Scroll down for Amygdala archives! You know you want to. [Temporarily rather borked, along with rest of template.]
Amygdala's endorsements are below my favorite quotations! Keep scrolling!
Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
Commenting Rules: Only comments that are courteous and respectful of other commenters will be allowed. Period.
You must either open a Google/Blogger.com/Gmail Account, or sign into comments at the bottom of any post with OpenID, LiveJournal, Typepad, Wordpress, AIM account, or whatever ID/handle available to use. Hey, I don't design Blogger's software: sorry!
Posting a spam-type URL will be grounds for deletion.
Comments on posts over 21 days old are now moderated, and it may take me a long while to notice and allow them.
I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
There is something to be said for working one's aggressions out by hurling characters off a cliff or running over them with locomotives. Animators tend to be long-lived, and one can only guess at what keeps them going. Perhaps it is the ability to stay close to that inner teenager, who would rather light a stick of Acme dynamite than curse the darkness.
VACLAV HAVEL, HERO, LIBERAL is celebrated by David Remnick.
Havel is a liberal -- and, unlike many American liberals, he is proud to proclaim it. As he begins to make his exit, it is worth adding up what his liberalism has wrought. He helped bring freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of commerce to his country. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO and will soon join the European Union. Czechs (Slovaks, too) travel at their pleasure. But Havel has also, unlike some other European leaders, refused to renounce, or even flinch from, the potential of power, even armed power, in the name of security and justice. His government pushed (in vain) for the West to intervene more quickly and completely in Rwanda. He pressed for armed intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. And now, in the age of stateless terrorism, he is unabashedly in favor, as he said in New York, of the principle that "evil must be confronted in its womb and, if there is no other way to do it, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force."
Among Havel's myriad achievements, one of the most lasting is that he has helped to reorder our thinking about artist-intellectuals and political influence. Who is left to prize the fevered delusions of Sartre and Pound, the selective political blindnesses of Aragon and Shaw, when there is the clear-eyed example of Havel? Who is left to question that a thinking person, profound and humane, can find a place in real politics, both in opposition and in power? Countless countries still seem doomed to autocracy without a homegrown version of its antidote. Havel's journey has shown a way out. He leaves the Castle having provided the gift of normalcy to his people, and having restored to many others the dimensions and vigor of the liberal idea.
ILLEGAL ISRAELI RADIO: Although the Arutz Sheva (Seven) radio station is a pirate station operating off a boat off Israel, and has previously been declared illegal, it is still commonly and frequently cited as a "news source" by supports of the extreme right in Israel. Here's the latest from Ha'aretz:
The chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), Justice Mishael Cheshin, issued a restraining order against pirate radio station Arutz Sheva, forbidding it from broadcasting election propaganda until after the January 28 elections. In accepting the petitions filed by the Center for the Protection of Democracy and the Israel Religious Action Center, Cheshin wrote "the election propaganda Arutz Sheva is broadcasting is illegal."
Cheshin added that, in his opinion, "the broadcasts are pure, unadulterated propaganda. The dominant effect of these broadcasts is one of positive and negative propaganda mixed up together until they are indistinguishable."
Cheshin rejected the argument put forward Arutz Sheva's legal representative, attorney Dan Sela, that the station maintained a fair balance in its broadcasts by interview right-wing politicians as well as left-wingers. Cheshin pointed out, however, that while the broadcasts featuring politicians from the right of the spectrum are nothing but propaganda, the broadcasts with politicians from the left are always interviews, some of which are extremely short. "I have no choice but to agree with the petitioners' argument that Arutz Sheva often portrays its interviewees in a critical, sometimes even ridiculous, light."
Cheshin used as an example an interview the station broadcast with Amram Mitzna, in which the Labor leader spoke for one and half line out of the 14 lines of transcript, and the interview spoke for some 10 lines.
He was a punctilious man, and in his haste, he had taken to parking wherever he saw fit -- in the middle of a street, in an emergency fire lane. ''I'm the only member of Harvard who can park where I please,'' he liked to say, noting that he had once given to the campus police an elegant tall clock that belonged to another department.
Now, on his way into the Fogg Art Museum, where many of the university's most valued timepieces were stored, he brushed past the security guard, refusing to open his bag, which one acquaintance described as ''worthy of a bank robber.'' He hurried upstairs to the director's office, which housed a historic regulator clock. It cannot be recalled for certain whether on this occasion the director was conducting a meeting when Ditmas happened to barge in unannounced, though it would not have been the first time. No officer, including the president, seems to have been spared such periodic interruptions.
Once during a faculty meeting, Ditmas burst in wearing a detective cape, declaring: ''Don't pay attention to me. I'm just here to look at the clock.'' He then proceeded to pull out a chair and stand on it. For several minutes, while everyone in the room stared at him, Ditmas peered at the clock's inner workings. Finally, he looked down and said, ''I should think that the head of the department would know enough to wind his own clock.''
While it is quite common for people to believe they can judge a man's character by his house or car, Ditmas held firmly in his conviction that he knew a man through his clock. When Peter Gomes, a longtime minister at the university, sought someone to look after his English grandfather clock, a friend informed him of the horologist, who could be seen wandering the campus once a week and who, though he had no university degree, was often called, with his active encouragement, Prof. Charles Addison Ditmas Jr.
As Gomes recalled in a sermon titled ''Father Time,'' Ditmas said that he might be of service but could not proceed without interviewing him first. Taken aback, the minister arranged a meeting, at which Ditmas showed up precisely on time. ''How did you come by this clock, young man?'' he demanded. As Gomes responded, Ditmas went on with rising suspicion, ''Do you know how to wind it?'' Finally, after a lengthy interrogation, Ditmas explained, ''I never take on a new clock until I am satisfied with the owner; some people don't deserve the clocks they have.'' He then opened his bag and said, ''Well, let's have a look.''
Since the disaster, many people have been caught capitalizing on the grief and chaos of the moment by fraudulently claiming to have lost loved ones. New York City authorities say that they alone have made 37 arrests, and others have cropped up around the country.
Al Thawra, the official newspaper of President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, said it was unfair that Washington was preparing to go to war with Iraq, which was cooperating with United Nations arms inspectors, but seeking a peaceful solution in North Korea, which had just expelled them.
Waaaah! Mommy, make them stop!
Read the Rest Scale: 1 out of 5. Meanwhile, John Burns continues his excellent reporting from Bagdad. Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.
MISSOURI'S SAME-SEX SODOMY LAW, and implicitly other states', will be examined by the Supremes.
What makes this different from Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 case wherein the SCOTUS found no constitutional right to a right to privacy shielding sodomy, is an equal protection argument that asserts that it's unconstitutional to label heterosexual sodomy legal and homosexual sodomy illegal.
Four states -- Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas -- have so-called same-sex sodomy laws, which the Supreme Court has agreed to review. These statutes impose criminal sanctions on certain types of sexual contact between gay men or lesbians, primarily anal and oral sex, that are entirely legal for heterosexuals.
Another nine states -- Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia -- have sodomy laws that apply to all adults, gay or straight, but that tend to be enforced selectively against homosexuals.
Critics say that distinction is unfair. They argue that a moral double standard is being imposed in states with same-sex prohibitions, depriving gay and lesbian citizens of their right to intimate relations and resulting in unequal protection under the law.
What's more, these laws are widely used to justify other kinds of widespread discrimination against homosexuals, critics contend, including denial of custody for gay parents in divorce cases and arbitrary terminations from employment.
But there has been a change in the nation's legal landscape. When the court ruled on Bowers vs. Hardwick, 24 states had sodomy laws in place; now, 13 do. In July, Arkansas joined the majority when its highest court overturned a same-sex sodomy statute.
In a stunning follow-up to Slander, leading conservative pundit Ann Coulter contends that liberals have been wrong on every major domestic and foreign policy issue, from the fight against communism at home and abroad, the Nixon and Clinton presidencies, and the struggle with the Soviet empire, right up to today's war on terrorism. "Liberals have a preternatural gift for always striking a position on the side of treason," says Coulter. "Everyone says liberals love America, too. No, they don't."
USEFUL ADVICE FOR ALL OF US, not just politicians, is offered by Michael Kinsley.
In trying to assess a politician, especially one who is braying about American freedom, justice, democracy, and so on, I like to ask myself: Where would this guy or gal have been in the old Soviet Union? In the gulag with the other dissidents fighting for those values, or climbing up through the power elite as this person is doing in real life? The question is unfair, of course. There's no way of knowing how anyone might respond under duress. And it's a test of moral backbone I have no great confidence I would pass myself. But the exercise is useful.
