and to support the patient."

The report quotes a Council of Europe finding that the average alternative therapist spends eight times longer over a consultation than an average general practitioner. Many people long for the days when doctors were inclined to indulge in lengthy personal chats, and it is perhaps useful to be reminded that this was simply because there was often little else the could offer. It's ironic that today new diagnostic aids that can offer genuine medical help are likely to be regarded as "an intrusion juxtaposed between patient and physician."
Lewis Jones
"Alternative Therapies: A report on an inquiry
by the British Medical Association" in
Skeptical Inquirer (Fall 1987),
citing an (unnamed) BMA report (5/1986)

588) Modern America stresses narrowly trained specialists, not broad education. We should fear the politicized experts. If they remain outsiders, their demands ignored, they will become steadily more dangerous.
Gregory Benford
"A Scientist's Notebook: Humanity as Cancer"
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1/95)

589) Experience shows that populations stabilize when technology, women's education, and childhood life expectancy rise above a critical level. But on the way to this point lies a disaster zone: technology improves life expectancy and fuels a population boom, which then extracts a terrible toll from the environment.

To get the third world through the danger zone demands that they not follow our path to industrialization. Going through the "gray" technology of the nineteenth century would indeed yield mass pollution and gobble up resources. What the developing world needs is not giant dams, but cheap solar power collectors. Not steelworks, but composite material assembly sheds, weaving renewable organic resources into hard, light products. They need our future, not our past.

Lewis Thomas points out that it's this way in medicine. Low tech medicine is cheap - people get polio (say) or Salmonella, and die. Medium tech is nasty and expensive - iron lungs and keeping people alive when there is no good treatment for a disease is costly. Really high tech medicine, vaccine and antibiotics, is relatively cheap again, and everyone lives. The same thing happens with technology in developing countries - it has to be all or nothing. In between is the killer.

This suggests that techno-savvy development should probably be concentrated massively on small areas, to get them to a "post-industrial" level. This will avoid spreading investment thinly and falling short of the critical point. Such small, intensive cases will be experiments, yielding different schemes, seeing what works. If even the Earth Firsters can come to see that development need not mean deforestation and the Glen Canyon Dam, a new direction in resolute ecovirtue could open up.
Gregory Benford
"A Scientist's Notebook: Humanity as Cancer"
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1/95)


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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/15/2007 12:30:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

(3089/898) Drugs

580) Junk is the ideal product ... the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.
William S. Burroughs
The Naked Lunch (1959)

581) Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would not call that a disease but an error of judgment.
Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly (1977)

582) A drug is neither moral nor immoral - it's a chemical compound. The compound itself is not a menace to society until a human being treats it as if consumption bestowed a temporary license to act like an asshole.
Frank Zappa
The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)
written with Peter Occhiogrosso [CQ]


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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/14/2007 09:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



PC USER: I'm having trouble with my computer. If I don't turn it on, I can't get anything to display on the screen.

MAC USER: You should get a Mac.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/14/2007 09:12:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Silly, sillier, silliest

OK, let's see if I've got this clear:

Anna Nicole Smith married young, had a baby boy, worked as a waitress and stripper, got divorced, did some modeling, married a very, very, rich, very old man, did some acting, gained weight, did a reality show, survived her very rich old husband, had her case to inherit the estate go to the Supreme Court, inherited a shitload of money, lost weight, had a baby girl by an unknown father, had her adult son die from drugs, then died herself from unknown causes.

Anything I missed? From this personal history, we can cleary see that she is the American Princess Di. The slut-next-door who made good. The epitome of contemporary celebrity, famous for being well-known, and the gold-diggingest gold-digger around.

Vapid curiosity provokes us to ask: How did she die? Who is the father of the little girl who will inherit all that filthy lucre? Who gets the spend that that money until she reaches her majority?

That's it. Having covered everything of importance in this story, I can now continue to ignore the hours and hours and hours of coverage our marvelous media will continue to present about it in the coming weeks.

