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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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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 --
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"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.
THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE RATHER INTERVIEW with Saddam Hussein. (First of three parts.) Saddam says he is not jealous of Osama bin Laden:
Jealousy is not a trait of man. Jealousy is a trait maybe of women but that is another - in that - in that very special-- trait. It's a very special trait. Men do not have jealousy especially if this competition is competition there in the interests of the nation and the-- and (UNINTEL PHRASE).
As they say, you can't make this stuff up. But for just one teeny moment, my eye misread "- (BREAK IN SOUND)" as "(BREAK INTO SONG)."
Which would hardly have been startlingly more surreal by that point.
Read The Rest: if you're a fanatic for details (like me).
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge could fold the job into his duties as Homeland Security czar, setting up a Web site that encourages Iraqis to load up on duct tape. If you're looking for a respected American of international stature, you could do worse than Bill Clinton, who loves to govern and has a lot of time on his hands. Henry Kissinger, a former diplomat who has a lot of experience running client states, could be a good fit if he could be convinced not to plot to assassinate himself.
"North Korea continues to flaunt international law by speeding ahead with their nuclear program with no consequences whatsoever," Dean charged.
Despite the limitations and dubious aspects of international law, I'm all for flaunting it. Yea, North Korea!
(Again: illiteracy of Dean, or Slate? Or both?) I wish they would quit flouting common usage.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for an interesting flip on Tom DeLay's statements.
ADDENDUM: Okay, I'm now confused. Saletan used the rhetorical device of attributing Tom Delay's words to Dean. But upon examination, the "quote" above shows up in neither the piece about Delay, nor the transcript of Dean. As a result, I take back my scolding, since I'm not clear on either who I'm scolding or if the "quote" actually exists. But, incidentally, Dean's words are inspiring and Delay's are appalling.
If you think politicians have become a dull lot, then head on to the Indian state of Meghalaya where candidates in Wednesday's elections there include Frankenstein, Hitler, Roosevelt, Churchill and Chamberlain.
You could also vote for Ulysses - he is running on an independent ticket.
In case you had not guessed, Ulysses' four sisters are named England, New Zealand, Finland and Switzerland. And they are offering him full support.
OTHER CANDIDATES Rockfeller Momin Hilarious Dhkar Boniface Oral Syngkhei
These unlikely names have their roots in Meghalaya's tribal groups who like to sound knowledgeable by naming their children after great leaders.
The names are also part of a culture where laughter is considered important.
Meghalaya's three major tribes, the Khasis, the Garos and Jaintias all have Laugh Clubs. Giving their children whacky names is part of the fun.
Are we looking at George Bush or Saddam?
"We share the most brazen of jokes at these clubs," says local historian Milton Sangma.
Which might explain why one of the candidates is Tony Curtis, better known as a Hollywood legend.
"We believe if we laugh heartily at least once or twice a day, we will live long."
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main party in the federal coalition, has a candidate called Moonlight.
You will find Morning Star, and another candidate, simply known as Barrister, standing for the United Democratic Party (UDP).
Also hoping to get elected on a UDP ticket are Britain War and the politician called Artist. (Music fans might wonder if he was formerly known as Prince.)
The Congress Party has a man called Friday hoping to be elected.
The BBC's Subir Bhaumik says the Christian tribes want little to do with communism.
But in days gone by, communist sympathisers would name their babies Lenin, or Stalin.
Lenin's name has gone out of fashion
Popular baptism names now reflect today's diplomatic agenda.
"Be sure you have babies being named Bush and Clinton, Saddam and Blair but it will be a while before they grow up and contest elections," says local journalist Anirban Roy.
Perhaps the final word should go to Adolf Lu Hitler R Marak, seeking to hold on to his seat in Meghalaya's state assembly.
"Maybe my parents liked the name and hence christened me Hitler," he recently told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
"I am happy with my name, although I don't have any dictatorial tendencies."
The Oracle says: harlan ellison has a Bacon number of 3. Harlan Ellison was in Masters of Comic Book Art, The (1987) with Frank (II) Miller Frank (II) Miller was in Robocop 2 (1990) with Leeza Gibbons Leeza Gibbons was in He Said, She Said (1991) with Kevin Bacon
SOUTH KOREA ONLINE: I've mentioned OhMyNews before, but here's a fascinating look at how advanced SK is.
New Korea's hi-tech credentials have been a focus of national pride. Its biggest claim to international fame is the development of internet services, which are far ahead of most countries. Almost 70% of homes have a broadband connection, compared with about 5% in Britain.
Because of the high connection speeds, much faster than most British broadband, people use the web more for shopping, trading and chatting. Koreans are said to spend 1,340 minutes online per month, and 10% of economic activity is related to IT - one of the highest levels in the world.
"The internet is so important here," a western diplomat in Seoul said. "This is the most online country in the world. The younger generation get all their information from the web. Some don't even bother with TVs. They just download the programmes."
DAD, WE'RE SURROUNDED BY ICE! COULDN'T WE USE THAT?: I'm glad I'm not a penguin.
Male king penguins store undigested food in their stomachs for up to three weeks. The talent is unique among higher vertebrates and ensures a constant supply of food for their chicks. But how they do it was a mystery.
Now an analysis of the birds' stomach contents shows the penguins keep food fresh by destroying bacteria in their stomachs, suggesting that they produce an antibacterial agent in their digestive tracts.
Males use their stomach contents to feed chicks when bad weather delays the female returning with food.
Shut up, kid, and eat your squid.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a bit more upchucking detail.
THE BEST ANTI-WAR ARGUMENT is made, unsurprisingly, by Michael Walzer. I don't think his solution is likely, or even, frankly, possible, but if people were making this argument to me, it would be the one I'd find closest to persuasive. Walzer points out the right and wrong way to argue against this war.
In 2001, scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel announced that they had manufactured a computer so small that a single drop of water would hold a trillion of the machines. The devices used DNA and enzymes as their software and hardware and could collectively perform a billion transitions each second. Now the same team, led by Ehud Shapiro, has announced a novel model of its biomolecular machine that no longer requires an external energy source and performs 50 times faster than its predecessor did. The Guinness Book of World Records has crowned it the world's smallest biological computing device.
The authors report that a microliter of solution could hold three trillion computers, which together would perform 66 operations a second.
BACK TO THE WELL: Another child porn bill. This seems somewhat better than the previous idiotic bills, but -- I'll need to see more detail -- probably only somewhat so.
The new legislation, sponsored by Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), hopes to avoid the court objections by not defining computer-generated images as obscene and, instead, prohibits the pandering or solicitation of anything represented to be obscene child pornography.