Most of the political and business leaders of Russia today were climbing happily enough through the ranks of the Soviet Union 14 years ago. But inevitably, some careers get derailed. That is why cold prudence, not just warm and fuzzy idealism, recommends constant questioning of current political arrangements and moral perceptions. Assuming that moral evolution has stopped, internalizing today's values but ignoring or opposing tomorrow's, is a bad tactical mistake no matter how cynical you are. But how can you spot and board that next train in time to get on board before it's too late?
Most of us are not Gandhi or Martin Luther King. We're not going to be the first to see an injustice and believe we can change it. What folks with political ambitions can do is, to start, be open to the Kings and Gandhis and lesser visionaries. And second, be true to their own moral perceptions, if any. To have bought a ticket ahead of the crowd and then to miss the train anyway would be especially discouraging.
Ooh, here's a shot:
("A humanitarian who doesn't let it get in the way" might be the definition of a "compassionate conservative.")
At dawn, with snow falling, two soldiers climbed onto the belly of the overturned Humvee and attached cables. A long-haul truck chugged up the track, and the driver agreed to try to haul the Humvee up onto the road.
The big truck revved its engines, spewing black smoke and tugging at the cable. A Humvee on the roadway pulled a second cable tight to provide support. From the crevice, the stricken Humvee was dragged backward up the incline and popped with a thud, right-side-up, on the road.
Everyone cheered -- even shepherds who had gathered to watch the rescue.
The Humvee was clogged with mud and ice, but its engine ran perfectly. Even the .50-caliber machine gun was still working.
Mike pointed out that the Humvee was Frank's second kill, including the dog.
"Yeah," John said, "but neither one was a confirmed kill."
The convoy continued down the mountain toward Chaghcharan. On the door of the battered Humvee, somebody had drawn an arrow pointing skyward and a message: "This Side Up."
After more than a week in Chaghcharan, the team learned the town had been scrubbed clean of weaponry in anticipation of their arrival. Their movements had been relayed by radio from the militia posts they had passed. Normally, residents said, militiamen dominated the town, demanding protection money from merchants and extorting "taxes" from passing trucks and taxis.
By now, the men had essentially completed the mission. But they were stranded because a Humvee had been disabled by a faulty power steering pump. They were frustrated by the delay, but more by their futile attempts to flush out and attack Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters.
"It's the invisible enemy," Mike said. "It's the germ in the body. The body is sick, but how do you isolate the germ and kill it? It's frustrating."
Rich, 34, the team's weapons sergeant, considered Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks a direct threat to his wife and children back in Georgia. "That's why we're here -- to get the people who did it. But we can't find them," he said.
MOST OVER-RATED AND UNDERRATED IDEAS of the year was the basis of a selective survey done by the New York Times, with some thought-provoking results. Here's one underrated I sign up for:
Evil is a dangerous word, if you fling it about irresponsibly. But it is an important word to keep in our moral vocabulary, because it sharpens our moral reactions and stiffens our moral resolve. The idea of ruthless malice, the love of death and destruction for its sake, constitutes a real category of human agency, and this is what the word evil is designed to connote.
It is a strong word for an extreme phenomenon. The English language can sometimes seem weak in its resources for the description of extreme wrongdoing, so we find ourselves reaching for alien words: pogrom, holocaust, ethnic cleansing, fascist, sadist, gulag, intifada. The word tragedy is often made to perform duties beyond its scope, with its suggestion of inevitability. (Atrocity is better, implying that someone committed an evil act.) The word terrorism is actually far too weak for what it denotes: not merely creating terror, but doing so by the calculated murder and maiming of innocents because they are innocents. So let's keep the old-fashioned word evil, and let's use it with all the seriousness and caution it requires.
Colin McGinn, professor of philosophy, Rutgers University
Rumors that the government of that landlocked southern African country was colluding with vampires to collect human blood in exchange for food sent terrified villagers fleeing, wire services reported last week. A suspected vampire helper was stoned or beaten to death; three priests were attacked; and a foreign aid encampment identified as vampire headquarters was destroyed.
It didn't happen in a vacuum. Malawi faces widespread starvation and a severe AIDS epidemic, as well as an uproar over efforts by the country's first and only democratically elected president, Bakili Muluzi, to override a two-term limit and remain in office after 2004.
"Vampires say a lot about our fears and hopes," said Nina Auerbach, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Our Vampires, Ourselves."
President Muluzi, in debunking the vampire rumors, may have inadvertently encouraged them when he said, "No government can go about sucking the blood of its own people."
The denial rang false, Ms. Auerbach said, because, "Governments have always sucked the blood of their people."
In the United States, perhaps by the same reasoning, vampires come in friendlier form. There is [...] the wholesome cheeriness of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Written by someone who has clearly never watched Buffy, wherein almost every character has, at one point or another, tried to kill every other character, and where tragic and bleak loss takes place on a weekly basis.
NEW VERY SECRET DIARIES OF LOTR, based on The Two Towers, have been started by Cassie Claire, author of the original Secret Diaries. She starts with Theoden and Aragorn, and is working on Legolas.
Desperately in need of new personal assistant. Have contacted Ninety Minute Minion Services in Isengard. Seems best bet as if minion does not arrive in ninety minutes you get free Orc. Do not actually know what would do with Orc if had one, so do hope minion arrives on time.
New minion arrived. Not best looking bloke I've ever clapped eyes on, but then again, not everyone can be brainless pretty boy with big show-off ponytail like Eomer. Little does Eomer know Wormtongue has promised me new makeover with Saruman's personal line of beauty products. Has promised me I will look fresh and youthful.
Why have the VNS at all? It seems to Tapped that the VNS has a tendency to distort elections -- returns reported in the late evening on the East Coast must affect voting behavior during the early evening on the West Coast. Maybe we'd be better off without it.
I've never had the faintest sympathy with this anti-First Amendment, pro-stupidity, point of view. If voters are so dim as to not vote because they, at the last minute, hear that their candidate is likely to lose, that's their choice, and it's no different whether they read a poll five minutes before balloting closes, five hours, or five days; it's still their free choice, not because of Evil Mind Control Rays From Space (or The West Coast).
I'm also bemused by any political commentator, Democrat or otherwise, who comes out in favor of censoring the news, and against the free speech right of anyone to take a poll and tell others about it. I'm unaware that censoring the news is, with extremely few exceptions, a Good Thing. Unless reporting on a poll is going to cause people to die -- and reports on this are as yet vague -- I can't see supporting such censororiousness in order to Protect People Behaving Stupidly From Deciding To Be Stupid.
I should clarify that Tapped didn't come out in favor of making publishing polls on Election Day illegal -- that's a separable issue from the usefulness of VNS, and one I jumped to because one so frequently reads such proposals when one sees objections to such polls, which is what Tapped did make. But Tapped didn't propose such a law, just the "doing away with" VNS, presumably voluntarily, and I want to make that clear. Meanwhile:
The major television news networks and The Associated Press are seriously considering dissolving their decadelong partnership in the Voter News Service, the Election Day polling organization that was at the heart of the problems they had in reporting the results of the last two national elections, network executives close to the discussions said.
THE LIVES OF 15TH CENTURY AMBASSADORS are covered by The Economist, readable as non-premium content via Brad deLong, who is fascinated by the accompanying cost of living chart. Observes Brad:
A single candle costs more than a chicken. A plain-paper notebook costs twice as much as a dagger (and forty times as much as a chicken). A horse costs three times as much as an indulgence.
First, however, they had to get there. This filled them with dread, for even Venetian ambassadors did not much like the sea. Long delays were also likely. "In default of wind, tide and shipping", envoys were sometimes held up for weeks at Calais. When their small ship sailed, they shared it with their horses. These were not just useful transport but, far more important, status symbols, much like big cars nowadays. Other countries' envoys would note the precise number and send it home. Ten horses was poor; 20 was standard, a number even the Scots could manage sometimes; 30 was impressive, the sort of figure expected from the profligate French.
Lacking horses, you could still cut a reasonable figure with a large number of gold chains round your neck.
Hey, who knew they were so urban?
The food was good, especially the fish, but the water was undrinkable and the home-grown wine past contemplation. Instead, envoys tried the beer and ale: "These liquors are much liked by [the English], nor are they disliked by foreigners, after they have drunk them four or six times."
Soncino's lodging probably cost around a shilling (12d) a night, with meals included. De Puebla rented a suite of rooms at the Austin Friars, but was also renowned for staying "in the house of a mason who keeps dishonest women" where a seat at the slopped-down common table cost 2d a day. To supplement these pie-and-beer meals, he tried to cadge food at court. Henry VII, enquiring once why the Spanish envoy had come round yet again, was told: "to eat".
