Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday Photography: Taxi Flower

click to enlarge
Daryl Samuel

Location: Manhattan, New York City


Photos posted in 2006 & 2007

2008:  Tulips / Metal Tree / Ferry Terminal / White Rose

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/02/2008 04:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, February 01, 2008

(3089/898) Communication

2326) The oldest pathway for which the brain is hard-wired is the narrative.
John Seely Brown (attributed)
quoted in the "Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (3/1996)

2327) Emotional communication usually relies on tone of voice, facial expression, and body language. How many hours (days?) have you lost trying to straighten out a miscommunication that occurred via email? Of course, you didn't mean it the way it "sounded." Your tone was misunderstood. We might say email is affect-limited. [...] Affect is important; if it's missing, people tend to fill it in and often wrongly.
Nicholas Negroponte
"Affective Computing" in
Wired (4/1996)

2328) ASCII [text] is humbling and exasperating - it's like trying to squeeze our pulpy, broadband fruitshake thoughts through a coffee straw. Without tonal cues, a piece of harmless sarcasm can turn into a two-week flame war. [...] And yet, ASCII is our United Nations, working against the overwhelming trend of cultural fragmentation. [...] With ASCII, we drop many of the nuanced signals from our ethnic, cultural, and professional tribes. We're forced to clarify our meaning so that anyone in any tribe can understand what we really mean.
David Shenk
"In Praise of ASCII" in the
"Idees Fortes" section of
Wired (4/1996)

2329) [The meme of subliminal advertising] is probably propagated by the same people who are too dense to realize that drinking a particular brand of beer won't transport you into a world of fawning robobabes.
Cathy Taylor
senior editor of new media, Adweek Magazine
quoted by David Pescovitz in
"Reality Check: The Future of Advertising" in
Wired (4/1996)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/01/2008 01:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(3089/898) Luce and taxes and Marx (Oh, my!)

2321) At a time when people are being bombarded daily with more and more headlines and more and more information, they are, ironically, becoming less informed.
Henry Luce
prospectus for the creation of Time magazine
quoted by Walter Isaacson,
incoming managing editor of Time
interviewed by Evan I. Schwartz
"Time's Pathfinder" in
Wired (3/1996)

2322) Beyond the sweet sound of the words "abolish the IRS", the Republican case for cutting taxes rests on a theory and a reading of history. The history lesson, summed up nicely by [Republican Senator from Texas Phil] Gramm, is that "since the 1950s, the rapidly rising tax burden, together with new competition in world markets, has stifled growth in the economy and produced this stagnant income problem." The theory is that slashing taxes will reignite vigorous growth, both by leaving consumers with more money to save or spend and, most important, by increasing the supply of capital available for businesses to invest in ways that make the economy more productive.

Saying the Republicans' history is skewed would be like saying Ronald Reagan is getting on in years. America's tax burden - federal, state, and local, as a proportion of GNP - did rise in the 1950s and 1960s, but since 1970 it has stayed roughly the same. "You put the numbers down on paper," [Brookings Institution economist Gary] Burtless says, "and what you have is the most remarkable period of growth, the best productive performance in the history of the US, occurring when the tax burden was going up. The most it's ever gone up in history. Then the tax burden stops going up and [...] well, the last 20 years have been pretty shabby. Now, I would never argue that the rising tax burden caused the growth of the '50s and '60s, or vice versa since then. But, unfortunately for the Republicans, the correlation goes in exactly the reverse direction of their theory."
John Heilemann
"The Netizen: It's The New Economy, Stupid"
Wired (3/1996)

2323) From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
Karl Marx
Critique of the Gotha Program (1875) [B16]
[Note: Marx was possibly quoting or paraphrasing Louis Blanc – "Let each produce according to his aptitudes and his force; let each consume according to his need." Organisation du Travail (1840) – or Morelly – "Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as personal possiession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work. Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent, and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws." Le Code de la Nature (1755)). [B16]]
2324) Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, and the soul of souless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Karl Marx
A Contribution to the Critique of
Hegel's Philosophy of Right
(1844) [CQ]
[Note: Variations cited in [CQ]&[WQ]: "Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals" (Raymond Aron, aphorism from the title of his book The Opium of the Intellectuals, 1955); "In the United States today, opiates are the religion of the people." (Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973) Also:

Marxism is undoubtedy a religion, in the lowest sense of the word. Like every inferior form of the religious life it has been continually used, to borrow the apt phrase of Marx himself, as an opiate for the people.

Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty (1955) quoted by Aron.]
2325) The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.
Karl Marx and Frederich Engels
The Communist Manifesto (1848) [B16]


[B16] - Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th edition (1993)
[CQ] - The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
[WQ] - Wikiquote

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2008 11:02:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Anderson: Age of Unreason

Kurt Anderson
2317) Where there's a fact vacuum, pseudo facts, opinion, and outright fantasy come rushing in.
Kurt Anderson
"The Age of Unreason" in
The New Yorker (3/3/1997)

2318) What did he know and when did he know it? During the late-modern era of journalism and popular thought, which achieved it apotheosis in Watergate, those were the salient questions. A consensus about facts prevailed, along with a kind of common-sense faith that the accumulation of facts would yield something like truth. The postmodern period began in the eighties, with the American religious deliriums, in both fundamentalist-Christian and New Age forms, and with the indulgence of the imaginary anecdotes of Ronald Reagan and Tawana Brawley; it achieved its apotheosis in O.J. Simpson's acquittal. The salient questions in this new era tend to be epistemological: What do you think you know, and why do you think you know it?
Kurt Anderson
"The Age of Unreason" in
The New Yorker (3/3/1997)

2319) Americans are supposed to distrust elite authority and to believe that every citizen is entitled, above all, to his own opinion. [... this]native antipathy toward elite authority [...] is driving today's trans-ideological, my-facts-are-as-good-as-your-facts skepticism.
Kurt Anderson
"The Age of Unreason" in
The New Yorker (3/3/1997)

2320) We're perpetually warned about the contemporary rise of cynicism, but a parallel American contagion, often affecting the same citizens, is credulity. The postmodern cynic cum naif mistrusts the government, the media, and the other elites even as he recklessly embraces this or that line of grassroots make-believe. You believe that a majority of women were sexually abused as children? You believe that Ben Franklin was an anti-Semitic propagandist? You believe that you have seen a documentary videotape of government doctors performing an autopsy on a captured extraterrestrial? Whatever.

This laissez-faire ultra-populism finds its perfect medium in the Internet. Not only is every citizen entitled to his or her own opinion but he or she is entitled to deliver it instantaneously, studded with chunks of fake information, to the whole world. With a computer and a phone line, anyone can become his own publisher / commentator / reporter / anchor, dispatching to everyone everywhere credible-looking opinions, facts, and "facts" via the Internet. [...] Thanks to the Web, amateurism and spuriousness no longer need look amateurish or spurious.
Kurt Anderson
"The Age of Unreason" in
The New Yorker (3/3/1997)
[Note: Of course, it turns out that the real danger came not from amateur pundits on the Internet, whose dreck can generally be easily spotted, but from professional media outlets such as Fox News and the Washington Times, which were deliberately set up to purvey skewed and ideologically purified information in the name of being "unbiased." Unlike the work of the Internet amateurs, their output had the look and feel of real news, and was taken by such by multitudes of gullible people, as well as those ideologically inclined to believe it. (Ironically, Fox News started up just 5 months before Anderson's article was published.) That some analysts still haven't realised that this is a primary problem with American journalism today, 12 years afterwards, is disconcerting at best. – Ed Fitzgerald]
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 356 days remaining in the administration of the worst American President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2008 10:11:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Chandler speaks...

