Friday, December 16, 2005


Does anyone know of a good archive of political audio sound bites? For the production I'm working on, I'm looking to assemble some of the "greatest hits" of outrageous things said by this administration -- not the "funny" Bushisms, necessarily, but stuff put out by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfled, Rice et al. that have turned out to be untrue, unfair, unwarranted, unsupported or unwise to say.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/16/2005 04:12:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The Republikan game plan for 2006

From National Journal's Hotline:
OK Rep. Tom Cole, a former RNC executive director, is telling colleagues that Republicans can prevent losses in the 2006 midterm elections if they successfully define Democrats as carping critics who favor surrender in Iraq, higher taxes and more government spending.

In a memo he plans to send to House Republicans later today, Cole, who wants to join the caucus leadership next year as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, writes bluntly that Democrats could win seats in the House next November, and that "history suggests we face an uphill battle next year."

"I believe our voters respond best when they think everything is on the line -- and our House majority is on the line in each and every election that we fight," Cole writes.

Cole suggests stirring up "a little paranoia" among Republican base voters to motivate them to vote.

"I cannot make this point strongly enough. There are no inevitable victories in politics and complacency is the precursor of defeat."

Cole's prescription: Force Democrats "to defend the solutions they are offering to the American people -- higher taxes and bigger government at home combined with defeat and retreat abroad. Since they won't spell out their agenda to the American people we must do it for them."

[via Kos]

Nothing particularly new here, of course. Lying, misrepresenting, dissembling, appeals to prejudice and hatred, the flagrant use of hot-button wedge issues, mudslinging (as opposed to mudraking) and the muddying of waters and poisoning of wells -- these have all been tried-and-true Republican political methods for many decades. Others use them too, occasionally, but not with the consistency that the GOP does, and not with the same amount of glee.

Update: Hmmm. The "k" in "Republikan" in this post's title is a typo, but I sort of like it. It's got a Kafkaesque quality about it, and visually the "-kan" is reminiscent of the Klan. It may be a good choice to counter the GOP's many years of using "democrat" -- as in "Democrat Party" instead of the proper "Democratic Party" -- as a dig. Some folks I know like to use "Repuglicant" or other similar terms, but they've always seemed a little forced to me, while "Republikan" seems smoother and better focused.

I'll think about it, but it may be that I'll start referring to "Republikans" (like Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Lott, Santorum, Lieberman) and "Republicans" (such as Collins, Snowe, McCain) -- the determinant being not so much the politics, but adherence to dogma and "loyalty" (the Kool-Aid factor) and personal and political integrity.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/16/2005 03:47:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


PKD 1928-1982

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K. Dick

quoted by Dick in "How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (written 1978), published in I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon (1985); reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), Lawrence Sutin, ed.

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Philip K. Dick, who would have been 77. (He died in 1982 at 53, from strokes and heart failure).

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to post the nice collection of PKD quotes I would like to, so this one (which I contributed to) will have to do for the moment -- and also check out the official PKD site and this fan site run by Jason Koornick.

It used to be that life in the modern world was frequently a Phildickian experience, but in the USA under Bush, it's become increasingly Kafkaesque.

Update: Incidentally, the movie version of one of Dick's masterpieces, A Scanner Darkly, is due to be released on March 31st. It stars Keanu Reeves and was directed by Richard Linklater.

I'm not sure how I feel about the rotoscoping animation style that the film is apparently using -- I didn't think it was entirely successful on Linklater's Waking Life.

Dick's legacy hasn't been particulary well served by Hollywood. Only Blade Runner and Minority Report have really been artistically satisfying (although in very different ways).

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/16/2005 01:10:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Koufax Awards open

Nominations for the 2005 Koufax Awards, in fifteen categories, are now open. See Wampum for the details.

And just a reminder:
Two years ago, the onslaught of traffic generated by the awards crashed Wampum. Eric has worked many hours and we have spent a considerable amount of money to make sure that does not happen again. Once we get to the voting stage of the awards, we really need Eric and his laptop to provide ballot security. His laptop recently died. If you can afford it, please hit our tip jar to keep the Koufax Awards running and running fairly.

Do what you can, please.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/16/2005 12:40:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Unmasking the "Ownership Society"

The Green Knight has an excellent post about Social Darwinism, currently going under the alias of "The Ownership Society":
Ultimately, Social Darwinism is a contradiction in terms, because any attempt to impose "survival of the fittest" on people is anti-social. Similarly, an "ownership society" is impossible, because ownership is an economic relation between an individual and a thing. There's no society in the picture. So, let's keep in mind what Social Darwinism/the Ownership Society really means. It's more than a rejection of the public sector; it's more, even, than a rejection of compassion and decency; taken to its logical conclusion, it's a rejection of civilization itself.

Take a look at the entire post.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/13/2005 04:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Going around again

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in a review of Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East:
[A]s a break from the latest grim news coming out of Baghdad, have a look at what a correspondent for Fisk's old paper, The Times of London, said about Iraq. Many people "think that the local inhabitants will welcome us because we have saved them," and that the country only needs developing to repay our expenditure, but this is clearly wrong, since "we are asking the Arab to exchange his pride and independence for a little Western civilization."

