Saturday, February 24, 2007

(3089/898) Adventures in modern life

640) The experts say that in sorting through ethical dilemmas, they rely on certain principles:
  • Autonomy - being free to make decisions involving one's own or a family member's health and well-being.

  • Beneficence - doing the right thing; providing or promoting well-being and preventing harm.

  • Justice - being fair.

  • Nonmaleficence - doing no harm; acting with no harmful or selfish motives towards another person or society.

  • Veracity - telling the truth.

  • Fidelity - keeping all contracts and promises.
Kathy A. Fackelmann
"DNA Dilemmas" in
Science News (12/17/94)

641) "Cinderella" should have come with a warning label: "This story contains a woman who depends on a man. It may be dangerous to your economic self-sufficiency later on."
Caryn James
"Amy Had Golden Curls; Jo Had A Rat.
Who Would You Rather Be" in
NY Times Book Review (12/25/94)

642) I'm the bad guy? How'd that happen? I did everything they told me.
Falling Down (film, 1993)
written by Ebbe Roe Smith
directed by Joel Schumacher
spoken by the character "D-Fens"
played by Michael Douglas

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2007 03:12:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 23, 2007

(3089/898) Bacteria

638) Bacteria live anywhere damp. In water. In mud. In the air, as spores and on dust specks. In melting snow, in boiling volcanic springs. In the soil, in fantastic numbers. All over this planet's ecosystem, any liquid with organic matter, or any solid foodstuff with any trace of damp in it, anything not salted, mummified, pickled, poisoned, scorching hot or frozen solid, will swarm with bacteria if exposed to air. Unprotected food always spoils if it's left in the open. That's such a truism of our lives that it may seem like a law of physics, like gravity or entropy, but it's no such thing, it's the relentless entrepreneurism of invisible organisms, who don't have our best interests at heart.
Bruce Sterling
"Science: Bitter Resistance" in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (2/95)
[Note: cf. Gould #309 and
Chadwick #391]

639) At the close of the century, [bacterial] antibiotic resistance is one of the gravest threats that confronts the human race. It ranks in scope with overpopulation, nuclear disaster, destruction of the ozone, global warming, species extinction and massive habitat destruction. Although it gains very little attention in comparison to those other horrors, there is nothing theoretical or speculative about antibiotic resistance. [...] We have spent billions to kill bacteria but mere millions to truly comprehend them. In our arrogance, we have gravely underestimated our enemy's power and resourcefulness. Antibiotic resistance is a very real threat which is well documented and increasing at a considerable rate. In its scope and its depth and the potential pain and horror of its implications, it may be the greatest single menace that we human beings confront - besides, of course, the steady increase in our own numbers. And if we don't somehow resolve our grave problems with bacteria, then bacteria may well resolve that population problem for us.
Bruce Sterling
"Science: Bitter Resistance" in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (2/95)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2007 11:59:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Friday Photography: Snowfall in Cambridge

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel

Location: Cambridge Common, Cambridge, Mass.

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 / Bridge at Sunset

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2007 02:19:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bellwether states

[updated below]

I remembering hearing quite a bit in the last couple of Presidential elections about Missouri being a bellwether state, because beginning with the Presidential election of 1904, it has only gone for a candidate who was not elected President one time -- in 1956 when they gave their electoral votes to Adlai Stevenson instead of supporting Eisenhower. That's 26 Presidential elections with only one miss, a remarkable roll giving Missouri a 96% winning percentage during that period.

Tennessee 2004 Presidential popular vote by countyHowever, I don't recall hearing much about the bellwether status of Tennessee. It's true that if you look at the same 26 elections, Tennessee has missed supporting the victor 4 times, instead of Missouri's one time, but if you look instead at the past 20 elections (beginning in 1928), Tennessee has picked the winner all but once, in 1960 when they supported Nixon over Kennedy.

So over the past 76 years, in 20 Presidential elections from 1928 to 2004, both Tennesee and Missouri have the same winning percentage, 95%.

(Tennessee also picked the winner in 1912, 1916 and 1920, but missed in 1924.)