Raymond Chandler
2316) [As a screenwriter] I have a sense of exile from thought, a nostalgia of the quiet room and balanced mind. I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn't have to be great writing, it doesn't even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine.
Raymond Chandler
"A Qualified Farewell" (1956)
The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)
quoted by Larry Gelbart in
"A Beginning, A Muddle and an End" in
New York Times Books Review (3/2/1997)
[review of Monster: Living Off The Big Screen
by John Gregory Dunne]

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2008 02:36:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Liberals all (even the conservatives)

2313) [There] is a common feature of a certain kind of contemporary conservative thought. Abstract philosophical reasoning is used to establish a set of norms for human life, and it is the discovered that, by some wholly unforeseen coincidence, these norms correspond almost exactly to the way things were in the United States circa 1958. [...] Thus [Charles] Murray doesn't really propose to get rid of any of the functions the federal government has exercised, or the investments it has made, of the human rights it has established - almost always over the fierce and sometimes violent objections of local communities and private interests - since the Great Depression. He wants food and drug regulatory agencies, air traffic control, interstate highways, social insurance, welfare agencies, freedom of expression, environmental protection, universal access to education, and virtually every other benefit of modern life. He wants them all privitized. Having granted every wish, the genie of big government can now return to the bottle.
Louis Menand
"Born Free" in
New York Review of Books (2/20/1997)
[review of What it Means to Be A Libertarian:
A Personal Interpretation
by Charles Murray]

2314) If we look at the actual things we call freedoms [...] - the freedom to speak and to believe what we choose, the freedom to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, the freedom to travel - we find that they have been established only by the exertion of centralized political power against the natural tendency of some groups of human beings to stifle and control other human beings, particularly human beings who look or think differently from themselves. Libertarianism of [Charles] Murray's variety is a philosophy for winners, for the same reason that "born Free" is a song about lions, not about the animals they prey upon. Not many people who feel vulnerable or repressed will find much use for it. What those people want is a public body vigilant in protecting their interests, including their interest in personal freedom, against the tendency of majorities to dominate and exploit them, and they will be willing to abide by the decisions of such a body so long as they are democratically reached. Groups make laws, formally or informally, by consent or by fiat. Democracy is a way of trying to do it by consent. There is a law of the jungle, but it's not particularly big on "liberty," and the animals don't get to vote.
Louis Menand
"Born Free" in
New York Review of Books (2/20/1997)
[review of What it Means to Be A Libertarian:
A Personal Interpretation
by Charles Murray]

2315) There is a sense in which all Americans are liberals, not excluding the neocons who use that word as a curse, but this is not the usual journalistic sense of the word. That's to say, Americans believe instinctively in a pluralistic, individualistic, open society. [...] American culture has always stressed individual fulfillment over duty owed to the state; the nation's very founding creed was "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Geoffrey Wheatcroft
"The Big Kibbutz" in
New York Times Books Review (3/2/1997)
[review of Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience
in Modern Israel
by Yaron Ezrahi]

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/29/2008 02:13:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, January 28, 2008

(3089/898) Tainter: Collapse of Complex Societies 2

Collapse of Complex Societies
2309) [F]our concepts [...] lead to an understanding of collapse. These are:
  1. human societies are problem-solving organizations;

  2. sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance;

  3. increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and

  4. investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.
The first three points may be thought of as the conceptual underpinnings of the fourth, which is the crucial element in the explanation.

A society increasing in complexity does so as a system. That is to say, as some of its interlinked parts are forced in a direction of growth, others must adjust accordingly. For example, if complexity increases to regulate regional subsistence production, investments must be made in hierarchy, in bureaucracy, and in agricultural facilities (such as irrigation networks). The expanding hierarchy requires still further agricultural output for its own needs, as well as increased investment in energy and minerals extraction. An expanded military is needed to protect the assets thus created, requiring in turn is own increased sphere of agricultural and other resources. As more and more resources are drained from the support population to maintain this system, an increased share must be allocated to legitimization or coercion. This increased complexity requires specialized administrators, who consume further shares of subsistence resources and wealth. To maintain the production capacity of the base population, further investment is made in agriculture, and so on.

