Back to previous post: “We did this. This is what we can do.”

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Open thread 109

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

May 28, 2008

The Left Was Right All Along
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:04 PM * 294 comments

Uh-oh. Scott McClellan has written a book. It’s called What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

The headline at CNN reads, “White House ‘puzzled’ by ex-spokesman’s book bashing Bush.”

Perhaps those of us in the reality-based community can help them out: Bush is the worst president in US history.

The White House Wednesday said it was “puzzled” by a former spokesman’s memoir in which he accuses the Bush administration of being mired in propaganda and political spin and at times playing loose with the truth.

“At times”? A shorter list might be the times when they weren’t playing loose with the truth.

Fox News contributor and former White House adviser Karl Rove said on that network Tuesday that the excerpts from the book he’s read sound more like they were written by a “left-wing blogger” than his former colleague.
There you have it, straight from Karl Rove: The left-wing bloggers had figured out what was happening and were telling people about it years before the rats started jumping ship and writing tell-alls.

The smear campaign against McClellan has already started.

Another former Bush aide-turned-critic says the reaction to McClellan’s book by his former colleagues has a familiar ring to it.

“They’re saying some of the exact same things about McClellan they said about me,” Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief, told CNN.

Clarke left government in 2003. The following year, he accused President Bush of ignoring warnings about the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and of using the attacks to push for war with Iraq.

But Clarke gave McClellan little credit for speaking out now.

“I think the difference with McClellan’s book is he’s now telling us something we all know — that the war with Iraq was a disastrous war [and] was sold with deception. It’s a little different when you say something as I did and a few other people did four or five years ago, when the war was popular and when we were unpopular for saying what we said.”

The reason “we all know” it was because of left-wing bloggers.

Besides his criticism of how the administration handled the run-up to the Iraq war, McClellan also sharply criticizes the administration on its handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in the book.

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency,” he wrote. “Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”

Where did you read about Katrina? How about right here at Making Light? Particularly August and September, 2005, but lots of stuff after that. (Hey! Scott McClellan is mentioned by name, and it’s not a happy mention.)

Here’s Richard Clarke’s book.

And here’s Scott McClellan’s.

Comments on The Left Was Right All Along:
#1 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:28 PM:

I noticed the fact that the reflexive comment by old man Rove is that criticism of the white house doesn't sound like ANYONE in the mainstream press; only a blogger could say these things, that the president knowingly lied, etc.

Doesn't this comment suggest that the bloggers are the only ones with opinions are not under the tacit (or explicit) control of big business and government?

#2 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Everyone keeps coming out with this 'Bush worst president in US history' thing, and, well, it's rubbish, or at best an example of the recency illusion.

Bush is an incompetent twit of an MBA surrounded by variously incompetent, venal and insane crazies: but he's not the worst president in US history, I'd say.

Who is? I nominate James Buchanan, who was probably instrumental in the utterly odious Dred Scott decision, engaged in acts of economic insanity which make Bush look almost reasonable, and, oh yes, there's that little Civil War too. He didn't help much there, and he was the one in the best position to.

Bush has managed a lot of things. He hasn't managed to lose a third of the country and a quarter of the army to secession while actively promoting slavery. For that, we have to go to Buchanan.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:47 PM:

Buchanan didn't break two countries. Bush is worse, IMO.

#4 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Nix, give it up -- just about everyone here thinks the Idiot-in-Chief IS the worst president we've ever had.

Having worked for the government through 5 different administrations, I can tell you the current one is the worst, IMVHO.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Bush is going to leave office with the US military stuck in two endless wars in Asia. In addition, the United States is not going to be able to avoid having to deal with the suppurating mess that is Somalia. I don't know if that makes him the worst president ever but I suspect that Incitatus might have done a better job.

#6 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:57 PM:

Bush is MUCH worse... he lost us most of the world, and has actively pursued policies that keeps a large part of it's populations in virtual slavery.

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Also remember that Bush's actions have had a deleterious impact on one helluva lot more people than Buchanan's did, population growth being what it is.

#8 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Nix: While I have no love for Buchanan, and I certainly hold that he's in the running (and four years ago the race wasn' close), when we condemn him ahead of Bush we have something which is hard to factor into the question at the moment.


A hundred years from now, who will have done more damage?

Yes, we are still reaping the fruits of the Civil War, but that's because we've not plowed under the crops of slavery. The War was going to happen, the question was when, and we can't know that it wasn't going to be worse if it happened later (none of which excuses Buchanan's willingness to let the slave states secede; uncontested)

Buchanan was part of Dred Scott, ok. We have years (probably decades) to see what comes of the court that Bush built. Alito and Roberts are young men, and seem to be absolutely without scruple in putting agenda before law (not that I think any justice is a paragon of perfectly objective reading of the law; even in the context of their times, but these two, coupled to Scalia; and a lesser degree Thomas are horrid beyond expectation, and my expectations were pretty horrid).

Buchanan wasn't part of a systematic attempt to derail the system Bush, and Rove, et. al, are (at which the competence of this crowd has not been truly seen; though it seems they have been doing yeoman's work, and the recent court decision on "Voter ID" may prove to be as bad as Dred Scott, in the long run: perhaps worse).

I think, if anything, the rececny argument is in Bush's favor, because we have yet to see how many of the things he's done will come back to haunt us (the debt, the broken military, tattered repuation, screwed economy, strained alliances, toppled place [and the instability that leads to... we used to be able to posture, and people would listen... now?] the spread of nukes to Pakistan; the greenlight to India to make all it wants [one of the several violations of the NPT, not the least of which is the attitude toward Iran] an abandoned peace process in the Middle East, the list runs on but I've not the brain at the moment to keep it organised).

So while the jury is still out, I think the Bush is a serious contender; and may claim the title.

#9 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Lori Coulson @#4:

Nix, give it up -- just about everyone here thinks the Idiot-in-Chief IS the worst president we've ever had.

I dunno...I sort of lean toward Buchanan, too, but Bush still has time to get us into a war with Iran, so time will tell. In any case, I don't think there's any reason to shut down debate about it.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Or Barney the dog.

#11 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:18 PM:

Point of information: When I said four years ago the race wasn't close, Buchanan was well ahead of Bush for worst president ever.

#12 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:22 PM:

I don't doubt that the smear campaign against McClellan is in full swing, but calling Clarke a part of it seems a bit weird. He's not dismissing the book as lies or left-wing propaganda; he's dismissing it as "too little, too late".

Undoubtedly there's some self-interest in his statement - he cites his own book as an example of a more timely publication - but I find that to be a reasonable criticism all the same. And I can't say I particularly feel like defending McClellan in any case.

Rove's comments, of course, are textbook smears. But then, he basically wrote the textbook.

#13 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Bush may not be THE worst President ever, but he's certainly in the top three.

#14 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Darth @ #12: Re-read the original post and quote; it's not saying that Clarke is part of the smear campaign, it quotes Clarke as commenting on the latest smear campaign, and pointing out that it's all the same things said about his book.

#15 ::: jmnlman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:38 PM:

It is a little strange that he would come out with this now. As one of the commentators on CNN said last night doesn't anyone resign on principle anymore?

#16 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:43 PM:

What strikes me about the title is that even in his bridge-burning tell-all, Scotty McClellan can't be completely honest -- it's Washington's "culture of deception," not the GOP's or the Bush Administration's. Despite the fact that there is no one to be blamed for the endless deceptions but the Republican Party and their supporters across the country who cheered them every step of the way (until they started losing), he's already playing the angle that Republicans and conservatives are pure and good until "Washington" exerts its corrupting influence.

#17 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 04:46 PM:

John L #13: At some point, the rankings aren't too interesting. How do you compare the president of the US in the 1850s with the president in the 1800s with the president in 1920 with the president now? They live in completely different worlds, so different that their jobs are also completely different. Like the job of the president of Harvard University now and in 1880, or the job of the CEO of AT&T now and in 1950, or the job of pope now and in 1800.

I have no idea how you'd rank him. It seems to me that he's been the worst president of my lifetime, but I will admit I could just be wrong, there--every president has different circumstances to deal with, and who can say how well Clinton or Reagan or Johnson would have done with this set of circumstances?

#18 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Terry Karney @ 8: Alito's decision this week on retaliation shows a startling respect for precedent over agenda, so we'll just have to see how that plays out.

albatross @ 17: Not sure how those presidents would have done under these circumstances (or Presidents Gore, Kerry, Buchanan or Nader), but there's a good chance any one of them wouldn't have hurtled headfirst into a misadventure in Iraq; some might even have acknowledged the case for climate change a few years earlier.

#19 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Historians vs. George W. Bush (2004)

Rolling Stone's 'The Worst President in History?' (2006).

These articles both address whether or not Bush is worse than Buchanan. To reflexively rubbish the idea that Bush could be the worst president ever is, at best, meta-rubbish.

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:17 PM:

As Mary Dell wrote, Bush hasn't finished backing the truck over us after running us down, so we don't know what his final score will be. On top of which, I personally do not give one toasty damn if Bush is the worst or second worst, or what. He's quite bad enough to leave us in deep slime for decades to come. Maybe he could have caused more damage to the US and the world; let's not give him ideas about how go out with a real bang.

And it's not like there'll be no more damage after next Inauguration Day, and we just have to clean up what he did in his eight years. As several people pointed out, the Supremes will be reaming us for decades to come. In addition, the military General Corps has been gutted of many competent, honorable officers, replaced by political generals and opportunists. The top levels of several Cabinet level departments, among them Defense, Justice, Interior, HUD, and Education have been replaced by neocon-agenda-driven hacks, and many important agencies, including much of the security community and what little scientific advisorship there was have been perverted. It's going to take more than a new administration with a list of backers to dole out the loot to, to straighten that mess out, and the hacks will continue trashing things until they're removed.

#21 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:25 PM:

albatross@#17: who can say how well Clinton or Reagan or Johnson would have done with this set of circumstances?

I think it's safe to say that any one of the three (yes, even Reagan) would have done better, if only because it would hardly be possible for someone to have done worse.

#22 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:30 PM:

All the Buchanan arguments are domestic. If you're in the vast majority of the world that's not the USA, Bush wins hands down.

#23 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:41 PM:

With Snott McClellan, as with G.W.Bush and James Buchanan, a lot of how you rate their successes and failures lies with how deep the damage goes, and what their motivation was.

Buchanan was a pinheaded dolt with little, if any, idea how bad his ideas were, but he was not (as far as I can determine) intentionally setting out to destroy the country.

The same cannot be said for G.W., and what's more there is significant evidence that G.W. is doing so to profit himself and his coterie of friends and supporters.

Buchanan was a man of his times, if a wrongheaded one, and his suppot for the Dred Scott decision underlines that. Bush ... not so much so. The vast majority of his actions and decisions are clearly in opposition to the ideas and will of the American people, and generally the people of the world, and he had the opportunity (and responsibility) to know that, and did his own thing anyway.

Buchanan came close to destroying the country. Bush is capable of destroying the world, and seems eager to do so.

Snott, on the other hand, is just looking to profit from his evil deeds. NOT a book I'm gonna buy.

#24 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:45 PM:

I noticed that the Bush-buddies' responses often had a "well, if he didn't like us, why did he become press secretary? Why didn't he say anything then?"

As if changing your mind upon learning new facts is a strange and novel idea. Loyalty must mean you never get to update your knowledge about a person.

It's like if a person got divorced and friends of the ex said "if you think that there's significant problems, why did you get married?" Because you learn things after that you didn't know at the time?

#25 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Bruce @20: As I said earlier, I've been with the Federal Government for 5 Presidential administrations. It's not quite as bad as you are painting it with regard to the agencies of the Executive Branch.

The Cabinet Secretaries and their immediate staff will resign as of January 20, 2009. They will be replaced by the new Administration over the next 2-3 months.

Those who rose to high position under Bush, but not high enough to resign will be expected to tow the new line. Those that don't, and who are "career conditional" will find that they are not eligible to become "career" i.e., permanent, Federal employees when they reach the end of their three year conditional period. (That is, if they manage to avoid prosecution...)

Those who cannot be dismissed in that manner will find themselves moved sideways, into positions where they can do no harm -- many of these will look for other jobs.

Now, the Supreme Court has me worried...

#26 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:48 PM:

The biggest issues of our time are all, directly or indirectly, environmental issues. Real solutions to the major envronmental problems will require concerted and enlightened applications of science and technology.

Bush has, by far, the worst environmental record of any president in U.S. history. His has also been the worst of any modern administration on science/tech/R&D. His administration has been actively hostile to science, almost across the board.

And we have not even mentioned the liberties taken with the Constitution.

#27 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:48 PM:

Reporting in again on the MSM (or, at least, the Chris Matthews corner of it)...

On the one hand, almost his entire show was devoted to McClellan's book. Much outrage and anger. Like, get a clue... but at least he's knocking the crap out of the Bush Administration.

On the other hand, David Gregory, former White House correspondent for NBC, was incredibly dismissive of McClellan's point that the infamous "liberal media" let the country down by not pushing back against the Bush propaganda campaign. Gregory sez, "Yes, we did."

To be fair, Gregory did do some pushing, and sassed back to McClellan and other flaks. And to be further fair, I think the info was out there if the American public, in all its snowy-white innocence, had had any interest in not getting behind the Iraq war in the way it did.

But still, for Gregory to pretend the MSM didn't cheerlead this thing is just silly. Or, at the very least, self-serving.

#28 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:52 PM:

ARGH, that's "toe" the line.

#29 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:57 PM:

First post woke the verse daemon....

Old man liar, that old man liar
He just keeps smearing, that old man liar.
He just keeps smearing along!

Abortion and family planning were LEGAL when Buchanan was President, he didn't insist on dooming women to bear children at the risk of their lives, from e.g. die from difficult pregnancy or beaten to death by irate relatives or the impregnator, or merely kicked out pennilessly and without support to probably become a prostitute if surviving the experience of disowning....

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Ah, the sound of rats leaving a sinking ship...

#31 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Michael@27: Sadly, I don't think Gregory's attitude is atypical. Most of the media figures who either failed to call the Bush Administration on their obvious lies, or worse, cheered those who advocated for war and ridiculed those who didn't still do not appear to have any understanding that they did anything wrong. Take this tidbit highlighted by Atrios, for example -- I understand that tone doesn't convey well in text, but the reporter can't even grasp that the comment is mocking journalists for their failure to do their jobs.

But more to the point, why should they accept how wrong they were? The fact remains that people who were tragically wrong about war and almost everything else still get invited on TV as foreign policy experts, and people who called it correctly are rarely seen.

#32 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Clifton @14: You're absolutely right; I misread it. Thanks.

#33 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:10 PM:

So, how many ex-Schmuck-misadministration appartchiks and operatives and/or otherwise originally loyal Republicans or Ferengi-sucking-up-to-the-Boss and mostly appointed for their political affiliations types, are now in one or more states of: (oops, need to include Repuke current and former members of Congress.... note the latest one on the scandal sheet with the mistress....)

a) having written a book in or imminently in print critical of the Misadministration,

b) fired and in the doghouse or scapegoated and also no longer part of the Misadministration's hierarchy

c) in jail for malfeasance, fraud, sticky fingers, bribery, taking bribes, morals charges, etc. (or as least out of office based on morals charges.... ) etc.

Has anyone been keeping track?

#34 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Fie on George Bush, Fie!
Fie on Karl Rove, Fie!
Eight years they've burned the Constitution,
While they piss into pulp the Bill of Rights,
Eight years of lying to the public,
Hell they have wrought, wrong wars they've fought

Oh fie on George Bush, fie.
Fie, Fie, Fie, Fie Fie!

[need to run... more is percolating which may or may not appear... )

#35 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:57 PM:

P J Evans #10:

Barney the dog never held any public office, though. Incitatus was consul.

#36 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:10 PM:

every president has different circumstances to deal with, and who can say how well Clinton or Reagan or Johnson would have done with this set of circumstances?

I don't think any of them could fail to do better, if dropped into the current mess--but none of them would have gotten into the current mess to begin with. Most of Bush's bad circumstances he made himself.

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:21 PM:

Could anyone name any other president who, given the attack of 9/11, would have had as his first reaction, "Let's invade Iraq!"

#38 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Terry Karney@8

Note that Buchanan was NOT responsible for the Dred Scott decision. The decision was handed down on March 6, 1857. Which was only two days into the Buchanan administration.

As far as the question about the worst president: it's Bush. There's no one even close. For me, one key point is that Bush had MUCH more favorable circumstances than Buchanan. Basically, Buchanan was unable to meet a nearly impossible challenge. Bush, on the other hand, had an unusually favorable situation. And STILL managed to make a huge mess of things.

And I don't think any previous U.S. president had the same sort of toxic mix of arrogance, utter incompetence (at anything other than getting his way), and corruption.

#39 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:48 PM:

#37: Now, now. We don't know if that was Bush's first reaction.

My guess as to what he was thinking was "Damn, now I'll never know how the goat story ended."

Or, kidding aside, "What would Cheney do?"

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 08:04 PM:

I point out that Johnson did put himself in a similar mess; he turned up the heat under a simmering land war in Asia, causing it to boil over and kill quite a few more Americans than in Iraq and probably a lot more Vietnamese than Bush has killed Iraquis. And he wouldn't draw down or try to negotiate his way out because of his own ego (as evidenced by the telephone tapes released recently). Moreover, he tried to do it all on credit while pushing up spending on the "Great Society" social agenda (though the amount of the debt in terms of percentage of GNP wasn't as bad as Bush has done).

As far as I can tell, Johnson's motives were vanity and pride, rather than greed and power-seeking (Johnson had had extensive political power for decades). So he was nowhere near the criminal that Bush is. But definitely a bad President.

#41 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 08:13 PM:

One of my friends had to live through the Katrina debacle (you can read his story here).

Setting aside everything that could/should have been done to strengthen the levees well before Katrina was even a weather front with a bad attitude, the post-hurricane actions (or lack thereof) by the Bush Misadministration mean I think the whole lot of them should be strung up by the short hairs. He absolutely gets my vote for Worst President in History.

#42 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:03 PM:

While I haven't read or heard much of the criticism of the McClellan book, most of what I've heard or read aren't actually refuting the accusations, but instead are trying to simply dismiss it all as "silly" or "just like one of those blogs."

#43 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:21 PM:

#42 Steve Buchheit: ...most of what I've heard or read aren't actually refuting the accusations, but instead are trying to simply dismiss it all as "silly" or "just like one of those blogs."

Olbermann did a nice routine running clips of the White House Smear Machine's talking points. "Puzzled". "Sad". "Not the Scott I knew". Etc.

They're not angry. They're just vewy, vewy huwt. Oh, and they'd love to find him a nice room down there to the HooHoo Hotel.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Michael Weholt @ 43

There must be some way to classify Scott McClellan as an enemy combatant and whisk him away to Gitmo. Our boys just aren't trying hard enough; they've been able to hold completely innocent people for years, and McClellan sure as hell isn't innocent.

#45 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:37 PM:

I believe Shrub is also on record as the first president to ever goad our enemies to attack us.

"bring it on" cause I got Secret Service protection.

#47 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:03 PM:

Re: #37

Could anyone name any other president who, given the attack of 9/11, would have had as his first reaction, "Let's invade Iraq!"

Well, who was president when the Maine exploded? I'd nominate him.

Katrina was a disaster of horrific magnitude, greater than anything in American history. I got to see it all from ground zero. The civilian agencies seem to fumble the ball badly, and the military agencies did a magnificent job--Coast Guard especially. Given the unprecedented magnitude of the disaster, it's hard to say if any administration could have handled it well. I certainly don't have the personal experience to compare handling of disasters, and don't want to. Living through one Katrina was enough.

On the other hand, Louisiana's own incompetent politicians didn't help. Compare our idiot former governor and our indecisive mayor with the governor of Mississippi and the respective rate of recovery in both states....