Glad I got that out of my system. Now let's return to more weightier and important things, like the Presidential bid of Jolly Joe Biden and His Marvelous Mouth.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/14/2007 12:32:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Evidence, shmevidence

About the supposed evidence of Iran's involvement in supplying arms to Iraqi militias:
  • Would anyone really be surprised if shi'ite Iran, which has been supporting various insurgencies for years, was providing a shi'ite militia in a neighboring country with arms? I'd be shocked if they weren't.

  • Nevertheless, the "evidence" seems, well, considerably less than overwhelming, especially in light of the recognition by the Pentagon that false evidence was put forward in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

  • The manner in which the "evidence" was presented also speaks against it being credible.

  • Even if the evidence were all true, it hardly provides a legitimate casus belli for attacking Iran. It would certainly merit diplomatic action of some sort, but nothing more than that.

  • Nations of all kinds, including the United States and its allies (if we have any left), regularly take steps to protect their perceived national interest by arming and assisting other countries, whether formal allies or not, and various insurgencies that they wish to succeed. This is international business as usual.

  • Iran would hardly be the only country providing arms to Iraqi militias and insurgents. Do we plan to attack them all, friend and foe alike?

That's it, I can't think of anything more to say about this underwhelming show of "evidence." I'll check the headlines daily to see if we've launched the attack yet.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/14/2007 12:19:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Fictionalisms

You say, "I will come."
And you do not come.
Now you say "I will not come."
So I shall expect you.
Have I learned to understand you?
Lady Otomo no Sakanoe
"You say 'I will come"" (poem, 8th century) from
100 Poems from the Japanese
edited and translated by Kenneth Rexroth,
used in the "Poetry in Motion" project
on the NYC subway system (1994)

576) PETER STOCKMANN: Now there are a number of people here who seem to feel that the Doctor has a right to say anything he pleases. After all, we are a democratic country. Now, God knows, in ordinary times I'd agree a hundred per cent with anybody's right to say anything. But these are not ordinary times.
Henrik Ibsen
An Enemy of the People (play, 1882)
adapted by Arthur Miller (1950)

577) DR. STOCKMANN: I am a revolutionist! I am in revolt against the age old lie that the majority is always right! [...] Was the majority right when they stood by while Jesus was crucified? [...] Was the majority right when they refused to believe that the earth moved around the sun and let Galileo be driven to his knees like a dog? It takes fifty years for the majority to be right. The majority is never right until it does right.
Henrik Ibsen
An Enemy of the People (play, 1882)
adapted by Arthur Miller (1950)

578) DR. STOCKMANN: The minority is always right.
Henrik Ibsen
An Enemy of the People (play, 1882)
translated by William Archer

579) It struck [Yossarian] all of a sudden that overnight everyone he'd known a long time was old - not getting old, not middle-aged, but old! The great entertainment stars of his time were no longer stars, and the celebrated novelists and poets in his day were of piddling significance in the new generation. Like RCA and Time magazine, even IBM and General Motors were of meager stature, and Western Union had passed away. The gods were growing old again, and it was time for another shake-up.
Joseph Heller
Closing Time (1994)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/14/2007 12:18:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

(3089/898) Some weightier stuff

571) If we do discover a complete [unified] theory [of the universe], it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the name of God.
Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1988)

572) Compaq had begun using three-person teams, or cells, with dramatic increases in worker output. Unlike assembly line workers, each cell worker performs several tasks. The work cell takes up less space and, moreover, the fewer the number of people touching each part, the higher the quality.
  1. Subassembly: One person prepares all of the subassemblies, like the disk drive and motherboard that go into the computer.

  2. Assembly: A second person installs the components into the computer's external case.

  3. Testing: A third person performs all the tests to make sure that the electronics and circuits are connected properly.

On an assembly line, a problem can slow down work for everyone. A problem in a cell affects only that group's production.