The illustration could be expanded, tracing still further the interdependencies within such a growing system, but the point has been made: a society grows in complexity as a system. To be sure, there are instances where one sector of a society grows at the expense of others, but to be maintained as a cohesive whole, a social system can tolerate only certain limits to such conditions.

Thus it is possible to speak of sociocultural evolution by the encompassing term "complexity," meaning by this the interlinked growth of the several subsystems that comprise a society. This growth carries an associated energy cost, which before the development of fossil-fuel economies was largely met by human labor. Growth also yields an array of benefits, including administration of resource storage and distribution, investment in agricultural, energy, and mineral production, internal order and external defense defense, information processing, and public works. [...] [but,] at some point in the evolution of a society, continued investment in complexity as a problem solving strategy yields a declining marginal return. [...]

There are two general factors which combine to make a society vulnerable to collapse when investment in complexity begins to yield a marginal return. First, stress and perturbation are a constant feature of any complex society, always occurring somewhere in its territory. Such a society will have a developed and operating regulatory apparatus that is designed to deal with localized agricultural failures, border conflicts, and unrest. Since such continuous, localized stress can be expected to occur with regularity it can, to a degree, be anticipated and prepared for. Major, unexpected stress surges, however, will also occur given enough time, as such things as major climactic fluctuations and foreign incursions take place. To meet these major stresses the society must have some kind of net reserve. [...] Stress urges of great magnitude cannot be accommodated without such a reserve.

Yet a society experiencing declining marginal returns is investing ever more heavily in a strategy that is yielding proportionally less. Excess productive capacity will at some point be used up, and accumulated surpluses allocated to current operating needs. There is, then, little or no surplus with which to counter major adversities. Unexpected stress must be dealt with out of the current operating budget, often ineffectually, and always to the detriment of the system as a whole. Even if the stress is successfully met, the society is weakened in the process, and made even more vulnerable to the next crisis. Once a complex society develops the vulnerabilities of declining marginal returns, collapse may merely require sufficient passage of time to render probable the occurrence of an insurmountable calamity.

Secondly, declining marginal returns make complexity a less attractive problem-solving strategy. Where marginal returns decline, the advantages to complexity become ultimately no greater (for the society as a whole) than for less costly social forms. The marginal costs of evolution to a higher level of complexity, or of remaining as the present level, is high compared with the alternative of disintegration.

Under such conditions, the option to decompose (that is, to sever the ties that link localized groups to a regional entity) become attractive to certain components of a complex society [...] [which] perceive increased advantage to a strategy of independence, and begin to pursue their own immediate goals rather than the long-term goals of the hierarchy [...] requiring the hierarchy to allocate still more of a shrinking resource base to legitimization and/or control.

Thus [...] productive units across the economic spectrum increase resistance (passive or active) to the demands of the hierarchy, or overtly attempt to break away. Both the lower strata (the peasant producers of agricultural commodities) and upper ranking strata of wealthy merchants and nobility (who are often called upon to subsidize the cost of complexity) are vulnerable to such temptations. [...]

And so, societies faced with declining marginal returns for investment in complexity face a downward spiral from problems that seem insurmountable. Declining resources and rising marginal costs sap economic strength, so that services to the population cannot be sustained. As unrest grows among producers, increased resources from a dwindling supply must be allocated to legitimization and/or control. The economic sustaining base becomes weakened, and its members either actively or passively reduce their support for the polity. Reserve resources to meet unexpected stress surges are consumed for operating expenses. Ultimately, the society either disintegrates as localized entities break away, or is so weakened that is is topples militarily, often with very little resistance. In either case, sociopolitical organization is reduced to the level that can be sustained by local resources.
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