#48 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:15 PM:

bring it on was not a good day for me. I almost threw something at the television. I know a swore and stalked out of the main lobby of Walter Reed, which is where I was when I saw/heard it first.

#49 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:27 PM:

In all fairness to William McKinley, he pretty much had to be dragged into the Spanish-American War kicking and screaming, although the Hearst-Pulitzer-Teddy Roosevelt team was only to happy to do so.

That doesn't make the imperialism any prettier, of course.

#50 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:36 PM:

#37 Unfair, Mr Macdonald! 9/11 was a handy excuse to use for what the neocons were looking for an excuse on whatever flimsy pretext they could make or invent...

#51 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:47 PM:

#47: I don't think we can place the blame for New Orleans solely on the mayor and governor, when it is the Federal Government's mandate to set policy for hurricane responses (under disaster responses, which falls under FEMA's bailiwick) and most especially after the Bush Government version of FEMA notified all the states that there were New! Improved! Rules! about what to do when disaster strikes, and then failed to provide even a modicum of assistance in a timely manner.

(stops to take a breath)

I had the PDF files from New Orleans and from Baton Rouge and from FEMA, on my computer that crashed, and they were pretty damning. When states are told that the Feds are in control, they tend to listen to that directive. I'm sure no one now would make that mistake with respect to this administration.

There were a lot of factors in the disaster that was Katrina, and many of them can be traced back to the One In Charge, the Great Decider, the Compassionate Conservative himself. He's the head of the Government, after all.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:53 PM:

Redshift #31:

The same thing is true of reporters and pundits more generally. There appears to be no consequence to getting all the important facts wrong, the analysis massively wrong, etc. The important thing is sounding good and being entertaining, which plenty of folks can do. Or sounding authoritiative and informed, despite your deep and embarrassing ignorance.

#53 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:59 PM:

The only way that you can see Buchanan as worse than Bush is to ignore the specific effect of the President.

Sure, the country was in worse shape 4 years after Buchanan was sworn in than it will be... let's not tempt fate: than it is now, 7+ years after GWB was sworn. The question is what did the Chief Executive contribute to that?

We need, in other words, a slightly more complex analytical tool than just "are you/we better off than you/we were four years ago?".

I suggest we take a page from Sabermetrics and talk about "value over replacement player", or "wins above replacement".

Buchanan did a terrible job -- in a situation that was already terrible. You'd have to be a genius to have fixed that one; heck, if Lincoln had won in 1860 anyway, whoever was in charge 1856-1860 would look rotten, since the South would still probably have seceded.

But Bush? Almost everything that has gone wrong in the last few years was either directly his doing (e.g. Iraq), or made radically worse by his involvement. Replace him with an average President and things would be wildly better than they are now.

(To say nothing of replacing him with the person who actually won the 2000 election.)

Bush is the Worst President Ever, not because the country took the biggest fall on his watch, but because every fall we took was far more directly his fault.

#54 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:01 PM:

All your reality base are belong to us!

#55 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:09 PM:

Ginger #51:

It sure looks to me like Katrina was the result of an overlap--nonfunctional local government, nonfunctional state government, and nonfunctional federal government. In better-run places, hurricanes have caused lots of damage, but not been nearly so horrible a disaster. Wasn't it the year before Katrina that several major hurricanes hit in Florida?

The real sticking point, to me, is the fact that it all happened several years after 9/11. The great fear which justified police state measures at home and an empire abroad was Islamic terrorists with nukes or other horrible weapons. If Al Qaida had managed to set off a Hiroshima-sized nuke in some random US city, what would the federal response have looked like? We saw the answer with Katrina.

Remember: A terrorist attack with WMDs was the justification for invading Iraq. It was the fear that won acceptance of massive domestic surveillance. It was, God forgive us, the argument that convinced a lot of otherwise good people to remain silent while we started torturing prisoners. But it wasn't enough of a threat for anyone to bother actually getting ready to deal with the aftermath of such an attack.

#56 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:21 PM:

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:17 PM:

"As Mary Dell wrote, Bush hasn't finished backing the truck over us after running us down, so we don't know what his final score will be. "

"And it's not like there'll be no more damage after next Inauguration Day, and we just have to clean up what he did in his eight years."

Two comments:

1) Eight years would be enough to make a good start on that clean-up, *without* massive GOP/elite MSM/corporate crony opposition. Which we'll have, so we'll certainly still be net negative after 8 years.

2) There's a whole legion (as in 'my name is') of mid-level criminals from this administration who have learned very well that the penalty for rampant criminality is nada, so long as you're a Republican, barring very bad luck or grossly poor judgement. 8 years from now they'll be high-level scum in the next GOP administration, *starting* their crimes from the level achieved by the Bush administration. They'll be able to reach new levels of evil, barring some unforeseen circumstances.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:31 PM:

I'm pleased that McClellan has written the book, but I'm no way going to pay $25 for it. (Thank God for a good local library system...) I just don't want to give the man my money. He may have buyer's remorse now, but his indictment of the WH press corps, while undoubtedly deserved, rings a bit hollow. Yes, the WH press corps, with some exceptions, were sycophantic twits, but McClellan was the guy standing up there feeding them lies.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:33 PM:

James, #37: Let's not forget that the Iraq invasion was planned long before 9/11. We'd have been at war in Iraq anyhow -- the attack just gave him a convenient and popular excuse.

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:09 AM:

You mean Barney hasn't been appointed to any official position - yet? There's probably one listed in one of those memos in Cheney's safe. (He'd probably do as good a job as Incitatus, although you certainly couldn't describe his, um, output as horse puckey.)

#60 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:40 AM:

Didn't Bush turn down foreign help after Katrina? And the formaldehyde-outgassing FEMA trailers were definitely a federal issue.

#61 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:21 AM:

Sorry, no respect for Scott McClellan, who knew that he was out there telling lies every day.

I always figured that we wouldn't know for sure if Bush was the Worst President Ever because the WPE is the one that it takes the country the longest to recover from, and it's unlikely we'll recover from Bush in our lifetimes.

#62 ::: old ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 02:09 AM:

On Bush:
I don't recall the name of the speech writer from which Bush drew shortly after 9/11. But I do recall that speech writer promising us Henry V, but we wound up with Richard III.

To tell you the truth I often thought up until the saber rattling against Iran, that the man had to be a paid agent of Iran. There was no other explanation to me.

#63 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 02:18 AM:

Lizzy @ #57, there was a suggestion floating around post-Watergate that I remember all too well: "Don't buy books from crooks." The idea was to keep the Liddys, Hunts, MacGruders and yes, Nixons from getting wealthy by telling their stories.

#64 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 07:31 AM:

P J Evans #59: He would certainly provide dogged leadership.

#65 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:07 AM:

Gng ftr Bsh, t ths pnt, s lk chwng t th ffcrs nd cptn f th Ttnc s th lf bts r bng lwrd nt th s.

Sr, t mght fl gd. Bt wht's th pnt, prcsly?

Wht's dn, s dn. 'm nw mr cncrnd wth th fct tht th bst th Dmcrtc Prty cld cm p wth n 2008 s Brck bm nd Hllry Clntn.

h dr....

t's dntty pltcs vrss dntty pltcs, nd nc gn wll fnd myslf n Nvmbr, pwng thrgh my vtr pmphlt tryng t fgr t whch bscr 3rd prty hs th mst ntrstng pltfrm, whn th prty 'd rlly wnt t vt fr s dng ll thy cn (pprntly) t ls t McCn.

nd n, d nt g lng wth th d tht th Dmcrts "wn" my vt jst bcs thy'r nt (gg) Rpblcns. 'v gn 3rd prty bfr, n spt f my mjrty-Dmcrt trck rcrd n th bth. wll mst lkly d s gn ths yr. dn't blv n th "hld yr ns" styl f vtng; t's why w'r stck wth Dmb (Dmcrts) nd Dmbr (Rpblcns) s r nly tw "bg" chcs n th frst plc!

s Bsh th "wrst vr"? s thrs hv ntd, w mght nd cntry r mr bfr w cn rlly gg.

M, 'm mr cncrnd wth wht's gn wrng (gng wrng) wth Dmcrts. t s clrly p t th Dmcrtc Prty t fx lt f wht hs bn brkn, nd dn't hv mch fth t ths pnt n th Dmcrts dng vry gd jb, vn wth th Wht Hs nd bth th Snt nd th Cngrss n Dmcrtc hnds.

gss ths s hw ntllgnt ppl cn nd d rrv t th plc f pthy, nd st t hm n Nvmbr whn thy shld b pnchng bllt.

'm nt thr. Nt yt. Bt gdnss, smtms fl vry, vry cls.

#66 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:07 AM:

Clarke's right, some of the very things "they" were saying about him are now being said about McClellan. But Clarke's being kind, because the "they" he refers to included Scotty himself.

It shouldn't surprise Scotty that they're running these plays on him. He helped write the playbook.

#67 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:14 AM:

Higgledy piggledy
Scotty McClellan wrote
Tell-all about all the
Reasons we hate

George Bush, who recently
Screwed us all over --
But wrote years too late.

#68 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:26 AM:

This quote piece from Amanda Marcotte at TPM Cafe sums it up perfectly:

We see this loop in a lot of areas---liberals are condemned for smarty-pants behavior simply by being in the right, even if we do it without a hint of smarty-pants attitude. Conservative policies gain steam out of spite. When everything goes to hell, liberals are quietly allowed to have been right, so long as we don't gloat about it and perhaps self-flagellate a little for being smart enough to get it right in the first place.

Isn't this exactly what is going on here? Everyone knows that the Bush White House was lying through its teeth to lead us into war, but God forbid we acknowledge the foresight of those who pointed it out at the time, those elitist smartypants. It's pure identity politics--Rove's "He sounds just like those leftie bloggers!" is no more than a shameless attempt to tie McClellan to those nerdy, elitist bloggers who everyone has already agreed can be safely ignored.

#69 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:36 AM:

#68 Isn't this exactly what is going on here?

Nope! I'm gloating.

#65 I guess this is how intelligent people can and do arrive at the place of apathy, and sit at home in November when they should be punching a ballot.

Nope, again! I'm not going to sit at home, because sitting at home gives us McCain. And I'm not going to vote for a 3rd party candidate (no matter how virtous), because, again, that gives us McCain.

Anything other than voting for the Democrat rewards Bush and the Republicans. Intelligent people won't do that.

#70 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:40 AM:

Buchanan received care of a nation with a festering wound, and proved unable to apply yet another band-aid of the sort that had held the nation together, sort of, for the past decades, while leaving the wound to fester under an inadequate dressing.

Bush received care of a healthy, powerful nation, and then went out and found an iron mine, forged the steel, crafted the knife, and inflicted a massive stab in the back.

By any standard, Bush was worse.

#71 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:57 AM:


ctlly, knw mr thn fw ntllgnt ppl wh r plnnng t d prcsly tht: sty hm.

rlz tht th ld rgmnt, " vt fr 3rd prty, r nn-vt, s th sm s vt fr th Rpblcns!" ppls hr.

Bt 'v nvr thght tht rgmnt hld mch wtr, bcs t's sd by bth sds t ln vtrs p lng rtfcl dlgcl fncs tht wld nt xst f w hd mr rbst smll-prty systm n th .S. tht cld ct th Dmcrts nd Rpblcns dwn t sz.

My tk s ths: s lng s thr "bg" prty cn rly n hrdng vtrs nt th bth sng th "Vt fr s, r y tmtclly vt fr thm!," mntlty, nthr prty hs mch ncntv t chng.

Whn lk t Rpblcns vrss Dmcrts, dn't s Bd vrss Gd. s Prtty Bd vrss Smwht Bd. nd 'm jst nt wllng t thrw my vts t Smwht Bd smply bcs t mght(?) d n th ffrt gnst Prtty Bd.

t's lk f wlk nt bfft nd s tbl wth nly tw knds f fd, nthr n f whch lk. D jst grmbl nd tk plt nd hlp myslf t th lst ndsrbl chc?

N. wlk wy, nd tk my bsnss lswhr.

t's my rght s dscrnng cnsmr, jst s t's my rght s dscrnng vtr.

#72 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:15 AM:

#71 Sten: Actually, I know more than a few intelligent people who are planning to do precisely that: stay home.... No. I walk away, and take my business elsewhere....It's my right as a discerning consumer, just as it's my right as a discerning voter.

This is simple, sulking, self-destructive laziness.

If you object to both parties, vote for the one that is the least worst in your view and in the meantime start your own third-party. This is what is so crap about Nader. He sits around on his ass for four years, then runs for President.

The solution to the "Two Party Problem" isn't staying home and sulking. The solution is getting off your ass and building a viable third party from the ground up, meanwhile voting for the least worst of the Demos or the Repubs until your new third party is worthy and able of wielding real political power. The rest is just self-indulgent, self-important whining.

#73 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:18 AM:

In the hope of averting an extended visit from the Great Floating Two-Party Flamewar: "HNN Poll: 61% of Historians Rate the Bush Presidency Worst" (2008).

#74 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:20 AM:

I just love it that the only remaining argument is over whether Bush is the worst president of all time or just the worst president in living memory.

Sten @ 71:

One might argue that your ability to compare eight years of Bush to a decision about what to have for lunch indicates a certain amount of ivory tower detachment in your world view. Clearly you've spent a good bit of time considering your rights--perhaps you might take a few moments to meditate on what responsibilities you might have towards your fellow diners.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:22 AM:

FungiFromYuggoth @ 73... Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

#76 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:29 AM:

Sten@65: trying to figure out which obscure 3rd party has the most interesting platform

I've been meaning to write a generic, short, and hopefully convincing, little paper as to why voting 3rd party in the US doesn't do what most people think it does. Apparently, I have a deadline now.

Oh, someone might have asked this already, but did any other president play dressup in military clothes and then appear at a military base and declare "mission accomplished" before the occupation even started? I still say Jr.->worst evah.

#77 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:47 AM:

albatross @55: Yes, it was a multi-level SNAFU. My point here is the Governor of Louisiana was restricted in her response, because of the FEMA regulations and the Federal mandate. If we didn't have a Federal government, she would have been solely responsible for the lack of State action. In disaster situations, there is a tug of war between state responsibility and federal responsibility. She got stonewalled and didn't know how to get around it. Nagin and his personnel didn't plan for the worst, and then didn't think their way out of the box. FEMA compounded this with their lack of proper planning and lack of responsibility on-site, and their bloated inefficient bureaucracy, and their incompetent leadership.

Louisiana is not your usual state. It has a history of government corruption, even in New Orleans (or is that especially?). [Digression: When I lived in Baton Rouge, I was startled by a story about a police officer in NOLA who had committed a crime (robbery with a fatality) and then came back to the crime scene in uniform. Sadly, there's hundreds of these stories in NOLA.] Louisiana needs strong personalities in its leadership positions, or else nothing gets done. Fast Eddie Edwards was extremely corrupt, but things got done. He knew how to make people happy, because keeping people happy kept him in the Governor's House (where he could play poker with his cronies who lost to him on purpose).

Anyway, my point is, the Federal Government had a big responsibility to its people in LA, and it failed -- no matter what Blanco didn't do or Nagin didn't plan for, it was ultimately the Feds who failed everyone.

#78 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:03 AM:

Bush is going to leave office with the US military stuck in two endless wars in Asia.

Fool! That's only the most famous of the classic blunders!

(Although, to be fair, as far as I can recall Bush has so far avoided going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.)

#79 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:06 AM:

Greg London at #45 writes:

> I believe Shrub is also on record as the first president to ever goad our enemies to attack us.

> "bring it on"

Minor spoilers for Michael Swanwick's excellent 'The Dragons of Babel':
At one point they smear blood onto the lips of a great stone titan to hear it prophesy. It tastes the blood and speaks, foretelling war and famine, collapse and despair and rains of blood... and finishes with "Bring it on!"

Oh, the resonance! Swanwick rocks.

#80 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:14 AM:

Srry, ppl, cn't g lng wth t. cn't by nt th cncpt tht nn-spprt f th Bg Tw s smhw dstrctv, lzy, r vry twr.

By tht lgc, ll th Dmcrts vr hv t d s b jst lttl bt bttr thn th Rpblcns, t rn r vts. Nt rmrkbly bttr. Nt fntstclly bttr. Jst bttr by tny mnt, nd thn w'r stck wth, "Wll, t lst thy'r nt Rpblcns, nd tht's gd ngh fr m!"

nd nthng chngs.

Rght nw th mjrty f r lctd ldrs n D.C. r thr, nt bcs thy'r gd ldrs, bt bcs thy'r gd t gttng lctd. Why s McCn th Rpblcn mn? Wll, bcs t's hs trn. Why s Clntn tryng t b th Dmcrtc wmn? Wll, bcs sh thnks t's hr trn t. nd bm s stlng bth thr thndr by rnnng n th rhtrc f, "Ths tm t's 'r' trn!" Nvrmnd wh 'r' mght b. t cld b vrybdy. t cld b nbdy. bm s tryng s hrd t b th ltmt 21st cntry pplst.

Bt ds rw pplsm ql rw ldrshp?

'm nt sr w'v sn rl ldr n th Wht Hs n lng tm.

m nt sr w s mrcns wnt rl ldr.

thnk s lng s w kp prppng p th Bg Tw systm, w'll kp gttng Prsdnts (nd thr lctd ffcls) wh r n ffc fr ll srts f rsns tht hv nthng t d wth hw wll thy ld, r gvrn, r rprsnt s s cnsttnts.

Prhps ths s th wy t's jst lwys gng t b? Crtnly thr r n sgns tht nyn r nythng s gng t stp p nd chng t. Prt trd n 1992 nd hndd th Wht Hs t Clntn. Ndr trd nd hndd th Wht Hs t Bsh. r s th rhtrc gs.

Bt why ds t ncssrly fllw tht nyn wh spprtd Prt, r Ndr, r ny 3rd cnddt, s smhw t flt fr xrcsng thr rght t pck bynd th Bg Tw?

Th ntd Stts ws nt fndd s tht Rpblcns nd Dmcrts cld wg n ndlss bxng mtch t th xpns f th ctzns.

nd s bd s th Bsh yrs hv bn, fr lngg tht sys, "H s th wrst!" bcs t's bn my xprnc tht whn y g rnd syng y'v ht rck bttm, t cn't gt ny crppr, th nvrs fnds wy t shw y tht, ys, t cn ndd gt hck f lt crppr. Smtms n hrry.

Prhps m jst trd f th "prty" systm t l. thnk prt f th rsn w nvr s th bst knds f ppl rnnng fr ffc, s bcs t gt lctd ths dys y prctclly hv t hv Bg Tw bckng f y wnt t rs t ny pstn f prmnnc, r cnsqnc. W hv hw mny scntsts, dctrs, tchrs, schlrs; thnkng mn nd wmn wh wn't g nr pltcl ffc bcs thy dn't wnt th hssl nd hdch f hvng t 'ply' wth th Bg Tw, nr d thy wsh t s thmslvs nd thr frnds nd thr fmls drggd thrgh th md by n gr md.

S myb m slkng, f w mst s tht wrd.

Bt thnk hv gd rsn t slk.

thnk ths cntry nds ts smrtst, bst ppl t n frnt, pttng s bck nt snd pths.

Bt th smrtst, bst ppl dn't wnt t gt t n frnt, bcs f th wy w'v llwd r pltcl systm t vlv. t's systm nqly hstl t ndpndnc, s vtr r pltcn.

#81 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:24 AM:

Sten, speaking as someone who voted third-party in 2000: please stop trying to derail this thread. This thread is not all about you.

Paul A. @78: I think that is because on matters of death, Bush is on the same side of the line as the resident Sicilian.

