Still polarized: America at the ballgame

FaithNights

If you want more proof of the deep cultural divide in the country, check out the results of ESPN’s poll, which asked if Major League Baseball should allow “faith nights” at games. The total vote is 49% for faith nights and 51% against, but the breakdown of states where one or the other won (red for no faith nights, blue supporting faith nights) is a familiar one, only ESPN got the colors backward, albeit probably on purpose.

Note that some states, such as Montana and Pennsylvania, are not where you’d expect them.

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Cute meerkats actually vicious baby killers

news @ nature.com – Cute meerkats actually vicious baby killers – Cooperative society gets stressed out when babies are involved.

The headline is worth the posting. For those of you intent on seeing only the bright side in anything, there’s a very real underside that imposes itself in nature, too.

Bonus question for the intelligent design folks out there: Does God make Meerkats baby-killers or do Meerkats have the same kind of free will we attribute to man?

For the rest of us, what does “cooperation” mean and is it inevitable in any network?

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Floyd Void

Landis Fails 2nd Test; Title Likely Gone:

By last Wednesday, UCI had released the positive results of Landis’s “A” sample from his Stage 17 drug test, one of eight tests Landis said he took during the Tour. The ‘A’ test showed a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of 11-1; the permissible level is 4-1. The first test also detected synthetic testosterone, confirmed Henson, the Landis spokesman.

Well, this confirms both the first test’s results and the previously anonymous statement that Floyd Landis’ urine contained synthetic testosterone, which obliterates his contention that the result was the product of a night of drinking. Goodbye, Floyd, it was good thinking we knew you.

Stage 17 looked heroic, it was something else.

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Unexpectedly?

Job growth weak again, unemployment rises – Aug. 4, 2006:

Job growth came in weak for the fourth straight month in July while the unemployment rate rose, according to a government report Friday that could give the Federal Reserve reason to pause in its two-year-old campaign to raise interest rates.

The economy added 113,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said, down from a revised gain of 124,000 jobs in June. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast 145,000 new jobs.

Hold the presses. Last month, the number of jobs created was 121,000 and everyone, particularly President Bush, was saying that was good. A mere 8,000 jobs created is the difference that is going to tip Fed policy—I don’t think so.

Every month a crappy economy is dressed up in a different costume.

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Why didn’t we say this to the Iraqi people?

FT.com / World / Americas – US tells Cubans to ‘work for change’ :

US President George W. Bush on Thursday waded into the debate over the future of Cuba for the first time since Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, temporarily handed power to his brother, by urging the Cuban people to work for “democratic change”.

“We will support you in your effort to build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy, and we will take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct your desire for a free Cuba,” Mr Bush said in a statement.

Fair enough. So, why, with a country 90 miles from our coast, one that has harbored nuclear missiles aimed at us in the past, is this type of patience a better idea than in a nation half-way around the world, that never had weapons of mass destruction and that, with a little diligence could have been fully cordoned off, but justified sending 300,000 troops? This was the reasonable approach to Iraq, but President Bush wasn’t looking for reasonable there.

I’m just saying: How about a little consistency? If holding off on Cuba so that the people can work it out for themselves is a good idea, why must we “stay the course” in Iraq without any deviation from the absurd plan we had there?

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Victory was always certain

James Fallows has a fine piece in the new issue of The Atlantic, Declaring Victory:

Osama bin Laden’s public statements are those of a fanatic. But they often reveal a canny ability to size up the strengths and weaknesses of both allies and enemies, especially the United States. In his videotaped statement just days before the 2004 U.S. presidential election, bin Laden mocked the Bush administration for being unable to find him, for letting itself become mired in Iraq, and for refusing to come to grips with al-Qaeda’s basic reason for being. One example: “Contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom, let him explain to us why we don’t strike, for example, Sweden?” Bin Laden also boasted about how easy it had become for him “to provoke and bait” the American leadership: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahideen … to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there.”