Update: It's not entirely clear to me that either of these are anything more than statistical flukes, given the drastic political re-alignments that have come about in this century, particularly the FDR/New Deal coalition and the Republican capture of the South via Nixon's "Southern Strategy." However, since both of those blocs had at their core the Southern states, and given that Missouri and Tennessee are both "border states" (in relation to the Confederacy which forms the core of the South), there may be some validity to them. It's possible, I suppose, that Missouri and Tennessee may act much like the bulk of the South unless popular currents are strong enough to move them away, and in this way they might reflect national trends.

Update: One state that has done better as a bellwether than Tennessee, but still not quite as good as Missouri, is Nevada, which in 24 elections from 1912 to 2004 only picked a loser once, in 1976 when it voted for Ford. This is a "bellwether percentage" of 95.8%. In the "Missouri period" of 1904-2004 it had one other loser, in 1908 when it went for William Jennings Bryan over Taft. In the "Tennessee period" of 1928-2004, it has the same percentage as Tennessee and Missouri -- 95%. (I have no particular explanation for why Nevada would be a bellwether.)

Another state that has laid claim to being a bellwether is Delaware, which voted for the winner from 1952 to 1996, spoiling this run by going for Gore* and Kerry in the last two elections. More than this, Delaware also did well from 1920 to 1944 (going for Dewey in 1948 over Truman) and also from 1892 to 1912 (supporting Charles Hughes over Wilson in 1916). Over the course of 29 elections, Delaware got 25 of them, right, for a 86% bellwether rating (85.7% over the last 14 elections). Delaware is also sometimes considered a border state.

Here's a handy little chart that shows the bellwether percentages of these four five states: (see note below re: Ohio)

MISSOURI  26 (1904-2004)  25  1956                          96.2
24 (1912-2004) 23 1956 95.8 cf. NV
20 (1928-2004) 19 1956 95.0 cf. TN
29 (1892-2004) 26 1896,1900,1956 89.7 cf. OH
NEVADA    24 (1912-2004)  23  1976                          95.8
20 (1928-2004) 19 1976 95.0 cf. TN
26 (1904-2004) 24 1908,1976 92.3 cf. MO
29 (1892-2004) 24 1892,1896,1900,1908,1976 82.8 cf. OH
TENNESSEE 20 (1928-2004)  19  1960                          95.0  
24 (1912-2004) 22 1924,1960 91.6 cf. NV
26 (1904-2004) 22 1904,1908,1924,1960 84.6 cf. MO
29 (1892-2004) 24 1896,1900,1904,1908,1924,1960 82.8 cf. OH
OHIO      14 (1952-2004)  13  1960                          92.9 
26 (1904-2004) 24 1944,1960 92.3 cf. MO
24 (1912-2004) 22 1944,1960 91.7 cf. NV
20 (1928-2004) 18 1944,1960 90.0 cf. TN
29 (1892-2004) 26 1892,1944,1960 89.7
DELAWARE  29 (1892-2004)  25  1916,1948,2000,2004           86.2   cf. OH
14 (1952-2004) 12 2000,2004 85.7 cf. OH
20 (1928-2004) 17 1948,2000,2004 85.0 cf. TN
26 (1904-2004) 22 1916,1948,2000,2004 84.6 cf. MO
24 (1912-2004) 20 1916,1948,2000,2004 83.3 cf. NV
Another way of looking at this is that Missouri is batting one thousand since 1960, Ohio and Tennessee since 1964 and Nevada since 1980.

[Note: Chart updated 9/28/07]

* I know, I know, Gore won the election in 2000, or would have if the Supreme Court had allowed the re-count to proceed. I'm going here by the only result that really counts: who took possession of the Oval Office. (Politics is not about theory, it's about practical results -- and did how that five vote majority get seated on the Court during a time when the Democrats controlled the Senate?) Anyone who wants to make the statistical adjustments can do so -- just credit Delaware with one more "win" and take away one from the other three states.