#82 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:26 AM:

And as bad as the Bush years have been, I fear language that says, "He is the worst!" because it's been my experience that when you go around saying you've hit rock bottom, it can't get any crappier, the universe finds a way to show you that, yes, it can indeed get a heck of a lot crappier. Sometimes in a hurry.

As far as considering Shrub the worst is concerned - no one is saying he's the worst possible leader. Rather, it is that he is the worst, thus far, of the particular subset of leaders which have held the US Presidency.

And it is necessary to realize that he is really that bad, so as to recognize the scope of the problem that needs to be cleaned up. Someone who thinks he's a great guy who is just misunderstood,[1] so that in 100 years history will show how great he was, is going to be incapable of seeing and therefore addressing the problems left in his wake.

[1] The logic that someone who has created problems so massive it takes a century to clean them up enough so that they look good, is actually good, boggles my mind.

#83 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:32 AM:


Vry wll thn. t smd lk gd tm t pnt t prblms wth th tw-prty systm. Sms nbdy s mch ntrstd, s ws wrng.


Whch llstrts my pnt?


#84 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:40 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 69: "Nope! I'm gloating."

And good on you! It's really about time for America to figure out that electing people who know what they're talking about isn't necessarily a bad thing. Refraining from gloating really didn't succeed at that.

(I am reminded of the West Wing episode about Bartlett's presidential debate: "Well, all the polls said that he was going to be perceived as elitist and conscending no matter what he did. So we figured, might as well get some good, elitist punches in." Or something.)

Ursula L @ 70: Cake! Internets! You win it all.

I tried to write that comment several times, and failed. The words out of my mouth, except better.

Sten @ 71: "When I look at Republicans versus Democrats, I don't see Bad versus Good. I see Pretty Bad versus Somewhat Bad. And I'm just not willing to throw my votes to Somewhat Bad simply because it might(?) aid in the effort against Pretty Bad."

Honestly, I'm having trouble understanding where you're coming from. Are we even talking about the same Democratic Party? Are you seeing the candidates who are each pulling more primary voters than the presumptive Republican candidate? Did you notice the new activist groups, pumping money out to elect more and better Democrats? Have you heard about the new 50-state infrastructure going up? Are you seeing the nomination fight where every single Democrat had a nation-wide health care plan? Have you noticed the campaign that's pulling out youth voters in record numbers, that's blowing the competition out of the water with just small-donor contributions? Sure, one of them is suspiciously hawkish towards Iran, and iffy on Iraq, but did you notice how she's losing?

I'll grant you the buffet analogy. Fine, whatever. But even granting the case, that's simply not what's going on right now. The Democrats are set to push the national discourse substantially to the left for the forseeable future, on issues ranging from healthcare to foreign policy to education to alternative energy. I don't care where you stand on the liberal spectrum--you could be a blood-red Communist, or you could be Jim Webb, and you STILL ought to be excited about what's going on right now in the Democratic Party.

Your rap was a lot more persuasive back in 2000.

#85 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:45 AM:

Paul A #78: As I recall, the classic blunder was 'a land war in Asia'. George is involved in two, including Afghanistan which has managed to baffle the Tsars, the British Raj, and the Soviets.

#86 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Terry @8: Prolonged applause is all that seems relevant here. Serious contender for worst president, sure, but to a degree I concur with later commenters that comparison is probably impossible in the end. Worst president in living memory, certainly.

Sharon@22: Agreed, and as a subject rather than a citizen I had to put up with the Queen's PM licking Bush's feet for years, so I don't like that much. But presidents are, alas, elected for their citizens, not the world, so should be judged foremost on their effect on their citizens. (I wish this was not so.)

Carl@23: There's one consolation: if Bush tries to destroy the world, on past form, he'll screw it up. However, he isn't aiming to destroy the world: he's aiming to benefit himself and a small coterie, as you pointed out, so he might just succeed :/

Paula @33: Interesting. Long-running administrations tend to burn through their best people: is this a sort of dark mirror of that?

Stephen@53: That's a killer argument. I consider my point refuted. I learned a lot, though, so my usual strategy of talking as if I *know* what I'm talking about (especially when I don't) is confirmed! :)

James @69: `Anything other than voting for the Democrat rewards Bush and the Republicans' says as much as anything about what is wrong with the US electoral system. There's a lot of things you can call an electoral system like that, but 'democracy' isn't one of them.

#87 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:51 AM:

"They're not people. They're Democrats!"
- a presumed Republican in The Day The Earth Stood Still

#88 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Nix #86: The various British Nationality Acts since 1948 have legally altered the meaning of 'British subject' Citizens of the United Kingdom are no longer mere subjects.

#89 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:01 AM:


Just FWIW, we've had a few flamewars about third party voting around here. Probably the majority (but far from unanimous) opinion seems to be that voting for third parties is bad, though since I'm one of the minority who thinks it can be perfectly sensible in many cases, I'm probably the wrong guy to make their arguments for them.

One thing that strikes me about your comments, though, is that you're responding to the smarminess of politics and politicians with a sort of resignation--not so much saying "I want to build a different party to take over from the Republicans" or "I want to turn the Democratic party into the kind of party it should be," but rather "A pox on both their houses; there's not much point being involved given the lousy kind of people who get elected."

Now, that last attitude might be sensible, but it has a cost. If the good people all disengage from politics because it's too dirty and ugly, politics isn't going to go away--in fact, it's likely to become even dirtier and uglier.

The other side of this is that neither party is entitled to anyone's vote. All kinds of partisans make some kind of argument as though they are--if you're black and vote Republican, you're an "Uncle Tom"; if you're a woman, you're Hillary's; if you're an evangelical Christian, your vote belongs to the Republicans, and you'd be betraying them by voting for a Democrat. And so on.

The parties encourage this belief because it keeps them from having to do anything for people whose votes they "own." Democrats running cities, states, and the federal government "own" the votes of blacks. So they can pretty much ignore issues that are important to blacks--where are they gonna do? Vote for Republicans? Similarly, the Republicans "own" the votes of evangelical Christians. So they must pay all kinds of lip service to those guys, but they need not do much to further their agenda--why bother? They've already got those votes.

#90 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:08 AM:

Sten @83
Very well then. It seemed like a good time to point out problems with the two-party system. Seems nobody is much interested, so I was wrong.

As someone who is generally a proponent of a multi-party system, dislikes (to a greater or lesser extent) both the Democrats and the Republicans (for some reasons that are the same, and some reasons that are different, for each party), and has argued your position, some time ago...

...really, you don't need to go there. You have fallen into one of the three classic blunders of Making Light (the first is being a troll, sockpuppet or astroturfer. The second is gnu control.) which is election strategies, voting tactics, and 2-party versus multi-party systems and debating the merits of same.

This has been discussed. ad nauseum, on Making Light, on its predecessor, and on rec.arts.sf.fandom, which many of us frequented Back In The Day, (and some still). It is something that some people here have very polarized and extreme opinions on, and are unlikely - nay, in some cases unwilling to the point of impossibility - to be moved or swayed on. It tends to generate much heat, and not much light anymore, at least here.

It's not that we're not necessarily interested. It's that we've seen the argument again and again, and watched it spiral into giant sparks (if not outright flames) again and again.

#91 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Nix @86: There's a lot of things you can call an electoral system like that, but 'democracy' isn't one of them.

I think your definition of 'democracy' is much more like what folks call 'both-sidism'. A democracy does not have to provide voters with at least two reasonably good choices. It's nice when that can happen, but there's no guarantee. A democracy is only as good as the members of each party make it.

At this time, we have one major party that is unusually corrupt and incompetent, and happens to be led by the worst president in American history. There is another party that happens to be unusually clean, at this time, and is gearing up to fix things. The choice is very clear.

However, I'm not sure I can agree with Jim that intelligent people will do the right thing. My experience, especially lately, is that people use their intelligence to justify what they have already decided based on their emotions, prejudices, and imagined self-interests. Also, as much as we value intelligence, what we really need is wisdom.

#92 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:40 AM:

Fragano @35 Incitatus was consul.

Was he? I seem to recall that he was designated consul for a future year but never took office, either due to Caligula's death, or because it was actually a bizarre but pointed political maneuver in Caligula's feud with the senate. Depends on how mad you think Caligula was.

Either way, thanks to Bujold we at least know how he would have voted.

And Fragano again @85 - assuming we aren't using Tamerlane and Genghis Khan as models for victory in Afghanistan, has anyone considered Alexander the Great's solution?

#93 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:50 AM:

The problem I have is not with voting for third parties, but with voting for third parties at the Presidential level, when the third party is otherwise politically ineffective.

To have an effective third party, it needs to start at the local level, electing people who can get experience, work with the major parties on issues in common, and develop an effective organizational power.

A party that works primarily to run Presidential candidates, without the organizational support to back them up, isn't a potentially effective third party. "President" is not an entry-level job title, and a president that doesn't have party connections with anyone in Congress is almost certainly going to be useless, or worse.

Even if the answer to "Is this candidate working for changes I approve of?" is "Yes", it doesn't do much good if the answer to "Will this candidate be able to implement the changes I want if elected?" is "No." And without doing the work to establish a political base in the states and in Congress, the answer to that question for a third-party Presidential candidate will almost always be "No."

If you want to support third parties, then go to their organizational meetings, and when they're talking about running someone for President, ask what they're doing to ensure that the President has effective support in Congress if elected. If they think that electing a President, alone, will somehow bring about the changes they want, then find a more realistic third-party, or work to change their attitudes and methods.

In the meantime, don't let a the Republicans continue with the madness that has led us into the immoral mess we are in now.

#94 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:52 AM:

I'm waiting for W's memoirs, and if it will come with a box of crayons.

#95 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:00 PM:

92: And Fragano again @85 - assuming we aren't using Tamerlane and Genghis Khan as models for victory in Afghanistan, has anyone considered Alexander the Great's solution?

I've heard it suggested by historically-minded army officers, yes. Though this may just be because they've realised how attractive Afghan women are.

I think it might be tricky to make it mandatory (as Alexander did) but couldn't you encourage it? Say, with cash bonuses? Or, better, a stipend, paid annually as long as the couple remained in Afghanistan rather than moving back to the US? You'd have to get the American spouse to convert to Islam, too.

#96 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:00 PM:

#71: I realize that the old argument, "A vote for a 3rd party, or a non-vote, is the same as a vote for the Republicans!" applies here.

But I've never thought that argument held much water, because it's used by both sides to line voters up along artificial ideological fences that would not exist if we had a more robust small-party system in the U.S. that could cut the Democrats and Republicans down to size.

This is kind of like saying "I know people say I should see a doctor about my sprained ankle. But that argument is used to funnel patients into primitive treatments that would not exist if we had medical nanobots capable of rebuilding damaged ligaments into healthy tissue."

If the existing political system doesn't represent everybody, things can be done to change that--building third parties from the ground up, starting with small local elections; advocating for instant runoff voting. In the meantime, we have to work with the political system as it exists now.

#97 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:16 PM:

Neil Willcox #92: Depends on whether you trust Suetonius or not, I suppose. A quick check shows that Dio Cassius states that Caligula had promised to name Incitatus consul but didn't get around to it.

Caligula, at least, did not send his army out to try to occupy Mesopotamia.

Alexander's approach? Marry his officers to their women? Are you thinking in terms of a Bactrian kingdom to come, perhaps?

#98 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Ginger, or anyone else who might know about FEMA and LA:

I'd very much appreciate any information anyone can dig up about the feds limiting the local government's power or making it seem like it was unnecessary/unwise/difficult for the local government to plan independently.

I've a few conservative friends who have been waving the "Laws said that it was the state's responsibility" flag for so long that I started to believe it might have some validity. One of them even argued that it was illegal for FEMA to offer help until the Gov asked for it, and she didn't ask for it, so she didn't get it. I've been somewhat powerless to combat that kind of crap.

I can find plenty documentation on the failures of things, but very little on the legal/pseudo-legal implications of federal and state separation. Maybe I can google fu a bit stronger now, based on some of the information provided.

#99 ::: Chris Adams ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Bush wins easily because he's launched far and away the most direct attack on the actual concept of the United States with his arguments about executive power - from major issues like oversight and torture to minor things. We've had corrupt and incompetent presidents in the past but I can't think of a precedent for anyone directly asserting that the other two branches had no authority over him or that constitutional rights were only advisory.

#100 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Well, for the major third party groups, you've got Ralph Nader if you're a Green Party member, or Bob Barr if you're a Libertarian Party member.

Even if I was inclined against Obama because of a desire to see an end to the two party system, I'd go back to Obama because he's actually much better than either of those two.

My desire for voting for something approximating a decent human being overrides my desire to "send a message" to the two party system. Neither Barr nor Nader are decent human beings. Obama looks decent, despite some flaws.

#101 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Leah @ 98

She declared a state of emergency before Katrina hit. That should have been enough, in itself, to start things rolling.

However, this is the Bush maladministration, and we had Brownie running FEMA. I won't even mention George's actions (such as they were).

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:43 PM:

... if we had a more robust small-party system in the U.S. that could cut the Democrats and Republicans down to size.

And that, friend, is a might big if.

The United States was not founded so that Republicans and Democrats could wage an endless boxing match at the expense of the citizens.

But, given the Electorial College, that's what we have.

Not remarkably better. Not fantastically better. Just better by a tiny amount...

...which is, nevertheless, better.

If your buffet was the only buffet in the city, and the choice was one of those two dishes or death by starvation, which would you choose?

#103 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:49 PM:

"However, I'm not sure I can agree with Jim that intelligent people will do the right thing. My experience, especially lately, is that people use their intelligence to justify what they have already decided based on their emotions, prejudices, and imagined self-interests. Also, as much as we value intelligence, what we really need is wisdom.

Holy Crap, TomB@91. You just blew my mind. That last sentence in particular... "As much as we value intelligence, what we really need is wisdom." I think I need that on a T-shirt. I’ve been involved in a lot of D&D talk lately, to the effect that there is a reason INT and WIS are two different stats, and wisdom is currently underused and underrated. I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking on how it is possible to sound intelligent even when arguing from entirely wrongheaded positions. Hell, I’ve even seen a crop of humorous articles intersecting D&D with politics.

But the idea that the majority of current political discussion is based on intelligence rather than wisdom is such a huge revelation, the kind of revelation that rings so true that you feel stupid for not thinking of it before.

I think we have to remember, as a country, that wisdom shouldn’t be a dump stat. It also occurs to me that wisdom is quite often the stat you use to resist being charmed by something very unpleasant.

#104 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:49 PM:

On the subject of 'Land wars in Asia".

From Babylon 5's Ceremonies of Light and Dark;
Londo: Only an idiot fights a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts.

#105 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 12:50 PM:

Leah @98: I'll see if I can dig up the links to the PDFs. I lost all that information when my old computer died, so it may take some time. Actually, I just realized -- some of that might be in my LJ archive. I'll get back to you on that.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:23 PM:

Leah #103:

I also liked your comment distinguishing wisdom from intelligence. In fact, one thing I'd say characterizes modern "serious" political coverage is a focus on intelligence (really, verbal quickness) to the exclusion of wisdom, and also to the exclusion of knowledge and character. Someone like Rush Limbaugh had a very successful career by being intelligent--verbally clever--without drawing much on wisdom or deep knowledge, and without much commitment to intellectual honesty. The presidential debates are pretty much cleverness-fests for the candidates[1]. "Serious" guys like Chris Matthews or Bob Schieffer or Tim Russert aren't going to give you wisdom, largely because that's not what reporters are good at, and probably also because it doesn't come through well on TV.

I think the same disease afflicts a lot of social sciences; it's particularly easy to see in economics at times, and also (IMO) easy to see in much of what comes out of black studies and womens' studies departments--clever, almost "theological" arguments, of great depth and beauty, but without a hell of a lot of connection to the real world, and without much balancing common sense. On another level, you can see much the same with a lot of neocons' arguments--beautiful rhetoric, breathtaking images of the clash of cultures and the victory of Christendom Democracy, all with a great deal of cleverness, only an occasional connection to reality, and without a drop of real wisdom.

[1] That last Hillary vs Obama debate didn't exactly showcase the cleverness of the press, however.

#107 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:24 PM:

97: Alexander's approach? Marry his officers to their women? Are you thinking in terms of a Bactrian kingdom to come, perhaps?

Spot on, FL. (Rather than a Dravot/Carnehan kingdom, which doesn't seem like quite such a good precedent.)

#108 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Thanks for the (mostly) positive feedback, all.

Yes, I didn't consider that the members of this blog group probably go waaaaaaaaaay back, and have therefore argued (and re-argued) this kind of subject into the ground.

So the feeling of some might be, "Oh God, not this again!"

My apologies.

One thing....

I too was struck by Post #91, mainly because it hits upon something I have been pondering for a few years now: how we as modern humans seem pretty good at gathering huge gobs of raw knowledge and are very savvy at intellectual gain, but we seem to have lost the trick of taking both experience and intelligence, and melding them into that rarest of substances: true wisdom.

Shooting from the hip, I might blame it (in the U.S. at least) on how we no longer pay any attention to our elderly. Once you get past 65 it seems everyone assumes you are just 'in the way' and nobody seems to be doing much learning at the feet of their grandparents or great-grandparents anymore.

The U.S. is youth-obsessed to a fault and I think too many of us (myself included) assume too often that if you simply gather enough data, knowledge, intelligence, et al, that somehow this will produce good results all on its own.

Yet, as was noted, intelligence all by itself can be used in several different ways, and to different ends. And often times very, very bright people can make decisions that, in hindsight, seem awesomely dumb.

(my wife would happily corroborate the last sentence above, heh!)

#109 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:44 PM:

James D. Macdonald #69: "Anything other than voting for the Democrat rewards Bush and the Republicans. Intelligent people won't do that."

Even I agree with this, and I'm your local anarchist-in-the-woodpile.

#110 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 01:47 PM:

there is a reason INT and WIS are two different stats...

Intelligence is the ability to learn from one's mistakes. Wisdom is the ability to learn from other people's mistakes.

...and wisdom is currently underused and underrated.

I think Wisdom and Charisma both got huge boosts when they became key abilities for types of spellcasters...and heck, Cha isn't even the key ability for any saves. (Unless you meant "underused and underrated in real life", in which case, yeah, preach it.)

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Paul A @ 78

Maybe Shrub blew that one too. By any chance is the prosecutor in the CIA kidnapping case in Italy a Sicilian?

#112 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 02:40 PM:

#66: Hey, Dusty! Fancy meeting you here...

rm, #67: Nice!

albatross, #89: Yes, voting for third parties can be sensible under certain circumstances. I routinely do so at the local level, and sometimes at the state level.* Where it doesn't make sense is under the circumstances we have right now at the national level.

The one thing we, as a country, absolutely cannot afford at this point is to tell the Republicans they have carte blanche to continue destroying America. (We couldn't afford it in 2004 either, but we did it anyhow and look what happened.) For that reason, anyone who seriously makes the "I have to vote my conscience" argument about third parties in the upcoming Presidential election is effectively demonstrating that they have no conscience -- that they are content to see their country, and mine, destroyed for the sake of their ivory-tower elitism. And anyone who seriously makes the "there's no difference between the two parties" argument is either just plain stupid or wilfully blind... or, perhaps, not a member of any group that's going to notice the differences; privilege can be crippling in so many ways.

* Because of that whole building-from-the-ground-up thing. No third party is going to be able to make a viable run at the Presidency until they have the local and state supporting structures in place, which is where both the Libertarians and the Greens are currently fucking up. Top-down thinking is good for programming but lousy in politics.

#113 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Sten: Who do you think should be running?

The guy who had all the answers; was crucified. Eight years on and we still hear how dull he was (who cares). At the time his military service was ignored (or maligned) and we were told what a great guy to have a beer with the other fellow was.