The bill, which passed on an 84-0 vote, requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that person charged with producing or distributing child pornography intended others to believe the product was obscene child pornography, which is not protected by the First Amendment. Persons accused under the new law would have to prove that real children were not used in the production of the material.
"Any person or movie theater that presented films like Traffic, Romeo and Juliet, and American Beauty would be guilty of a felony," Leahy said. "The very point of these dramatic works is to cause a person to believe that something is true when in fact it is not."
D'oh! Yeah, that would not be a good outcome. Sigh.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for a bit more detail (go for it, Avedon).
Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to venture out of the solar system, has fallen silent after traveling billions of miles from Earth on a mission that has lasted nearly 31 years, NASA said Tuesday.
What was apparently the spacecraft's last signal was received January 22 by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Deep Space Network. At the time, Pioneer 10 was 7.6 billion miles from Earth; the signal, traveling at the speed of light, took 11 hours and 20 minutes to arrive.
The signal and the two previous signals were very faint. The Deep Space Network heard nothing from Pioneer 10 during a final attempt at contact on February 7. No more attempts are planned.
I feel old; I remember when Pioneer 10 was launched (with this plaque helpfully provided for any alien encounters).
I was 13 years old, and a space program fanatic, with every poster and picture NASA had available stuck on all the walls of my room and our hallway (along with the Hayden Planetarium's map of the Solar System, and a Moon map).
Pioneer 10 will forever be our first intentional physical RSVP to the universe. Who knows what its future will bring?
THOSE MISSILES can potentially go much further than you think.
The specifications of the al-Samoud 2 missile appear to have been designed so that it could be fitted with a second engine, making it a much more potent threat than previously realised, the experts have told The Times.
In building the new missile, Iraq ignored a 1994 UN letter restricting the missile’s diameter to less than 600mm. The UN issued the order with the express intent of preventing Iraq equipping the missile with two engines. Baghdad also violated a 1997 UN letter prohibiting the use of engines from certain surface-to-air missiles, such as the Volga SA2, in surface-to-surface missiles.
UN inspectors in Iraq have determined that the al-Samoud 2 has a diameter of 760mm, which would make it possible to equip it with two Volga engines instead of one. Moreover, the diameter of the "fat Samoud" -- as inspectors call it -- was mysteriously increased from its original 750mm design in 1994, possibly better to accommodate two engines.
"You can put two engines in there," said Tim McCarthy, a former UN missile inspector now with the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which has studied the al-Samoud 2. "You indeed can carry a larger payload or go a longer range . . . There is no question it can go proscribed ranges. It would increase by a factor of two or three the range of this thing."
One source close to Dr Blix said the inspectors suspect that Iraq is copying India's Prithvi single-stage missile. The Prithvi, which is a metre in diameter, can carry a 1,000kg payload, sufficient to transport a nuclear device and has a similar twin-engined design based on SA2 technology. Adding to suspicions is the fact that a new missile test stand at al-Rafah is capable of testing rocket engines above the permissible thrust. Iraq has said that it built a bigger stand after the site was bombed so that it could test two rocket engines side by side. Dr Blix has ordered that the test stand be placed under UN supervision.
Other independent experts say that the al-Samoud 2 may be intended as a two-stage missile like Iraq's previous al-Tammuz project. The al-Tammuz used a Scud as the first stage and a Volga engine as the second stage to reach a range of up to 2,000km.
Iraq first admitted making a "paper study" of the al-Tammuz, but later conceded that it had actually constructed mock-ups of the missile.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report which will provide the Peace Corps with $295 million in funding for FY 2003. Pending the President’s signature, this will be the largest appropriation in the history of Peace Corps.
Enetation is being screwy again, as oft, so I couldn't leave a note on another blog whose author was talking about how a draft for public service, and overseas service, would be a good idea. I don't think that such coercion would be called for except under dire necessity, but meanwhile, I wonder if many people have forgotten that the Peace Corps is around and bigger than ever?
2/25/2003 10:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
IT'S SO GOOD WE'VE MOVED TO A HEREDITARY POLITICAL SYSTEM:
Frenetic activity at Daley campaign headquarters the day before the election in Chicago.
The only thing missing are opponents and a campaign.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for interesting detail on one of our homegrown local Leaders.
Drafts of Lord of the Rings were read aloud to Oxford's "Inklings" literary group, including Lewis and Charles Williams. Once, as Tolkien began a chapter, a mutter was heard from the back of the room: "Oh God, not another fucking elf."
THE TIME TRAVELLER: Want to own a former property and residence of H. G. Wells? David Langford reveals:
H.G.Wells isn't often news these days, but various sf groups including SFWA have been offered the stupendous opportunity to buy a `historic property', the Baker Street flat where Wells lived in the early 1930s. According to owner Maggi Bonner Fox, `Although the property has been fully modernized I have endeavoured to restore and maintain many of the character features that would have been evident when Mr. Wells was in residence.' (Young Fabian Society groupies, perhaps?) Rush your offers to 47 Chiltern Court, Baker St, London, NW1 5SP.
It really should have at least a handful of working gas lights to preserve the proper atmosphere, don't you think?
NATO: A BULWARK AGAINST BELGIUM: Interesting story on how NATO would have broken precedent and acted to defend Turkey even if Belgium had refused to assent. Faced with this, Belgium relented, but this would have been the first time NATO had acted without total consensus in the Defense Planning Committe.
SIGH: It's kinda sad reading British newspapers reporting on American issues, at times.
Troopers from the national guard, a branch of the US army....
How many errors here? Hard to add them all up. The National Guard is organized on a state level, and only federalized upon request of the Federal Government and agreement of the State Government. It will come as quite a shock to the Air National Guard to find out they're actually in the Army, I suspect.
Read The Rest Scale: only if you want to read a story about troops being sent to guard the American Air Force in Britain.
Jews have been physically attacked by demonstrators protesting against Israel, a community watchdog claims today as it publishes figures showing a 13% increase in anti-semitic attacks last year.
As well as noting a general increase in violent assaults on Jews, the trust's report said: "One woman was called a 'filthy Zionist Jew bitch' by someone on a Boycott Israeli Goods picket outside a Marks & Spencer store in London.
"In Manchester, three Jewish buildings - with no connection to Israel - were defaced with Boycott Israel Apartheid stickers.
"In another incident, a synagogue was daubed with the name of the Palestinian terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine."
The report said: "It is now almost routine for extremists to express their hatred for Israel by attacking British Jews."