Those damn ambassadors.
The Spanish sovereigns made horrendous employers. Soncino and Trevisano merely feared they had been forgotten in England; de Puebla knew he never was, for the fierce instructions and rebukes kept coming. ("You must write at least twice a month, and tell us everything that transpires." "That is the biggest joke in the whole world." "There was nothing in our letter that could have caused you to interpret it the way you did.")
Snotty royalty, but probably most were (are?).
Lots of neat stuff. Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.
What Mr. Dean lacks in fame he makes up for in hard-to-categorize positions. Alone among contenders, he favors eliminating most of the Bush tax cut. He favors new deductions and tax credits for retirement.
He would use the savings to help finance universal health insurance coverage, through a mix of payments by states to insure those college age and younger, as well as subsidies for private insurance for workers in small businesses, part-timers and the self-employed. (In Vermont, he expanded Medicaid to cover most children.)
As governor of a hunting state that has never had more than 25 homicides in any year of his governorship, Mr. Dean favors a new federal check for buyers at gun shows, but other than that, he would leave new measures to the states. "I don't think this is a national issue," he said.
I'm for all that.
If you prefer, see here for profile of John Edwards, and here for John Kerry.
I'll take any of them over Dick (ptui) Gephardt.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, if you're not yet terribly familiar with these guys.
THAT RELATIVITY MAY HAVE EXCEPTIONS is explored here. Special bonus points for a few of us:
Dr. Kostelecky and his colleagues have constructed an extension to the standard model of particle physics that catalogs all the possible ways that relativity can be violated. Others, including Dr. Amelino-Camelia, Dr. John Ellis of CERN, Dr. Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Harvard theorists Dr. Sheldon Glashow and Dr. Sidney Coleman, have attempted to study the ways that relativity can be violated by quantum gravity or in the high-energy cosmic rays.
... for mention of sometime sf fan, longtime friend of Terry Carr, and, hey, I've met him!, Sid Coleman.
Did you know that...
The most recent buzz in V.S.L. circles is about something called "doubly special relativity."
NO SELECTIVE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTIONsays the Israeli Supreme Court, whether to serving in the occupied territories, or to uprooting settlements there.
But beneath that broad agreement, the court found enduring fissures in Israeli society that is said it would render a selective refusal to serve dangerous to the state.
The reservists' group was seeking a right accorded those who object on moral grounds to performing any military service: to appear before a committee with the power to grant a conscientious objector an exemption from service. But the court found a distinction between refusing any service, and refusing only specific duties.
While the objection today might be to service in the occupied territories, the court said, "tomorrow the objection will be against the evacuation of various settlements in the area."
It warned: "The people's army might turn into an army of peoples, made up of different units each having its own spheres in which it can act conscientiously, and others in which it cannot. In a polarized society such as ours, this consideration weighs heavily."
I'm sympathetic to those who object to serving in the occupied territories, but I do also take the Court's point, which has some obvious logic and validity. And, in the end, one can still demonstrate one's opinion:
Today's ruling means that those who refuse to serve will continue to be vulnerable to up to 35 days of prison time each time they reject a reserve call-up. For that reason, about 200 reserve soldiers have served terms of 28 to 35 days in the last 18 months, Mr. Sfard said. Some, called up more than once, have already served more than one term.
Going to jail for your beliefs is yet more eloquent than merely stating them.
IT'S OKAY TO BE A GAY REPUBLICAN now, apparently. Good. Good for the Bush Administration, and for the Congressional Republicans who didn't continue the Neanderthal behavior they engaged in when Clinton nominated gay appointees.
DRUG COMPANIES' LEGAL BRIBES to doctors and medical institutions are being opposed by the Bush Administration's Dept. of Health and Human Services. Naturally,
Drug companies and doctors are fighting a Bush administration plan to restrict gifts and other rewards that pharmaceutical manufacturers give doctors and insurers to encourage the prescribing of particular drugs.
In October, the Department of Health and Human Services said many gifts and gratuities were suspect because they looked like illegal kickbacks. Since then, a few consumer groups, including AARP, have voiced support for the restrictions. But they are outnumbered by the drug makers, doctors and health maintenance organizations that have flooded the government with letters criticizing the proposal.
Drug makers acknowledged, for example, that they routinely made payments to insurance plans to increase the use of their products, to expand their market share, to be added to lists of recommended drugs or to reward doctors and pharmacists for switching patients from one brand of drug to another.
Insurers, doctors and drug makers said such payments were so embedded in the structure of the health care industry that the Bush administration plan would be profoundly disruptive.
I'm sure it would. That would be the idea.
The arguments were made in a public comment period. The administration said it was considering those comments and expected to issue final guidelines in a few months.
Call me cynical, but I expected the "revised" final guidelines to echo the opposing arguments, and that the guidelines will be toothless at best.
In its guidance to the industry, the government warned drug makers not to offer financial incentives to doctors, pharmacists or other health care professionals to prescribe or recommend particular drugs. The government said the industry's aggressive marketing practices could improperly drive up costs for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health programs for 75 million people who are elderly, disabled or poor.
But a coalition of 19 pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Schering-Plough, said the Bush administration proposal was "not grounded in an understanding of industry practices." The payments and incentives to which the government objects are standard in the drug industry, they said.
Yes, we know. That's the point.
Merck & Company said it routinely gave discounts and payments to health plans to reward "shifts in market share" favoring its products. Merck complained that the administration proposal would "criminalize a wide range of commercial conduct" that the industry regards as normal and entirely proper.
Yes, we know. That's the point.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the chief lobby for brand-name drug companies, acknowledged that these payments created a strong incentive to prescribe certain drugs, or to shift patients from one drug to another. But, it said, that did not make the payments "illegal kickbacks."
Correctamundo! It makes them legal kickbacks! Say, I have an idea: let's make them illegal!
Solvay Pharmaceuticals of Marietta, Ga., told the government: "We understand that bribes and other hidden remuneration should be prohibited. However, a policy statement that declares well-established commercial practices potentially criminal creates a chilling effect on commerce and ultimately harms all consumers."
I'm ineluctably reminded of the scene from Animal House where the Delta House members, in a classroom, being addressed by Dean Wormer, begin sneezing bullshit, bullshit.
The American Association of Health Plans, which represents most of the nation's H.M.O.'s, said the proposed standards "cast doubt on the propriety of many well-established practices undertaken by health plans to develop and administer their drug benefits."
Yes, that's the... well, you get the point.
Drug manufacturers said they often encouraged the use of their products by making payments or giving discounts to H.M.O.'s and to the specialized companies that manage drug benefits for millions of Americans. Such companies, known as pharmacy benefit managers, can exert immense influence over what drugs are prescribed and dispensed.
And maybe that's not a good thing? I know it's a wacky idea, but maybe drugs should be prescribed based solely on medical reasoning?
H.M.O.'s and pharmacy benefit managers said they typically received money from the manufacturer of a drug if sales of that drug reached a certain level — say 40 percent of all the prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering agents. The manufacturer may agree to a higher payment if the drug achieves a larger share of the market.
But that's not an "illegal kickback," of course. Just a "kickback." Which maybe should be made illegal.
One other thing:
The administration proposal says that when drug executives discover evidence of illegal conduct, they should report it to federal authorities within 60 days. Also, it said, drug makers should consider offering rewards to whistle-blowers and should prominently display the phone number for reporting Medicare fraud to the government (1-800-447-8477).
The coalition of drug makers objected to these recommendations, saying they would undercut the companies' efforts to police themselves.
Yes, I'm sure.
I'd like to know where our new Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Frist, whose fortune is from owning HRC, the "managed care" firm, stands on these issues he has such conflicts-of-interest in.
APPRECIATING RADICAL LIBERALISM is Tod Gitlin's subject in this review of young left-wing historian Kevin Mattson's Intellectuals in Action: The Origins of the New Left and Radical Liberalism, 1945-1970
Histories and evocations of sixties ideas and sentiments go in and out of fashion but they are not what Mattson has in mind. Nor does cultural radicalism interest him, except as an impediment to the difficult work of politics. He presupposes that personal liberation, however delightful, is not good enough for the public weal. It is a particular set of ideas that interests him-ideas about the kind of politics that the left needs, and what intellectuals can do to promote such politics. From among the great swarm of ideas that circulated in the churning, blistering chaos of the sixties, Mattson has a particularly appreciative eye for one much-deplored tradition. If a single word characterizes such politics, the word is (reader, are you sitting down?) liberal. There was more life in liberalism than the New Left understood, Mattson maintains, and that life was not exhausted. In the sixties, the modifier he prefers is "radical," but the rock-bottom hero whom Mattson wishes to resurrect is that much-excoriated reform-minded defender of egalitarian justice, battered from the right as a crypto-communist and during the sixties frequently battered from the left by those who considered "corporate liberalism" the ideology of the ruling class and didn't have much respect for any other kind of liberalism either.