Four years ago the experienced guy, who was a war hero, was painted as a scheming vacilator who lied; while the guy who seems to have skipped out on his obligations, the same way he skipped out on the war, was painted as a war hero.

Two candidates each with experience (one at the state, one at the national level) ran for office. They came out ahead of the guy with a case to make (Dodd) that the present occupant has hurt the fundamentals of the system, and the guy who was running on Ideals (Kucinich) and the rich guy who made it all working for the underdog, and actually talking about the economy, and class and the way the meta-system is screwed up.

And they have energised huge swathes of the country to get off their butts and actually vote.

Some of that is the reaction to the guy presently in the office, but a lot of it is actual hope, and desire to be involved.

I have seen more yard signs, bumper stickers and involved people, in the early stages of the campaigns, this year than in... hell I don't know how long.

If that's the apathy you are afraid of... bring it on.

If that's the fruit of, "identity politics"... bring it on.

If half the new voters who registered in this primary season stay voters... bring it on.

If a small percentage of them become aware, and active, and vocal... BRING IT ON.

But whining that this isn't the time to have an "x" candidate (or debate) because some chunk of the voters won't like it, and they will stay home... that's a plea for the status quo. It's a statement that the people who don't like change ought to be allowed to drive the bus.

It's concern trolling; of the real world.

And the "few intelligent people" feel a lot like the lurkers in e-mail.

I'd like to see a better system, but your buffet analogy has a flaw... when that's the only place in town... not eating means you starve.

But that debate (how to build a better party, and where to spend the effort) is also old hat. For whatever reason, the Greens, Libertarians, Reform etc. have not managed to make it to the national stage as players. Until they do (which requires taking small bites at the apple, not trying to swallow it whole every four years) it's not good for the nation to vote for them.

One can salve an ego with the idea that one was true to oneself by voting for the "best" candidate. But you know what... I'd wager the Dems could have run Kucinich, and the purists would still have been appalled; because they won't like whomever the Dems run. Being selected to run as a Dem would taint them (sort of the way "real music fans" get upset when the little band no one else had ever heard of gets a record deal... they turn their backs on them because, "they sold out.").

So color me unimpressed with the idea that this is a poor selection of candidates, and choosing one of them to run is a bad idea.

It might be that this is the best year, because some of the crap an Obama, or a Hillary Clinton would get if the Republicans had run a more moderate candidate than McCain, to follow a more moderate President, is negated by just how bad it is, so they will get four years to show that, "identity" politics (unlike "real Americans, from the heartland" politics) isn't the disaster it's been painted.

That maybe it's not the depth of his tan, or the tits on her chest which makes them decent candidates, but what they plan to do.

#114 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Sten @ 108

While I entirely agree that we don't show enough respect to our elders and to history, your post reminded me of this great comic about 'wise old advice.'

On politics in general, I think it's very impractical to throw large amounts of money and effort at big races you have no chance of winning, when throwing that same amount of money at small races that you could actually win would put the country on a much better path to change, and would raise your chances of being able to win the big race someday.

If we had more people like Bernie Sanders and fewer people like Ralph Nader, I think we'd be a lot farther ahead in terms of diversifying the system and enacting actual political change.

#115 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:04 PM:

Ginger #51

One of the most cogent episodes of Katrina, Profile in Federal Malfeasance, was the photo-op and consequent farces of the Chief Thief which feature Air Force One and complete self-contained life support, generator for lights, lighting, and entourage of appartchiks and minions including catamites press fawning so-called reporters flown in, for Chief Thief to make a pretentious politically appealing speech.

As soon as the speech was over, Chief Thief and all personnel and facilities decamped, including the power generator, despite the fact that New Orleans' power generation facilitie were almost all still offline and inoperable

Yep, Chief Thief's swindling sleazy scumbag stagesetting associates came in, set up a stage complete with lights and power, against the backdrop of a devasted city with its infrastructure offline, the services down including power and light, ran the photo op and media circus, then removed everything, a show at taxpayer expense which did NOTHING beneficial to aid catastrophe victims, get the power and light and services back running in New Orleans, and cost the taxpayers an unknown large sum of expense for the grandstanding. New Orleans needed generating power on-line. Chief Thief added insult to death and destruction coming in with a generator to use strictly for showing off his grandstanding, and then taking it AWAY, leaving New Orleans literally in the dark before and after.

The graft and corruption in awarding contracts to do-nothing-constructive political cronies, giving rebuilding which didn't re/build much for anyone except the affluent's homes and their commercial establishments jobs to undocumented workers from south of the national border, the incompetence and bad designs etc. etc. etc., are all significant, but to me, the that one particular oeuvre, of the Chief Thief coming in for photo-op speech with all the equipment and sets hauled in for staging the event, and than everything hauled OUT again, leaving behind no supplies, no power generator, no fuel, nothing except essentially -spite- and disregard and disrespect and a foul taste of exploitation, is a cypher for the entire abominable malfeasant situation.

#116 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:08 PM:

I've been starting to feel like I was losing my mind, because a lot of the feminist bloggers I have deep respect for are strongly arguing that they won't vote for Obama because he has said sexist things, and some of his online supporters have been dreadfully sexist. They reject out of hand arguments about how voting third-party, not voting, or voting for McCain will all have the same deleterious effect on the country.

As I say, I have a lot of respect for these bloggers, but I really can't see why that argument should be rejected out of hand. I've certainly seen that it matters. At 18, I believed in "voting my conscience," and I saw where that got us.

And yeah, I understand and SHARE the frustration with the sexism that's been leveled at Hillary Clinton. It makes me sick and mad. I am a woman; I'm all too aware that what's said about her could easily be said about me. (I'm also frustrated with the fact that some ignore the racism that's been leveled at Obama, or outright deny that it has.) And I understand the frustration of feeling like no candidate really, adequately represents the policies you'd like to see.

But the fact is that real things are at stake in the choice between Democrats and Republicans. It's really messing with my head to see people I know are intelligent, politically aware, and not ivory-tower elitists insist otherwise.

There are ways to send a message to push the Democrats left. I'm all for it. Writing, calling, and otherwise agitating for progressive causes is one. Electing progressive candidates, including third-party candidates, at a local level is another. Voting is far from the only way to express a political preference or bring about political change.

As things are now, causing the Democrats to lose by withholding your vote -- no matter where else that vote goes -- isn't going to send them a message to move left, to earn your vote. What they're going to see is simple. Democrats lose, Republicans win. The obvious message to draw there is "Act more like Republicans to win more votes." This is exactly the opposite message that people want to send -- and it's also a political failure, as we've seen.

I consider voting to be kind of like training an animal. You positively reinforce steps in the right direction until they get to where you want them to be. So even if Obama or Clinton isn't progressive enough to suit you -- a point of view for which I have some sympathy -- you positively reinforce the step to the left by voting for them. And then you agitate, make your voice heard, so that they hear specifically how you want them to move left.

It's an iterative process. The feedback and control system is a bit wonky, as well as being coupled to the system we're trying to control (because elected officials run the voting, in every way from giving Diebold the contract, to determining how districts are drawn), so we have to proceed carefully.

#117 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Terry #113:

Is there any hard data on what fraction of new primary voters are coming in because of identity politics, and what fraction are coming in because of either excitement with new candidates or outrage at the current administration? I suppose a good first cut would be to look at how voter turnout at Democratic primaries has changed for white men, since white men are *always* running for president, but black men and white women haven't made credible runs for president before.

There's a problem looking at numbers from later primaries, since this is a very unusual year--the late primaries mattered. I suppose you could adjust for that imperfectly by either:

a. Just looking at turnout for the primaries up to Super Tuesday.

b. Looking at the ratio of turnout of white men to blacks and women over many primaries past and present. (The goal is to see if the increase in turnout in, say, Ohio, was more pronounced for blacks than whites.)

I'm sure someone has done all this analysis, somewhere....

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Lizzy #57

Who was it who wrote Blinded by the Right?
McClellan seems to be a cookie cutter repeat.

I didn't buy THAT book, either, feeling that "repentance after the fact" fail my gauge regarding contributing any of MY income to a lousy stinking rat who gnawed through and shat all over and destroyed what I value.

For that matter, I feel the same way about books such as Brutal which is one of the books out written by accessory to murder scum associates of Whitey Bulger with co-authors, relating their depravities and telling the world how irate they are at having been stabbed in the back by Bulger... that Bulger while telling them to never play informant and collaborate with law enforcement, was at the same time a cossetted and protected FBI informant, who over time was handing over his associates to the FBI.

At least one of the accessory to murder scumbags is sorry not for being a sociopath, but because he trusted a hypocrite who sold him out....

I had to stop reading I think it was Brutal halfway through--I had to keep reminding myself, This is not fiction and the sheer depravity of the events AND the attitude of the author... I couldn't take any more of it.

I was reading it in a bookstore--no money of MINE was/is going to go to those swine. (I don't know the results of the lawsuit against the authors of at least one of the books, by the relatives of at least one murder victim that the author was involved in burying secretly....)

#119 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:22 PM:

I've heard that a number of conservatives are still in high dudgeon about McCain getting the GOP nod, and state that they will refuse to vote because "he's just another Democrat!"

If the number of Republican voters staying home equals the number of Democratic voters avoiding the election, is it a wash? :) In effect, they're canceling each other's non-votes.

#120 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:23 PM:

ISTM that some large fraction of alt.callahans' regulars wind up here sooner or later. There's a similarity in the community that goes much deeper than just a shared interest in SF and politics and science.

I suppose that, now that abi is both a bouncer and providing music (often in jam sessions with the regulars) she's in the Fast Eddie role. Certainly, having bouncers is a necessary part of having this community, and you can see that in the differences between alt.callahans and here.

#121 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:33 PM:

#118: David Brock wrote Blinded by the Right, and, while I agree that most of the books of that genre are self-serving crap, Brock has gone on to be an activist against the right via his organization Media Matters For America. His conversion looks to be sincere.

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Brock (Blinded by the Right) seems to have been an honest screw up. He was a believer, then he was co-opted (into doing bad things for "good causes") and then he saw what he was doing ,and gave it up.

And went on to try (as he saw it) to make amends by working against it.

There are those who have honest changes of heart.

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:57 PM:

One problem with waiting for a party or a candidate that you can vote for with a whole heart is that the process is designed to make both the candidates and the parties look absolutely monstrous.

Only the most ruthless and driven people make it into the primaries. They have to have insane focus and energy to get to that stage. Then the background digging starts, to find anything that they ever did wrong (and focused, energetic people often do leave a lot of collateral damage in their wakes). Then the spin and the invention begins, just in case the bare truth doesn't sound bad enough.

No one looks good under that kind of spotlight. No one. If you took a third party candidate and pointed that much energy at them, you'd hear about as many failures and faults, sins of omission and commission, as you do in the mainstream candidates.

Most of the people I love and respect in this world would not pass that kind of muster. People I would trust with my life, my wallet, my children, my passwords, or any combination thereof—they would fail. I would certainly fail.

Does that mean that all the candidates are equal? Of course not. But even the good people look pretty grubby after a turn at mud wrestling.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:57 PM:

albatross @ 120... abi is both a bouncer

What a scary concept.

(And did you know that one of AstroCity's minor crimefighters of its early 1960s era was called the Bouncing Beatnik?)

#125 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:00 PM:

Blinded by the Right is Brock's mea culpa. He says very clearly that he was wrong and that he knows he can't be forgiven for everything he did. I'm not expecting the same sort of honesty from McClellan -- the impression I get is that he's separating himself from Bush, not from right-wing conservatism. But I could be wrong -- I'd love to be surprised. I hope McClellan talks to someone like John Dean.

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Abi @ 123... People I would trust with my life, my wallet, my children, my passwords, or any combination thereof—they would fail. I would certainly fail.

There are no saints in America.

#127 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:03 PM:

albatross @120:
abi is both a bouncer and providing music

Thing is, I'm the softest touch and the biggest patsy of the five of us.

Cometh a troll, and Teresa will have collected the vowels and Jim sewn up the wounds without anesthetic while Patrick and Avram watch in calm approval, while I am still assuming that s/he is really just misunderstood.

On the other hand, if I get the blackjack out and start tapping skulls, you know that things are really bad.

#128 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:10 PM:

On Intelligence and Wisdom:

This morning, a local radio station interviewed Robert Burton, a neurologist with a nifty-looking book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not. I couldn't (yet) hear the whole show, but his starting point is that Certainty is a feeling, like love, hate, or pride*.

He gave an example of research (from one of my favorite research articles**) of people being certain that their own handwritten account of an event must be wrong, because it didn't mesh with their memories (that had changed over 18 months).

It seems to me that wise people can treat their own internal certainty as the emotion that it is. Certainty can be right, but it's always worth checking on it with other people***.

This ability to fact-check internal Certainty is independent of intelligence. But intelligent people could be prone to notice correlations between their sense of certainty and the results of their work, where results are explicitly tested (within one domain of their lives). They then might start trusting their certainty, wrongly reinforcing it in all domains of their lives.

* there can be obsessive certainty, like the woman who was certain she was dead.

** The Ecology of Memory--shows that flashbulb memories--intensely felt memories from a big event--can easily become mostly to entirely wrong (4).

*** similar to love and pride. I might be proud of a story I've written, certain that everyone will love it as much as I do, but that doesn't mean it is, in fact, a good story.

(4) An example is one I have: the common 9/11 flashbulb memory that one saw vids of the first plane on 9/11 itself, not later. All the knowing it isn't true hasn't yet made it feel less certain.

#129 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Serge @126:
There are no saints in America.

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples followed him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

Mark 6: 1-4 (KJV)
#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:20 PM:

abi @ 129... True. It seems to be even more true in America although I may be wrong. (Is an admission that one could be wrong a sign of wisdom? Or just that one is wrong?)

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:23 PM:

The bottom line is that people want saints, but, when someone shows up who is the closest to sainthood that they'll ever get, they tear that person to pieces.

#132 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Serge @130:
Is an admission that one *could* be wrong a sign of wisdom? Or just that one *is* wrong?

I think the admission that one could be wrong is a sign of greater maturity and wisdom than merely admitting when one is wrong and assuming one is right the rest of the time†.

As I have spent more and more time in one field—software testing—I have begun to acquire what feels like the very beginning of wisdom. And the first lesson to crystallize is that the true answer to every question in the field is "It depends." (True mastery is knowing what it depends on, of course.)

† I could be wrong about this, of course.

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:37 PM:

abi @ 132... the true answer to every question in the field is "It depends."

My boss hates it when we say that.

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Serge @133:
My boss *hates* it when we say that.

Ever want to make a boss's head explode?

Start listing your assumptions in every document. I did that for one messy project. Every time the boss would make some airy-fairy statement that boiled down to how toast was going to start landing butter side up 100% of the time, I'd add it to my assumptions list.

Then when it all went wrong I could point to the list and the butter stains on the rug.

People think that correctness is Boolean: you're right or you're wrong. That was the project where my manager learned of the third value: bloody right, damnit*.

* He swore a lot. He was from the North of England, where the letter "u" is pronounced in a distinctive fashion. My foul language has never recovered.

#135 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:54 PM:

abi #134:

"So, what you're saying here is, if antigravity, working fusion generators, and sentient computers are invented in the next five years, this project will turn out to have been at least possible to complete, right? Great, good to have your buy-in! We're freezing the code in six months."

Kathryn #128:

Spider Robinson sometimes uses the phrase "I might be wrong, but I'm certain" to capture this feeling. I've had the experience, when looking back at my transcript at some point, of realizing that I had mixed up the sequence of events in pretty big ways for some of my own memories. What a weird feeling!

#136 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Re #103 (intelligence/wisdom):

In principle I'm very sympathetic to this line of argument. But the problem with this practically speaking is that a call for "wisdom" easily slides into a concern for "character" (note it did in #106)... which again in itself would be fine in principle... except that one of the key Republican strategies (for decades now) for winning elections when people disagree with them about the issues is to make the elections *not* about policy, not about ideas, not about what you'd actually do... but about "character". (Which could easily be "wisdom".) Which turns out to have to do with silly symbolic things like flag pins.

In other words, I can't imagine any way that asking for a greater emphasis on "wisdom" in this country would not, in practice, end up quickly further enabling the politics of symbolism and identity that has done so much to worsen our political discourse in recent elections.

Sure, there are proxies of various sorts, which seem to work best when focused on certain issues, e.g. Obama's insistence that what matters was his judgment on Iraq, which after all he got right and McCain (and Clinton, for that matter) got disastrously wrong. But this manages not to slip into silly symbolism by staying tightly tied to an issue.

So while it's a nice thought, I'm ultimately not sure it's wise -- or smart -- to drive our politics down that road.

#137 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:59 PM:

abi is more the Heeler, she nips and cajoles the rest of us into not needing to be bounced.

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 05:17 PM:

abi @ 134... My foul language has never recovered.

My favorite yearly review was the one with a criticism of my using the word 'darn'. I think it's because English is not my boss's native language. That means she goes straight to the true meaning of the word, without seeing the different degrees of intensity. Me, I've been living in an anglophone environment for so long that I don't bypass the intensity connotation.

#139 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 05:18 PM:

What really bothers me about Rove's comment (which I heard on our National Radio News program, which is portrayed as way too Liberal now that the Conservatives are in power - but it seems that the Government doesn't like their stance, no matter who the Government is. Somehow, that's comforting) is not that there was immediate spincontrol, not even that I could parrot it in time to the speech; it's that I finally think I Get It:

The only thing that matters is who says something. If "we" say it, it's right; if "they" say it, it's wrong. Not only that, but the converse implication applies: if it's wrong, then "they" said it. Rove's confusion is how one of "we" could say a "they" thing.

Note: Truth doesn' enner inuit. I see here and elsewhere (oh, and I believe myself - but then again, I *am* a left-wing moonbat) comments like "Yes, that's because us left-wing bloggers were actually *correct*!" But Rove's comment makes it clear, on the record, that what is correct, what is true, is irrelevant; it's only whether you're one of "us" or one of "them" that matters.

Unfortunately, from what I've seen of Democratic (capital D) demagoguery, the same applies; correlation between what is said and what is truth is a beneficial side effect, but not actually important.

Which I guess was Jon Stewart's point on Crossfire all those years ago, and Stephen Colbert's since day one. But I needed to get slapped across the face with the wet fish, I guess.

#140 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 05:19 PM:

albatross @135:
"So, what you're saying here is, if antigravity, working fusion generators, and sentient computers are invented in the next five years, this project will turn out to have been at least possible to complete, right? Great, good to have your buy-in! We're freezing the code in six months."

Yes, with the standard reply being, "If this is the future, where's my jet pack?"

One of my stated assumptions was that we would have a full complement of techies in our Edinburgh and London offices for the key month of July, 2005. I already knew that was false - the G8 was coming to Gleneagles. Bob Geldof had very kindly invited a million people to come visit Edinburgh in honor of the occasion. Between the security and the activists, it was clear that the Scottish end was going to be...distracted. I could not, of course, predict the English complication (Would that I could have, and not for the project).

People looked at me kinda funny by the end of that project. But in a trusting way.

#141 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Serge #138: Your boss would have preferred that you use 'patch', perhaps? Or 'sew'?

#142 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 05:51 PM:

I guess my biggest problem dealing with those voting for third parties in a national election has been my own inability to answer their arguments in as literate a fashion as I would like... Intelligence tells me what is wrong with the argument, but a lack of wisdom prevented the quick framing of a suitable reply.

This thread has has given me that, so for all of you who have been through it before, thank you for patiently going over it yet again. THAT pretty much encapsulates what I love about this blog.

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 06:02 PM:

abi 132: I think the admission that one could be wrong is a sign of greater maturity and wisdom than merely admitting when one is wrong and assuming one is right the rest of the time.

This is why one of I just realized that I'm collecting this list of short pithy advice-bits for the book-or-something that I'm working on, and haven't got a name for them. Admonitions? Reminders? Duh?