There were a total of 350 incidents, including 47 violent assaults and 55 attacks on property, and the desecration of synagogues in London and Swansea and seven Jewish cemeteries.
The report said there were 94 incidents in April and May, during and after the Israeli offensive in the West Bank.
NO BROTHER LIKE A BIG ONE: The British do seem to love their cameras.
Schoolchildren in Manchester may be filmed during lessons in an attempt to curb unruly behaviour in the classroom.
Cameras could be installed in up to five schools in the city by Easter under the scheme proposed by education officials.
Manchester city council stressed the pilot scheme would be used to record evidence of pupils' bad behaviour to show parents, rather than to monitor the performance of teachers in maintaining discipline.
FORMER DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE FOR IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDSspeaks in an interview with London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsa. Damned interesting stuff. Saying he is a patriot, and his country deserves to have nuclear weapons, he refuses to talk about that program. But he talks about much else, including relations with North Korea.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "You said that you participated in teaching and training courses abroad. Where was this?"
Zakiri: "I went to North Korea twice, as our relations with it are special. Over the years, we sent a number of groups of Revolutionary Guards personnel and security [forces personnel] to North Korea. Among those who received combat training were Revolutionary Guards Commander Rahim Safavi and his deputy Dhu-Al-Qadr. Among the personnel of the [Revolutionary] Guards were units of pilots who received training in flying and parachuting operations, among them Brigadier-General Kalibaf (now military forces commander). Our group included intelligence officers. The first time I went for 40 days and participated in special courses on psychological warfare and counter-espionage, and the second time, I stayed in North Korea again for 40 days and participated in a special course for protecting nuclear and other secret installations."
It's a very special relationship, indeed. His account of how 90% of the Security Forces voted for Khatami, against orders, and how the Leader then created his own special security ministry is just one of many interesting elements.
Federal officials said today that they had shut down the major suppliers of drug paraphernalia in the United States in a series of nationwide raids, arresting 55 people who prosecutors said had trafficked in an array of merchandise that included lipstick-shaped marijuana pipes and gas-mask bongs.
Federal officials said the raids had yielded several tons worth of drug paraphernalia used both by suppliers to help produce drugs for resale and by users to conceal drugs. Investigators said the items -- which included drug pipes hidden in school highlighters, soft-drinks cans and lipstick cases -- would sell for tens of millions of dollars on the open market.
The authorities also shut down a dozen or so Web sites that had been used to sell paraphernalia. People who tried to log on were instead directed to a Drug Enforcement Administration Web site that informed them that the dealers were out of business.
I'm so glad we have our priorities straight. There's not enough money to spend on port security, or to compensate local school districts near military bases, or for health insurance for the uninsured, but the nation is Safe From The Bong Threat.
Why? Let's pick on the guy who takes credit.
But Mr. Ashcroft, joined by the head of the D.E.A. and the White House drug czar, said the rising ease with which young people could get their hands on paraphernalia was a growing concern to him and others in the administration.
"This is a federal case because it's against the federal law," Mr. Ashcroft declared. He said the paraphernalia business "has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge."
ON BEING THE OTHER AMERICAN, a meditation by Walter Kirn.
If you're not from the left, or don't have many non-American leftist friends, you will likely read this with non-comprehension, and perhaps hostility. That's a shame. I am and I do, and I read it with a great deal of sympathy and partial self-identification, at least for having felt similarly at times both in the past and now.
With my newly minted diploma in English literature, my German, French and Spanish pocket dictionaries and my made-in-Scotland tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, I considered myself an apprentice global citizen. Yes, I'd grown up in small-town Midwestern America, where I'd gobbled Big Macs, driven pickups and handled firearms, but I'd overcome those limitations. I'd studied Hegel. I'd signed petitions for Greenpeace. I knew what Dadaism was.
But none of this mattered much, I soon found out.
To them, I was just an American, a Yank, and therefore specifically responsible for the election of the clownish Ronald Reagan, the worldwide spread of Coca-Cola addiction, the displacement of serious drama by dopey action movies and the general degradation of everything.
I like to think that I took these charges well and that I'm still taking them well two decades later, when the circumstances and the rhetoric feel similar.
Initially, I took pride in being the token non-ugly American, and I liked not having to answer, personally, for every word out of Ronald Reagan's mouth and every bun out of Ronald McDonald's kitchen. Accepted at last by the global intelligentsia, a Minnesota country boy! Miraculous!
So why, deep down inside, as time went on, was I starting to feel like a traitor?
Part of me feels that way today, watching the flags burn and the crowds make fists. It's all about the war, I know, I know. It's all about policy. One shouldn't take it personally. It's not us they dislike, it's them -- those other Americans. There's a difference, and the world can see it, right?
My own experience has taught me that I can't, and don't want to, sidestep my own Americanness in order to placate the country's blunter critics, who frequently make fewer distinctions among us than we like to make among ourselves. What feels from within like a national crazy quilt of opinions and sensibilities can look like a monotone blanket from abroad, but there comes a point when resisting being lumped this way amounts to self-betrayal.
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Please do. I should stress that almost none of my non-US friends has ever made me feel personally attacked. If Walter Kirn had such feelings, I have not. I have, however, experienced some of the other feelings, which is why I urge reading this piece.
2/23/2003 06:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
WHY SADDAM WILL NEVER DISARM is one of William Shawcross's topics, and he's spot on.
They are integral to his sense of his regime.
In 1991, the surrender agreement ending the war in Kuwait specifically guaranteed that Iraq would surrender its weapons of mass destruction within 15 days. Till then sanctions, imposed after his invasion of Kuwait, would remain. His refusal to do so has meant that the UN oil embargo has stayed for 12 years, costing Iraq more than $180 billion and its ordinary people great suffering. It is wrong to blame the West, or the UN, for the starvation and deaths of Iraqi children - Saddam is to blame and he considers it a small part of the price to pay for his proscribed weapons.
Quite a few people have bought into the notion, possibly most widely disseminated by Gregg Easterbrook, that only nuclear weapons are "weapons of mass destruction." I think that -- perhaps inadvertantly, but dangerously, nonetheless -- serves, among other things, to blur the crucial distinction between weapons that humankind consider horrible, but acceptable to use in war, such as bullets and explosives, and weapons that humankind has step forward to say "these are too horrible; there are limits; civilized people draw a line here," specifically, biological weapons and gasses which maim or kill in terrible ways.
Regardless of arguments as to which weapons are sufficiently "mass," might there be no argument that these weapons are certainly "weapons of terror"? Certainly that's how they have been historically used, and one way they seem indisputably useful.