Which sums up the problem with the so-called One Percent Doctrine advocated by Vice President Dick Cheney, which is that if there is even the slightest chance some terrorist attack could occur the United States must prepare for it as though it will occur. Terrorism is the political tactic of disrupting society through random-appearing acts that keep all citizens in fear of death or injury when engaged in normal day-to-day activities. The One Percent Solution makes us run wild in response to not two terrorists, but even notes and intercepted communications that suggest an attack that will never actually happen. Fallows continues:

“Does al-Qaeda still constitute an ‘existential’ threat?” asks David Kilcullen, who has written several influential papers on the need for a new strategy against Islamic insurgents. Kilcullen, who as an Australian army officer commanded counter-insurgency units in East Timor, recently served as an adviser in the Pentagon and is now a senior adviser on counterterrorism at the State Department. He was referring to the argument about whether the terrorism of the twenty-first century endangers the very existence of the United States and its allies, as the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons did throughout the Cold War (and as the remnants of that arsenal still might).

“I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons,” Kilcullen told me. He said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.

Fallows’ argument leads us to conclude that the Administration is our worst enemy due to its intransigence in the face of reality, because al Qaeda has already lost the battle. Bin Laden and his central command are constantly fleeing, there is no command center as there was before Afghanistan was occupied and the only robust environment for recruitment are regions where the United States has military involvement. Their only continued success is in keeping Americans and their allies off balance.

I saw former President Bill Clinton speak on Monday. He suggested reading Ron Suskind’s book, The One Percent Doctrine, pointing to this problem without naming it as clearly as Fallow has. Assuming every threat is dire only keeps Americans from being calm and thoughtful in the face of a psychological onslaught. Redefining the entire argument as “al Qaeda has already lost,” which would allow a return to a different (than life before 9/11) but more normal American existence, one that didn’t allow for the suspension of laws and liberties we hold dear.

Fallows’ analysis, which is based on extensive interviews with security, terrorism and Middle East experts, is exactly what the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, John Kerry, suggested when he characterized the terrorist threat as a “police problem.” President Bush and his campaign excoriated that position, but it was the right one. Politics overwhelmed any debate about the sense of either Bush policy or Kerry’s suggestion. Suskind concludes his book, writing:

A delusion of fierce partisanship is the view that political opponents are so utterly bankrupt of good sense, of basic human feeling, that for one to be defeated will not only mean diminution for oneself, but disaster for an unwitting country.

The strident posture of self-defense that stems from this kill-or-be-killed idea flows directly inot an infallibility trap. Mistakes can’t be publicly acknowledged; certainty, even in the face of countermanding evidence, becomes a surrogate for courage; will stands in for earned—and regularly tested—conviction.

The question underlying this book is whether the country’s political dialogue can act nimbly enough to meet the challenges in the ensuing campaigns, the next chapters in the battle against ardent and empowered enemies, rising, perhaps, on the updraft of history.

The success of a society based on liberty and law over a terror campaign was assured, according to Fallows argument. Indeed, history seems to show that Fallows strategy is correct, as every terrorist movement in Europe has failed, the success of Israel as a nation proves it, as well. Bush, Cheney and company are not making the mistake of the good scout being over-prepared. They are keeping us off balance. The good scout prepares appropriately, taking the right supplies not all the possible supplies they might need—you don’t take firewood for a trip into the forest, for example, but the one percent doctrine would have you prepare for unexpectedly finding a desert where you camp—our leaders should take a lead from that good sense.

The only question it turns out, was how long the Bush Administration will find it politically advantageous to continue the crisis, and we still haven’t seen where they believe that ends.

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Britt went ahead and did it

Escapable Logic » Blog Archive » Key Races, Dot US:

Imagine if some benefactor, 3-1/2 years ago, had created a kick-ass, soup-to-nuts political deliberation and networking site for Presidential primary candidates. Imagine that each candidate, from Dean to Kucinich to Sharpton, was given his own site to present his credentials and to aggregate his supporters – a “Dean Done Right” for each candidate. In that case, Joe Trippi and Zephyr Teachout and Nicco Mele and Matt Gross, etc. wouldn’t have had to work so hard to invent the tools they did. They’d be in place and it would all just work. Of course, all those folks would be working just as hard, blogging and planning and all the rest. They just wouldn’t be thinking about the tech part.

He’s launching tools for anyone to use in September. Any party, any kind of race. Better tools for political activists are better than political activists being distracted from politics to create better tools.

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