One of the unexpected tragedies of the student movement was that it mushroomed so fast as to swell up with inflated notions of how big and potent it was, and was destined to be. As impressively big as it had grown, might it not grow still bigger and get more done by kicking out the jams, breaking with more cautious allies, pushing harder in the direction of militancy? Scads of radical intellectuals were intoxicated by confrontation and inattentive to the consequences. They sneered at the growing backlash, paying little attention to the gathering strength of the then-new conservatives, and forgetting that most of America was not champing at the bit to get on with the revolution. Here as elsewhere, Mattson's discussion is subtle and generous, if, in the end, deservedly scathing.
But eventually it becomes clear that he is singling out one tendency for particular sympathy-and it is in its treatment of this tendency that Mattson distinguishes himself. To name it, Mattson borrows a phrase from the political philosopher Arnold Kaufman: he calls it "radical liberalism."
To paraphrase something Mills once said about Cuba, Kaufman worried about the movement but he also worried with it, within it. As early as 1955, Kaufman was arguing that political theorists had a particular responsibility to attend to the consequences of action. (To the consequences of thinking, too: he opposed the New Left romance with the Viet Cong on principle as well as on the ground of political calculation.) As Mattson puts it, by 1965 Kaufman was convinced that "confrontational protests often did more to make protesters feel good about themselves than to change things for the better." It was necessary, Kaufman thought, "to show how proposals could be transformed into politics-that is, into effective change." Like Williams at his populist best, Kaufman enjoined dialogue with ordinary Americans, but unlike Williams, he did not think that smaller was more beautiful. "A politics of truth" had to be married to "a politics of impact." New Leftists, he insisted, were gravely mistaken if they forgot that they "rely for support on the 'finks' they abuse." In an endless chain of articles and memos, Kaufman strove to "keep the New Left in contact with America's political realities while it tried to push the country to the left . . . .forging an effective coalition politics, respecting the value of participatory democracy, accepting the limits of what radical liberals could accomplish while not becoming cynical, being tough-minded while not becoming interested in winning at all costs, arguing against American policies while not sounding anti-American, and facing one's enemies with respect and seriousness." Not a bad agenda for next week, month, or year.
Indeed. Though I think it mandatory to modify "arguing against American policies" to "arguing against bad American policies." That this distinction is, in an unusually careless way, not made clear as mandatory by the usually sensible Gitlin is to unintentionally give voice to the "blame America first" trope pinned with sometime accuracy on too much of the American left, and indeed one of the most problematic pieces of ideological baggage it needs must shred, burn to ashes, and then throw overboard.
SPEAKING OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS, the facts of what happened in 1991 is alarming enough.
Neither Martin nor anybody else on the ground realized that at least one of the bunkers -- No. 73 -- contained hundreds of Iraqi rockets filled with sarin and cyclosarin. Six days later, at a nearby open rubble pit, the troops detonated more rockets.
The CIA knew about this deadly stockpile, but its warnings didn't reach commanders in the field in time, documents show. For five years after the war, the Pentagon denied that U.S. troops were exposed to any chemical fallout.
Then after persistent pressure from Congress and veterans advocates, the military announced in June 1996 that 400 soldiers at Khamisiyah were "presumed exposed." A year later, the number swelled to 100,000, after experts studied the winds and movement of the Khamisiyah "plume." They determined that troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were within range. Personnel received notices saying they "may have been exposed to a very low level" of sarin, but "long-term health problems are unlikely."
How much nerve agent was released? About 818 pounds, according to a Pentagon study two years ago. But that's just the latest guesstimate; earlier intelligence reports said more than a ton was detonated in Bunker 73 alone. (One drop of sarin would kill a person within minutes.)
A standard-issue gas mask and chemical protection suit decorate one corner of Steve Robinson's small office in Silver Spring. A former Army Ranger sergeant, he's head of the National Gulf War Resource Center, a veterans' advocacy group. Crunching recent VA statistics, he has come up with what he calls the "post-war casualty rate" of America's last war with Iraq.
In his view, the numbers demolish the notion of a clean or easy victory. Estimated veterans: 573,000. Number who have proved, to the satisfaction of government doctors, that they had a service-related medical problem: 160,000.
Which comes to nearly 28 percent -- a rate of approved disability claims exceeding World War II (6.6 percent), Korea (5 percent) and Vietnam (9.6 percent).
But, at both the VA and the Pentagon, the top doctors concur on one point: The Gulf vets are not fakers or malingerers.
"This is not a psychosomatic issue," says Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director for deployment health support in the Department of Defense.
THE FIRST MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE, 60,000 Marines, have trained hard.
The Marines' training, though always intense, has taken on an increased sense of urgency in recent months, several said. Camp Pendleton has what may be the largest Marine Operations on Urbanized Terrain course, where more than 100 Marines at a time can practice fighting in a post-apocalyptic-looking cityscape, seeking out snipers firing "SIM" rounds tipped with colored chalk.
The base's heightened focus on urban warfare began with the initiation of "Project Metropolis," a curriculum designed in 1999 by the Marine Warfare Lab, which sought to reduce casualty rates in urban fighting from the historical average of 30 percent to 40 percent or more in bloody battles such as Hue City during the Vietnam War.
In training, the Marines now say, the casualty rate has fallen to about 20 percent.
"We drilled and drilled and drilled, and eventually got better at it," said Sgt. Smith, the range's safety officer for the day. All around him about 80 Marines threw grappling hooks into window frames to climb walls and advanced building to building in small numbers down exposed city streets. "If they ever have to do it for real, they'll be glad they did this," he said.
The Marines carry gas masks strapped to their hips, and instructors occasionally surprise the trainees by releasing a canister of CS gas, a mild tearing agent.
Last week, the battalion got off easy: The hike lasted only a couple of hours, and they were not required to carry their loaded backpacks, which can weigh more than 75 pounds. But the pace was quick, and some had to "fall out" of the formation with fatigue or injuries and ride behind in jeeps.
As the group reached the home stretch, several CS canisters erupted along the trail. Though the Marines were wearing masks, some broke into coughing fits after swallowing a corrosive mouthful.
That 20% figure is sobering, no matter that it's "better." And so is the last bit, when one contemplates that it's not relatively harmless CS tear gas that US or allied forces might have to cope with. One can only hope it doesn't come to this.
THE FOUR WARS OF ISRAEL & PALESTINE are looked at by Michael Walzer in Dissent:
Four Israeli-Palestinian wars are now in progress.
The first is a Palestinian war to destroy the state of Israel.
The second is a Palestinian war to create an independent state alongside Israel, ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The third is an Israeli war for the security of Israel within the 1967 borders.
The fourth is an Israeli war for Greater Israel, for the settlements and the occupied territories.
It isn't easy to say which war is being fought at any given moment; in a sense, the four are simultaneous. They are also continuous; the wars go on even when the fighting stops, as if in confirmation of Thomas Hobbes's definition: "For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known . . . " Throughout the course of the Oslo peace process, some Palestinians and some Israelis were fighting the first and fourth of these wars-or, at least, were committed to fighting them (and their will to contend was sufficiently known so that it could have been dealt with). The actual decision to restart the battles was taken by the Palestinians in September 2000; since then, all four wars have been actively in progress.
A most useful analysis. One side-note:
(A note to European critics of Ariel Sharon: on any account, including that of Palestinian oppositionists, Arafat is more involved in the terrorist campaign than Sharon was in the Sabra and Shatilla massacre.)
A point worth remembering when people call Sharon a murderer.
A LOOK AT THE TILT TOWARDS IRAQ by the US in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88).
"It was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now," says Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA military analyst and author of "The Threatening Storm," which makes the case for war with Iraq. "My fellow [CIA] analysts and I were warning at the time that Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department."
"Fundamentally, the policy was justified," argues David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, who runs an anti-Hussein radio station in Prague. "We were concerned that Iraq should not lose the war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would become less repressive and more responsible."
A shame that didn't work out. One obviously also has to wonder what the region would look like today if Iran had conquered Iraq.
Reagan's special envoy to Saddam Hussein in 1983 was a civilian named "Donald Rumsfeld."
In a September interview with CNN, Rumsfeld said he "cautioned" Hussein about the use of chemical weapons, a claim at odds with declassified State Department notes of his 90-minute meeting with the Iraqi leader. A Pentagon spokesman, Brian Whitman, now says that Rumsfeld raised the issue not with Hussein, but with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. The State Department notes show that he mentioned it largely in passing as one of several matters that "inhibited" U.S. efforts to assist Iraq.