That was written in September 1919. Another commentator said that in Iraq we have been led "into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. . . . Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. . . . We are today not far from a disaster." The writer was none other than T. E. Lawrence - in August 1920.

[Thanks to Roger]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/13/2005 03:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


USA v. NYC (on average)

From The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town"
According to Kevin O’Keefe, whose new book, “The Average American,” chronicles his hunt for the most statistically typical person in the United States, the average American drives a car (eight years old, no vanity plates) and owns a home (permanent, freestanding, occupied by 2.62 people, with a washing machine, a dryer, an outdoor grill, and a private lawn requiring forty hours a year of mowing). He lives within fifty miles of the town where he grew up, has a listed phone number, and is regularly in bed before midnight. Fine enough for most of the country. But what about the average New Yorker?


After a brief study of the statistics, it was decided that, along with not owning a home or a car, the average New Yorker would be single (56.6 per cent), live in a building that has more than ten units (53.9 per cent) and that was built before 1960 (67.2 per cent), and have been born in a different state (50.5 per cent).

Hmmm ... it seems I'm neither a typical American (although I do live within 50 miles of my home town, and have a listed phone number), nor do I match the entire profile of a typical New Yorker (I'm married and was born in New York state).

I am, however, an average middle-aged divorced and remarried heterosexual stage manager with two children, who blogs on the side -- I'm pretty sure about that.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/13/2005 02:18:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More idiocy

Ed Darrell, writing from deep within a comment thread on Michael Berube's blog (comment #134) does his part to help shoot down some idiocy:
I have difficulty with philosophers who argue that intelligent design, “philosophically,” is worth considering in high school, or any classroom, before it has even a hypothesis or a single backing experiment. Francis Beckwith is fond of arguing that, “philosophically,” ID should be Constitutional to teach, since science isn’t religion. Beckwith begs the question, and so does [Steve] Fuller. ID isn’t established as scientific hypothesis yet, let alone theory.

Philosophically, if pigs could fly, the Federal Aviation Administration would be empowered under current law to regulate pig farms, since flying pigs would pose hazards to aviation, especially pig farms around airports. Beckwith, and it seems to me, Fuller, now argue that we should expand the budget of the FAA to inspect pig farms, philosophically. The difficulty with their argument is that pigs don’t fly.

Were the FAA to visit a pig farmer and ask to investigate his pig sties and speak to him about the steps he’s taken to prevent pigs from wandering into airlanes, the farmer would be justified in telling them to get off his property, and to go get his shotgun.

Pigs don’t fly. Intelligent design is not science, nor even honest academic inquiry.

Philosophically, I would also be justified in getting my shotgun for anyone who proposes to teach my kids that pigs fly, or that intelligent design is good science. So much for philosophic arguments.

The thread concerned Steve Fuller's views on "Intelligent Design" (the alias for creationism currently preferred by its advocates), which he presented as an expert witness for the defense at the Dover trial. He's a sociologist who apparently believes that people such as himself are better qualified to determine what is and isn't science than scientists are.

(You can get much, much more than you would ever want of Fuller's opinions in the thread -- in the original post and comments #18, 19, 36, 37, 38, 59, 60, 89, 90, 91, 92 -- or read his testimony here and here [PDFs].)

Fuller's an unfortunate instance of what we might call a highly educated and intelligent idiot. In fact, as an implicit postmodernist -- he denies the label -- he serves for the creationists the valuable role of a "useful idiot", someone who helps their cause while holding to a belief system that is fundamentally antagonistic to their ideology. To the rest of us, however, he's not very useful at all, just an arrogant ass playing for the other side, and entirely wrong in his argument as well.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 10:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bush and swine

This week in The New Yorker (behind their subscription wall), in a piece about feral hogs, Ian Frazier spends 11 paragraphs waxing about the relationship between the map of counties where wild swine are found, and the map of counties that voted for Bush in 2004.
The presence of feral hogs in a state is a strong indicator of its support for Bush in '04. Twenty-three of the twenty-eight states with feral hogs voted for Bush. That's more than four-fifths; states that went for Kerry, by contrast, were feral-hog states less than a fifth of the time.