For Saddam Hussein, for instance.
Saddam's obsession with his WMD has deep roots at home as well as abroad. First, he sees the threat of such weapons as a means of internal control over the 60 per cent of Iraqis who are Shia. The use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1998 taught the Shia the dangers of revolt. In 1999 a Shia revolt in the town of Najaf was crushed by Saddam's security forces accompanied by troops in white uniforms wearing gas masks. People were terrified that Saddam was about to gas them - with the weapons that Saddam denies having and for which the UN is still vainly searching. The Shia have been mostly cowed since.
WMD also helps to keep the regular armed forces in line, according to Amatzia Baram, of the Saban Centre at the Brookings Institution in Washington. They are controlled by the Special Security Organisation, which is loyal to Saddam. This serves as a counterweight to the regular army, whose officers Saddam does not trust. The army knows his ultimate power lies elsewhere.
Abroad, the benefits seem even more obvious. Saddam believes that Iraq's victory over Iran in 1998 was largely to do with Iraq's massive use of chemical weapons. He also believes that that was one of the principal reasons the Allies did not march on Baghdad in 1991.
Liberal democracy was going to endure, in short, by taking on grander and more radical goals than ever before -- by becoming more revolutionary, not less; by offering, in some form or another, liberty and solidarity to the entire world. This kind of response to Southern secession might seem counterintuitive -- to take on more burdens, instead of less, just when the night was darkest. But it was the nature of liberalism that pushed Lincoln in this direction. He chose to radicalize the U.S. republic because he knew that, in order to survive, liberal democracy needed to arouse among its own citizens a greater commitment than ever before to the cause of universal freedom -- in fact, an absolute commitment, which could only mean a commitment unto death.
And here we stumble on a peculiar tragedy of our present moment. The United States has come under military attack, requiring military responses. But, as in the Civil War, the revolutionary responses of liberal democratic ideals are likewise required, and not in a small degree. For the ultimate goal of our present war -- the only possible goal -- must be to persuade tens of millions of people around the world to give up their paranoid and apocalyptic doctrines about American conspiracies and crimes, to give up those ideas in favor of a lucid and tolerant willingness to accept the modern world with its complexities and advantages. The only war aim that will actually bring us safety is, in short, the spread of liberal outlooks to places that refuse any such views today. That is not a small goal, nor a goal to be achieved in two weeks, nor something to be won through mere military feats, though military feats cannot be avoided.
Right now, we need to summon people around the world to express a "devotion" (in Lincoln's word) to liberal ideals -- a devoted enthusiasm for those ideas among the schoolteachers in every impoverished immigrant suburb of Europe, among the editors in every Arab newspaper office, and among the professors in every Muslim university. We need the cooperation of millions of people, who, in their idealism, will rush out to argue with their own students and neighbors and readers.
MOBBS SIGHTING!: Readers may or may not recall that when we last heard of the Mysterious Mr. Mobbs, he was the signer of the Mobbs Declaration, presented to the courts as a two page document considered sufficient to declare Yasser Esam Hamdi an "enemy combatant." The court found this insufficient, but this was the first public appearance of the Mysterious Mr. Mobbs.
Officials said Michael Mobbs, a lawyer and former legal associate of Mr. Feith, had been asked to oversee civil administration.
That would be,of post-war Iraq, and asked by the Pentagon.
So you might want to read this article on the rehersal for post-war plans. Also this one on plans to minimize civilian casualties. At least know what you want to argue with. Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.
TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS, because this is my logic. And it has nothing to do with "Bush" or his administration.
The problem is, not attacking does not eliminate the risks. At best, it postpones them. At worst, it allows small nightmares to grow into big ones.
First, Al Qaeda terrorists do not need the pretext of an Iraq war to come after us. They will attack us, unprovoked, repeatedly and in as spectacular a fashion as their lethal ingenuity allows, regardless of what we do in Iraq. We know this, because they have done it.
Second, any containment regime we can conceive in place of war will eventually unravel, because the outside world does not have the resolve to maintain it and because a dictator with oil has the market on his side. We know this, too, because we have been through it. Saddam is likely to outlast our inspections and our sanctions, and certain to return to the production of the nuclear weapons that he sees as essential to his personal mythology and that any sober person regards as inimical to our well-being.
Third, any clampdown sufficiently draconian to reassure us would amount to a United Nations occupation, which would be a grave humiliation to Saddam. It seems to me a year or two of this would be as likely to stimulate vengeance as war itself.
Fourth, we come to the murky relationship between the terrorist state and stateless terrorism. The administration has surely strained our trust hyping the connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda, but skeptics have just as badly understated the mutual interests of these two thugs.
But what the antiwar camp offers as an antidote to fear is a false sense of security. In the short run, war is perilous. In the long run, peace can be a killer, too.
THE BUSH DOCTRINE: Huge fancy PBS Frontlinesite offering tons of analyses, commentary, and history of the evolution and pros and cons of. Strangely more informative than many blogs. Which won't stop many from, for years to come, insisting on how the information here is "never discussed in the mainstream press!"
Read The Rest Scale: there's a lot there, but it's worth plowing through. 4.5 out of 5. This is particularly informative as to how Saddam Hussein defeated inspections and containment, and understanding this is integral to understanding why he can do it again if he's given the chance. Read The Rest: 5 out of 5.
SECRETS OF DAVOS: Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrettwrites for Newsday, the Long Island, NY newspaper, and has written two Doom & Gloom books, Betrayal of Trust ("The Collapse of Global Public Health"), and The Coming Plague ("Newly Emerging Diseases In A World Out Of Balance").
She was sent to cover Davos, and afterwards sent out a chatty, hasty, e-mail about it to friends. Who sent it on to others. Who sent it on to others.
It's the same sad old story, a tale of ignominy and no glory. Soon enough it was posted online, and then Metafilter picked it up.
You can tell that none of the people there have the slightest experience with professional writers, or editing, because most were convinced that it was a fake because the letter was filled with typos, solecisms, and clumsy errors. Whereas any actual professional editor or person with real experience in publishing or journalism knows that this is precisely how most (not all) professional journalists and innumerable writers write when they are writing quick notes, and in many cases, in their pre-edited professional work. So the Metafilter thread makes for slightly amusing, if quickly boring, reading.
But then Laurie Garrett weighed in with a traditional "get a life!" comeback, which is considerably more embarrassing than her original, essentially innocuous, if interesting, letter.
Soon enough Bruce Sterling reposted it, kindly correcting the spelling, but adding his own annotation. (He wrote about his attendence at last year's conference here.)