Rumsfeld has also said he had "nothing to do" with helping Iraq in its war against Iran. Although former U.S. officials agree that Rumsfeld was not one of the architects of the Reagan administration's tilt toward Iraq -- he was a private citizen when he was appointed Middle East envoy -- the documents show that his visits to Baghdad led to closer U.S.-Iraqi cooperation on a wide variety of fronts. Washington was willing to resume diplomatic relations immediately, but Hussein insisted on delaying such a step until the following year.
One interesting tidbit:
According to a sworn court affidavit prepared by Teicher in 1995, the United States "actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure Iraq had the military weaponry required." Teicher said in the affidavit that former CIA director William Casey used a Chilean company, Cardoen, to supply Iraq with cluster bombs that could be used to disrupt the Iranian human wave attacks. Teicher refuses to discuss the affidavit.
Plenty more details in the story on US backing and supplying of the Hussein regime, including with source materials for chemical and biological weaponry. In the end:
"Everybody was wrong in their assessment of Saddam," said Joe Wilson, Glaspie's former deputy at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and the last U.S. official to meet with Hussein. "Everybody in the Arab world told us that the best way to deal with Saddam was to develop a set of economic and commercial relationships that would have the effect of moderating his behavior. History will demonstrate that this was a miscalculation."
History demonstrates this is an understatement. But I do believe it was, in fact, miscalculation, and one reasonable people can and did make. The possible alternative present of a Mideast dominated by the Ayatollahs of Iran, ruling over Iraq, the Gulf States, and possibly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is not, either, attractive, inspiring, or comforting. And that's what looked like the alternative to balancing Iraq against Iran.
LEFTIST PATRIOTIC AMERICANS are the subject of this terrific essay by Michael Kazin in Dissent which expresses the view I've always had.
I love my country. I love its passionate and endlessly inventive culture, its remarkably diverse landscape, its agonizing and wonderful history. I particularly cherish its civic ideals-social equality, individual liberty, a populist democracy-and the unending struggle to put their laudable, if often contradictory, claims into practice. I realize that patriotism, like any powerful ideology, is a "construction" with multiple uses, some of which I abhor. But I persist in drawing stimulation and pride from my American identity.
For American leftists, patriotism was indispensable. It made their dissent and rebellion intelligible to their fellow citizens-and located them within the national narrative, fighting to shape a common future. Tom Paine praised his adopted homeland as an "asylum for mankind"-which gave him a forum to denounce regressive taxes and propose free public education. Elizabeth Cady Stanton issued a "Woman's Declaration of Rights" on the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and argued that denying the vote to women was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Union activists in the Gilded Age such as Eugene Debs and Mother Jones accused employers of crushing the individuality and self-respect of workers. When Debs became a socialist, he described his new vision in the American idiom, as "the equal rights of all to manage and control" society. Half a century later, Martin Luther King, Jr., told his fellow bus boycotters, "If we are wrong-the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong" and proclaimed that "the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right."
One could easily list analogous statements from such pioneering reformers as Jane Addams and Betty Friedan, unionists Sidney Hillman and Cesar Chavez, and the gay liberationist Harvey Milk. Without patriotic appeals, the great social movements that attacked inequalities of class, gender, and race in the United States-and spread their messianic rhetoric around the world-would never have gotten off the ground.
Even slavery couldn't extinguish the promise radicals found in the American creed. On Independence Day, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave an angry, eloquent address that asked, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" Every account quotes the fugitive-turned-abolitionist speaking truth to white power: "Your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery." But fewer commentators note that when, at the end of his speech, Douglass predicted slavery's demise, he drew his "encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions," as well as from a spirit of enlightenment that he believed was growing on both sides of the Atlantic. After emancipation, Douglass never stopped condemning the hypocrisy of white Americans- or continuing to base his hopes for equality on traditions he and they held in common.
In the meantime, Americans who want to transform the world have to learn how to persuade the nation. At minimum, this means putting pressure on the national government, organizing coalitions of people from different regions and backgrounds, and debating citizens who think their tax money ought to be spent only at home. Disconnected as they are from any national or local constituency, global leftists now live at risk of being thrust to the margins-abstract sages of equity, operatives of nongovernmental organizations engaged in heroic but Sisyphean tasks, or demonstrators roving from continent to continent in search of bankers to heckle.
Most ordinary citizens understandably distrust a left that condemns military intervention abroad or a crackdown at home but expresses only a pro forma concern for the actual and potential victims of terrorism. Without empathy for one's neighbors, politics becomes a cold, censorious enterprise indeed.
But to rail against patriotic symbols is to wage a losing battle-and one that demeans us and sets us against the overwhelming majority of Americans for no worthwhile moral or political purpose. Instead, leftists should again claim, without pretense or apology, an honorable place in the long narrative of those who demanded that American ideals apply to all and opposed the efforts of those who tried to reserve them for favored groups. When John Ashcroft denies the right of counsel to a citizen accused of terrorism or a CEO cooks the books to impress Wall Street, they are soiling the flag and ought to be put on the patriotic defensive. Liberals and radicals are the only people in politics who can insist on closing the gap between America as the apotheosis of democratic strivings and the sordid realities of greed and arrogance that often betray it.
There is really no alternative.
In hope of a revival, left patriots might draw inspiration from two voices from disparate points on the demographic and ideological spectrum. During the Great Depression, the white, conservative skeptic George Santayana observed that "America is the greatest of opportunities and the worst of influences. Our effort must be to resist the influence and improve the opportunity." At the same time, Langston Hughes-black, homosexual, and communist sympathizer-expressed a parallel vision:
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed - Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above… O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath - America will be!
Throughout our history, and still today, the most effective way to love the country is to fight like hell to change it.
THE 9/11 MONETARY RELIEF PACKAGE is a mess. Big surprise.
In the months after nearly 2,800 people died in the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center, the Bush administration pledged $21.4 billion to address the emergency. The extraordinary allocation of federal disaster relief, while less than local elected officials had petitioned for, was meant to reassure, restore and restart an emotionally and economically ravaged New York City and surrounding region.
More than 15 months later, some $4.5 billion to $5 billion has made its way from Washington to New York. Significant sums of money were made available almost immediately, and they made possible early progress in providing for victims and establishing a sense that the city could rebound.
Roughly $600 million was sent to cover the costs of the monumental task of cleaning up the site. An additional $401 million has been distributed to some 10,000 downtown businesses to keep them afloat. And $493 million in tax-free bonds have been approved to help finance major construction projects, including three residential complexes around ground zero.
But many victims, elected officials, business executives and others are both confused and angry about why, more than a year after the most serious terrorist attack on American soil, less than a quarter of the federal government's promise of financial assistance has been realized, why hundreds of millions of dollars that are in the hands of New York officials have gone unclaimed, and why firm decisions have yet to be made on how additional billions of dollars will actually be spent.
SENATOR PATTY MURRAY MADE SOME REMARKS that are largely simply factually incontrovertible -- that Osama bin Laden is popular in much of the Islamic third world, and that that is partially because he has supported charitable works -- and since they overlapped the timespan of Trent Lott's melt-down, there was a lot of fingerpointing at her with absurd claims that somehow she was being too positive about bin Laden, or that it was "treasonous" to say anything positive about him, no matter that it might actually simply be an objectively factual observation (can anyone support the claim that bin Laden isn't popular with many in the Islamic third world, and that he hasn't spent some money on Islamic charity and good works, and been known for it?).
Tony Adragna addresses this very well, and, as others have, points out that one George W. Bush said pretty much the same thing on said on March 14, 2002, the treasonous bastard.
CAPTCHA is here. CAPTCHA is a program that can generate and grade tests that: most humans can pass; current computer programs can't pass. Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.
Here's a story on how Yahoo is using it to prevent computer sign-ups.
Upon finishing Bush at War, I picked up a recent edition of The Amazing Spiderman, in which author J. Michael Straczynski, together with artists John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna, attempted to bring the tragedy of 9-11 alive through the characters of Peter Parker and company. I can't say I "believed" that comic. But I did find in it a voice filled with integrity and empathy that is entirely absent from the oh-so-serious comic-book version of Bush and company to which Bob Woodward has willingly lent his name.
WHAT WENT WRONG?asks and answers Amos Elon, of the Israelis and Palestinians, running through some of the history.