2310) We can never do merely one thing.
Garrett Hardin
"The Cybernetics of Competition:
A Biologist's View of Society" in
Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral
(1968), Walter Buckley , ed.
quoted by Joseph A. Tainter in
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)
[Note: Tainter comments: "[Hardin's] point was that good intentions are virtually irrelevant in determining the results of altering a large, complex system. With the feedback relationships inherent in such a system, one can almost never appreciate the full consequences of any alteration. The same principle applies to misbehavior: elite mismanagement can only be partly responsible for the evolution of any complex society."]
2311) [T]here are major differences between the current and the ancient worlds that have important implications for collapse. One of these is that the world today is full. That is to say, it is filled with complex societies; these occupy every sector of the globe, except the most desolate. This is a new factor in human history. Complex societies as a whole are a recent and unusual aspect of human life. The current situation, where all societies are so oddly constituted, is unique. It was shown earlier [...] that ancient collapses occurred, and could only occur, in a power vacuum, where a complex society (or cluster of peer polities) was surrounded by less complex neighbors. There are no power vacuums left today. Every nation is linked to, and influenced by, the major powers, and most are strongly linked with one power bloc or the other. [...]

Collapse today is neither an option of an immediate threat. Any nation vulnerable enough to collapse will have to pursue one of three options: (1) absorption by a neighbor or some larger state; (2) economic support by a larger power, or by an international financing agency; or (3) payment by the support population of whatever costs are needed to continue complexity, however detrimental the marginal return. A nation today can no longer unilaterally collapse, for if any national government disintegrates its population and territory will be absorbed by some other. [...]
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

2312) It is difficult to know whether world industrial society has yet reached the point where the marginal return for its overall pattern of investment has begun to decline. [...] Even is the point of diminishing returns to our present form of industrialism has not yet been reached, that point will inevitably arrive. [...] In a sense the lack of a power vacuum, and the resulting competitive spiral [between contemporary peer polities], have given the world a respite from what otherwise might have been an earlier confrontation with collapse. Here indeed is a paradox: a disastrous condition that all decry may force us to tolerate a situation of declining marginal returns long enough to achieve a temporary solution to it. [...] There are then notes of optimism and pessimism in the current situation. We are in a curious position where competitive interactions force a level on investment, and a declining marginal return, that might ultimately lead to collapse except that the competitor who collapses first will simply be dominated or absorbed by the survivor. A respite from the threat of collapse might be granted thereby, although we might find that we will not like to bear its costs. If collapse is not in the immediate future, that is not to say that the industrial standard of living is also reprieved. As marginal returns decline (a process ongoing even now) [...] the standard of living that industrial societies have enjoyed will not grow so rapidly, and for some groups and nations will remain static or decline. The political conflicts that this will cause [...] will create a dangerous world situation in the foreseeable future.
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2008 11:50:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Tainter: Collapse of Complex Societies 1

Joseph A. Tainter
2305) Collapse [of a complex society] is manifest in such things as:
  • a lower degree of stratification and social differentiation;

  • less economic and occupational specialization, of individuals, groups, and territories;

  • less centralized control; that is, less regulation and integration of diverse economic and political groups by elites;

  • less behavioral control and regimentation;

  • less investment in the epiphenomena of complexity those elements that define the concept of "civilization": monumental architecture, artistic and literary achievements, and the like;

  • less flow of information between individuals, between political and economic groups, and between a center and its periphery;

  • less sharing, trading, and redistribution of resources;

  • less overall coordination and organization of individuals and groups;

  • a smaller territory integrated within a single political unit.
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

2306) The Ik are a people of northern Uganda who live at what must surely be the extreme of deprivation and disaster. A largely hunting and gathering people who have in recent times practiced some crop planting, the Ik are not classifiable as a complex society [...] They are, nonetheless, a morbidly fascinating case of a collapse in which a former, low level of social complexity has essentially disappeared.