At any rate, one of them is "Question everything, doubt everything, except your own fallibility." (And yes, I'm aware that someone could turn out to be infallible, but I'll stick with this axiom-or-what-have-you until I meet that person...and I still think it would be good advice.)

I've noticed that people who are capable of absolute certainty are usually wrong. This is, I hypothesize, because once they have an incorrect assumption, they're quite resistant to changing it. Whereas the doubter is never quite certain, finds ways to check, and corrects when s/he discovers hirself to be wrong.

Doubt is intellectual humility. Certainty is a kind of hubris.

Correct me if I'm wrong!

#144 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 06:13 PM:

abi # 134

My boss said "put all the input files into..." So I did, including a 600+ MB Very Large Test File, into the folder for release testing for each release.... I got email saying to no longer put that file in for every release I run the tests that use it....

#145 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 06:30 PM:

re 143: The Notebooks of Xopher?

I suffer from the opposite problem, that is, an inability to muster sufficient confidence in my own observations and conclusions (and abilities, and knowledge) to push back against people who wrongly want to tear them apart. I'm always powerfully aware of the ways in which I could be wrong, and unaware of the ways in which I'm right. I've often wished for a sense of deep-down absolute certainty to call on in those times. But maybe it would do more harm than good.

It's damn tough to argue against someone who takes it as a given that they are thoroughly correct on all points, when you are considering how you may be wrong, though. See: the right-wing noise machine.

#146 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 06:59 PM:

On the dangers of strong confidence / certainty:

I first heard of Philip Tetlock through his Long Now lecture. (available for listening, and either/both the series and the summaries are worth an intake).

He wrote up years of research in Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton U.P., 2005) In it, he'd tracked hundreds of experts making thousands of predictions. He followed both
1. what were the predictions / how'd they turn out and
2. how confident they were in their predictions.
As summarized in the link:

"Only one pattern emerged consistently: 'How you think matters more than what you think.'

Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.

The aggregate success rate of Foxes is significantly greater... especially in short-term forecasts."

My takeaway is that both foxes and hedgehogs are smart, but it's harder for hedgehogs to be wise-- and it's very hard for foxes to get onto Fox.

#147 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 07:11 PM:

Abi @123
Which is why I haven't and won't run for office. Even at a local level, and I've been involved with political doings at the local level for some years, the spin on the truth is painful, and the spin on lies gets so tightly twisted, I'm surprised the rubberband doesn't break.

Thanks, but no. I don't want to live in that fishbowl.

#148 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:11 PM:

Fragano @ 141... Maybe I could test things out by saying "Bugger!", or by making mentions about being rogered, but I like being employed and remunerated.

#149 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:23 PM:

Fragano @97, Albatross @107 - I'm not seriouly suggesting marrying into the Afghan nobility, (although now I think about it, it might work). I'm more pointing out that Alexander, who was something of a military genius, spent three years trying to conquer the region and decided it was easier to marry Roxana.

Serge @126 There are no saints in America.

I'm now humming this to the tune of There are no Cats in America.

(It doesn't work because I refuse to change the next line - "and the streets are paved with cheese")

#150 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:37 PM:

The buffet analogy and the responses to it were helpful for me. My main takeaway point here is that my choices in the voting both affect other people in a way that my choices in the buffet line don't.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 149... it was easier to marry Roxana

Great. Now I want to watch The Man Who Would Be King.

#152 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:38 PM:

abi@132: the true answer to every question in the field is "It depends."

'The only thing I know is that I know nothing'

#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Allan@150: in a way that my choices in the buffet line don't.

Well, don't be planning on taking that last piece of fried chicken without a fight.

Just sayin ;)

#154 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:42 PM:

Serge @ 148: You could start responding to all instructions with a cheerful "Roger that!"

#155 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Xopher #143: On the contrary, a person who believes himself to be fallible simply cannot be infallible.

--albatross, off to go shave himself.

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 154... Hmmm. Maybe not.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:56 PM:

Albatross @ 155... Is that one of them paradoxes?

Kirk: Harry lied to you, Norman. Everything Harry says is a lie. Remember that, Norman. *Everything* he says is a lie.

Mudd: Now I want you to listen to me very carefully, Norman. I'm... lying.

Norman: You say you are lying, but if everything you say is a lie, then you are telling the truth, but you cannot tell the truth because you always lie... illogical! Illogical! Please explain! You are human; only humans can explain! Illogical!

Kirk: I am not programmed to respond in that area.

#158 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:29 PM:

albatross, with Occam's Razor?

#159 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 09:48 PM:

There's a joke I like to tell about my days in politics:

Q: You know what you are when you are absolutely right but cannot convince people to follow your recommendations, and later events prove you to have been absolutely, undeniably right?

A: Wrong.

#160 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:03 PM:

Seen elsewhere (not mine, alas):

Why do I keep conflating these two stories? Like, part one and part two:

Monkey's brain controls robot arm

Ex-aide criticises Bush over Iraq

#161 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:05 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 115: I'd almost forgotten about his effing photo op and disappearing supplies.

Serge @ 151: That movie was so enthralling that I still remember how I felt leaving the theater. Now I must remember to put it in my Netflix queueueueueueueue.

#162 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Caroline 145: Ah, but any virtue practiced to excess is an error. Don't forget to doubt them as well as yourself, and apply the same critical thinking you use to resolve (however temporarily) your doubts of your own position.

People who reason from the premise that they are right are never actually right except by coincidence.

albatross 155: Neither can a person who believes himself to be INfallible; but that is a human impossibility, not a logical one.

#163 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:10 PM:

On Certainty, Fallibility, etc, this has been noted, sadly, for some time

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. — Bertrand Russell

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
     WB Yeats, The Second Coming
It is also put clearly, passionately, and with references to its possible effects in the 'Knowledge and Certainty' episode of The Ascent of Man, by Jacob Bronowski; quoted in The Danger of Knowing for Sure, and here, as well as part of discussing 'Science', mostly under the heading "science as a candle in the dark".

There's even scientific studies of a related phenomenon. My link to this has gone dead, so here's info to track it down with.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - December 1999 Vol. 77, No. 6, 1121-1134
Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments
Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Department of Psychology, Cornell University

Paula L (#115) I'd heard about the photo fly-in/fly-out, but hadn't realised or heard before about the supplies brought, then taken away. It's breathtakingly contemptuous &/or blindly self-absorbed and arrogant. It smacks a bit of the Ancien Regime (sp?), who didn't even grasp the suffering and insults they spread on the people, until the reaction burst over them.

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 12:16 AM:

Ginger @ 161... Did you know that John Huston had been trying to make The Man Who Would Be King since the mid-1950s? If I'm not mistaken, he even had Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart ready to go. It's a shame it took him so long, but I'm quite happy that he wound up using Connery and Caine.

"Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for gettin' you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved to, on account of me bein' so bleedin' high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me?"

"That I can and that I do, Danny, free and full and without let or hindrance."

"Everything's all right then."

#165 ::: Charles ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:17 AM:

Jim, here are some incidents that people should be pondering:

1. Jeff Gannon
2. Trashgate
3. "Bozo" and "Ozone Man", not to mention rifling Clinton's passport files

The first one goes toward any claim that McClellan was disturbed by the propaganda. The second goes toward his claim on Olbermann that he thought Bushie was non-partisan. The third, same venue, the claim that Poppy Bush was just misled by hyperpartisan advisors.

#166 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:47 AM:

ajay @ 107

But I'd really like Dravot's ultimate fate to fall on the head (sic) of our Commander-in-Thief.

#167 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:53 AM:

Serge @ 164

I'm not at all certain about this :-), but I remember the story being that they had started shooting when Bogart got sick and they had to stop. And I seem to remember that Merle Oberon was playing Danny's Queen; which would have been a typically racist thing for Hollywood to do (can't have a white woman demean herself by playing the part of a savage native girl, what?).

#168 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:56 AM:

Peachy Carnahan @ 164

Now, Corporal, be so kind as to put the head down and step carefully away, keeping your hands in clear sight at all times.

#169 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:08 AM:

Serge @ 131: "The bottom line is that people want saints, but, when someone shows up who is the closest to sainthood that they'll ever get, they tear that person to pieces."

The Uncanny Valley of sainthood?

abi @ 132: "And the first lesson to crystallize is that the true answer to every question in the field is "It depends." (True mastery is knowing what it depends on, of course.)"

There are two principles which I hold to be true. One is that nothing ever gets better unless someone cares enough to make it better. The other is that attachment causes suffering, and detachment brings peace.

These are true things. I can point out innumerable instances that illustrate the truth of the first, and just as many illustrating the truth of the second. They are both true things, that guide almost everything I do--that have materially made me a better and happier person--and they are diametrically opposed.

This happens to me a lot. I like abstracts; they fit into my brain well. But sometimes I'll find myself making some abstract argument in one context, and then arguing the opposite side in another. It disturbs me. I like to think I have more intellectual consistency than that. But there it is: there are times when it is right to refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, and there are times when it isn't. A coherent philosophical rationale can be constructed for either side. Principle alone can't guide you. Even more important are the facts.

The question isn't: are epicycles an internally coherent and mathematically elegant system for governing the movement of planetary bodies? The question is: do epicycles accurately reflect reality? Because it doesn't matter how mathematically or logically pure an idea is if it doesn't map onto reality. Yes--both activism and acceptance can be useful tools. But knowing which to use can only be determined by examining each individual situation as it occurs.

Some wars are worth fighting. Some are not. Some short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term gains. Some are not. No principle is ever going to make it clear which is which.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

#170 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:13 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ #111: By any chance is the prosecutor in the CIA kidnapping case in Italy a Sicilian?

Sadly (or do I mean "happily"), it turns out he's from Taranto.

#171 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:19 AM:

J.D. Rhoades @ #66: It shouldn't surprise Scotty that they're running these plays on him. He helped write the playbook.

More on that theme from Michael Kinsley at Slate.

#172 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:36 AM:

Stephen Frug @ 136: "In other words, I can't imagine any way that asking for a greater emphasis on "wisdom" in this country would not, in practice, end up quickly further enabling the politics of symbolism and identity that has done so much to worsen our political discourse in recent elections."

I'd like to add that experience is a poor proxy for wisdom. This is a point that seems to me to be often lost. I've seen a lot more wisdom in the actions of the young than in the old--the young opposed the Vietnam war, championed the environmental movement, pushed back against globalism--really, it's hard for me to find a progressive cause that wasn't driven by the passion of the young. Too often, all experience teaches you is how to ignore what you don't want to see.

#173 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:44 AM:

heresiarch @ 169

The Four Noble Truths
1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. There is a gradual path to the cessation of suffering.
No human concept can map precisely to the behavior of the universe, so the question isn't whether epicycles accurately reflect the universe, but for what phenomena they reflect accurately enough to be of use. You can't ever be completely right, no matter how hard you try; recognizing that will save you a lot of useless epicycles.

So much for the philosophy, as for the mathematical physics, the universe is not analytical, and is algorithmically complex; computing its behavior can't take less time than the universe itself takes to perform ("compute" in a strong sense) the behavior. To compute any part of the universe perfectly will thus take an infinite amount of time, or at least more time than you've got.

#174 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:53 AM:

heresiarch @ 172

ISTM that a certain amount of experience is necessary for wisdom; if you haven't seen the elephant (or a photograph or a painting or ...) you can't know how it fits into the world. But there's no minimum amount of experience required for any given bit of wisdom, nor is there some minimum time required to incorporate that experience into wisdom. In fact, I don't think we know that much about what wisdom is, or how we acquire it. We've got a nice mathematical theory of information, some good hints on the nature of knowledge and how to acquire it, but not so much about wisdom. This bodes poorly for the "wisdom mining" some software startup was going to make a billion off of.

#175 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 03:14 AM:

CNN's Yellin: Network execs killed critical White House stories

On Wednesday night, CNN's Jessica Yellin talked to Anderson Cooper about Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir and agreed with the former press secretary that White House reporters "dropped the ball" during the run-up to war.

But Yellin went much further, revealing that news executives — presumably at ABC News, where she'd worked from July 2003 to August 2007 — actively pushed her not do hard-hitting pieces on the Bush administration. [UPDATE: Yellin now says it was MSNBC execs, not ABC]

"The press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings," Yellin said.

"And my own experience at the White House was that the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president, I think over time...."

But then a shocked Cooper jumped in, asking, "You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the president?"

"Not in that exact.... They wouldn't say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces," Yellin said. "They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical, and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes, that was my experience."

#176 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 03:37 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @128: obSF: I had been re-reading Larry Niven's Neutron Star collection recently, and this reminds me of the story The Handicapped.

The narrator has realized that the sessile Grog are projective telepaths. The facts they communicate are felt by the narrator with 'crystalline certainty'; a feeling which he instinctively distrusts. Emotionally, he trusts the Grogs, but makes plans in case that 'certainty' is misplaced.

#177 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 03:52 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 167:
And I seem to remember that Merle Oberon was playing Danny's Queen; which would have been a typically racist thing for Hollywood to do (can't have a white woman demean herself by playing the part of a savage native girl, what?).

I'm a bit confused: I thought the idea was that no one at the time knew that Merle Oberon was Anglo-Indian; as far as Hollywood and the general public were concerned, she was a "white woman".

#178 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:16 AM:

a typically racist thing for Hollywood to do (can't have a white woman demean herself by playing the part of a savage native girl, what?).


I don't think Hollywood had a problem at that time with casting white actors in non-white roles...

#179 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:42 AM:

Lin D #147: Which is why I haven't and won't run for office. Even at a local level, and I've been involved with political doings at the local level for some years, the spin on the truth is painful, and the spin on lies gets so tightly twisted, I'm surprised the rubberband doesn't break.

You are hereby Morally Certified to hold public office. Congratulations!

#180 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:57 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 167... They had started filming with Bogart? I didn't know. As or having Merle Oberon as Roxana, that wouldn't have been racist - wasn't Oberon half-Indian?

As for Dubya and heads...

"Billy Fish, do they always use such a big ball?"

"Depend on size of man's head. Big head, big ball, small head, small ball. That Bashki man. Oh big damn head."

#181 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Leah @98: Success! I found the old post with the links, so here we go:

Katrina Timeline

Talking Points Memo

More in the next post.

#182 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 09:52 AM:

A professional engineer commented on Katrina:
Thoughts on Katrina

Firefighters Thoughts

#183 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 09:54 AM:

From my post:

7th September, 2005. 4:21 pm. FEMA Federal Response Plan

Page one: definition of the Federal Response Plan (FRP): "The FRP may be implemented after a large-scale disaster has occurred or upon warning that such a disaster is likely to occur. In either case the fundamental assumption is that the situation has exceeded or will exceed the State and local governments' ability to respond and recover." I recall that Governor Blanco clearly stated in the State declaration of emergency that she expected this to be an overwhelming disaster."

That pdf link no longer works. FEMA doesn't know where I might find that information.

#184 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 10:32 AM:

Caroline #145
You're female unless you're using a pseudonym hiding your gender.... and girls have tended in the USA to have had all sorts of psychological traps inculcated in them, so that growing up into women, they/we wouldn't trust our own judgment on anything except doing domestic chores and needing a damned Alpha Master/Husband the Master to rule our lives and direct us and be the Judge and Arbiter for us. Other people were always put as More Important and More Deserving.

It's is a vicious trap, and one that has in the language of engineering, negative feedback--which in engineering terms, means that it's got a control loop on it that keeps it relatively stable and prevents breaking out/getting out of that performance/operations regime.... (positive feedback, in engineering, means that something that is moving starts going faster and faster and faster until it exceeds its structural integrity, or something that's heating up gets hotter and hotter until it combusts, or something that's getting colder gets colder and colder until catastrophe strikes, etc. Negative feedback limits how fast something goes and prevents it from stopping unless the conditions are appropriate to stop, keeps warm things warm and hot things hot and cold things cold, and promotes "stability." Positive feedback sends thing into "instability."

So, the engineering definitions, are somewhat different than the everyday ones, but are much more precise and and denoting of the results of "feedback."

Charles #165
Ah, yes, Mr Guckert, using the pseudonym "Gannon," so much more appealing than "Trotsky" for an alleged reporter... who was journalistic credentials consisted of being a catamite or procurer of catamites pandering to those with a hard-on for men in military uniform.... THAT story got BURIED and FAST when the truth came out.

Bruce #173 & #174
People design/make/conceive models. The Clockwork Univere was a model. "As in the heavens, so below" was a model. Quantum mechanics and mathematical modeling are models. Newtonian physics is a model. Musica Mundi was a model. National Instruments' LabView is a modeling system, and when connected up to sensors and actuators controlled by the computer LabView is running on, runs experiments and operations, with manipulating the model, manipulating reality... the same is true of buttons on panels where the buttons on the panel are operational parts of diagrams of equipment/systems/factory operations control systems....

Sometimes working with and manipulating models, provides rather accurate insight into Reality--Dirac's math model manipulations result in him calculating electron spin, about which he said, "This is beautiful, therefore it must be true" and as far as we know, it IS true. His model was accurate enough and with the fidelity, to unveil him a truth not previously known....

Symbol manipulation...
"And on that day, there will be one Lord, and [he and] his name one." -- an expression that the entity, and the symbol, are the same.

Ginger #183
Chief Thief & cronies obviously hired all those specialists in revisionism put out of work when the USSR came unglued, whose work was to doctor up old records to reflect the current Pravda order of predence--and those reworked official images which substituted A for B and F for G, etc. in pictures from particular years of the Soviet Leadership watching the May Day parade go past, and all the other records which got changed to "substantiate" the r/e/v/i/s/i/o/n/s lies.

#185 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 11:03 AM:

Serge #148: Being employed is important. As for being rogered... My older son's name is Roger, I'll have you know.

#186 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 11:05 AM:

Neil Willcox #149: I do have to point out that there is no Roxana for George to marry (and that Laura might object rather violently).

#187 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 11:33 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 184: I'm doing a Ph.D in (biomedical) engineering (as you may have noticed from the very tail end of my comment #116, where I started meandering off into discussion of voting as a wonky feedback system that's coupled to the system it's trying to control), so I understood what you meant about negative/positive feedback -- but thanks for such a concise and vivid explanation! May I borrow it the next time I need to explain the concept to people?

And as for the actual point -- yes, that's very, very true, and as you can see, it's still something I'm trying to fight out. I like Xopher's prescription to remember to doubt others as much as myself!

#188 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:12 PM:

As for people on the Left gloating - how many of us are happy that our dire predictions are proved right?

When you see disaster in the future, you hope to be proved wrong over time, if you're a decent person.

I suspect most of us aren't gloating because we'd much rather have been wrong. We'd rather that Shrub was a wiser and more catious man than we thought he was. We'd rather that when we thought he was lying about the reasons for war, it was, in fact, the truth, and we were in a justified war, rather than a crime against humanity. We'd rather that thing had gone smoothly, in spite of everything we thought was pointing to disaster.

The people on the far right see the left as gloating, because, were the situation reversed, they'd be gloating, happier about being correct than they are horrified at the terrible wrongs that have been done.

#189 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Londo telling Mr Morden what Londo wanted....

#190 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Some definitions I find useful:

  • Knowledge Facts. Raw data.
  • Intelligence How one manipulates knowledge. Problem solving ability.
  • Wisdom The ability to foresee the results of current actions.
  • Politics How groups of people decide on actions. Wants are infinite; resources are finite.

The important thing about knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom is that they are pretty much orthogonal; they're not connected.

Speaking of definitions, #173: "Suffering" is not a very good translation of dukkha. It's the term for a wheel with an off- center axle. So a better translation of the First Noble Truth would be:

Life itches.

#191 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Ursula @ #188:

I think you bring up a terrific point, about some people placing "being right" over the overall well-being of the country.