David Ben-Gurion was the only leading figure in the political elite who broke the general euphoria by suggesting that Israel withdraw immediately, if need be unilaterally, from all occupied territories. As he had in 1948, Ben-Gurion flatly opposed any attempts to permanently occupy the West Bank. But Ben-Gurion was old and retired and politically isolated. He had bitterly quarreled with the ruling Labor Party. Yigal Allon, the same young general who in 1948 had urged him to complete, as he put it, the "liberation" of the rest of the country, was now a prominent cabinet minister competing for the premiership with Moshe Dayan, another former general. Allon, though he spoke vaguely of the need to allow the Palestinians a state of their own, drew up a plan of settlements and annexations on the West Bank that would have left the Palestinians little more than two enclaves in the Samarian and Judean mountains, surrounded by Israeli military bases and proposed settlements. They would have no political foothold in Jerusalem. The so-called Allon Plan grew incrementally over the years as the political deadlock continued; it embraced more and more territory to be settled and annexed by Israel.
Peace was a distinct possibility—with the Palestinians as early as the summer of 1967, with Jordan and Egypt in 1971 and 1972. Soon after the 1967 war, two senior Israeli intelligence officers—one was David Kimche, who later served as deputy director of Mossad and director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry —interviewed prominent Palestinian civic and political leaders throughout the West Bank, including intellectuals, notables, mayors, and religious leaders. He reported that most of them said they were ready to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state on the West Bank that would sign a separate peace with Israel. The PLO at the time was still a fairly marginal group.
Kimche's report, as far as we know, was shelved by Dayan. It was never submitted to the cabinet. In the hubris of the first few months following the war, even a tentative effort to explore this possibility would likely have been rejected by the cabinet. Dayan believed that as long as the natives were treated kindly and decently—at first they were—it would be possible to maintain the status quo on the West Bank and in Gaza for generations. The Palestinians were still remarkably docile; they had allowed the West Bank to be conquered in a few hours without firing a single shot. Dayan—and nearly the entire political and military establishment—were convinced that not only the Palestinians but also Egypt and Syria would be unable to present a military threat for decades. Dayan's opinion of the Arab armies was reflected during a visit to Vietnam. Asked by General Westmoreland how to win in war, Dayan is said to have responded: "First of all, you pick the Arabs as your enemy." He told me a few weeks after the war: "What is it really, this entire West Bank? It's only a couple of small townships."
SALMAN RUSHDIE LIKES THE TWO TOWERS and Tolkien, more than not. But here's a line with an untrue clause, save through his own prism of perspective:
(I am a big fan of the book version of "The Lord of the Rings," but nobody ever read Tolkien for the writing.)
That would be news to a lot of people who aren't Rushdie.
Oh, yeah, this piece uses TTT, and Gangs of New York to comment upon the present looming war on Iraq, the alleged public mood to fight black and white evil, and other broad topics, but it's not one of Rushdie's clearer or more insightful pieces, alas.
AN ENDORSEMENT FOR GARY HART FOR PRESIDENT from... OxBlog. Well, it's a start.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, if you're open-minded about heart, though there's nothing particularly new here. The idea that Hart "thinks outside the box" is attributed to his long years out of office, which seems unlikely, since it was the primary thing Hart was lauded for in office, and the foundation of his last two Presidential campaigns.
The government, which seized the farms without compensation, still lacks title to most of the land. Many prospective black farmers are reluctant to occupy farms without title deeds because it is nearly impossible to get loans without them.
Meanwhile, thousands of impoverished, resettled farmers are struggling to survive without seed, fertilizer, irrigation and plowing assistance, basic services that the government has promised. The United Nations says that more than half of the government's tractor fleet — which was meant to plow fields for the poor — is out of service because of shortages of spare parts and fuel.
Officials are so short of seed and fertilizer that many small farmers are sitting idle on plots of land they cannot plant. In Manicaland Province, only about 10 percent of resettled farmers have seed and 17 percent have fertilizer. When seeds are available, the government often provides unsuitable varieties.
"In most cases, the maize seed supplied is not suitable for the areas in which they have been distributed," the United Nations said in a recent report. Some newly resettled farmers are also going hungry as the country's food shortages worsen. Aid agencies report that farmers in the district of Gwanda have gone without food assistance from the government for three months. Zimbabwe, once one of Africa's most prosperous nations, is now a country of hungry people.
"We took it for granted that the supplies would be adequate," Mr. Mugabe said this month in an interview with the state-controlled newspaper, The Herald. "It then proved that we were mistaken," he said. "Seed is short, fertilizer is short and tillage is inadequate. We are working on that."
There's no doubt that a horrific injustice was visited upon the then native people of Zimbabwe when white people came and stole all their best land and then established a brutal racist rule over them. But this "land reform" has not exactly been a just and competent response. Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 if interested.
12/25/2002 06:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
DID YOU KNOW ABOUT GRAY FOX? I knew a little about ISA, the Army's Intelligence Support Activity, but hadn't run across the "Gray Fox" name until I ran across it in Seymour Hersh's latest in The New Yorker, where he referred to:
...the United States government's secret undercover team, known as Gray Fox.
Here's an odd quote from Hersh:
A senior Administration official acknowledged that Rumsfeld's plans for Special Operations run "counter to conventional military doctrine." He may succeed, nevertheless, the official said, because the senior military leadership suffers from a lack of will. The official noted that Rumsfeld was able to get what he wanted in large measure because he made it a personal issue. "He's the strangest guy I've ever run into," the official said. "He doesn't delegate."
Here's the troubling thing about military killings in the war on terror:
Other military officials I spoke with had similar concerns. "You might be able to pull it off for five or six months," a Pentagon consultant said. "We've created a culture in the Special Forces -- twenty- and twenty-one-year-olds who need adult leadership. They're assuming you've got legal authority, and they'll do it"-- eagerly eliminate any target assigned to them. Eventually, the intelligence will be bad, he said, and innocent people will be killed. "And then they'll get hung." As for Rumsfeld and his deputies, he said, "These guys will overextend themselves, and they'll self-destruct."
That sounds all too plausible. An interesting place to keep an eye on is:
Feith also oversees the vaguely named Office of Special Plans, which is directed by William J. Luti, and is the center of some of the most aggressive strategizing taking place in the Pentagon today.
Later in Hersh's piece:
Internal Pentagon memorandums include scathing commentary on the intelligence community. In one, the Secretary was urged to keep the Gray Fox unit "out of the hands" of the intelligence community. The paper noted, "Alone, of all organizations within DoD, Gray Fox has the potential, if nurtured, to fight the kind of war the Secretary envisions fighting. . . . Let the intel people get their hooks into Gray Fox and intel will then control what operations can and cannot do."
William H. Arkin, noted writer on the military, says:
Rumsfeld's influential Defense Science Board 2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism says in its classified "outbrief" -- a briefing drafted to guide other Pentagon agencies -- that the global war on terrorism "requires new strategies, postures and organization."
The board recommends creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group, (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.
Among other things, this body would launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction -- that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response" attacks by U.S. forces.
Such tactics would hold "states/sub-state actors accountable" and "signal to harboring states that their sovereignty will be at risk," the briefing paper declares.
IS THERE SOME HIDDEN MESSAGE in the fact that Turner Classic Movies fare for tonight is Fiddler On The Roof and Yentl? Or that TBS has chosen to have a John Wayne festival all day, while TNN is running a James Bond marathon all week? And FX is doing all Tom Hanks pictures? What's it all mean, Mr. Natural?
12/25/2002 04:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
ANNIVERSARIES: Amygdala is unable to check its archive, due to their being hosed, but it was somewhere in mid-December of 2001 that we opened our editorial offices.
Sometime today, we passed 100,000 visits, as measured by Site Meter, present measure being 100,298, and 138,825 page views.
A tiny number for a year compared to some sites, a large number compared to some others.
Amygdala would like to thank any reader who returns, particularly given our tendency to be unable to post for days and weeks at a time, at times, and we particularly thank those who regularly check back, in the face of strange password requests appearing, slow load times, bad HTML, and other obstacles we are all thrilled to find.
May all of you who celebrate Christmas continue to have a lovely one, and best wishes for, according to our most common calendar, a happy new year.
Did I ever mention I was cast as Tiny Tim, since I was the shortest kid in the class, in 4th grade, complete with crutch and cardboard-and-aluminum-foil leg brace? God bless us all, everyone!
CHINA AS THE WORLD'S CLONING SUPERPWER is what Wiredconsiders. We'll see, but they do seem to have vast potential. Of course, China always does seem so. Of course, that's still probably right, even if, as recently publicized, many of their economic numbers are probably as phony as Soviet figures were. Meanwhile, my favorite 'graf:
The university will help Deng commercialize his discoveries, potentially making him a rich man. "The administrators here are very supportive," he tells me in fluent English. "They just bought me a $380,000 cell-sorting machine. And they're making us a real building" - a multistory facility now under construction at the edge of the campus. "I couldn't turn down the opportunity to have my own laboratory," he says. "Besides, I don't know if you've noticed, but this city is full of really good Chinese food."