Due to drought and disruption by national boundaries of the traditional cycle of movement, the Ik live in such a food- and water-scarce environment that there is absolutely no advantage to reciprocity and social sharing. The Ik, in consequence, display almost nothing of what could be called societal organization. They are so highly fragmented that most activities, especially subsistence, are pursued individually. Each Ik will spend days or weeks on his or her own, searching for food and water. Sharing is virtually nonexistent. Two siblings or other kin can live side-by-side, one dying of starvation and the other well nourished, without the latter giving the slightest assistance to the other. The family as a social unit has become dysfunctional. Even conjugal pairs don't form a cooperative unit except for a few specific purposes. Their motivation for marriage or cohabitation is that one person can't build a house alone. The members of a conjugal pair forage alone, and do not share food. Indeed, their foraging is so independent that if both members happen to be at their residence together it is by accident.

Each conjugal compound is stockaded against the others. Several compounds together form a village, but this is a largely meaningless occurrence. Villages have no political functions or organizations, not even a central meeting place.

Children are minimally cared for by their mothers until age three, and then are put out to fend for themselves. This separation is absolute. By age three they are expected to find their own food and shelter, and those that survive do provide for themselves. Children band into age-sets for protection, since adults will steal a child's food whenever possible. No food sharing occurs within an age-set. Groups of children will forage in agricultural fields, which scares off birds and baboons. This is often given as a reason for having children.

Although little is known about how the Ik got to their present situation, there are some indications of former organizational patterns. They possess clan names, although today these have no structural significance. They live in villages, but these no longer have any political meaning. The traditional authority structure of family lineage, and clan leaders has been progressively weakened. It appears that a former level of organization has simply been abandoned by the Ik in their present distress.
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)
citing "Rethinking the Ik: A Functional
Non-Social System" by Colin M. Turnbull in
Extinction and Survival in Human Populations (1978)
edited by Charles D. Laughling, Jr., and Ivan Brady

2307) [T]he characteristics of societies after collapse may be summarized as follows:

There is, first and foremost, a breakdown of authority and central control. Prior to collapse. revolts and provincial breakaways signal the weakening of the center. Revenues to the government often decline. Foreign challengers become increasingly successful. With lower revenues, the military may also become ineffective. The populace become more and more disaffected as the hierarchy seeks to mobilize resources to meet the challenge.

With disintegration, central direction is no longer possible. The former political center undergoes a significant loss of prominence and power. It is often ransacked and may ultimately be abandoned. Small petty states emerge in the formerly unified territory, of which the previous capital may be one. Quite often these contend for domination, so that a period of perpetual conflict ensues.

The umbrella of law and protection erected over the populace is eliminated. Lawlessness may prevail for a time [...] but order will ultimately be restored. Monumental construction and publicly-supported are largely ceases to exist. Literacy may be lost entirely, and otherwise declines so dramatically that a dark age follows.

What population remains in urban or other political centers reuse existing architecture in a characteristic manner. There is little new construction, and that which is attempted concentrates on adapting existing buildings. Great rooms will be subdivided, flimsy facades are built, and public space will be converted to private. While some attempt may be made to carry on an attentuated version of previous ceremonialism, the former monuments are allowed to fall in decay. People may reside in upper-story rooms as lower ones deteriorate. Monuments are often mined as easy sources of building materials. When a building begins to collapse, the residents simple move to another.

Palaces and central storage facilities may be abandoned, along with centralized redistribution of goods and foodstuffs, or market exchange. Both long distance and local trade may be markedly reduced, and craft specialization end or decline. Subsistence and material needs come to be met largely on the basis of local self-sufficiency. Declining regional interaction leads to the establishment of local styles in items such as pottery that formerly had been widely circulated. Both portable and fixed technology (i.e. hydraulic engineering systems) revert to simpler forms that can be developed and maintained at the local level, without the assistance of a bureaucracy that no longer exists.

Whether as a cause or a consequence, there is typically a marked, rapid reduction in population size and density. Not only to urban populations substantially decline, but so also do the support populations of the countryside. Many settlements are concurrently abandoned. The level of population and settlement may decline to that of centuries or even millennia previously. [...]