I think this is a pathological mentality shared by both the extreme Right and the Extreme left. And could probably apply to just about anyone who is strident or obsessive about a particular ideology.

If human suffering or woe helps them "prove their point", as it were, they get grins when other people are miserable, having a hard time, or even losing their lives.

Me, personally, I try to always hope for the best, even if "my" choice is not the choice of others. Ergo, even if "my" person I want elected, does not get elected, I still hope very much that the person who is elected, makes decisions that benefit the country and the citizens, regardless of which party they might belong to.

I don't like automatically assuming the worst, if I can help it. And I certainly don't take pleasure in "being proved right" if it means people are hurting as a result.

I'd rather be proved wrong, every time, in that regard.

#192 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Lighning @ 190 -

Life's an itch? And then you scratch?

#193 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:47 PM:

I think part of the reason we're gloating a little is that we keep thinking they'll have to admit we're right now! Or that next time, when we make our accurate predictions from the obvious facts, they'll listen.

We're wrong, of course. They'll never admit it, and they won't listen to us next time either.

But we're enjoying the fantasy for a little while. We're not gloating about the disasters themselves. I guess some of us are kind of hoping that the lying sons-of-bitches who got us into this mess will be torn to pieces by mobs composed of the very people who voted for them, or serve long prison terms, or at least be voted out never to return.

I'd gloat outright at any of those events occurred, but none of them is likely.

#194 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Just saw this Daily Howler article linked from Shakesville, and I think it's quite applicable to one of the conversations occurring in this thread.

Scroll down almost to the end to get to the good bit. Here's a taste:

Your culture—your post-Enlightenment culture—turns on a few basic notions. One such notion would be this: You aren’t allowed to make sh*t up. There are basic interpretive rules you must apply if you’re searching for truth—for the facts. And if you are a decent person, you won’t rush to imagine the most evil things about candidates you may not prefer.

Increasingly, those basic interpretive rules are honored in the breach. We’ll suggest you try to obey them:

No, you can’t read people’s minds (not reliably). If you intend to be even modestly decent, you can’t make up any “paraphrase” you like. You need to be especially careful when you tell us what someone “really” said. You ought to be especially careful about saying what somebody “meant” or “thinks.” (Or about reporting the “impression” they somehow “gave” you.)

It goes on. The specific example given in the text is Clinton's remarks about Robert Kennedy's assassination, but as Chet Scoville at Shakesville says, "the principles he articulates here have wider applications."

I think that's what I like so much about Making Light and its commenters. In general, people here attempt to write by these principles, and that keeps conversation civil and grounded.

#195 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:56 PM:

I just realized it sounds like I'm accusing someone here of making sh*t up. I'm not, at all. I'm commenting on the way the conversation goes here, as opposed to the way I've seen it go elsewhere.

#196 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 03:37 PM:

Lightning #190

Some definitions I find useful:

Knowledge Facts. Raw data.
Intelligence How one manipulates knowledge. Problem solving ability.
Wisdom The ability to foresee the results of current actions.
Politics How groups of people decide on actions. Wants are infinite; resources are finite.

I don't agree with the definitions--lots of people have memorized "facts" but have no "metadata" or ability to generate metadata... that is, me having a fact about a chisel "a hollow ground edge is a good thing to have on a chisel" says nothing about me having any -knowledge- of -how- to put a hollow ground edge on a chisel. (Actually, I know how to do that, but....)

Implementation and theoretical facts holding are two quite different things.

"Knoweledge" involve "domain" expertise and having linkages of the -data- into -information.

Datum--hollow ground edges are supposed to be good to have on chisels
Datum--hollow ground means that there is a concave shaping on the blade .
Datum--a grinding wheel makes a concave shape against a blade being sharpened with the grinding wheel
Datum--muy father taught me how to sharpen chisels using a grinding wheel.

Information: I have personal knowledge of how to put a hollow ground on a chisel. This is not the same thing as theoretical knowledge.

There are people who have knowledge who don't have data, that is, ask someone walking how it is that they are able to walk.... they probably have little in the way of information/knowledge regarding physiology that enables walking, but they do know -how- to walk. They have practical but no theoretical knowledge, and the "data" they have, is that they are able to walk. They don't really know -how- they do it, though (nor do they generally can unless a problem develops).

Wisdom--have clues that correspond to reality/about what is most of reasonable, sensible, and appropriate to do, and how things are likely to get received--and having the same clues about what is NOT reasonable to do and then NOT generally pushing for the unreasonable/harmful/etc.

"Wisdom" is what, for example, people who get disemvowelled, display a lack of!

#197 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 04:04 PM:

heresiarch 169: (discussing two true things): One is that nothing ever gets better unless someone cares enough to make it better. The other is that attachment causes suffering, and detachment brings peace...They are both true things, that guide almost everything I do...and they are diametrically opposed.

I don't see the opposition of these things. The person who cares enough to make things better must be attached, and must suffer. The detached person doesn't care about anything, and is at peace.

I don't see them as opposed. I see them as pointing to a conclusion: those who would do good must forego peace and incur suffering. Since this logical conclusion matches my observation of the real world, I think it's probably correct. People who do great things that actually transform the world (for good or ill) are generally pretty unhappy themselves. (I keep ALMOST falling into the trap of converting this into "my unhappiness is a sign that I'm Destined for Greatness." Doesn't work that way, alas!)

This is one reason I'm not a Buddhist, by the way. Attractive as I find it in many ways, the idea of getting off the Wheel of Karma as a goal is pretty much the opposite of what I want. I'll ride the Wheel as long as it rolls!

And if that means I suffer in lifetime after lifetime, then so be it.

#198 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:28 PM:

The difference between theory and practice can, as most of us are too painfully aware, be vast.

Hollow grinds on chisels are very slight, if one hears they are useful, and is only familiar with things like knives, one will grind too deeply, and the edge will break.

If one is only familar with the amount of hollow on a chisel, and atttempts to make a straight razor (which has a huge hollow, and symetric) one will not be able to shave a face (though an arm or leg may be happily depiliated).

#199 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Caroline @194: thanks for the Somerby article.

There's a line in there that's giving me chills:

The dead of Iraq stare up from the ground at many “imagined” Gore statements.

#200 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Xopher #197


Doc Edgerton (nventor of the strobe and many other things, Loch Ness monster searcher-for, underseas archaeology pioneer, sonar expert, teacher to generations of freshman because he wanted to teach freshman and extend his enthusiasm for discovery and investigation and invention and development to them....)
Henry Kolm (inventor of maglev, rail guns, co-inventor of mass drivers, and much else...)
Jacques Costeau
The two men whose home is the home site of the New England Wildflower Society, the property willed to the organization which at least one of them was a founder of....

#201 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 05:54 PM:

Paula, you list people who have made great contributions to changing the world, for good (maglev) or ill (rail guns). By calling them counterexamples you assert that they didn't suffer from the fact that they cared enough to change things; could you explain why you think they were all happy-go-lucky souls, or whatever you actually think?

I will refrain from saying that anyone who willingly teaches freshmen HAS to be a tortured soul, partly because I'd love to teach freshmen myself!

#202 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 06:17 PM:

Caroline@195: I just realized it sounds like I'm accusing someone here of making sh*t up.

Many of us here, do. In fact, we're professionals at it.

It's just that we take the trouble to label our efforts as fiction before we turn them loose on the unsuspecting world.

#203 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Debra Doyle @ 202: *laugh* Very true. Fiction is honest, though!

#204 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Xopher #201

While I never took Doc Edgerton's strobe lab class (big mistake on my part, but...), all the stories about him reflected him being someone who was NOT someone who was "suffering." He loved what he did, he did it all with gusto and enthusiasm and dedication and JOY and wanted others to feel the joy he felt.

The same's mostly true of Henry Kolm, someone I -have- known personally. There are things which annoy him--the policies and attitudes of that fellow in the White House, for example.

I had not known until a few weeks ago, that Dr Kolm was born into a Jewish family in Austria-Hungary which left just before the gates to hell slammed shut there for Jews. (I found that out of his website--which pulls no punchs. He and Ben Lax did NOT see eye to eye, and eventually he quit a tenured research position at MIT in disgust). But the fellow I knew was someone, again, who was dedicated, loved doing research and inventing and supporting other people to invent and build and make life better in the world--he was also a force behind medical magnet technology, without which there would be no angioplasty, etc.

My point is that there are people who have effected changes in the world for the better, who are people of happiness and joy and not -misery- and a surfeit of frustration. There are frustrations that happen in their lives, yes, but they are NOT icons of Marxist ideology in the sense of "permanent struggle" as an outlook on life.

Dirac said, "This is beautiful, therefore it must be true," is the sort of philosophy wherein someone finds reward and beauty for their own sake in their work--and professors and (former) MIT staffers such as Edgerton and Kolm, also found joy and reward in the achievements of younger colleagues they brought into their labs and students who studied in their labs.

#205 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Edgerton got extremely wealthy off his inventions and entrepeneurship activities. He could be doing anything he wanted with the fortune he built. What he did with it, was continue researching and inventing, and teaching, and as extracurricular activities, spent summers on archaeolgical expeditions in the Mediterranean (including doing underwater probes in Alexandria on the basis of psychics' sensings), Loch Ness Monster hunting expeditions, etc.

He was the antithesis of the Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears and John Belushis etc. of the world

#206 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Xopher #201:

I think there's a subtlety here. If you don't care about anything, you won't make anything better except by accident. That can happen, but it's probably not the way to bet. To the extent that you care about anything (your kids, your music, writing code, doing math, climbing mountains), you're likely to give up some peace of mind, because you'll be spending time fretting about how to get better at it, wondering how to get to that next mountain or how to help your son make more friends or whether a new approach might finally give you some hope of proving that damned theorem.

There's not any need for misery here. People making the world a better place can do it without being miserable, and suffering, while it can reveal nobility or even help develop it, has no inherent value. IMO, the folks working on all those Mars exploration missions are making the world (or at least the solar system) a better place. They had to spend a lot of time working and worrying and scratching their heads at really hard problems, but I'm not sure they were suffering or feeling miserable for most of that time.

Similarly, attachment to evil goals or ideas isn't going to make the world a better place except by a very lucky accident, and many of the things people are attached to are pretty much morally neutral. A deep attachment to being the best car racer you can be is admirable in its way, but I'm not sure how much better the world is made by your successes.

#207 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Paula Lieberman @189: Londo telling Mr Morden what Londo wanted....

I preferred Vir Cotto telling Morden what he wanted...

He got his wish, too.

#208 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:07 PM:

Paula@184: we [women] wouldn't trust our own judgment on anything .... Other people [men] were always put as More Important [than women].

Given the conversation evolved from the difference between emotional certainty versus objective correctness, I think your statements are a bit ironic in this context.

#209 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Paula #196:

I suspect that a real definition of any of these three is going to be hard. The folks who try to measure intelligence spent a lot of time on defining it, and as far as I can tell from outside, their definition ends up being, more or less, "it's whatever this thingy is that we're measuring by combining these postively-correlated test scores that also positively correlate with a bunch of stuff you'd expect to involve intelligence." (The "thingy" is called g, which may or may not exist, but which is kinda what some large set of IQ test designers/users think they're measuring. I think.)

I think wisdom winds up having many different components. One involves being a good user of a human mind, so that you recognize and correct for many of the built-in biases. Another involves not being so susceptible to the latest intellectual or social trends that you get swept away with all the others. Still another involves applying your own beliefs and experiences to new situation in a sensible way--probably, this is related to both age/experience and intelligence.

#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:25 PM:

Debra Doyle @ 202... we take the trouble to label our efforts as fiction before we turn them loose on the unsuspecting world

Is it BS or lying when both parties know that it's not true, whether it's fiction, acting, or stage magic?

"You lied to me!"
"I didn't lie. I was acting."
- Jennifer Connelly & Timothy Dalton in The Rocketeer

#211 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:26 PM:

Moksha is a spiritual state of being: Liberation from the world.

And I think it is possible to be liberated without actually leaving the world. Once you find your own personal peace, you will have a completely different relationship to the world, and what you do in the world.

Different from, for example, doing in the world in order to find peace. Or doing in the world in order to avoid the fact that you don't have peace. Or similar.

"wash your bowl" can be a complete different experience depending on whether you've found your own inner peace, moksha, satori, whatever you want to call it, or whether you're trying to find something external to fill the missing peace inside you.

There are times when I'm digging ditches that I feel completely at peace. (Slightly out of shape, but spiritually at peace.) And there are times when I'm working on some long, covoluted, complicated engineering design when I feel at peace. I recall the first time I "got" how to hover that all time seemed to disappear and there was nothing but "now".

And there are times when any one of these would be an expression of doing something due to a lack of inner peace.

Which is another way of saying that the spiritual and physical are orthogonal, but together create a space in which we can choose a whole bunch of different ways to live. But I don't think one neccessarily excludes the other.

#212 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:39 PM:

Paula: I don't know that having joy in one's life doesn't mean one is not suffering on other fronts. The suffering need not be mortal, grinding, pain, but it can be there.

By way of example I offer up myself. By and large (and day to day) I am, by and large, the sort of person whom one might describe as happy go lucky.

Certainly no one who doesn't know my online personae might think this, but on the subject of torture (where I have done my meager [for want of broadspread impact] best against it) I do suffer.

My attempts to improve the world on that front are because it pains the very center of my being, that it happens, and happens in my country; sometimes in ways which make it look as though I must be for it as well.

An itch can be small, and still consuming.

#213 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Xopher @ #197, IANA Buddhist, but I think the fact that they posit the existence of Bodhisattvas (beings who, having achieved enlightenment, voluntarily return to help others escape the Wheel) is worthy of consideration.

Paula et al: YMMV, but I don't equate suffering with being miserable. For example, my children bring me great joy, but "he that hath children hath hostages to fortune"; I suffer greatly when they are ill, or afraid, or in pain.

In other words, I agree with the Buddhists that attachment causes suffering; I just think it's worth it.

#214 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Serge: In your example (from the Rocketeer) it's not acting, because only one of the players knew there was a game involved.

If both parties are aware, then there is no deception, and QED, there is no lying.

Edge cases, (ObSF, Galaxy Quest) are where there was no intent to decieve, but the other party was; even absent the lack of intent, unaware that what was going on was false, are harder.

One person was deceived; harm may result, lying didn't happen.

#215 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 08:15 PM:

#210 Is it BS or lying when both parties know that it's not true, whether it's fiction, acting, or stage magic?

Please notice that stage magicians have nothing but scorn for the fakes who use the exact same techniques to achieve the exact same effects but try to convince people that it's real.

#216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Terry Karney @ 214... The moment I posted this, I knew that I was presenting Rocketeer's example in such a way that it wasn't saying whatI was trying to say. You said it better. (Sayeth Serge.)

In the case of Galaxy Quest, well, they did try to explain to the Thermians that none of this was real so, indeed, no lying.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 08:31 PM:

James Macdonald @ 215... Indeed. The tools aren't what marks something as a lie. It's the relationship being established between the parties involved. The Amazing Randi and his audience say to each other "We know this is not real", followed by "But let's pretend." There is no deception, no lie. It's the same situation with the acting in a movie. Meanwhile the "Mission Accomplished" theater used the tools of Theater, but one party'sd intention definitely was to deceive the other.

#218 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 09:01 PM:

One of the things that constitute attachment is the insistence that things not change, because we want them to stay the way they are. One common example could be a parent who cannot accept that their child has grown up and that aspects of their relationship will change, even though they are still parent and child. A child refusing to accept that it's time for them to start taking responsibility for their own life, instead of expecting to continue to rely on their parents for everything is another example. We get attached to what we are used to, and refuse to admit that nothing stays the same forever; sometimes it's not in the manner of the two examples I've given, but I imagine we can all think of times in our lives when trying to hold onto something and refusing to admit that wasn't going to work made more trouble in the long run than stepping back, accepting the change, and working with it would have.

"Attachment" can cover a lot of other things as well, but clinging to the circumstances we know and are familiar with is a form that often gets overlooked, because for most of us, "attachment" means loving people and valuing things, including ideas about how things should be--our ideals, I suppose you could say.

Consider how the attachment to petroleum and the failure to develop alternative sources of energy as rapidly as we should be is making things worse both in the US and abroad. Or how the unwillingness of a teacher, a school, or an entire school system to take the extra trouble to accomodate a child who was different made things worse.

#219 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 09:22 PM:

There's also the suffering that our attachment may cause others, even though we don't experience it as suffering ourselves. Consider the family of the person who is determined to be the best race car driver ever--the driver may be happy, but the family members may feel neglected and ignored.

For the sort of people Paula mentioned, there's also this (and Paula's examples are interesting to me, since my father was an academic): These people put a lot of time and work and energy into what they did, but they realized there would be times when the research did not go well, when administrators were a PITA, when they had difficult students to deal with*, or unpleasant colleagues that they had no choice but to work with. They accepted these challenges joyfully, and did not try to pretend they wouldn't be there; they didn't complain that it wasn't fair that they should have these things to cope with it. Think how much more they managed to do by this joyful acceptance, instead of wasting time and energy flailing around because their circumstances were not ideal every moment of the day. It's likely they didn't waste energy brooding about what might have been, or why a shiny apple turned out to have a worm in it, and so on, but let go of their disappointments and went on.

*For all the different values of this word you can imagine, and then some.

#220 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 11:40 PM:

#197 Xopher -- And now we see the insidious lure of what the Daily Howler article above was talking about... The automatic temptation to fill in the blanks however we wish (which would qualify as "Just making sh*t up") to come to a conclusion about a statement...

Look at what you actually said, "I don't see the opposition of these things. The person who cares enough to make things better must be attached, and must suffer. The detached person doesn't care about anything, and is at peace.

I looked at that as a simple and elegant way to condense a huge concept down to a single phrase (remember, "It's beautiful so it has to be right!"?)with the automatic assumption that any such condensation will not always satisfy every condition. I suspect that your definition of suffering and mine are fairly close (there is MY bit of Daily Howleresque hubris) so I believed I understood what you were trying to say, and thus found it true and useful wisdom (aaah, that undefinable quality, all attempts by D&D aside)...

But there's the rub... to make any meaningful conclusion about the truth of your statement, one has to load it with an assumption of the common definition of "suffering."

Paula, I'm going to mind-read and guess that yours and Xopher's definition of suffering didn't jive too closely, at least at first blush, and that set up the different truth values of the statement. The assumption of what encompasses suffering could, of course, totally change one's interpretation.

Using myself as an example... I love my work with the homeless alcoholic population. It brings me great inner peace and reward to do what I do, and it brings out what I consider my good side. In that respect, I resemble Paula's examples, deriving joy and (hopefully) giving back enthusiasm and an eagerness to pass along the positive aspects to the student nurses I work with.

But the suffering is there. When my clients fail to live up to their own goals and cannot break their addiction cycles, it hurts me too. There are frustrations with those who waste excellent minds by not even trying, or try to con the system and display contempt and entitlement at all of my attempts to help. When they die, it can hit like a punch in both the belly and the psyche. When this suffering finally builds up and gets to be too much, we call it Burnout, as do many other professions. We may still love our work, but...

To look at me from the outside, you would not see the suffering, the frustration, the intermittent feelings of impotency. I must be good at not showing it, because I hear about my "upbeat" disposition occasionally. I suspect even Paula's examples had some of this hidden suffering, which is what I assumed was part of Xopher's initial meaning of suffering. Did those seemingly irrepressible people show a different side in private? I'm betting yes, based on life experience...

The Howler article said we shouldn't make shit up. But doesn't this show that to some extent, no understanding is possible unless do exactly that (to some degree)? We have to try to "mind-read" or else demand perfect knowledge and explanation from those who make statements. We are what we are.

Sorry to ramble on, but this just seemed like a perfect vehicle to show how the idea of "making shit up" is damned tough to get around...