Personally, I don't see it:

It doesn't get any better when you look at a more nuanced map, which codes for degrees of redness and blueness:

Frazier is a humorist (of sorts), so I presume he was reaching for some comic effect, but unfortunately, it's difficult to see what his target is (pundits? Bush voters? The South?). The relationship he's touting is tenuous at best (Utah, the state that went most strongly for Bush, has no feral hogs at all, nor does the Bush-heavy mountain northwest), and, fatally, the piece isn't in the least funny. In fact, it's barely interesting at all, a waste of my time, well below the standards I've come to expect from The New Yorker.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 02:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Faith and reason

Daniel Dennett:
[I]f you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason-responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I'm eager to [participate]. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith as a way of getting to the truth, and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other (a worthy function that I do take seriously). But you must not expect me to go along with your defense of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify. Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason is on your side. You are sightseeing with a loved one in a foreign land, and your loved one is brutally murdered in front of your eyes. At the trial it turns out that in this land friends of the accused may be called as witnesses for the defense, testifying about their faith in his innocence. You watch the parade of his moist-eyed friends, obviously sincere, proudly proclaiming their undying faith in the innocence of the man you saw commit the terrible deed. The judge listens intently and respectfully, obviously more moved by this outpouring than by all the evidence presented by the prosecution. Is this not a nightmare? Would you be willing to live in such a land? Or would you be willing to be operated on by a surgeon you tells you that whenever a little voice in him tells him to disregard his medical training, he listens to the little voice? I know it passes in polite company to let people have it both ways, and under most circumstances I wholeheartedly cooperate with this benign agreement. But we're seriously trying to get at the truth here, and if you think that this common but unspoken understanding about faith is anything better than socially useful obfuscation to avoid mutual embarrassment and loss of face, you have either seen much more deeply into the issue that any philosopher ever has (for none has ever come up with a good defense of this) or you are kidding yourself.
Daniel C. Dennett
Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995)

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 02:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Auctorial descriptives

Kafkaesque, Phildickian, Hemingwayesque, Orwellian, Joycean, Shavian, Ballardian, Shakespearean, Dickensian, Jamesian, Faulknerian, Brechtian, Pinteresque, Mametesque, Lovecraftian, Tolkienesque (or Tolkienian), Proustian, Seussian.

Any others?

Update (2/1/2007): Jahsonic has more, including Wikipedia links (auctorial descriptive, eponymous adjectives and proper adjective).

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 01:49:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Kafka in America

Kevin Drum on secret laws. "WTF" is indeed the correct reaction.

Update: Drum follows up.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 01:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The rise of Idiot America

Please read Charles P. Pierce's essay "Greetings from Idiot America", originally published in Esquire. A small sample:
Welcome to Idiot America.

LET'S TAKE A TOUR, shall we? For the sake of time, we'll just cover the last year or so. A federally funded abstinence program suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears. An Alabama legislator proposes a bill to ban all books by gay authors. The Texas House passes a bill banning suggestive cheerleading. And nobody laughs at any of it, or even points out that, in the latter case, having Texas ban suggestive cheerleading is like having Nebraska ban corn. James Dobson, a prominent conservative Christian spokesman, compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan. Pat Robertson, another prominent conservative preacher, says that federal judges are a more serious threat to the country than is Al Qaeda and, apparently taking his text from the Book of Gambino, later sermonizes that the United States should get with it and snuff the democratically-elected president of Venezuela.

The Congress of the United States intervenes to extend into a televised spectacle the prolonged death of a woman in Florida. The majority leader of the Senate, a physician, pronounces a diagnosis based on heavily edited videotape. The majority leader of the House of Representatives argues against cutting-edge research into the use of human stem cells by saying that "an embryo is a person... We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth." Nobody laughs at him or points out that the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or whoever invented the baby-back rib.

And, finally, in August, the cover of Time -- for almost a century the dyspeptic voice of the American establishment -- clears its throat, hems and haws and hacks like a headmaster gagging on his sherry, and asks, quite seriously: "Does God have a place in science class?"

Fights over creationism -- and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered -- roil up school districts across the country.

The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up: "We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."


On August 21, a newspaper account of the "intelligent design" movement contained this remarkable sentence: "They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."

A "politically savvy challenge to evolution" is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to euclidean geometry would be. It makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy Party ticket.

It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly, none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got, he's not going to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.

On the front page. Of The New York Times.
Read the entire piece.

BTW, although an awful lot of contemporary idiocy comes from the right, the left is no stranger to it. The really important division is between those willing to base their conception of reality on observation, evidence, facts and well-tested scientific theories -- what we refer to as the "reality-based community" -- and those who prefer to allow faith, ideology, whim, desire and wishful thinking to predominate. There can be, and always will be disagreements, even strong ones, within the first camp, as our understanding of the natural and man-made worlds is necessarily incomplete, but the volume of agreement far outstrips the disagreement. The "faith-based community" (to name it) can't agree on much of anything, except that faith and ideology trumps reality.

[Thanks to Peggy]

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 01:06:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Hail, hail Birdonia!

Photo Art by David GordonThis is the project I'm currently stage managing, a theatre/dance adaptation of Aristophanes' "The Birds" by director/choreographer David Gordon, performing in January at Danspace Project at St. Marks Church in the East Village. It's called "Aristophanes in Birdonia".

David's recent creations include an adaptation of Ionesco's "The Chairs" (review) and "Dancing Henry V" based on the Shakespeare play (review).

Rehearsals have been underway for the past three weeks or so -- it's always a bit more difficult to be in rehearsal during the holidays.

Ed Fitzgerald | 12/11/2005 12:30:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

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Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
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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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