In a complex society that has collapsed, it would thus appear, the overarching structure that provides social services to the population loses capability or disappears entirely. No longer can the populace depend upon external defense and internal order, maintenance of public works, or delivery of food and material goods. Organization reduces to the lowest level that is economically sustainable, so that a variety of contending polities exists where there had been peace and unity. Remaining populations must become locally self-sufficient to a degree not seen for several generations. Groups that had formerly been economic or political partners now become strangers, even threatening competitors. The world as seen from any locality perceptibly shrinks, and over the horizon lies the unknown.

Given this pattern, it is small wonder that collapse is feared by so many people today. Even among those who decry the excesses of industrial society, the possible end of that society must surely be seen as catastrophic.
Joseph A. Tainter
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

2308) Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.
Message on a popular sign
quoted by Joseph A. Tainter in
The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)

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

Ed Fitzgerald | 1/28/2008 11:27:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right,
Here I am...
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what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

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

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

Robot Chicken

The Family Guy

House M.D. (2004-7)
i've got a little list...
Elliott Abrams
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
John Ashcroft
Bob Bennett
William Bennett
Joe Biden
John Bolton
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Pat Buchanan
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Saxby Chambliss
Bruce Chapman (DI)
Dick Cheney
Lynne Cheney
Richard Cohen
The Coors Family
Ann Coulter
Michael Crichton
Lanny Davis
Tom DeLay
William A. Dembski
James Dobson
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
Dinesh D’Souza
Gregg Easterbrook
Jerry Falwell
Douglas Feith
Arthur Finkelstein
Bill Frist
George Gilder
Newt Gingrich
John Gibson (FNC)
Alberto Gonzalez
Rudolph Giuliani
Sean Hannity
Katherine Harris
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
Christopher Hitchens
David Horowitz
Don Imus
James F. Inhofe
Jesse Jackson
Philip E. Johnson
Daryn Kagan
Joe Klein
Phil Kline
Ron Klink
William Kristol
Ken Lay
Joe Lieberman
Rush Limbaugh
Trent Lott
Frank Luntz

"American Fundamentalists"
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)

Chris Matthews
Mitch McConnell
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Zell Miller
Tom Monaghan
Sun Myung Moon
Roy Moore
Dick Morris
Rupert Murdoch
Ralph Nader
John Negroponte
Grover Norquist
Robert Novak
Ted Olson
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Bill O'Reilly
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Perle
Ramesh Ponnuru
Ralph Reed
Pat Robertson
Karl Rove
Tim Russert
Rick Santorum
Richard Mellon Scaife
Antonin Scalia
Joe Scarborough
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
Bill Schneider
Al Sharpton
Ron Silver
John Solomon (WaPo)
Margaret Spellings
Kenneth Starr
Randall Terry
Clarence Thomas
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Donald Trump
Richard Viguere
Donald Wildmon
Paul Wolfowitz
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
John Yoo
All the fine sites I've
guest-blogged for:

Be sure to visit them all!!
recent listening
Smash Mouth - Summer Girl

Poulenc - Piano Music

Pop Ambient 2007
John Adams
Laurie Anderson
Aphex Twin
Isaac Asimov
Fred Astaire
J.G. Ballard
The Beatles
Busby Berkeley
John Cage
Raymond Chandler
Arthur C. Clarke
Elvis Costello
Richard Dawkins
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Kevin Drum
Brian Eno
Firesign Theatre
Eliot Gelwan
William Gibson
Philip Glass
David Gordon
Stephen Jay Gould
Dashiell Hammett
"The Harder They Come"
Robert Heinlein
Joseph Heller
Frank Herbert
Douglas Hofstadter
Bill James
Gene Kelly
Stanley Kubrick
Jefferson Airplane
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
John McPhee
Harry Partch
Michael C. Penta
Monty Python
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Prisoner"
"The Red Shoes"
Steve Reich
Terry Riley
Oliver Sacks
Erik Satie
"Singin' in the Rain"
Stephen Sondheim
The Specials
Morton Subotnick
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Tangerine Dream
Hunter S. Thompson
J.R.R. Tolkien
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
Kurt Vonnegut
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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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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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