Tacked to the front door, a handwritten sign claims the lab is a storehouse for samples of the AIDS virus. "Keeps away random visitors," explains Deng Hongkui, co-director of the facility.
NO, I DON'T KNOW WHY my blog is now putting forth a password request for Io.com, which can be escaped via escape key, or clicking "cancel." I thought at first it was a byproduct of the referrers list you see towards the bottom left sidebar, but apparently it isn't. I now have No Clue Whatever why this is happening. If anyone can offer a Clue, or better, a Cure, I'd be eternally grateful. I'm still in need of help restoring archives, too. Restoring an archive template Didn't Help, save in creating, apparently, an archive for the past week only. Sigh.
12/25/2002 04:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
All along the lutefisk zone -- a vast swath of the United States stretching from Chicago to Seattle -- it is again the season to rejoice in and quarrel over a food that stinks up hundreds of Lutheran church basements and injects menu-planning torment into hundreds of thousands of mixed marriages.
As a former resident of Seattle, home of Ballard, where lutefisk is quite the thing, I've long been aware of it. I didn't know about this, though:
There is also the lutefisk TV dinner, a marketing ploy by Mike Field of Mike's Fish in Glenwood, Minn., and imitated by Olsen Fish.
Believing that there are a substantial number of Norwegians who would eat lutefisk year-round, Mr. Dorff made a sizable wager on TV dinners four years ago.
Olsen Fish bought 1,500 cases of microwave-safe plastic packs, each containing 12 segmented dinner plates. His employees filled a few hundred of them with mashed potatoes, peas and six ounces of lutefisk. The frozen vacuum-sealed dinners were distributed to selected supermarkets in Minnesota, where, for the most part, they did not sell.
"Each year, it has gone down, down, down," Mr. Dorff said, speaking of the TV dinner sales.
Can't imagine why. Who doesn't love dried gelatinous fish soaked in lye?
That would be most of us. Read The Rest Scale: if you like Weird Food.
Mr. Reber was an engineering student in 1931 when Karl Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories, using a large antenna system, made his famous discovery of cosmic radio waves emanating from beyond the solar system.
Mr. Jansky's results received little attention from other scientists at the time, but Mr. Reber, who was also a ham radio operator, set out to determine whether the waves were coming only from the galaxy or from other celestial objects.
In 1937, using about a half-year's worth of salary he had saved from jobs at various radio manufacturers, Mr. Reber erected his telescope.
But much like Mr. Jansky's accomplishment, Mr. Reber's invention went relatively unnoticed, garnering the attention only of his puzzled neighbors.
"Jansky's discovery that the galaxy was giving off radio waves was considered such a strange finding at the time that no one appreciated it or followed up on it, except for Reber," said Dr. Woodruff Sullivan, an astronomer and a historian of science at the University of Washington.
THE SETTLEMENT AT QUMRAN may not be the source of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In fact, we don't know what the hell these people were doing.
As of now, many archaeologists say, there is no unequivocal evidence of who the people living at Qumran were, or what they were doing there. These are the core questions driving renewed excavations, which started in the 1990's.
Several conference speakers, notably Dr. Hirschfeld, reported findings suggesting that this was an agricultural community. The people there may have cultivated dates and other fruit. There was some reason to think the people grew balsam for perfume or indigo to dye linen.
Women were buried there, which requires some slight explanation if it were a monastic site, though I can think of several. By the way:
"One pound of linen required approximately 50 pounds of dye, which in cost would be equal to 4,000 chickens," she said.
That's a lot of chicken. As for the Scrolls:
Instead, Dr. Golb argued that the scrolls were written by a variety of Jewish religious thinkers and were hurriedly moved from Jerusalem libraries when the city fell to the Roman army in A.D. 70. Refugees hid them in the caves near Qumran for safekeeping.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe we'll figure this out someday. Or not.
But Dr. Golb was not invited to the conference. "Others don't want to acknowledge that mine is the best hypothesis," he said in a telephone interview.
So contentious is the entire subject of Qumran, Dr. Galor said, that some scholars who were invited agreed to attend only if some others of opposing schools of thought were excluded.
My theory is best! Mine! Mine! I think they were a laundromat! With Chinese food takeout on the side! Which served lots of chicken!
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for those interested, otherwise not.
THE MARKET IN VIRTUAL GAME GOODS is huge, as you've probably read.
Troy Stolle's account was definitely an opportunity. Kiblinger sized it up at about $1,500 worth of stuff, possibly $2,000. He fired off an email asking Stolle how much money he wanted to close the deal and hand over the account. Stolle emailed back: $500. Minutes later, Kiblinger was on the phone to Indiana, making arrangements to finalize the transaction. Before he hung up, the two men chitchatted a bit: Stolle got to talking about the unfortunate reasons he'd sold the account - about how he'd been out of work since 9/11 and the bills were piling up. Kiblinger could hear an infant crying in the background, and he hoped the carpenter would never find out just how much stood to be made on the deal.
But business is business. Kiblinger knew that to keep his income up to speed he needed at least three or four fat, high-margin trades like this each week, and they weren't getting any easier to come by. Once upon a time, back when Ultima was young and most players still hadn't gotten wind of the auction markets, his percentage on a deal often hit quadruple digits. Players sold him thousand-dollar accounts for a hundred, and Kiblinger just kept his mouth shut, knowing full well that in their eyes he was the crazy one. Not long before, he might even have agreed with them.
Kiblinger's caginess is par for the course. There are dozens of people out there making a real living selling virtual goods, and none are particularly eager to disclose their profits. A few will talk off the record, and none of those claim to be netting less than six-figure incomes or 15 percent margins. But those are fragile numbers, threatened on all sides.
Houses are invariably the most valuable items, and the easiest to judge. But almost as much money can lie hidden in a far subtler class of objects known as rares - curiosities whose value consists entirely, as the name suggests, in their scarcity. The original rares were accidents, pieces of scenery that the game designers misprogrammed or otherwise forgot to lock down - rocks, piles of horse dung, patches of waterfall, even portable error messages. By the time Kiblinger got into the market, these freaks of virtual nature were hundred-dollar collectibles, and for a long time they were his bread and butter. Eventually, the designers caught on to their popularity and introduced semi-rares: decorative fruit baskets and other knickknacks that pop into existence every month or so in some remote backwater of the land. This took a lot of the economic steam out of the rares scene, and Kiblinger shifted his focus to the tight housing market.
But the true rares remain big-ticket items, and so he is obliged to keep in mind, as he sorts through a new account, that an innocuous-looking piece of horse crap still sells for as much as $400. Such arcana make the job of sweeping out a typical account a two- or three-hour affair.
JOHN "HERB" VARLEY REWRITES a famous Christmas movie. Some people think this is fiction.
Read The Rest Scale: if you've ever read Varley, and even if you haven't: 5 out of 5.
(Infinite Matrix can still use your support; I'm still baffled at how one blogger I mentioned this to looked at the site, with stories and nonfiction from Ursula Le Guin, Bruce Sterling, Michael Swanwick, Richard Kadrey, Eileen Gunn, Neil Barrett, Jr., and Maureen F. McHugh, and declared that they "didn't like hard science fiction, and didn't want to support a large corporation"; meanwhile, Eileen Gunn has paid for three months of costs out of her pocket, and the rest has come from donors; be one; check out what you can get.)
Dongguan makes everything -- shoes, shirts, office furniture, wristwatches -- more cheaply and efficiently than anywhere else on earth. Last year the city exported $19 billion worth of goods, more than the entire country of Chile. Many of these goods are electronic. Dongguan produces pretty much everything that goes into or hooks up to a personal computer: the circuit boards that run it, the fans that cool it, and the plastic box that houses it.
All this business functions in the absence of what we consider the bedrock rules of a modern economy. No reliable legal system enforces contracts. Theft of intellectual property is routine. Business disputes are often settled by hired thugs; on occasion, those thugs are the local police. But though it can feel like Dodge City, Dongguan works more like 19th-century Manchester, as perhaps the world's most extensive and systematic exploitation of transient labor by mobile capital. And the people who oversee this system -- and profit handsomely from it -- are the officials of the world's largest Communist Party.