Doron P. Levin
"Compaq Storms the PC Heights From Its Factory Floor"
Sunday New York Times Business Section (11/13/1994)

573) To read these two accounts of the ordeal of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill [Resurrection by (U.S. Senator) John C. Danforth and Strange Justice by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson] is to realize the extent to which the United States is now divided between two mutually uncomprehending universes of the secular and the godly. The books are written in what are virtually different languages, the one rooted in Faith and the other in Reason.
Martin Walker
"Marching As To War"
New York Times Book Review (11/20/1994)

574) The mood and temper of the public with regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country. A calm, dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused [...] a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment - a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry those who have paid their due; tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerative processes; unfailing faith that there is a treasure if you can find it, in the heart of every man. These are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals, mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are sign and proof of the living virtue in it.
Winston Churchill
Speech in the House of Commons (1910)
quoted by Robert Ellis Smith in
Privacy (1979)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/13/2007 09:04:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bush and Cheney

If true, this anecdote is telling:
"At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. 'I'm the grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers,' said Soroush, 'and I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime we all despise will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized.'

"'I know,' President Bush answered.

"'But does Vice President Cheney know?' asked Soroush.

"President Bush chuckled and walked away."

[Arnaud de Borchgrave/UPI via Dan Froomkin/WaPo]

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the course of this Administration, especially some of those actions which seemingly defy rational analysis, is well defined as being the outcome of the interaction between Bush's weaknesses of character and Cheney's chararacter flaws, especially his vindictiveness and authoritarianism. Take Cheny's desire to take revenge for the Nixon impeachment, to get back at Saddam for turning against the US, and to strike out at Iran for reasons that aren't quite clear to me (for taking the hostages or for sucking Reagan and Bush into the Iran-Contra scandal?), mix in the radical right-wing ideology which animates the Continuing Revolution, as well as generous quantities of the traditional Republican servicing of their clientele (big business and the rich), spice with neoconservative interventionism and American exceptionalism, run it all through a man who is so unsure of himself that he compensates with bluster and rigidity but still needs to be propped up by a power-behind-the-throne, and you've pretty much got the makings of the Bush-Cheney Administration.

And it really is the Bush-Cheney Adminstration -- both of them are necessary parts for the thing to work. Yes, Cheney is the animating force, I believe, but a Cheney Administration would be a total disaster and most probably would never have gotten into office in the first place, let alone be re-elected. It really does take the ameliorating influence of a frumptious bumpleskin like Bush to put this stuff over and make it even remotely acceptable to the public -- which typically doesn't pay attention to much beyond the surface appearances of things. He's the perfect front man because he's not really perceptive enough to know he's a front man -- he really thinks he's in charge -- but he doesn't have a real desire to actually run things except in the most superficial way, so he doesn't gum up the works all that much.

But still, somewhere in the back of his mind, as I think we can infer from the story above, Bush knows that crossing Cheney would not be a good thing.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/13/2007 04:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The playbook of the revolution

Does this sound familiar?
Revolutions rarely compromise; compromises are made only to further the strategic design. Negotiation, then, is undertaken for the dual purpose of gaining time to buttress a position (military, political, social, economic) and to wear down, frustrate and harrass the opponent. Few, if any essential concessions are to be expected from the revolutionary side, whose aim is only to create conditions that will preserve the unity of the strategic line and guarantee the development of a "victorious situation."

Whose behavior does this describe to perfection? The Republicans when they were in total control of Congress and the White House. No compromises, no negotiations with Democrats (who were locked out of conference committees and denied the right to bring amendments to the floor), and the use of the Right-Wing Noise Machine, including the Media Held Captive, to grind down the opposition. As the latest, and most ideologically-pure incarnation of the Reagan/Gingrich/Cheney Revolution, the Republicans followed this playbook to the letter. They were (and are) running a revolution against Enlightenment values, the post-war liberal state and the international system which supports and protects it. Like good revolutionaries, they knew that when they got ahold of power, they had to use it quickly, decisively, and ruthlessly.