[Election results from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections] (link corrected 9/28/07)

Update (9/28): A Wikipedia editor correctly added Ohio to the list of bellwether states, for a total of five:
  1. Missouri - 1 miss (1956) from 1904 on, perfect since 1960

  2. Nevada - 1 miss (1976) from 1912 on, perfect since 1980

  3. Tennessee - 1 miss (1960) from 1928 on, perfect since 1964

  4. Ohio - 2 misses (1944, 1960) from 1896 on, perfect since 1964

  5. Delaware - 2 misses (2000, 2004) from 1952 on, perfect from 1952 to 1996
I've updated the chart above to reflect this change.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2007 02:45:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

(3089/898) The press and people at pools

635) The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust.
Samuel Butler
Samuel Butler's Notebooks (1912) [CQ]

636) In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.
Oscar Wilde
The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) [CQ]

637) In this year of Gump, we know there's a big audience for the collected wisdom of God's simpler creatures - all their lines thunk on laptops by people at pools.
Georgia Brown
"Family Business" in
The Village Voice (12/27/94)
[review of Nobody's Fool (film, 1994)]


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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/21/2007 11:59:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Blankfein's salary

Goldman CEO's 2006 compensation totaled $54.3 mln

NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein received more than $54.3 million in cash, stock and options last year after leading Wall Street's most profitable investment bank for just six months.

Blankfein, 52, named CEO in June after Henry "Hank" Paulson quit to become U.S. treasury secretary, earned $600,000 in salary, a cash bonus of $27.2 million, and $261,906 for such perks as a car, driver and financial counseling services, according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

He also received $15.7 million in restricted stock, options to purchase 209,228 shares with a present value of $10.5 million, and $82,876 in "other" compensation, including company contributions to his pension plan, term life insurance and medical plans.

Excluding option grants, his cash and stock pay rose 42 percent from 2005.


Among other Goldman executives listed in the proxy statement, Co-Presidents Gary Cohn and Jon Winkelried each received cash bonuses of $26.7 million, while Chief Financial Officer David Viniar was awarded a $20.2 million bonus.
Tough job, CEO.

Just to note that I'd be overjoyed to earn 0.002 (0.2%) of Blankfein's salary.

I know, I know, if I got that, I'd just want 0.004 of Blankfein's salary, and then 0.008 of Blankfein's salary, and it would never end. Do you know that if my salary of 0.002 of Blankfein's salary continued to double every year, in just 12 years, I'd be earning 82% of Blankfein's salary? And the next year I would make more than Blankfein's salary?

Of course, by then, so would Blankfein, and I imagine he'd continue to stay ahead of me, somehow.

Ah well. So it goes.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/21/2007 11:27:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Baseball charts

I've noticed looking at my Sitemeter numbers that a significant amount of my traffic seems to be coming through Google Images from people looking for some charts I published showing the Major League Baseball East division races from 2005. Unfortunately, since those charts appeared on the sidebar (which has obviously changed since them) I'm afraid that not everyone actually gets to see them when they get here. So, since spring training has begun once again (at least for pitchers and catchers) bringing baseball once again to mind, here as a public service are the charts for the past two seasons for the AL East and NL East.

Clicking on the images will take you to a larger version of each.

(BTW, I make no excuses for the fact that the charts highlight the Yankees and Mets. Those are my teams, and I keep the charts to follow their progress. The 2005 AL East chart does not include the cellar-dwelling Devil Rays.)

2005 American League East
2005 National League East
2006 American League East
2006 National League East

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/21/2007 12:51:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

(3089/898) A little light entertainment

631) [Of George Frayne, "Commander Cody" of the country-rock band "Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen":] [His] success as a leader was based partly on waiting until he was sure everybody wanted to be led.
Geoffrey Stokes
Star Making Machinery (1976)