So now, you too, can read it, so long as the lawyers hold off. (In my case, via Sore Eyes, but if it's not high on Blogdex and Daypop now, it will be.)
You've probably already read it, but it's a good summary of most of the arguments. Are many people still considering arguments, and open to reconsidering, by this point?
I wonder. I think by this point most people who are going to give intelligent consideration are already, or at least should be, reasonably familiar with most of the arguments which have now been made, and there are unlikely to be any sound new arguments made until we start Looking Back in retrospect.
On the other hand, I think there is, frankly, enough ambiguity and uncertainty as to which evaluation of cost/benefit of the main alternatives is correct, and enough reason for people of sound mind and good will to come to different conclusions, that I'd like to think a fair number of people are still listening to the discussion and continuing to weigh cases.
The arguments in this Slate piece are the, by now, familiar ones, and the plurality, at least, of them, are sound, even if I don't agree with some of them. Some exceptions abound, of course; Spike Lee makes no argument, but merely an assertion, which is unhelpful. Charles Murray is similarly useless on the other side:
I'm in favor, for the reasons that the administration argues.
Since the Administration case has been somewhat incoherent, in toto, this too is unhelpful, without at least specifiying which "reasons" he is referring to.
Nicholson Baker, on the other hand, makes no argument as to why the war should be opposed, but merely argues that it can be. Which is fine, but leaves to others the case as to why. Oh, other than "Republican leadership bad." Which is sufficient argument for many, but not for myself.
Tony Kushner is the only person who makes an extended argument that he's a nitwit.
A number of other people, on either side, make statements that boil down to gut feelings, or just ask ominous questions, which conclude that their gut is correct, from Eli Attie on the anti-war side to Peggy Noonan on the pro-war side.
Paul Berman, from the left, interestingly argues that he doesn't favor the argument for disarmament as sufficient, but that:
I would favor an invasion whose purpose was to foment a liberal revolution in the Middle East.
And faults Bush for not calling for such.
I will protest because I want him to do more. In our present terrible predicament, a liberal revolution is our best hope -- the best hope for ourselves, and the best hope for the Arab world.
I find the argument that war in Iraq will distract resources from fighting al Queda and anti-terrorism rather weak, though not wholly without merit.
There's the argument that, to use Robert Reich's formulation of the familiar trope:
On the cost side, an invasion will further radicalize the Arab world, thereby playing into the hands of Islamic extremists.
I find this unconvincing. I think this is what might be called a marginal cost. Yes, there will be some inflammatory impact, absolutely; but in general, people who are going to be inflamed against the US will be anyway, and I'm doubtful a war will make an overwhelming difference; and, obviously, plenty of people are already quite inflamed, and I really don't see that suddenly backing down now, without a major change in circumstances, and reason why, will suddenly dramatically lessen their flamitude. Indeed, leaving Saddam Hussein in power to boast of his defiance would seem to me quite inflammatory on its own.
For that matter, say Bush suddenly sat up tomorrow and announced the withdrawal of all US forces, or that we were only going to go for massive inspections through the UN, or whatever your preferred alternative is, would any of the people quite convinced that the US is a huge imperialistic bully, highly out-of-control and dangerous to the world, suddenly slap themselves upsides the head, and say "bigosh, I misjudged that Bush! The US isn't dangerous after all!"? Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect not. People would merely say that the massive protests forced him to change his idiotic criminal policy, and go on as they have. I tend to think.
Someone needs to teach Steven Ratter the meaning of the words "flout" and "flaunt" (Slate should have caught this for him).
Colin Powell convinced me that we cannot allow tyrants like Saddam to flaunt international rules and United Nations mandates.
Also, Saddam should stop flouncing.
I'm open-minded, certainly, about Roger Altman's point of view:
Absent abdication by Hussein, I favor a forced disarmament of Iraq. I do not agree, however, with the president's apparent timetable, i.e., 2-3 weeks. I would put weather and other tactical military considerations aside. If waiting 6-8 weeks, for example, would produce considerably wider U.N. support, let that be the timetable.
But, at least Ben Karlin, co-executive producer of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show has an original argument:
I am only in favor of war with Iraq if the entire affair takes place between the morning of February 21st and the evening of Sunday March 2nd. This is because The Daily Show will be on hiatus during this period, and, historically, massive loss of life has proven not conducive to producing a comedy news program. I would remind the president as he and his generals go about their plan that in a war, the first casualty is the ease of my job.
We should certainly give that all the consideration it is due.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5, if you'll actually think about them. (This remains my last big piece on the subject.)
BUGSPLAT: Well, this isn't going to go over any better with those who keep talking about how we're going to "carpet-bomb" Baghdad (we won't, of course, but that doesn't mean it's going to be safe or pleasant to be in Baghdad).
If Bugsplat fails to resolve questions about a bomb's projected blast effect, a proposed attack can be sent for review to the Joint Warfighting Analysis Center in Dahlgren, Va., which developed Bugsplat and which has even more sophisticated analysis tools.
There it will be found that the attack will wound the autumnal city. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about there, don't worry about it.)
Using a combination of trade tricks and clever programming, hackers have thoroughly compromised security at America Online, potentially exposing the personal information of AOL's 35 million users.
The most recent exploit, launched last week, gave a hacker full access to Merlin, AOL's latest customer database application. As a security measure, Merlin runs only on AOL's internal network, but savvy hackers have found a way to break in.
[Various ways described] Here's my favorite:
In a telephone interview, two hackers using the handles Dan and Cam0 explained that security measures (such as verifying the last four digits of a credit card number) can be bypassed by mumbling.
A third hacker, using the name hakrobatik, confirmed the mumbling method.
"I kept calling and pretending I just had jaw surgery and mumbling gibberish," hakrobatik said. "At first I had no info except the screen name, then I called and got the first name and last name by saying, 'Could you repeat what I just said?' Then each time that I got information I called back making the real information understandable, and everything else I just mumbled."
In the end, hakrobatik said, service reps he talked to got so frustrated having to ask him to repeat information that they'd give up and reset the password. Hakrobatik later proved he could compromise any AOL account armed only with its screen name.
Then you just get more by repeating "Me, too!!!!"
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for more silly detail on how AOL screws the pooch.
UNBELIEVABLE MORAL EQUIVALENCY in this Grauniadpiece from and about North Korea.
The Guardian's journalism varies wildly, from sometimes quite excellent, to sometimes quite execrable. This is an example of the latter. It's entire point is that North Korea's problem -- it's only mentioned problem -- is bad public relations.
Yet, North Korea has a good claim to be the injured party. It is, after all, the nation suffering most in the region.