I haven't been reading the blogs much lately (deliberately), but I nonetheless sense that the progressive blogosphere is disappointed with the actions of the Democrats in Congress to this point. This, I think, was inevitable. Having been crushed underfoot by the Bush Administration and a radical anti-liberal Congress, lefty bloggers want their newly elected representative to behave as the Republicans did, not necessarily as payback, but to move the restoration of the liberal state, and all its incumbent rights and privileges, forward in fast gear. That, however, would require that the Democrats behave in a revolutionary manner, as did the Republicans, which is a problem because the restoration of the liberal state doesn't represent a revolutionary move, it's essentially the restoration of the status quo ante, the conditions that prevailed before the Republican war against the liberal state began. Democrats can't behave like revolutionaries because, for better or worse, they are (at least in relation to the ideology of the right-wing) the establishment, and, as good liberals, they believe in compromise, negotiation and bipartisanship. To expect them to behave otherwise is unrealistic -- they are not radicals

But that's OK, I think, because if the progressive blogosphere is disenchanted, it simply means that their expectations were too high. Taking control of Congress is necesssary for undoing the damage of the Bush-Cheney years (and the Reagan and Gingrich years as well, lest we forget), but not sufficient to do so -- we absolutely have to have the White House as well, which we will in January of 2009. At that time, with almost the full power of the Federal government behind us (excepting the Federal court system), we should be able to make some headway. In the meantime, I think that Pelosi and Reid are doing a pretty decent job, and, since we're basically in a holding action for a while, I'm willing to give them some freedom to maneuvre as they see fit. As long as we don't actually lose ground, we're pretty much OK.

And who wrote the passage above, which describes so well the modus operandi of the Radical Right-Wing Republicans? It comes from a work called Yu Chi Chan, which translates as "Guerilla Warfare," written by Mao Zedong.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/13/2007 03:07:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 12, 2007

Flip a coin

Having a blog means you get to pretend to be an expert on every subject under the sun, because there's no one to stop you -- so here goes: The US Mint is releasing a new dollar coin on Thursday, and, like the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea models that preceded it, it will probably fail ... unless it doesn't.

(See, I can prevaricate just like a real expert.)

Why might it fail? Not because people are so in love with the dollar bill (which, according to the poll, they are), but because to succeed, a dollar coin has to:
  • be easily visually distinguishable from a quarter; and

  • be easily tactilely distinguishable from a quarter.

That's it, such simple requirements, but it's unclear, judging from the news story and the photos and sketches I've seen, whether they'll be met. The coin is "golden" and that could be helpful in setting it apart from its cheaper brethren by sight (but it depends on just how "golden" it is -- after all, Sacagawea was gold-colored, but still didn't go over), but since it's round, rather than, say, octagonal or dodecagonal, and only a "little larger" than a quarter, it may not be so easy to distinguish by feel.

The one thing the coin may have going for it, tactilely speaking, is that it has edge lettering -- letering around the outside edge of the coin, which is (presumably) raised and not incised. Depending on how raised this is, and how easy it is to feel it with the fingers, the coin may have an advantage. If you can reach into your pocket, and feel the edge of the coin, and quickly know that you're pulling out a dollar rather than a quarter, well, that may give the new coin a clear edge on the old ones.

So, I'm feeling my way around this, but I think I can finger the factor that will determine the success of the new dollar coin: whether or not you can easily feel the edge lettering. I'd put money on it (if I was a betting man).

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/12/2007 05:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Quick stuff

564) FUDD'S FIRST LAW OF OPPOSITION: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.