632) [I]n addition to the technical skills required to operate the console, a good recording engineer must have the reflexes of a Walt Frazier. [Paul] Grupp demonstrated his by his repeated victories in a game which ["Commander Cody" George] Frayne dubbed "Sausalito Five-O." It started out simply enough, with Grupp killing time in the booth by alternately starting and stopping the digital recording timer and seeing how many times in a row he could stop it at exactly 5.0 seconds. Very occasionally he would miss and hit 4.9 or 5.1. but he was never off by more than a tenth of a second. Frayne, who had been in the studio when Grupp first started playing, promptly took a chair before the start and stop buttons at the producer's end of the console. "Go ahead, Grupp, I'll match you." After a few false starts, during which he was getting used to the equipment, Frayne began to be able to hit four or five in a row. Grupp, however, was always able to keep pace with him. Frayne, a fierce competitor, finally quit in disgust, but spent the next several nights honing his skills for a rematch. When he was fully ready, he issued a challenge. It appeared, for a while, as though the game would never end, for each of them kept hitting 5.0's without miss. Then Grupp said, "This is too easy, George, let's do it with our eyes closed so we can't see the clock." "All right," said Frayne, and immediately hit a 4.6. Grupp responded with a 5.0. Still keeping his eyes closed, he had hit three more in a row when Frayne pushed his chair away and stomped out of the booth to get a drink.
Geoffrey Stokes
Star Making Machinery (1976)

633) Popular art is normally decried as vulgar by the cultivated people of its time; then it loses favor with its original audience as a new generation grows up; then it begins to merge into the softer lighting of "quaint," and cultivated people become interested in it, and finally it begins to take on the archaic dignity of the primitive.
Northrop Frye
Anatomy of Criticism (1957) [CQ]

634) Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
Noel Coward
Private Lives (play, 1930)
spoken by the character "Amanda" [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 700 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/20/2007 05:09:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Read All About It

625) Morally [...] knowing vaguely disreputable things about someone which you refuse to print seems indisputably superior to printing vaguely disreputable things about someone just because you happen to know them.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

626) Ronald Reagan's political genius lay [in being] a seemingly unaggressive figure with a paralyzingly aggressive story to tell. [...] The media had pounced on Johnson and Nixon as liars, because those men knew perfectly well that what they were saying were lies. In Reagan's case, the discrepancy between reality and his words was so vast that it was pointless to argue. You couldn't expose a pattern of deception because almost everything was deception, which at some level Reagan genuinely believed to be true.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

627) Left-wing thought in America tends to be extremely abstract [...] It offers big, systematic explanations of small things. The left has become so deeply committed to the notion that consciousness produces reality - that cultural politics are the only real politics - that many of its members have become content with victories in the field of consciousness and bored with actual political work.

On the other hand, right-wing thought in America, even serious right-wing thought, tends to be extremely personal. The right, to its credit, still believes in the consequences of individual actions, and this makes it much better at emphasizing the villainies of individuals. The right is much better at character assassination, because the right still believes in character [...]

These different habits of mind may account for the apparent oddity that, while the American media tend, in their big fog of feeling, to go left, in the details of their personal assaults they still tilt to the right. Rush Limbaugh and Noam Chomsky are both correct: most people in the American media share the cultural prejudices of the left, but they still enforce the political vendettas of the right.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

628) The left's ambitions are political and its triumphs are cultural, while the right's ambitions are cultural and its triumphs political. This is more or less O.K. with most people on the left, since they believe that cultural victories are the same thing as political ones, but it drives the right crazy, and accounts for one of the most curious aspects of the media in the last decade - the extraordinarily embittered and vicious turn that the right-wing press has taken at a time when it is winning every political victory. [...] The reasons for this [...] aren't hard to find. Most American conservatives [...] are social or cultural conservatives - frightened or alarmed by the disruption of the continuities and verities of American life in the past twenty years. From the opposing camp, of course, the recent story of the American right looks like one of mostly unchecked triumph, but it does not look that way to the right. The right has dominated American political discussion [...] and so far nothing has changed. The flood of social transformation has, if anything, gathered force.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

629) To Liebling's three basic personages of the press - the reporter, who says what he saw; the interpretive reporter, who says what he thinks is the meaning of what he saw; and the expert, who says what he thinks is the meaning of what he didn't see - is added the meta-columnist, who says what he thinks that other people will think is the meaning of what they haven't seen, either.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

630) Liberalism [...] [believes] that analyzing something to death is the same thing as killing it off. To show that a Rush Limbaugh rant, for example, is stylized, and has a more complicated internal structure than you might expect, is somehow assumed to make it less dangerous.
Adam Gopnik
"Read All About It"
New Yorker (12/12/94)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/20/2007 12:58:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Just an old country doctor

624) He's dead, Jim.
Star Trek
(TV series, 1964-1966)
created by Gene Roddenberry
spoken by the character
"Doctor McCoy"
played by DeForest Kelly

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/20/2007 12:45:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ending and beginning

Here's something pretty amazing: a small change of heart by far-right billionaire and major backer of the new radical right establishment Richard Mellon Scaife, who now thinks Bill Clinton wasn't so bad as a President -- too bad he spent all that money trying to run him out of office. As Kevin Drum correctly observes, it takes a pretty rotten President to make Bill Clinton look good to a rascal like Scaife.