I'd have to quote practically the whole article for you to believe how bad this piece of apologetica is. So Read The Rest for yourself.
But how can anybody sympathise while the North's media scream out outlandishly bellicose rhetoric? It seems that the country has fallen further behind in the field of mass communications than in any other area.
A notorious e-mail scam has resulted in the murder of a Nigerian diplomat in the Czech Republic.
Fifty-year-old Michael Lekara Wayid, Nigeria's consul in the Czech Republic, was shot dead by an unidentified 72-year-old Czech at the Nigerian Embassy in Prague on Wednesday.
Yes, it's exactly what you think.
"This is the first time such a thing has happened to Nigeria in any of our embassies abroad.... The Czech ambassador to Nigeria has been summoned," said Dubem Onyia, Nigeria's minister of state for foreign affairs, in a statement.
Onyia said that in light of the incident, security at Nigeria's foreign offices would be reviewed.
Good idea. Cracking down on the spam would be nice, too, but it's doubtless too much too hope for.
I'M OPEN-MINDED ABOUT THAT: Scott Martens from an entry in Comments on thisElectrolite post:
Not to turn this into a philosphical discussion, but this is basically an epistemological argument. With the benefit of three millenia of arguing about the source of knowledge, the only conclusion I've managed to draw is that it helps to be both open-minded and biased, but not too open-minded or too biased, and it's good to be open-minded about admitting that you're biased, but it's also good to be biased in favour of being open-minded, although you sometimes need to be open-minded about your open-mindedness (when you're too open-minded), and you need to recognise that you may be biased about your biases, and not even know it no matter how open-minded you think you are (which is a good reason to stay open-minded about your open-mindedness, without getting biased about it.) There are exceptions, of course, like those times when it's best to be absolutist about truth and reason and those occasions when everyone really is better off going with the flow.
THE POST-WAR PLAN will, of course, be regarded with horror or approval by the usual suspects. Others will make more useful, less predictable, points.
My observation on this story, at the moment, isn't about The Plan.
Officials said the decision to install U.S. military and civilian administrations for an indeterminate time stems from lessons learned in Afghanistan, where power has been diffused among U.S. military forces still waging war against the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda, a multinational security force of several thousand troops in which the United States does not participate, and the interim government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
My comment is that pretty much only people in Bush administration were in favor of severely limiting the multinational force. The post-war Afghan policy seems nigh-impossible to defend as other than a deeply confused, frequently shifting device, that forces one to speculate was made largely by people as ignorant of Afghanistan as the Best and the Brightest were of Vietnam.
To see the notion almost officially endorsed that it took "lessons learned" to figure out that maybe -- just maybe! -- the rest of Afghanistan might need more than a few Special Ops people, a handful of frightened NGO representatives, and The Exciting Cast of Familiar Warlords -- oh, and a reasonable supply of hundred dollar bills to pass out -- to become stable, and that it might not be a good idea to leave the Multi-National Force (MNF) to be an afterthought kept strictly limited to Kabul while we, every few months, desperately beg some other country to throw a bunch of soldiers into the soup and Take Charge (but only for six months! -- because that leads to stability!), and, oh, yes, the President, Hamid Karzai, gets a Praetorian Guard of Americans (way to not appear a puppet, guys!) -- why, yes, surely it took seeing how that would work out to guess that -- just possibly -- it might not lead to the best of all possible worlds... well, that's my Bush!
Read The Rest Scale: go ahead, you'll want to denounce it or praise it, I'm sure.
Asked in February 1971 if allied troops were preparing to invade Laos, Mr. Ziegler replied: "The president is aware of what is going on in Southeast Asia. That is not to say anything is going on in Southeast Asia."
In 1974, a statement by Mr. Ziegler on the safeguarding of the White House tapes won an award from the Committee on Public Doublespeak of the National Council of Teachers of English.
He said: "I would feel that most of the conversations that took place in those areas of the White House that did have the recording system would, in almost their entirety, be in existence, but the special prosecutor, the court, and, I think, the American people are sufficiently familiar with the recording system to know where the recording devices existed, and to know the situation in terms of the recording process, but I feel, although the process has not been undertaken yet in preparation of the material to abide by the court decision, really, what the answer to that question is."
Some nights, it is said, you can see Ron Ziegler's spectral presence hovering behind Ari Fleischer, if you turn your head just the right way.
THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY RUN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, Noam Scheiber of TNRpoints out, are the pollsters. Specifically, Mark Mellman's Mellman Group, and Garin-Hart-Yang.
Between them, two D.C. firms, The Mellman Group and Garin-Hart-Yang, handled the polling for just about every important Democratic Senate campaign last year -- Max Cleland in Georgia, Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey, Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, Jean Carnahan in Missouri, Tom Strickland in Colorado, Bill Bradbury in Oregon, Alex Sanders in South Carolina -- and many of the top House and governor's races. At the same time, Geoff Garin and Fred Yang (Peter Hart, the firm's founder, no longer does much campaign work) enjoyed unrivaled influence among the five firms who did polling for the House Democrats' campaign committee. Mellman served as the exclusive pollster for the party's Senate campaign arm.
The result is that, in many cases, the same polling firm was making decisions on both sides of the equation.
Scheiber discusses how they screwed up the 2002 campaign, and where their power comes from.
The latter has a short answer with a longer explanation: soft money.
This is an extremely insightful piece, which anyone who wants to understand anything about how the Party has worked in recent years must read. What's remarkable is that while Scheiber points out the obvious -- the immense dependency in recent years by the Democratic Party on soft money, and how this led to the power of the pollsters -- he makes no comment whatever on what the next election cycle or two will bring now that Mcain-Feingold eliminates soft money (at least, as it has flowed and been directed up to now).
But it's clear from other news reports that politicos across America are only just starting to come to grips with understanding McCain-Feingold, so it's fair to hypothesize that Scheiber might have concluded that this is a large enough separable topic that it is best dealt with in future pieces, and also, perhaps, after we've all had more time to sort out the pieces.
Read The Rest Scale: for anyone interested in nitty-gritty US politics, 4.5 out of 5.
HANNAH ARENDT'S NAZI EDITOR: Absolutely fascinating review of:
Generation des Unbedingten, which can loosely be translated as Generation of True Believers, is a 950-page book that was recently published in Germany. Its author, Michael Wildt, teaches at Hamburg University, and his book is a detailed description, accompanied by dozens of short biographies, of some of the higher echelons of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), the Main Office of Reich Security -- the Nazi organization that included Adolf Eichmann among its members. The book is based on rich documentary and archival material, and it is the first attempt to present a collective portrait of the most powerful and the most murderous security organ of the Third Reich.