#221 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 11:51 PM:

Edward, my definition of suffering is closer to what I THINK you mean than to what it SEEMS Paula means.

Just being careful.

Keep in mind that a common challenge to a would-be initiate of my religion is "are you willing to suffer to learn?" Since IMO the goal of life is learning, and all learning involves suffering just a little (even if the suffering is overwhelmed by joy), I embrace suffering to that extent. I must.

#222 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 01:29 AM:

It occurs to me that one of the things McClellan's book is going to be used for is marginalizing the progressive activism of the last eight years. The Village can point to it and say that this is who told the world. They want us back in our closet, folks, and I don't see what, in the short term, we're going to be able to do about it.

In the long term, well, I'm still thinking about that. In immediate politics, I think we need to concentrate on the House. Obama doesn't seem to want to know us; it seems that, like most US pols these days, he wants to pick his voters. I think it's time to think about organizing, well, something, and maybe in a few days I'll have an idea of what.

#223 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 01:42 AM:

lightning @ 190: You might be interested in DIKW theory, which proposes a similar set of definitions.

Xopher @ 197: "I don't see the opposition of these things. The person who cares enough to make things better must be attached, and must suffer. The detached person doesn't care about anything, and is at peace. I don't see them as opposed. I see them as pointing to a conclusion: those who would do good must forego peace and incur suffering."

But once the good has been done, suffering is diminished, correct? So both are paths towards reducing suffering, but in diametrically opposed ways: one targets the cause of the suffering in the outside world, the other targets it within yourself.

Imagine a friend comes to you, complaining that their job is making them miserable. You could advise them to find a better job. Or you could advise them to learn to accept the crappy aspects of their job along with the good. You can't pursue both paths: the anger and discontent needed to drive change is incompatible with the acceptance that brings peace. You've got to choose one.

It's easy to misapply these strategies, to get upset about something you cannot change, or to become resigned to something that you can. That's why empirical knowledge is so important: without it, you cannot know when you are working towards an achievable goal, and when you are beating your head against a wall.

"People who do great things that actually transform the world (for good or ill) are generally pretty unhappy themselves."

I wouldn't say that that is so. Rather, I would say that they were discontent. There was something that bothered them about the world, which they were driven (not chose) to challenge. Whether they remain unhappy probably depends on whether or not they succeed.

#224 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 01:54 AM:

albatross @ 209: "I suspect that a real definition of any of these three is going to be hard. The folks who try to measure intelligence spent a lot of time on defining it, and as far as I can tell from outside, their definition ends up being, more or less, "it's whatever this thingy is that we're measuring by combining these postively-correlated test scores that also positively correlate with a bunch of stuff you'd expect to involve intelligence." (The "thingy" is called g, which may or may not exist, but which is kinda what some large set of IQ test designers/users think they're measuring. I think.)"

I find that the people trying to figure out intelligence from the ground up ("How can we make something from scratch that is 'intelligent'?")are much more interesting than those trying to do it from the top down ("Some people are smart, right? What makes them smart?"). The top-downers are teaching us a lot more about how culturally-biased our estimations of intelligence are than about what intelligence actually is.

Not long back, I stumbled upon this while pursuing an entirely unrelated google, and I thought it had a lot of really interesting things to say about what intelligence is, and how to create it.

#225 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 02:17 AM:

Since I posted the Four Noble Truths, I suppose I ought to say something about why I think they're important. I believe that life entails suffering because life includes pain, loss, and death, all things that injure us. There is no way I know of to prevent these things from happening in some degree to every one of us. I also believe that life entails joy, because the act of knowing the world as we humans do can be a joyous thing to us. There is no way I know of to ensure that joy is all we have, and while it's possible for us to act so as to prevent our own joy, that's actually difficult to do completely and thoroughly. Joy can seek us out and overwhelm us when we least expect it.

Attachment results in suffering, several posters have pointed out why that's so. But attachment is also the cause of joy; to be detached insulates you from both suffering and joy. One of the motivations for attaching yourself to the world, and one of the reasons why I believe that Buddhism is not simply an ascetic belief that promotes detachment, is the joy to be had from helping to alleviate the suffering of others. This can alleviate your own suffering, and it also can be felt as work that can provide joy in its performance and accomplishment, in the same way that playing a concerto, writing a novel, proving a theorem, building a bridge, or raising a child can.

heresiarch @ 224

For at least the last two decades I've been convinced that AI research was worth the expenditure of money and time even if we are never able to creat an "intelligent machine" by some consensus definition of the term. That's because we've learned more about what intelligence isn't from AI than from any other study, and we still know more about what it isn't than about what it is.

That said, I agree that bottom up is more likely to actually yield results, because intelligence, whatever it is, evolved bottom up, so we're more likely to be working with the grain that way than against it.

#226 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 09:17 AM:

Ginger (# 183) The FEMA "National Response Plan" has morphed into the "National Response Framework" at

(I always cringe and want to find a deep place to hide in when any sort of "Planning document" proclaims in its opening paragraphs that it is "scalable")

#227 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Attachment causes suffering. We care about someone in our life, and when they die, we feel pain. So, some strive to train themselves so that they are no longer attached, so they don't feel suffering.

The only problem I see with that is that we are emotional beings. We want. We care. We are driven. And to completely give up all of our wants would be to stop trying, stop working, stop having relationships, stop eating. Essentially, to lay down and let yourself die.

That we want or care about someone, causes us suffering. But the thing is we want. We care. It's what we do as humans. And to seek a place where we no longer want or care about anything at all is to seek a place where we are no longer human.

I don't read hinduism and buddhism quite so literally. I don't think moksha neccessarily has to mean that we become stone, that we stop the cycle of being human. I take it to mean that we continue to want, to have drives, to be hungry and want to find food, to be lonely and want to find companionship, but that we accept that the world is not a granter-of-wishes, a fulfiller of wants.

The literal interpretation of moksha, the common interpretation, to me, seems little different than christianity saying this world is a flawed world, a world of sin, and heaven will be a perfect world free of sin. A literal reading of moksha basically boils down to this world is a suffering world, and it is something we need to figure out how to escape, and we escape into nothingness, into non-being.

I mean, people can have the reading, and that's their choice. I'm not tryign to prove my interpretation is right. I'm just trying to explain why I chose to follow a different interpretation.

I think for me, zen, and even more so, taoism, gave me the answer that works for me. The world has plenty of suffering, but the answer is not to escape this world (through moksha or heaven or whatever), the answer is a deep sense of acceptance. Not just an acceptance of the suffering of the world, but an acceptance of the joys of the world as well, and just as important, an acceptance of what it is to be human, an acceptance of wanting, caring, needing.

There's a zen koan that pretty much sums it all up for me. A zen monk found himself between a cliff and a tiger. Rather than be killed by the tiger, he jumped off the cliff and grabs a branch sticking out from the side of the cliff. He's now stuck between the long fall below and the tiger above. Then he spots a berry on the branch, grabs it, pops it in his mouth, and says "delicious".

Koans don't have explanations to them. So, there's no certain way to know what lesson the original teller of that koan was trying to teach. But what I take from it is that even if we're chased by tigers and must suffer the problems of living, we still want to live, we still want to eat, and in those wants we sometimes find exquisite, wonderful, beautiful, tasty things to enjoy. Even though we all must eventually die, that doesn't we don't want to live now, in the moment.

One thing I find noticably absent from most koans about zen monks is that they seldom complain about their circumstances. Or if they do, it seems to me that it's meant as an indicator that the complaining monk has not found satori yet. And some really shitty things happen to a lot of the monks in those koans. Trapped between a cliff and a tiger, facing certain death, the monk never cried out "Why me?" Instead, when he sees a berry, he eats it and says "delicious".

It isn't a denial of his wants. It's an acceptance of the fact that he wants and the fact that the universe isn't a granter of his wants. So he appreciates what he gets and accepts the universe as it is.

ANother zen koan: "When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep."

Accept that you want. Accept what you get.

Accept that you are human with wants and desires. Accept that the universe owes you nothing but may yield you some of the things you want.

It's in that acceptance that I've generally found peace.

#228 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 09:51 AM:

heresiarch @ #223: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change those things I can, and wisdom to know the difference"?

and @ #224: an encounter with Williams Syndrome can make defining intelligence seem WAY more difficult.

#229 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:02 AM:

I tend to think that wisdom includes (or can include) a "will power" factor: acting consistently with what one might know intellectually is the better course even if it's less attractive emotionally. Declining that delicious dessert because you know that you need to maintain habits for losing weight; dealing with an unpleasant medical procedure because you know you need it; refusing to get involved with that really attractive person because you know that s/he's hopelessly messed up and has a long, long history of turning partners' lives into chaos.

#230 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:05 AM:

#207 Rob

Sigh, you're correct, it was Vir. Ah, memory, as in off

Edward #220

I think there is a case of "You're not me!" and worldviews and perceptions and metaviews that are not congruent at work in the discourse.... e.g., one of the most telling comments about Nolacon II was, "At least they come up with some new ways of screwing things up!"

from heresiarch #223

Imagine a friend comes to you, complaining that their job is making them miserable. You could advise them to find a better job. Or you could advise them to learn to accept the crappy aspects of their job along with the good. You can't pursue both paths: the anger and discontent needed to drive change is incompatible with the acceptance that brings peace. You've got to choose one.

I have BIG issues with Manichean-type philosophy of A exclusive-or B. I've seen lots of "trying looking at your work from a different perspective WHILE jobhunting," and "It's time to go into something else, there isn't enough challenge/new stuff to learn to keep my on my toes anymore."

But then, I fall into "novelty seeker" orientation in lot of ways.... People who move the furniture around for the sake of moving the furniture around, who look at things in terms of "What if?" for the sake of "What if?" and who get -annoyed- with routine. At the other end of the same axis are the people who want and need predictable, whom routine comforts, who strongly dislike change and want everything to be the same day after day and predictable....

To a degree both views show up in a character in P. C. Hodgell's work, she's the sister of Kallystine (I can't think of the name of the character--ah, it's Lyra) and had led a very purdah-ish life. Rescued by the protagonist and her associate from behind left behind in an evacuation, for the first time in her life she's not in seclusion, and gets very excited about things happening, and is enjoying it, in the book Dark of the Moon. In the next book, Seeker's Mask, when the usual chaos around the protagonist, Jamethiel, keeps happening, even Lyra eventually has had enough of it, "Would things please stop happening now?" she rather pathetically pleads.

There ARE cultures in which good times created great art, the Dutch Masters work is one example-many if not most of their subjects for art were the middle class and the newly wealthy, people who commissioned art to show themselves and their families as they were, as opposed to e.g. allegorical paintings of royalty or paintings of human suffering or aspiration that so much Great Art consists of. Most of the people whose portraits singly an en famille were painted by the Dutch Masters, were relatively satisfied and content in their lives as regards social position, revenue, lifestyle, etc. Yes, more MIGHT have been nicer, but they weren't full of greed and envy and angst, and having their portraits painted was a symbol of status, in the oldest definition of the term status--showing their state of existence and mindset at the time they sat for the portraits, the portraits showing them as they were in their worldly existence. There were often elements in the paints that were denotative symbols--a small dog in the painting representating particular characteristics, I don;t remember which, even though it may actually have been the family dog, etc. (There are many different types of langauges, symbols representing words in orders to represent ideas, is only one of them. Paintings throughout human time have had encodings in them with various objects and elements denoting various things....)

The reason I keep objecting to the "suffering" --consider Piet Hynes [spelling or some such] very short, "Problems worthy of attack/Prove their worth by hitting back!" --for lots of people the -struggle- with the problem is FUN! It is NOT "suffering" or rather, is enjoyable suffering, much as e.g. people who are having an noisy argument who are arguing at least in part because they like to argue! There are other people who loathe and hate arguing, and the sight of two people in an argument upsets them, even though the two people are have fun arguing....

For that matter, I remember the continuing all-weekend-long running discussion/argument between Macdonald and Brust at a Readercon....

#231 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Tom B at 91: "Also, as much as we value intelligence, what we really need is wisdom."

Do you think there should be a Central Wisdom Agency?

#232 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Martinez Congressman Dedicates Years to Tiny Island Worker Abuse Reforms

{Due to the dedication of Cong. George Miller US labor and immigration laws finally apply in the Marianas; last year the federal minimum wage laws went into force there, due to Cong. Miller's efforts, which had been going on since 1992. While the party of the oligarchs was in power and reaping all sorts of financial and influence windfalls from the most unscrupulous business partnerships in decades between US Government officials and businsess interests, it was impossible for any legislation to go through to remedy the labor abuses in the Marianas.

The forced abortion and near-slave-labor conditions-protecting Party and its leadership and its appartchiks haven't had anywhere near the bad publicity and excoriation they deserve....

#233 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:56 AM:

Going way back to the discussion of certainty vs. doubt, though I still think Yeats defines the difference most eloquently and succinctly ("The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity."), something just reminded me of another poet's take on it.

In that famous quote from a letter to his brothers, Keats put it this way: "At once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is, when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."

I love that adjective, "irritable." And leaving that feeling behind can open the way to one kind of Zen-like state.

(PS: Thank ghod for Bartlett's Familiar Quotations!)

#234 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Paula @ 230: Piet Hein was the author of the Grooks. The one you quote was in the first book.

#235 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 12:21 PM:

Craig R. @ 224

(I always cringe and want to find a deep place to hide in when any sort of "Planning document" proclaims in its opening paragraphs that it is "scalable")

I think it's very honest of them to admit that their plan is vulnerable to medieval armies with long ladders.

#236 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Craig @ @226: *winces* I wish bureaucrats could get vaccinated against jargon.

Bruce Cohen @ 235: That's a much better mental picture, thank you! Now I can visualize tiny armies attacking huge document files. As long as they don't try to recreate the Charge of the Light Brigade...

#237 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 02:42 PM:

Joel 234: My favorite Grook:

Those errors hardest to condone
In other people are one's own.

#238 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Xopher @ 237: That's a nice way of summing up too many of the "defending Family Values" crowd.

#239 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 04:54 PM:

Not familiar with the Grooks. Are they like Gillette Burgess's Goops?

#240 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 05:04 PM:

No luck embedding it:

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Carol, <a href="">Grooks</a> produces Grooks.

#242 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Carol, <a href="">Grooks</a> produces Grooks.

#243 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Yeah, and I've managed successfully before. I tried cut-and-pasting from the HTML Tags listing at the bottom of the comments, and on preview it just gave the Evil Green "nice try". It kept splitting after the first double quotes. This is not my usual computer, which may be part of the problem. Thanks for the help, anyway.

#244 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Bruce Cohen @235 - I always claim the cauldrons of boiling oil in my contingency planning is for cooking chips* when we work late, but now you've revealed why my planning isn't scalable.

* or "fries" as some of you call them**
** in theory you could cook doughnuts too, but that takes me well outside my deep frying comfort zone

#245 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 08:58 PM:

Caroline, #187: Also remember that among the things women are taught to value more than their own judgment is being nice and helpful and polite. Hundreds of women are raped and/or killed every year because they ignored the little inner voice that said, "something's off-kilter here" in favor of being nice, or not hurting a man's feelings.

See also "gaslighting", a common tactic of abusers in which they try to convince a victim (usually, though not always, female) that she's losing her mind by telling her that something she saw or heard didn't really happen.

All these things happen in a continuum, of which your self-doubt of your own wisdom and judgment is only the shallow end.

Ursula, #188: The people on the far right see the left as gloating, because, were the situation reversed, they'd be gloating, happier about being correct than they are horrified at the terrible wrongs that have been done.

That kind of projectionism is frighteningly common in the wingnut crowd, to the point where I've begun to suspect that it's an actual, deliberate tactic in their suite of tools. Accuse the other side of doing what you want to do (or would do in that position), and you both arouse suspicion about them and divert it from yourself. It's Iago, always refuting with horror suspicions that no one had entertained until he himself mentioned them.

Notice also how a few former commenters with strong wingnut leanings frequently accused people here of wanting Bad Things to happen, when the discussion was about the way the Administration's policies were going to promote Bad Things happening. There seems to be a significant inability to distinguish fact from fantasy there.

Bruce, #225: "Shared pain is diminished; shared joy is increased. Thus do we defeat entropy." -- Spider Robinson

Greg, #227: "And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries." -- Simon & Garfunkel
(That was my theme song in junior high, when I was desperately trying to shut out the pain of being bullied and outcast by emulating Mr. Spock. It took me years to reach the point of being able to understand the quote above it.)

#246 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 09:31 PM:

Lee: See David Niewert on projection as a tool of the right.

#247 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Carol, <a href="">Grooks</a> produces Grooks.

#248 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Sorry. I came back to the same "sorry, can't load this" screen, forgot what it was, and hit refresh. Guess that was the post confirmation screen, and refresh reposted it.

#249 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:54 PM:

A spokesman at one right-wing site ("Human Events") dismisses McClellan's book with the admission that Mr. Bush may have gotten a bit carried away by his desire to spread & encourage Democracy in the Near East.

This neatly converts it into a possibly-unwise, but not morally-reprehensible, action taken to forward A Good Cause, _and_ pins the responsibility on Mr. Bush, rather than the Republican Party.

Though mindful of the warnings, earlier in this thread, against ascribing motives to other people, I cannot help but feel that Mr. Bush is unlikely to be capable of that kind of Idealism, and that he probably initiated the war for a mixture of other reasons, including enriching himself and his business associates (like a good CEO), and to prove (to himself & to others) that he has Power and can do Important Things.

By his standards (assuming that to be correct) his may be the most successful Presidency in our history, as well as the most harmful for the nation and the people.

I rather think the first part of that -- further enrichment of the already-wealthy -- and part of the second -- expanding the Authority of the President -- were encouraged, and perhaps instigated, by the people who are currently controlling the Republican Party.

I don't particularly admire either of the current potential Democratic candidates, but I'm certainly (insofar as anything in life can be certain) going to vote, in November, for whichever gets nominated. For me, Mr. Bush's Legacy seems to be that I'll never ever again vote for a Republican for any public offfice.

#250 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 10:56 PM:

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

scal·able Listen to the pronunciation of scalable
circa 1580

1 : capable of being scaled
2 : capable of being easily expanded or upgraded on demand
— scal·abil·i·ty Listen to the pronunciation of scalability \ˌskā-lə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun

What's the problem, exactly?

#251 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 11:21 PM:

heresiarch: I think the problem is the date of the second definition, I very much doubt it goes back to 1580.

#252 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 02:08 AM:

heresiarch @ 250

My problem is that, while "scaleable" is a useful word in many situations (having been in the distributed computing business for awhile I've had a lot of occasions to use it myself), I have become very tired of seeing it and other useful words like "exponential", and "parameter" used by politicians, PHBs, and other such riffraff to mean "cool" or "I don't know what this means but everyone else is pretending they do, so I'd better pretend as well."

#253 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 05:14 AM:

Lee #245:

Notice also how a few former commenters with strong wingnut leanings frequently accused people here of wanting Bad Things to happen, when the discussion was about the way the Administration's policies were going to promote Bad Things happening.

That seems like a pretty classic example of magical thinking. I don't think it's specifically a right wing mental flaw. However, I do think the right has somehow managed to get really, really good at propoganda in the last few years, and much of that propoganda invokes built-in biases to keep their supporters from thinking down some lines. If you can get people to believe that by seriously considering the possibility we might lose the war, they're edging close to treason, you can keep them from thinking down that dangerous path. Similarly, if you can give people who don't want to believe we're losing a reason not to listen to discouraging data (anyone who says that just wants us to lose, that's the blame-America-first crowd, etc.), you can keep those people from questioning your war for a bit longer[1].

Along with being evil, the problem with those tactics is that they don't work forever. Sooner or later, all but the dumbest citizens notice that each new glorious victory against the Russians is closer to Berlin. ISTM that much of this has happened, which is one reason why the Republicans are apparently in a big panic about now.