Think of Dongguan as the ungainly spawn of a shotgun marriage between feudalism and industry. It's an agglomeration of 32 townships, each centered around an old village, that are ruled by local party secretaries who answer, loosely, to city officials. In the early 1980s, industry exploded in Shenzhen under the banner of Deng Xiaoping's reformist slogan: "To get rich is glorious." Dongguan's party barons began to smell opportunity. Unlike Shenzhen, which requires residence permits, they could offer free access to migrant labor. So they competed to lure factories from abroad with tax breaks and land deals.
The firms that came from Taiwan were often called suitcase companies, because they were founded by entrepreneurs who showed up with a bag of cash and little else. They worked on the sly, since until 1990 Taiwan forbade companies from investing directly in the Communist mainland. When the law changed, thousands of Taiwanese businesspeople flooded into Dongguan, attracted by land and labor costs as much as 90 percent lower than what they faced at home.
One such economic prospector was Hayes Lou, the rangy man who talked about blowing off steam at the karaoke club. Today he's wearing brown suede shoes, chinos, and a sport shirt; he has a cowboy's gait, which he might have picked up during the two years he spent outside Missoula, Montana. There, with an American partner, he ran his first business, a bicycle helmet factory. Now he is secretary-general of the Taiwan Businessmen Association of Dongguan, and his duties include bailing out any of the city's 70,000 Taiwanese managers who might get arrested in nightclub brawls, and bringing food to the ones in jail. When a Taiwanese dies -- most deaths are from natural causes, but street crime and business disputes sometimes lead to murder -- Lou sends the body home. He is the expat Lone Ranger; appropriately enough, he drives a silver Jetta. "Everyone says Dongguan is a terrible, horrible place," he says with a broad smile. "But I love it. Every day there's something new."
The association serves as a quasi embassy, since Taiwan, officially a "renegade province," has no diplomatic relations with China. "We're better than an embassy," says Lou. "They have to go according to the law. Whereas, if you get into trouble here, we know how to solve the problem -- whether it's over or under the table." Just as an embassy official would, Lou spends quite a bit of time schmoozing local brass, whom he privately regards with contempt. One evening, Lou attends the monthly dinner given by one of the TBA's township branches. ("I could eat out every night like this," he says, glumly eyeing a mountain of crab, "but I'd get sick.") Midway through the meal, the oily man who chairs the township party office staggers to the microphone and bellows, "Together we and our Taiwanese brothers and sisters will make this town even more wealthy!" It's an odd sentiment for the party of the proletariat, but a common one nonetheless. As the man stumbles back to another round of toasts, Lou quietly exclaims in disgust: "Communists!"
Taiwanese-owned firms now produce three-quarters of the world's motherboards and mouses, 70 percent of its keyboards, and 60 percent of its LCD monitors.
"Anything you can make for $100, we can make for $40," Chen says, summing up his commercial philosophy. "This is a very special kind of opium war."
An as-yet unnamed dinosaur will begin roaming through a designated area of either California Adventure or Disneyland this spring, said Marty Sklar, vice chairman of Imagineering. This will be the first test of untethered Audio-Animatronics and the next phase in Imagineering's quest to increase interaction with visitors.
The character doesn't talk, but can respond with movements. Some of its potential antics are eating popcorn, "stealing" a guest's hat and sneezing.
JOHN MCCAIN IS GOING TO BE A HELLUVALOT BETTER THAN ERNST HOLLINGS, Senator-Disney, as Senate Commerce Committee chair, I believe. Of course, this is a classic "damning with faint praise," to the point where the praise needs smelling salts after the faint.
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if you want to know why. (I don't have the same faith in Orrin Hatch replacing Patrick Leahy as chair of Judiciary.)
ELLEN FEISS, OF APPLE SWITCH AD FAME, did an interview with the Brown U. newspaper (no, she doesn't go to Brown; don't ask). She's a 15-year-year-old high school sophmore.
I'm not actually sure how much I got paid because it was in installments, and the whole contract was dealt with by my parents, so I'm not actually sure. Oh, and I got an iPod. It's like the coolest thing ever.
So do you have any interest in doing Leno or Letterman?
I was offered to, but I decided not to because I thought it wouldn't be so much "Who are you, Ellen Feiss?" It would be more like, "Are you a stoner?" blah blah blah. I did get other offers besides that that I'm getting into. MTV wants to talk to me. They're doing a pilot on me. The guy's going to come to my house in two weeks and interview me, and then show it to the CEO of MTV. I got a lot of crazy offers. I thought if I went on Letterman, it would be like I go on Letterman, and then I go on "Regis and Kelly," and then I go on Channel 5 News, and then it would kind of fizzle out pathetically. MTV's a little cooler.
Since I didn't have an agent at that point ... well it's a kind of confusing story, but anyway, they wanted me to be in one of their movies, but since they found out how old I was they don't think I can be in one. Supposedly, though, my agent is "floating my image," quote unquote. I don't know what the hell that means.
I do admit to looking pretty out of it in that commercial -- I think I look horrible. It was after school, but I was the last person to make the commercial, so by the time I made it it was like 10, so I was really tired. The funny thing was, I was on drugs! I was on Benedryl, my allergy medication, so I was really out of it anyway. That's why my eyes were all red, because I have seasonal allergies. But no one believes me.
KIM JONG IL, BON VIVANT. When I last lived in Boston, I caught the early morning tv news anchors, one morning, cheerily informing us of the latest news of "Kim Jong the Second." This book is, significantly, a first hand, more clueful, account.
But to Konstantin Pulikovsky, a rare foreigner who has spent time with North Korea's secretive leader, Kim Jong Il is a fun-loving guy.
Drinking wines imported from France, nibbling on gourmet meals with silver chopsticks, and joining in rousing choruses of old Soviet songs with "beautiful lady conductors," North Korea's remote "Dear Leader" emerges in flesh and blood from the pages of a new memoir by Pulikovsky, the representative of President Vladimir Putin in Russia's Far East.
Called "Orient Express" and published this autumn in Moscow, the 200-page snapshot-laden book prompted a diplomatic protest from North Korea and teeth gnashing in Russia's Foreign Ministry. It draws heavily on a confidential report prepared by a Russian Foreign Ministry note-taker on board during Kim's leisurely one-month train ride across Russia in the summer of 2001. (Kim made a second, shorter train trip into Russia this past summer, also accompanied by Pulikovsky.)
"Pulikovsky published what he was not supposed to publish," said Alexandre Mansourov, once a Soviet diplomat in North Korea who now teaches at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.
"He violated a personal trust, not just of Kim Jong Il, but of the people who put the report together. More copies of this book have probably been bought by foreign governments and intelligence agencies than by Russians themselves."
"I am the object of criticism around the world," Pulikovsky quotes Kim as saying in one meeting on the long train ride. "But I think that since I am being discussed, then I am on the right track."
Insert [GODWIN] reference here.
"It was possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine," he wrote of the specially outfitted train that carried Kim.
The North Koreans made sure that live lobsters were shipped to the train to provide Kim with fresh delicacies during the tedium of crossing Siberia. Cases of Bordeaux and Burgundy red wines were flown from Paris. Even Putin's private train "did not have the comfort of Kim Jong Il's train," Pulikovsky wrote.
Impressed with the brown bread at a Khabarovsk restaurant, North Korea's leader had an aide fly 20 loaves to Pyongyang so that it would be fresh on his arrival. On a stop at Omsk, the North Korean rejected a plate of barrel-salted pickles, dismissing the offer as shoddily marinated cucumbers from Bulgaria, not prepared in the authentic Russian style.
"Then they served tiny pelmeni, kopeck-size, in a small frying pan baked under cheese and mayonnaise," Pulikovsky wrote, recalling crestfallen faces on the Siberian hosts as the Russian meat dumplings arrived. "Kim Jong Il picked at them with a fork and said: 'What kind of pelmeni are these? They should be big, boiled and in broth.'"
With meals on the train stretching sometimes for four hours or more, entertainment often took the form of singing Russian and Korean songs. The North Korean leader, who had left his wife back in Pyongyang, particularly enjoyed the charms of four young singers, who were introduced as "lady conductors," Pulikovsky wrote.
When his government ministers came into his office, "they bent deferentially in a deep bow and remained like this until there was a hardly visible sign from their commander that they could straighten their backs," he wrote.
Taking a skeptical attitude about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, Kim, whose government is skilled at extracting foreign aid, once commented to Pulikovsky, "Many countries just exaggerate their disasters to get more aid from the international community."
And now they threaten nuclear war, more or less, if Kim doesn't get what he wants. I have to say that I am strongly tempted to lean towards the idea that if the South Koreans, most of them young, want us so badly to remove our military from South Korea, that we should follow their wishes. Heck, not too long after, our allies, the Japanese, might get a significant boost to their stagnant economy out of it, having had such an enterprising commercial competitor removed.