First, it becomes again abundantly clear that the SS and the Nazi security services numbered among their leadership some of the most educated people in German society. It was not a rabble of street toughs that planned and carried out Hitler's racial policies, which included the annihilation of most of Europe's Jewish population. The genocide was directed by an elite of intellectuals and academics, Ph.D.s in literature, philosophy, law, history, science.
Another is the tale of Hans Rossner. Who is Hans Rossner?
Born in Dresden in 1910, he studied at Leipzig University, where he drew close to nationalist circles; he joined the SS soon after the Nazis came to power, and served as assistant to Karl Justus Obenauer, the dean of the faculty of philosophy at Bonn University. (Obenauer is inscribed in German literary history as the man who wrote to Thomas Mann in 1936 to inform him that his honorary degree from Bonn was being withdrawn because his German citizenship had been revoked.) In the late 1930s, Rossner officially joined the Main Office of Reich Security and served in Department III (Internal Affairs). He was responsible for the control of "Popular Culture and Art."
Like most Nazis, he pretty much got off scott free:
In 1937 Rossner was granted a Ph.D. from Frankfurt University for this work; he then joined the RSHA as a full-time employee, and spent the war years at its headquarters in Berlin. His personal file attests to the high regard in which he was held by his superiors as an ardent and industrious Nazi, an "implacable National Socialist." Prior to the final defeat of the Reich, Rossner, like other high SS officials, was issued a cyanide capsule, but he did not commit suicide, choosing instead to hide. He was apprehended by the Allies, spent three years in detention, appeared as a minor witness in the Nuremberg trials, and was released in 1948. For his membership in the SS and the RSHA, he was put on trial and fined DM 2,000.
What happened then? Following a trajectory I'm very familiar with, he became a reader for a minor publishing house, and then a major publishing house, and then:
... an editor at the prestigious publishing house Piper, one of West Germany's main publishers of quality.
Where he wound up editing books precisely like the good Nazi he was, suppressing positive mentions of Jews, covertly supporting the Nazi agenda, and, as I say in my header, editing Hannah Arendt, and doing his best to soften, alter her adjectives, and suppress details, including succeeding in deleting the names of various still-prominent "ex"-Nazis.
Thus, the term "murderer" was dropped from the sentence describing the wartime activities of Georg Heuser, who by that time was the attorney general of Rhineland-Palatinate. Similarly, Arendt agreed to omit the name of a Nazi jurist, Theodor Maunz, who was mentioned by Eichmann in his defense: the man had in the meantime made a career in the Federal Republic.
Five weeks after Arendt's death, on January 12, 1976, Rossner, who was by then the editor-in-chief of Piper, sent a memorandum to the production department of the publishing house instructing them not to prepare a new edition of the Eichmann volume. He was over-ruled by the publisher himself, who insisted that the book remain in print, though at that time it was selling only a few hundred copies a year. Rossner remained in his senior position at Piper. He died in Munich in 1999.
Even the cellphones of these men mapped their varying politics. The liquid crystal display on the phone of a bearded representative of Hamas showed a picture of Osama bin Laden beside an image of the Twin Towers. The representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group with Marxist roots, displayed a picture of Ché Guevara and a single English word: freedom. A leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group of Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction, had chosen a picture of a semiautomatic rifle.
"I TOLD YOU SO, YOU FUCKING FOOLS": Excellent biographical sketch of Robert Conquest, historian, poet, diplomat, anthologist, and particularly author of The Great Terror, the definitive expose on Soviet Communism, which everyone should read or have read.
The Great Terror came out in 1968, during the Prague Spring. It is extraordinarily confident, the precision, and varied rhythm of his prose matching the clarity of his view of Stalin's evil. The facts about the terror had long been available to anyone who made the effort to find them. But Conquest organised them into a clear, self-evident narrative and he made it clear to a whole generation that you could not be on the side of the powerless and of the Soviet Union.
The writer Neal Ascherson remembers the impact of The Great Terror on western leftists: "He was very influential in that he immensely encouraged one side and was dismissed by the other, because people were in such entrenched positions. This meant that people accepted his facts; but they didn't accept his conclusions. People were detained in condemning him by the fact that he was a very good poet. That was well known. Everyone by then could agree that Stalin was a very wicked man and a very evil one, but we still wanted to believe in Lenin; and Conquest said that Lenin was just as bad and that Stalin was simply carrying out Lenin's programme." Or, as Conquest later expressed his position:
There was a great Marxist called Lenin Who did two or three million men in That's a lot to have done in But where he did one in, that grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
I first encountered Conquest at the age of seven, via the science fiction anthologies he co-edited with Kingsley Amis, incidentally.
Conquest on one occasion loaned Amis a flat for an assignation in which he had taken the trouble to wire up a tape recorder so that when Amis let himself in, a disembodied voice said "Lucky sod".
A mysterious self-cloning female crayfish, popular with German aquarium owners, could pose a threat to native European species if it were released into the wild, scientists say.
The marbled crayfish, called Marmorkrebs, is probably related to a North American species although scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin admit they do not know exactly where it originated.
But they are sure that it can reproduce without mating.
Parthenogenesis, a form of self-cloning, is found in creatures such as snails and water fleas but is unusual in crayfish.
The Marmorkrebs' ability to produce 20 or more clones of itself in six months could be a danger and a competitor to crayfish in the wild, according to Gerhard Scholtz, a comparative zoologist at the university.
"It might pose a threat to European native crayfish," he told Reuters.
Twenty years ago no one knew how fear conditioning worked. But by surgically removing discrete parts of rodents' brains -- and performing the same simple conditioning experiment -- researchers have detailed the underlying mechanisms. The fear system's command center is the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped structure that rests near the center of the brain and is elaborately tied to other regions through nerve fibers. A rat lacking an amygdala won't freeze at the sound of a tone, no matter how often the tone is paired with a shock. And though human subjects can't be carved up or electrocuted for the sake of science, studies of patients with damaged amygdalas show that they have similar deficits. Unlike people with intact brains, they're no more attuned to emotionally charged words such as rape than to bland ones like handkerchief. And though they can recognize individual faces, they don't perceive threatening expressions as unfriendly. Even a split-second glance at a hostile face activates the amygdala in a normal brain.
Our favorite quote:
An activated amygdala doesn't wait around for instructions from the conscious mind.
"The amygdala tells the rest of the brain, 'Hey, whatever happened, make a strong memory of it'," says James McGaugh, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine. "It makes a strong correlation between the significance of an event and the remembrance of it."