It does make me think, though, that there may be others who have started to regret their support for Bush and the right-wing authoritarian agenda which has been behind him, and we might start to think about how we treat those people. It brings to mind the magmanimous way in which Grant treated Lee and the Confederate Army at Appomattox Courthouse:
Lee sent a note through the lines offering to surrender. Grant's headache and Meade's illness vanished. The bleeding and dying were over; they had won. [...]

The terms were generous: officers and men could go home "not to be disturbed by U.S. authority as long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside." This clause had great significance. Serving as a model for the subsequent surrender of other Confederate armies, it guaranteed southern soldiers immunity from prosecution for treason. Lee asked another favor. In the Confederate army, he explained, enlisted men in the calvary and artillery owned their horses, could they keep them? Yes, said Grant; privates as well as officers who claimed to own horsers could take them home "to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter." "This will have the best possible effect upon the men," said Lee, and "will do much toward conciliating our people." After signing the papers, Grant introduced Lee to his staff. As he shook hands with Grant's military secretary Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian, Lee stared a moment at Parker's dark features and said, "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker responded, "We are all Americans."

The surrender completed, the two generals saluted somberly and parted. "This will live in history," said one of Grant's aides. But the Union commander seemed distracted. Having given birth to a reunited nation, he experience a post-partum melancholy. "I felt ... sad and despressed," Grant wrote, "at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which people ever fought." As news of the surrender spread through the Union camps, batteries began firing joyful salutes until Grant ordered them stopped. "The War is over," he said; "the rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations." To help bring those former rebels back into the Union, Grant sent three days' rations for 25,000 men across the lines. This perhaps did something to ease the psychological as well as physical pain of Lee's soldiers.

So did an important symbolic gesture at a formal ceremony three days later when Confederate troops marches up to stack their arms and surrender their flags. [...] As [Confederate General John B.] Gordon approached [...] with "his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance," [Union officer Joshua L.] Chamberlain gave a brief order, and a bugle call rang out. Instantly, the Union soldiers shifted from order arms to carry arms, the salute of honor. Hearing the sound General Gordon looked up in surprise, and with sudden realization turned smartly to Chamberlian, dipped his sword in salute, and ordered his own men to carry arms. These enemies in many a bloody battle ended the war not with shame on one side and exultation on the other but with a soldier's "mutual salutation and farewell."
James M. McPherson
Battle Cry of Freedom (1988)

If these men, who saw their country almost destroyed and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men can behave such, can we do any less when our time comes?

We're probably quite a ways away from that kind of victory, and, when it comes, there won't be such a clear point of demarcation as a formal surrender. Still, I see signs of progress.

I know that people are upset about the fact that Congress hasn't done something more substantial about Iraq other than to vote on the non-binding resolutions, but I'm really not concerned, not yet. The resolutions are simply a first step, a shot fired across the bow, an action necessary in order to legitimize the next steps that need to be taken. If those steps aren't taken, then I'll join in the general angst about the Democratic leadership of Congress, but at least for the moment, it seems to me that everything is going pretty much as one would plan it to.

I understand about the pessimism some folks feel. I keep hoping that The People will wake up, and really see what's going on, how they've been taken and lied to, and cheated and stolen from (in more ways than one), but I've been disappointed so many times now that it's sometimes hard to believe it could happen. I do think we see in the disintegrating support for the Iraq war not just the usual American impatience with anything that takes more than a couple of years to achieve, but a realization that it really won't work no matter how many years we put into it, not only because our leaders don't really understand or appreciate the kind of war we're involved in, but also because our goals are not achievable in the circumstances, even taking the very best of those goals as being the most important to our leadership (which I doubt is actually the case). I see in the disapproval of the war, and in the results of the 2006 election, what I hope is a glint of the possibility of a general rethinking about what we're about, a return to the classic American values that Bush and Cheney and their backers (like Richard Mellon Scaife) are utterly opposed to.