565) TESLICLE'S DEVIANT TO FUDD'S LAW: It comes in, it must go out.
Firesign Theatre
(Phil Austin, Peter Bergman,
David Ossman and Philip Proctor)
I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus (record album, 1971)

566) The press, like nature, abhors a vacuum.
Douglas Mirell
attorney representing the ACLU
at a pre-trial hearing concerning
TV coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial,
carried by Court TV (11/7/94)

Groucho Marx
Groucho and Me (1959) [OM]
[Note: cf. #1263 Resnick]
568) Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.
Norman Mailer
in Esquire (6/70) [OM]

569) Don't get mad, get even.
Joseph P. Kennedy (attributed)

570) It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.
Graffito seen in London
(c. 1970s) [CQ]


[B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (1993)
[OM] - The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 708 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/12/2007 03:41:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sling, stone and speculation

Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC - The Sling and the Stone
Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) uses all available networks -- political, economic, social, and military -- to convince the enemy's political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. It is an evolved form of insurgency. Still rooted in the fundamental precept that superior political will, when properly employed, can defeat greater economic and military power, 4GW makes use of society's networks to carry on its fight. Unlike previous generations of warfare, it does not attempt to win by defeating the enemy's military forces. Instead, via the networks, it directly attacks the minds of enemy decision makers to destroy the enemy's political will. Fourth-generation wars are lengthy -- measured in decades rather than months or years.


Not only is 4GW the only kind of war America has ever lost, we have done so three times: Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria and the USSR in Afghanistan. It continues to bleed Russia in Chechnya and the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other countries against the al-Qaeda network. The consistent defeat of major power by much weaker fourth-generation opponents makes it essential to understand this new form of warfare and adapt accordingly.

There is nothing mysterious about 4GW. Like all wars, it seeks to change the enemiy's political position. Like all wars, it uses available weapons systems to achieve that end. Like all wars, it reflects the society it is part of. Like all previous generations of war, it has evolved in consonance with society as a whole. It evolved because practical people solved specific problems related to their fights against much more powerful enemies. Practitioners created it, nurtured it, and have continued its development and growth. Faced with enemies they could not possibly beat using conventional war, they sought a different path.
Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC
The Sling and the Stone: On Warfare in the 21st Century (2004)

I've just started reading this book, and I'll be very interested to find out what Col. Hammes has to say -- especially what he says about how best to fight against the techniques of fourth-generation war with our, essentially, third generation forces. (I guess that the old saw about generals always beeing ready to fight the last war can be extended to say that they're also always ready for the last generation of war, at least until the new generation becomes normalized.)

Speculating, since I've only begin the book, I wonder if the key to fighting against 4GW warriors isn't held in Mao's saying about the people being the water in which guerillas swim?* If what he says is the case, and it seems clearly to be true, then isn't is the most important thing to somehow change the water? Not to "drain the swamp" as some would want -- because unless you're fighting your war strictly for economic, colonial or territorial reasons, draining the swamp is the equivalent of destroying the village in order to save it -- but changing the water by reducing the people's support for the insurgents. You don't have to get them to love you -- that's much too daunting a task: if they were prone to love you they'd have done it from the start -- you simply have to get them to see some advantage to not helping the insurgents fight you.

That's hard when "the people" are the insurgents, but I would suppose that there are people are are actively involved, people who actively support them, and then a greater mass of people who can take it either way, depending on the circumstances. It's those your efforts should be aimed at.

And what efforts? Well, the winning of "hearts and minds" -- but a true and effective program, not forcibly relocating people for security reasons and then giving them a new cow to influence them to love you. No, you have to find out what they want and give it to them -- help them on their terms. Chances are they'll say something along the lines of food, clean water, security, work, safety, electricity, infrastructure repair, which means basically your task is to undo the damages of war or the lingering deficiences of the society you went there to disrupt in the first place.

If that sounds like "nation building," it is, and the Bush Administration's expressed contempt for the concept before 9/11 happened gives a good hint why they've done such a piss-poor job in Iraq -- not only do they not really understand the task that was before them, but they had no inclination to do it anyway.