[1] This is a flaming red flag. If there is information you must not let yourself see, or if there are sources of information you must not pay attention to, you are being manipulated. It's so much more efficient than censoring offensive viewpoints, if you can just get most people to censor their own reading / listening / viewing choices.

#254 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 06:43 AM:

Fragano@88, the things you find you don't know... ah well, I was a subject until I was eight. :)

#255 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 07:39 AM:

I know, I know, I know, I know (I know)
I know, I know, I know, I know (I know)
I know, I know, I know, we can make it.

(Donna Summer)

#256 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Lee@245: trying to shut out the pain of being bullied and outcast by emulating Mr. Spock.

Yeah, I think the idea of "vulcans" probably has a huge following among people who want to avoid the pain of life.

The problem I have is that if you have no emotion, then you have no self-driven agency to self-survival. The will to live isn't logical, it's emotional. I want to live. It isn't logical to live. Logic requires a premise. The premise itself is wanting to live. Which is cool because premises themselves don't have to be logical. They just have to be true. And I want to live is true.

I find it just slightly annoying to read stories about AI's who are said in the story to have no emotion, but are struggling to survive. Of course they have emotion, maybe not as many different emotions as we have, but they have to have them if they are fighting to live.

I loved the character Spock, but the whole "vulcans don't have emotions" thing just annoyed me whenever they'd start getting into it. It had the same feeling as when they'd talk about "modulating the frequencies" of something to solve some technical problem. Pure handwavium.

I think the best counter to the vulcan meme (or anything that has agency, will to live, but somehow doesn't have "emotion") was when Roy said "I want more life, fucker".

I remember going "squeee!" the first time I heard that line.

#257 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 11:36 AM:

Erik Nelson @231: A Central Wisdom Agency would suffer many of the same problems as the Central Intelligence Agency. Someone said what we really need is a Peripheral Intelligence Agency.

#258 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Ginger @ #236:

I read a science fiction novel once, set in the distant future, where the leading religion's mythology tells of a sequel to the Tower of Babel. After a time, the story goes, men overcame the barrier of language God had erected, and once again began banding together to challenge God's might: and so God visited upon them a new confusion of tongues; and it was called Jargon.

#259 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 12:09 PM:

Lee@245: commenters with strong wingnut leanings frequently accused people here of wanting Bad Things to happen

Just had that happen over on Charlie Stross's blog. The thread was talking about the economic cost of the Iraq war (3 trillion dollars including indirect costs) and what that sort of money could buy us if we spent it on something else, you know, like alternative energy development so Iraqi oil wasn't important to us.

Some yahoo came in with this little gem: "Some people seem to find the prospect of an American success in Iraq unpleasant", in an attempt to change the conversation about "how much is this going to cost us and is it worth that cost" and attempted to transform it into a bunch of bleeding hearts hoping that we lose the war.

It makes perfect sense, though, from the wingnut frame of mind. The sort of mentality needed to be a neocon would require a worldview that is almost completely "hierarchy of power" and contains no empathy, very little logic, and no spirituality. In that worldview, discussing the cost/benefit of the war, something that would normally be considered a logical operation, could only be viewed as "weakness" to someone who can only see power or lack of power.

Anyway, I'm sick and tired of people taking common sense and turning it into moronic stuff like "you want us to lose!" I admit I lost it on the guy.

But I've had enough of people taking "Is this war worth the cost?" and twisting it into "Who wants to lose this war?".

If there's anything useful to take away from my rant, it's probably the bit about gambling at the roulette table. You've been playing for 6 years, you've lost three trillion dollars, and now you claim if you could just be allowed to play another 6 months or so, you have the chance to win big, make all your money back, and it'll all be worth it.

Well, yeah, that is technically true. Bet everything on double-zero, and if you win, then you could get a huge payback and maybe even walk away with a profit.

But it's a sucker bet. In roulette, the odds are stacked in the house's favor. The longer you play, the more likely you are to lose money. The best bet for roulette is to not bet at all, to walk away.

People who are addicted to gambling can't grasp that concept. They focus on the possible short term gain withotu looking at the probable long term outcome.

The thing is, we don't exactly know what sort of gambling game the Iraq war is. Is it roulette? or is it poker? Or is it blackjack? Or is it some game where the odds are actually stacked in our favor?

The thing is, we don't know (with objective certainty). What I do know is that the neocon's who keep squawking "six more months" are indistinguishable from the gambling addict who just wants to play one more hand to make his money back.

Trying to determine what sort of game it is by analyzing the cost versus benefit would help determine whether it's a game we can win in the long run. But the fact that these nutbars keep coming up and screaming at this kind of analysis as "wanting to lose the war" sort of tells me that these guys don't know what game they're playing, haven't analyzed the real odds, and have no idea if they should walk away or not. They're only focused on the immediate "just win one hand" mentality. Which is the worst possible mentality to be in. It is the mentality of a gambling addict.

I'm not certain, but if I had to guess, I'd guess that the odds are stacked against any outside nation who invades and occupies another country. You might win some. But over the long haul, I think the odds are probably stacked against you.

#260 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 12:17 PM:

TomB @ 257...

Or we need an outfit like C.O.N.T.R.O.L.
On second thought, maybe not.

#261 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Lee @ 245 wrote:

That kind of projectionism is frighteningly common in the wingnut crowd, to the point where I've begun to suspect that it's an actual, deliberate tactic in their suite of tools. Accuse the other side of doing what you want to do (or would do in that position), and you both arouse suspicion about them and divert it from yourself. It's Iago, always refuting with horror suspicions that no one had entertained until he himself mentioned them.

I think it is something even more fundamental - humans, when they do wrong, tend to project it so that believe that everyone is doing that wrong.

This is most obvious when considering drug use - the people who use illegal drugs (even pot) assume that everyone uses the drug, can find the drug easily, and that it is everywhere. Now, I've never used pot, and wouldn't know where to start to find any - but a lot of drug users wouldn't believe that. (I don't really have a problem with folks smoking pot - but I do have problems with the argument that "everyone" is doing it.)

The same with speeding cars, those who like to drive very fast assume that pretty much everyone is speeding, and are annoyed at the "few" people going near the speed limit and slowing them down. When in fact there are quite a few people happy to stay in the right lane, go the speed limit, and let the idiots zoom past and keep the traffic cops busy.

Or with the whole cooperation/competition thing - people who are competitive approach everything and everyone in a competitive manner, and get competitive responses, then don't believe the cooperative people who start in cooperative mode and get cooperative responses a large proportion of the time, only shifting to competitive mode if they are facing someone who is chronically competitive and doesn't respond to cooperation.

Someone who gloats about being right, even when that "right" is a horror story, assumes everyone will do the same. Because that type of gloating is a vice, and they project their vice on the rest of humanity, rather than recognizing that it's their choice, rather than a matter of universal human nature.

#262 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 04:24 PM:

Nix #254: A lot of it has to do with the winding-up of the empire, and the desire (especially from the sixties on) to restrict immigration from the former empire. The current state of play extends British citizenship to most subjects of the Crown (though not all subjects of the Crown are British citizens -- Caymanians are, but Manxfolk are not).

#263 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 04:41 PM:


I wanted to mention that your rant is a lovely example of the genre. Sometimes it takes a dreadfully annoying troll to bring forth excellently sharp responses*. It doesn't appear that he came back--always a sign of win.

* I might quibble with a couple of the swearwords, but that's minor.

#264 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Ursula, #261: One caveat about your drug-use analogy: the most vociferous proponents of that view that I've encountered are in fact those who do not themselves use (illegal) drugs, but who support the concept of the War On Drugs. They have no more idea than you where to score some dope, but they are absolutely convinced that every junior-high kid in the country can lay hands on it whenever they like. This isn't meant as a refutation of your point (which I consider largely valid), only of your choice of example. The speeding analogy is better IMO.

#265 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Kathryn, #263, even Greg's rant wouldn't keep Stirling away. Maybe Charlie banned him.

#266 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 11:00 PM:

I happened to notice a book with a title something like _Prosecuting Bush for Murder_ in the Burlington Barnes & Noble, in a dump on the eastern side of the mezzanine in front of the corner rail with the south side of the mezzanine overlooking the first floor.

#267 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 07:28 AM:

#266: I believe you're referring to The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, by Vincent Bugliosi, an actual prosecutor perhaps best known for his work on the Charles Manson case. He's written several other books before, including one about the Manson case.

FWIW, I found the same book displayed rather prominently in my local Barnes&Noble. If your description of the position was intended to imply that it was buried in a corner, maybe that's a decision made by individual store managers or something? Perhaps someone who works in a B&N could make a more informed comment?

#268 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 08:13 AM:

Lee, #24:

My working assumption for the "drugs are everywhere" brand of anti-drug activist is that they either are using drugs, or were in the past, much like the various anti-gay Republicans who are so frequently outed.

Protest too much, etc.

#269 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 08:17 AM:

The post above is regarding Lee @ #264

#270 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 08:22 AM:

Greg #259:

IMO, the great argument against further commitment to Iraq is very simple. What do we win, if we succeed?

As far as I can tell, what we win is:

a. An open-ended obligation to prop up our shaky client state, keep it from becoming dominated by Iran, and defend it from internal and external threats. This is a minus.

b. The responsibility for making the Iraqi police/army/secret police behave in a somewhat decent way, and the certainty that scandals and abuses will be blamed on us. This is a minus.

c. We also get to impose some level of our ideas on the Iraqi government. This would be a plus if we knew how to run that government, but since we apparently don't, it's at best neutral, and more likely, a minus (as our errors will be our responsibility to fix).

d. We'll also have some control over the oil production of Iraq, but only some, and it will absolutely not be acceptable for the US to take much of the oil money. Whatever we do with their oil production will either be inefficient, or will behave in the same profit-maximizing way as the Iraqis are likely to do, so we mostly won't be able to use this to decrease oil prices long-term. This will be a plus for those whose connections with the client state's oil ministry pay off, but probably either neutral or a minus for the US.

e. We get military bases in Iraq, from which we can launch invasions of Syria or Iran. This is a plus, if we can't find other bases in the area.

It looks to me like the minuses massively outweigh the plusses. It's true that in a fantasy world in which Saddam had been hours from handing a nuke over to Osama bin Laden, or in which Iraq had spontaneously become a liberal democracy, and all its neighbors had followed suit, the plusses would have outweighed the minuses. But since we don't live in that fantasy world, it doesn't work out.

I propose a different approach:

Ignore the white man's burden
keep home the best ye breed
don't draft your sons and daughters
to take what we don't need

#271 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 09:53 AM:

e. We get military bases in Iraq, from which we can launch invasions of Syria or Iran. This is a plus, if we can't find other bases in the area.

I'd say, this is a minus. Invading Iran or Syria would open the same can of worms that invading Iraq did.

Having the ability to invade Iran or Syria serves only to increase tension with them, and gives them a strong (and reasonable) incentive to want the bomb to match the threat that the US, with its full nuclear arsenal, presents.

And having the apparent ability, now, to invade Iran or Syria is particularly a minus, since it is so clear that Shrub wants war with Iran, doesn't recognize how overextended the US is, and doesn't see anything wrong with aggressive war.

I'd rather the US didn't have the ability to do something so amazingly stupid.

#272 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Greg London @ 256

Maybe it's because I'm from a different generation of trek, with my first exposure to the world being next-gen (watching tOS later on), but I was always under the impression that Vulcans were merely in control of their emotions, most of the time, except when they weren't (Pon Farr, etc). It never occurred to me that they were being portrayed as entirely lacking emotions, and I suppose I would have found that silly. But even if they are in control of their emotions, the "will to live" emotion is one that it's probably a good idea not to suppress. At the same time, I recall that Vulcans were often more willing to voluntarily self-sacrifice in times of crisis, showing they had some level of control over even that emotion.

#273 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 10:08 AM:

#188 ::: Ursula L:

I've been thinking about whether I gloat, and while I try to speak and write like a more or less civilized person, some of my emotional reactions might count as gloating. I like being right. I'm beyond fury at the current administration. And I'm convinced that at least there's at least one more time bomb waiting because of Bush's incompetent buddies in high office.

If there isn't, I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than angry at one more unnecessary disaster. But if something else goes horrendously wrong, I'm not going to deny that there's some fun in the anger.

I get a kick out of Bush's low approval rating, and every time one of the people that trusted him and got misused jumps ship and writes a book about it, I'm pleased. I hope Bush has a full emotional appreciation of what it means for McCain needing to distance himself to run for President.

Part of it is relief. There was a time when people were writing as though America was on a straight slide down to theocracy or (more likely) kleptocracy. After a while of being depressed, I decided that there was more resiliency in American people and institutions than was being allowed for. And it's both good news for the country that there is, and it's nice to get things right.

Fortunately, I don't demand perfect motivations from myself or other people. Pretty good behavior is enough for most purposes.

#249 ::: Don Fitch:

Might you be a George Ade fan?

#252 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers):

I assumed the issue with "scalable" is that it's much easier to claim something will work well at different sizes than to be right about that it will.

#256 ::: Greg London:

Also, humans can't be logical unless they have an emotional attachment to good logic and a distaste (frequently amounting to pain) for bad logic.

#274 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 10:50 AM:

I note in passing that the final step in the creation of Doctor Who monsters the Cybermen and the Daleks is the removal of emotions.

Although this doesn't seem to stop the Daleks getting overexcited at times.

#275 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 11:46 AM:

Chris #267

Yes, that's the title.

The location in the Barnes & Noble in Burlington is one that's somewhat prominent--it's on the way to the down escalator from the east side of the mezzanine, there's a line of display tables running north of it, against the rail overlooking the first floor. The east side of the store is the front of the store, and the only non-emergency entrance/exit area is the center of the east side of the store.

The display area in the front of the store in front of the entry/exit doors are what everyone sees walking in, and there's an adjacent table of prominently display books, there are end caps along the center aisle (shelving running perpendicular), there is a dump by the up escalator to the right, and the down escalator to the left, and display tables between the escalators (the escalators face one another)....

#276 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 12:26 PM:

e. We get military bases in Iraq, from which we can launch invasions of Syria or Iran. This is a plus, if we can't find other bases in the area.

Objection: Assumes facts not in evidence.

We don't know that bases in the area are politicaly beneficial, or diplomaticly practical or muilitarily useful. Hell, the presence of long-term basing (not actually bases) in Saudi is what got Osama bin Laden so pissed at us. So on it's face there's some doubt about the usefulness of them existing.

Further, attacking Syria and/or Iran isn't something I see as provably needful. We didn't have any basing in the area in 1990, and we did just fine. If the world opinion is strongly enough against them (so strong as to support a coalition to rebuke them by means of war) the basing will become available.

So the cost/risks outweigh the, putuative, benefit.

#277 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Leah@272: Vulcans were merely in control of their emotions

But people invoke Vulcans as a way to deal with their emotions. See the post to which I was replying. It's an interesting character twist, but were a human to act that way, it'd be considered unhealthy. It wouldn't be "self control", it'd be suppression or disassociation.

If I were to extend the koan, it would be: eat when hungry, sleep when tired, laugh when happy, grieve when sad, love when you find it.

#278 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 12:26 AM:

#273 Nancy Lebovitz :

An Ade fan? Only slightly (though thanks for the link to the Project Gutenberg site for his Fables -- my copy has been misplaced/unfindable for about 50 years).

I picked up the habit of using such unconventional capitalization from the late Calvin W. Demmon, who used it to good effect in his humorous writing in fanzines back in the '60s. I understand that Calvin picked up the /v/i/r/u/s/ practice from Ade, but we use it somewhat differently and much less promiscuously -- to suggest that a particular word should be considered as having somewhat more Significance than it might normally appear to have.

That said, I'm not a Conscious Writer -- just an ordinary person trying to set my thoughts down in words, as accurately as practical -- and must confess to frequently feeling consternation at the number of upper-case initials I've used when writing something very late at night (or even "Very Late At Night" -- a time when many things mysteriously come to seem to have unusual significance). All I can do is hope that most people won't find the habit too annoying.

#279 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 01:51 AM:

Don: I don't know where (but probably from some period of apahacking) I gained the habit of Emphatic Capitalisation, but I have it too.

#280 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 01:54 AM:

Don Fitch @ 278

I got into a similar habit of capitalization as a result of several years of German in high school*. It seemed ever so Modern at the time. Then, about 25 years ago I started working with Object-Oriented Programming. Smalltalk, my first OOP language, exposed me to CamelCapitalization, and I have to fight the tendency to type SmallTalk or FlashCrowd** to this day.

* and that's just about all that's left from studying German.
** Just came from a thread on Charlie Stross' blog on the subject.

#281 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 02:34 AM:

If you get a chance, see Jon Stewart tonight with McClellan. It's pretty funny, and McClellan seems to be enjoying himself.

"How would you go after you?" Meaning, how do they come up with the talking points to attack somebody?

#282 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 07:35 AM:

Terry #279: Perhaps we all caught it from a Bear of Small Brain?

#283 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 08:59 AM:

I think my favorite use of Emphatic Capitalization, especially in the context of Building a Corporate Atmosphere, is in the stories in George Saunders' CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, which is one of my favorite books. The capital letters crack me up every time.

#284 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 02:42 PM:

*snrk* Overexited daleks. *snicker*

I'm enjoying that concept far too much.

#285 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Nancy #273:
Thank you for the link, too. I'd never encountered George Ade before. He Is delightful.

#286 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 09:28 PM:

Emphatic capitalization is habit I probably picked up from all the time I've spend in the defense world, which is rife with acronyms and emphatic capitalation and named stuff that gets capitalized....

#287 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 09:31 PM:

I learned Emphatic Capitalization from reading the fanwriting of Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

I would respectfully submit that there is No Better Source Than This.

#288 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 11:16 PM:

over at Kos, this observation on Obama's speech was quoted (remember, he's speaking from the site of the GOP convention):

"im in ur base killin ur d00dz"

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Bruce, #280: I use what you guys are calling "Emphatic Capitalization" as a form of sarcasm. I don't know if anyone else does that, but the probability of that being what *I* mean by it is on the close order of 99.5%.

A lot of cons have picked up CamelCapitalization in their names, in the past 10-15 years especially. Older cons like Aggiecon, Minicon, and Chattacon don't use it; newer ones like ApolloCon and FenCon do.

#290 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 02:08 AM:

Loscon doesn't, though there have been instantiations of it; they are not canonic

#291 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 08:10 AM:

@284, Over Excited Daleks?

As for getting rid of emotion, tsch, them whovian villains always talk a good game, but did you see the Daleks vs Cybermen bit in Doomsday? Handbags at dawn.

#292 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 10:25 AM:

The Cybermen have never quite lived up to their press. There have been times when they've been extremely smug about not having any emotions, which is a neat trick when you think about it.

#293 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Lee 289: Oh, I use it ironically. Generally I'm characterizing someone else's view of something as inappropriately reverent, and generally containing an unexamined assumption. For example, if I say "Of course, Everyone Knows that..." or "Everyone knows that Real Men don't..." I'm parodying the people who have that "if everyone thinks it it must be so" fallacy working in their heads, or strange fixed ideas about the nature of masculinity, respectively.

Of course, one also capitalizes to indicate that something is a proper noun; for example, Radical Pantheism is the name of my religious philosophy, and I hope one day will be the title of a book. A radical pantheist is more or less the same as a pantheist radical; a Radical Pantheist is not.

That's the source of the irony in the other usage, I believe. Some treat the phrase "real men" as if it were a brand name or an organization, with policies and standards carved in stone, or contractually binding. Real Men™ don't cry at movies.

#294 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 01:48 PM:

Xopher @ 293... Real Men™ don't cry at movies.

Insert Dirty Dozen joke.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.