It's certainly possible that I'm deceiving myself. It's much more probable that the election of 2006 was simply an indication that Americans don't like a loser, and that Bush and Cheney have, by the decisions of their Administration, shown themselves to be a big-time losers indeed. Still, that general perception will probably be enough to allow us to reclaim the White House and begin the long, long task of rebuilding this country.

Update: At least some people understand the true situation in Iraq. Of course, others are generally clueless.

[Thanks to Cathy]

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2007 11:28:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Interface (2)

621) [Categories supposedly used by political focus group analyzers]:
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)

622) [Aspects of political discourse, used by the handlers controlling a Presidential candidate]:
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)

623) [Presidential candidate William] Cozzano maneuvered through [the answer to a tough question] perfectly, delivering an answer that was seemingly erudite, that hit all the key buzzwords [...] and yet was so vague and imprecise that it said practically nothing at all. Like a compulsory figure in an ice-skating competition, it was devoid of content and not much fun to look at, but to the initiate, it was an extremely impressive display of technical skill.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (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 701 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2007 10:25:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Interface (1)

616) [When] high definition television becomes the norm [...] [a]ll of the politicians currently in power will be voted out of office and we will have a new power structure. Because high-definition television has a flat gamma curve and higher resolution and people who look good on today's television will look bad on HDTV and voters will respond accordingly. Their oversized pores will be visible, the red veins in their noses from drinking too much, the artificiality of their TV-friendly hairdos will make them all look, on HDTV, like country-and-western singers. A new generation of politicians will tale over and they will all look like movie stars, because HDTV will be a great deal like film, and movie stars know how to look good on film.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)
spoken by the character "Cy Ogle",
a political media consultant

617) A human being cannot withstand the scrutiny given to a presidential candidate, any more than a human being could survive the medieval trial by fire, in which he was forced to walk barefoot across hot coals. [...] Anyone can walk barefoot across hot coals. But you have to do it right. There's a trick to it. If you know the trick, you can survive. Now, back in medieval times, some people got lucky and happened to stumble across this trick, and they made it. The rest failed. It was therefore essentially a random process, hence irrational. But if they had fire-walking seminars in the Dark Ages, anyone could have done it.

The same thing used to apply to the modern trial by ordeal. Abe Lincoln would never have been elected to anything, because random genetic chance gave him a user-unfriendly face. But as a rational person I can learn all of the little tricks and teach them to my friends, eliminating the random, hence irrational elements from the modern trail by ordeal. I have the knowledge to guide a presidential candidate through his trial in this, the Age of Scrutiny.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)
spoken by the character "Cy Ogle",
a political media consultant

618) All that Democrat/Republican stuff is bullshit [...] And as far as liberal versus conservative, well, people are very promiscuous in the way they use those words. They don't really mean anything. Within those two camps there are a lot of wide divisions. And between those two camps, there is a lot more overlap than you think. None of that bullshit really matters. The only thing that matters is values.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)
spoken by the character
"Caleb Roosevelt Marshall",
a U.S. Senator

619) This that I am saying to you is not abuse. It's the truth. It's just that sometimes the truth is so harsh that when people hear it spoken, it sounds like abuse. And one of the problems we got in this country [...] is that everyone is so easy to offend nowadays that no one is willing to say things that are true.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)
spoken by the character "Eleanor Richmond",
a banker turned bag lady turned U.S. Senator's aide

620) Americans may be undereducated, lazy, and disorganized, but they do one thing better than any people on the face of the earth, and this is watch television. The average eight-year-old American has absorbed more about media technology than a goddamn film student in most other countries. You can tell lies to them and they'll never know. But if you try to lie to them with the camera, they'll crucify you.
Stephen Bury
(Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George
[George Jewsbury])
Interface (1994)
spoken by the character "Myron Morris",
a political filmmaker

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/19/2007 03:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Auld lang syne

Kevin Drum points to a good Paul Kennedy op-ed which seeks to act as a corrective to rampant nostalgia for the Cold War era as a simpler and less dangerous time.