Obviously that kind of work is not done primarily by the military -- although they do have to take the lead on security and safety, without which the others can't be achieved -- but has to be done in conjunction with other governmental agencies, NGOs, humanitarian organizations, the UN and other international agencies, and so on. They need to be out there rebuilding and getting systems back into place, so that people start to rely on them again. When that happens, the people won't be grateful (you're only, after all, providing the capacity for them to get the minimum of what is needed for survival, which was your responsibility as the disruptor in the first place) but when the systems go down they'll be annoyed, and when you let it be known via your system of propaganda (in the good sense of the word, purveying truthful information which is helpful to your side) operating through friendly locals, that they went down because of insurgent action -- well, the people may take out their annoyance on the insurgents instead of you. Multiply that and you've started the process of restricting the operational capacity of the insurgency.

(Of course, I'm interested in this subject because of Iraq, but, unfortunately, it's most probably much too late for any of this there -- if it even has any validity, being my own speculation and not the ideas of Col. Hammes. If these techniques were going to be used there, they would have to have been put into effect at the very beginning of the occupation, immediately after the fall of Saddam's regime. The necessary specially-trained troops and civilian workers should have been ready to come in right on the heels of the front-line troops, to instantly show the people that work was being done right away to put things to right.)

My other thought was about the nature of the military operations. It seems to me that the primary goal is to as soon as possible reduce the scope of the operation from fighting to policing, and that means making the public face of your forces, as much as possible, non-threatening. Obviously, to begin with, security and safety will require fighting forces, but as things come under control, the task should be handed off to other (again, specially-trained) troops who can police without being as intrusive or threatening to the people. Their task should be to train their own replacements from the local population as soon as possible, and turn the task over to them bit by bit.

Clearly, you don't send the front-line troops away immediately -- you keep them in reserve, ready to fight, when necessary, at hot spots which can't be dealt with by the policing troops. The total aim is for the public military presence to be as light, agile, non-invasive (no pun intended) and responsive as possible, but with a strong and forceful presence backing it up: the chain-mail fist in the velvet glove.

But, as I said, I would think that you've got to start at the beginning for any of this to be effective, and we didn't do that. Just after 9/11, I wrote that our best policy was to "bomb them with butter, bribe them with hope."

We *must* act as nation-builders, or at least facilitators so that nations can rebuild themselves. We should do this not out of guilt, [but] simply as a matter of enlightened self-interest.

That's still a fairly good description of the kind of techniques I'm suggesting here.

Will Col. Hammes agree? Maybe not. Probably, being a trained military analyst, he'll understand the problem in a very different way and have very different solutions. I'm looking forward to finding out.


[*] "The people are like water and the army is like fish," in Aspects of China's Anti-Japanese Struggle (1948).

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/11/2007 05:24:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A striking image

Here's an image that's been haunting me for most of this week. I came across it, in all places, on a program on the Military Channel called Battleplan, in an episode on siege warfare. A very short clip showed Vietnamese peasants bringing Viet Minh artillery pieces, broken down to component parts, over the mountains to attack the French fire base at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 -- and I was immediately struck by the quality of the images. Black and white, shot fifty years ago, perhaps not made on good equipment, perhaps not well-preserved, grainy, blurry and rather obscure it reminded me of nothing so much as a Japanese print or line drawing or, strangely, the backgrounds of one of the old Max Fleischer cartoons. The tree, in particular, was very striking, as was the hint of mountains in the background.

I spent a lot of time watching the clip again and again, in slow motion, and in still frame, and set about trying to get a good reproduction of it. Unfortunately, I don't have the equipment to do screen captures from my TV, so I took screen shots using a small digital camera, and made adjustments to it to clean it up as best I could. What I've ended up with doesn't really do the image justice, but it's best I can get at this time -- I'm hopeful that I can get the clip transferred to DVD and get a still image from that, and perhaps even post the clip itself.