These Cold Warriors can wax nostalgic for their days of glory all they want -- after all, we won that war (although more from the flaws and errors of the opposition than from any great brilliance on our part) -- but I remember as a kid waking up at night at the sound of every airplane flying overhead, worried that it was going to drop The Bomb on us. I have no feelings of nostalgia about that.

In any case, what we've got here is an example of false dichotomy: because the world is dangerous now, it must have been less dangerous then. Of course that's not necessarily so -- both eras could be dangerous in different ways, there's no particular linkage between them. And in actuality, as Kennedy and Drum point out, we were decidely in more peril then, as we hung on the brink of world-wide conflagration.

The nostalgia-striken should be careful what they wish for -- it's not impossible for nuclear brinksmanship to make a comeback.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/18/2007 01:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle

610) Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
"Was the World Made for Man?" (1903)
quoted by Stephen Jay Gould in
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)

611) An abstract, intellectual understanding of deep time comes easily enough - I know how many zeros to place after the 10 when I mean billions. Getting it into the gut is another matter. Deep time is so alien that we can really only comprehend it as metaphor. And so we do in our pedagogy. We tout the geological mile (with human history occupying the last few inches); or the cosmic calendar (with Homo sapiens appearing for but a few moments before Auld Lang Syne). [...] John McPhee has provided the most striking metaphor of all (in Basin and Range): Consider the earth's history as the old measure of the English yard, the distance from the King's nose to the tip of his outstretched hand. One stroke of a nail file on his middle finger erases human history.
Stephen Jay Gould
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)
citing John McPhee
Basin and Range (1980)

612) Aristotle insisted that phenomena have at least four distinct kinds of causes - material for their substance, efficient for the pusher or builder, formal for the blueprint, and final for the purpose. A house, in the ancient parable, finds its material cause in stones and bricks, efficient in masons and carpenters, formal in architectural sketches (which "make" nothing in any direct sense, but are surely a sine qua non of any particular design), and final in human desire, for the house would not be built unless someone wanted to live in it. We have, today, pretty much restricted our definition of cause to the pushers and shovers of efficient causation, We would still allow that houses can't be built without substances and plans, but we no longer refer to these material and formal aspects as causes. We have, however, explicitly abandoned the idea of final cause for inanimate objects - and this rejection ranks as, perhaps, the major change in scientific methodology between [the late eighteenth century] and our ours.
Stephen Jay Gould
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)
citing Aristotle

613) [James Hutton, founder of modern geology] did not grasp the power, worth and distinction of history. He followed a model of science that exalted simple systems, subject to experiment and prediction, over narrative and its irreducible uniqueness. In doing so, he followed a tradition of ordering the sciences by status - from the hard and more "experimental" (physics and chemistry) to the soft and more "descriptive" (natural history and systematics). Geology resides in the middle of this false continuum, and has often tried to win prestige by aping the procedures of sciences with higher status, and ignoring its own distinctive data of history. This problem, born of low self-esteem, continues to this day. Hutton pursued a chimerical view of rigor by deference to Newton, and hoped to assimilate time to Newton's models for space. Today, this deference may be expressed in a fetish for quantification that leads psychologists to conceive intelligence as a single, measurable thing in the head, or biologists to classify organisms by computer without judging the different historical value of characters (the marsupial pouch as more informative than body length).
Stephen Jay Gould
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)

614) As we have our von Danikens, our _scientific_ creationists, and our faith healers, science in [Charles] Lyell's day [c.1830] also felt besieged by a periphery of charlatans and reactionaries, who often commanded much public support.
Stephen Jay Gould
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)

615) The intellectual world is littered with systems that pushed consistency to the ends of the earth and the bounds of rationality, but then stepped aside and made an exception for human uniqueness.
Stephen Jay Gould
Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle (1987)

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

As of today, there are 702 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/18/2007 02:38:00 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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Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
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the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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(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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