It's not the historical content of the image that gave it weight for me, the fact that Dien Bien Phu was the last gasp of the French colonial war in Vietnam (the cost of which the U.S. was paying most of) before they pulled out and we moved in and became bogged down for many years, but purely the quality of the image itself. I think it's very beautiful.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/11/2007 01:41:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Juries - part 2

558) Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
Davie Grusin and M. Ames
"Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow" (song, 1975)
sung by Sammy Davis Jr.
theme song for Baretta (TV program, 1975)
created by Stephen J. Cannell
starring Robert Blake

559) It is interesting to compare [William] Penn's defense [in 1670, of charges of unlawful assemble and breach of the peace] with that of Operation Rescue defendants in their antiabortion trials [for 1989 trespassing charges in San Diego]. [...] Penn was asking jurors to pardon his civil disobedience, just as Operation Rescue defendants asked their juror to excuse their disobedience of trespass laws. Still, there is a difference. Penn never asked his jurors to acquit him because they happened to agree with [his] Quaker doctrine. What jurors thought of Quaker theology was irrelevant to the principle of justice for which Penn was willing to break the law. That principle was that persons gathered with an intent to worship God in peace could never be guilty of unlawful assembly. Any law of England, or any judicial interpretation of English law, that provided otherwise was inherently unjust and should never have been enforced by any jury against any religious group. Penn's dispute with the law, therefore, was not narrowly self-serving. He sought to change the law equally and for all [...]

The Operation Rescue argument cannot be similarly generalized. The defendants never disputed the justice of the law of trespass under which they were tried. Presumably, they were content to have other juries convict other defendants for a concededly just law. Their appeals to their jurors' conscience was really a narrowly partisan or political pitch: jurors should refuse to enforce a just law against antiabortion defendants because the jurors happened to agree with the politics that motivated the lawbreaking. There was nothing in the Operation Rescue argument about jury nullification that welcomed discretion in juries to refuse to enforce trespass laws against proabortion demonstrators. In the end, the antiabortion protesters pleaded to be exempt from a law that they themselves considered just and that they presumably wanted to remain on the books without change.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

560) While acknowledging the dangers of jury nullification, I believe it is necessary to instruct jurors that, as the conscience of the community, they may set aside the law to acquit a defendant. I say this because history indicates that we cannot eliminate jury nullification - we can only drive it underground. My preference is for a jury that does things above board and is fully appraised of its choices. [...] I am aware that restoring [...] jury nullification runs the risk of unleashing bias in jurors, but this is a risk we must take if we are to preserve the jury as a forum where ordinary persons gain the power to reconcile law and justice in concrete cases.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

561) Of all the reforms suggested [...] the most difficult to achieve will be a reversal of jury selection trends that disqualify persons for overexposure to pretrial publicity. These trends have been building for nearly two centuries, as stricter definitions of impartiality have made ignorance a virtue and knowledge a vice in would-be jurors.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

562) An ideal of jury impartiality that can be practiced only by disqualifying the most well-informed members of the community does not inspire confidence in the accuracy of jury verdicts. It naively defines an impartial mind as an empty mind.
Jeffrey Abramson
We, The Jury (1994)

563) A jury is twelve men and women chosen to select which party has the better lawyer.
Robert Frost (attributed)
[Note: The Yale Book of Quotations gives the first attribution to Frost being from Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949), but says the quote also appears without attribution in John Garland Pollard, A Connotary (1933). [YQ]

See also #831 Crosby/Mencken. For more on juries and the jury system, see "Juries - Part 1" and "Juries - Part 3 (OJ)", #552-557 and #1368-1377.]


[ALQ] - The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations (1993)
[YQ] - The Yale Book of Quotations (2006)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/11/2007 01:28:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
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Here I am...
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09/21/2008 - 09/28/2008

search websearch unfutz

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
2005 koufax awards


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*Crooks and Liars*
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2004 koufax winners
2003 koufax award
"best blog" nominees
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


take all you want
but credit all you take.

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