THE AXIS OF EVIL FILM FESTIVAL is one I'd pay to see.
Movies from Iraq, North Korea and Iran, the three countries branded as "the Axis of Evil" by U.S. President George W. Bush, will be shown at a film series opening next week at North Carolina's Duke University.
The series, dubbed "Reel Evil," will give movie-goers a rare insight into unfamiliar cultures and is especially timely as the world faces the prospect of war, organisers said.
It will also feature films from Cuba, Syria and Libya -- dubbed "rogue states" by Washington.
The selections include romantic comedy, family drama, World War Two action, and a Godzilla-type sci-fi, according to a Duke statement.
I may need to look into the specifics of this; I'd particularly like to know more about the "Godzilla-type sci-fi."
China is adding at least 75 ballistic missiles a year to its arsenal and is likely to have fielded 600 against Taiwan by 2005, the Pentagon's Taiwan desk officer said in remarks made public on Thursday.
"Taiwan faces the most daunting conventional ballistic missile threat in the world," said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stokes, the Pentagon official.
In addition to its ballistic-missile buildup, Beijing is expected to deploy first-generation cruise missiles designed to attack land targets before 2005, Stokes said.
FUNNY MONEY: US currency is going to start using other colors along with green, soon.
The $20 bills are expected to debut by this fall, followed by the fifties and hundreds about 12 to 18 months later.
Although the bureau hasn't revealed which artisans are creating the new notes, it has begun divulging more tidbits about engravers in recent years. For instance, lead picture engraver Thomas R. Hipschen engraved Benjamin Franklin's portrait on the $100 note . Christopher Madden engraved all the tiny windows, balustrades and other elements composing the Treasury building vignette on the back of the $10 note.
"It's a kick to pull that out of your wallet," said Madden, who began as an apprentice at the BEP in 1988. "They pay me with my own work. It's a strange concept."
BILL CLINTON INTERVIEWED at considerable length by James Fallows here (just posted, but taped in October). I found it quite interesting, though nothing singularly worth quoting.
Okay, here's one, on what future ex-Presidents might do, and then on how Democrats should behave:
And secondly, if we're still all compos mentis, I'd like to see us organize really constructive debates about our honest disagreements -- in a respectful way, so America could hear them. Because I think that so much of the American political life has been poisoned by this intense, destructive nature of public debates. So instead of people having an honest debate about the issues it's which person can you make look unpatriotic, or without a shred of redeeming social value, or whatever.
A lot of this is not so much, not ever differing, but it's how you say it, and whether you're somewhat respectful. Even when I give these political speeches, almost in every speech I say, I don't want you ever to treat them the way they treated me. Don't do it.
And you can do it... I said that most of our adversaries are really honorable people. They honestly disagree with us. It ought to be enough to have an honest discussion, honest disagreements.
2003 DUBIOUS DATA AWARDShere. Grand Prize Winner: Raelian cloning.
Let's beat on Bill O'Reilly; that's always fun.
5. WHO STOLE AMERICA’S CHILDREN? -- On Fox News Channel’s July 16 "O'Reilly Factor," the host warned that there were "more than 100,000 abductions of children by strangers every year in the United States." In fact, only 3,000 to 5,000 such abductions are reported annually, and only 200 and 300 of these involve ransom, sexual abuse, or physical harm, including 50 murders. Horrific, yes. An epidemic? No. For the 50 million children under age 13, the chance of being abducted and murdered is literally one in a million.
Number Ten makes a point I'd not seen before:
10. IN CLASS OR INMATES? -- In August, many news outlets repeated the Justice Policy Institute's claim that "more African American men are incarcerated than enrolled in college." This is true, but it compares apples and oranges. You can go to prison at any age, for any length of time, but most people go to college for only a few years during their late teens and twenties. A comparison of African American men of college age shows 469,000 in college and only 180,000 in jail.
Not to say that this changes my mind about our broken justice system, or broken drug laws, but I smack myself in the head for this not having occurred to me on my own.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5; you should know this stuff, right?
URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL: As of now, I have received 390 "Nigeria" e-mails since I started saving them. I currently receive an average of four per day.
I've long ceased having to open them to know what they are; the capitalized subject header, name, and phrasing of the subject are singular. They are, at least, rather more entertaining than all the other forms of spam.
BoingBoingnotes a way to reply, though I don't really see the point.
IRANIAN BOYS WHO ARE GIRLS: Another fascinating Iran story by the excellent Elaine Sciolino (with Nazila Fathi).
In a country where girls and women are required to cover their heads and conceal the shape of their bodies from the age of puberty, some girls have taken to disguising themselves as boys. They cut their hair short, wear loose-fitting clothes and speak as little as possible.
A detail I knew:
But homosexuality is forbidden in Islam and is illegal in the Islamic Republic.
One I did not:
The Islamic Republic allows people who have been diagnosed as transsexual to have sex-change operations, and the subject is openly discussed.
Both Ms. Shirazi and Ms. Kamkar said they believe that most cross-dressers are neither transsexual nor gay.
INTERNMENT IS GOOD FOR YOU!: Excellent coverage in many posts from Eric Muller (who manages to leave his full name off his blog) on the continuing self-inflicted travails of Representative Howard Coble (R-NC), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, whose remarks on the justification of the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII have slowly attracted more and more attention.
THEY LAUGH NOW, but they also laughed at the claim that Elvis-worship was a religion.
The 2001 census reveals that 390,000 people across England and Wales are devoted followers of the Jedi "faith" made famous by the blockbuster films.
Out of 52m respondents, 390,000 kept true to the Star Wars cause.
The figures suggest there are large pockets of support for Luke Skywalker and the gang.
The Jedi response was most popular in Brighton and Hove, with 2.6 per cent of census respondents quoting it.
Student support may have helped boost figures in Oxford (2.0 per cent) and Cambridge (1.9) with more followers coming forward from Wandsworth (1.9), Southampton (1.8) and Lambeth (1.8).
The "religion" was least popular in Easington, on the north-east coast of England between Sunderland and Hartlepool, where it was quoted by only 0.16 per cent of respondents.
And in Sedgefield - Prime Minister Tony Blair's constituency - Knowsley, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Wear Valley all showed less than 0.2 per cent of respondents pledging support for the Jedi "faith".
Unconfirmed reports suggests this may due to Jedi Knights falling victim to their "dark side".
I find your lack of faith... disturbing. (Gesture with thumb and forefinger....)
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5, save for Padawan Learners.
Saddam Hussein was last night reported to have placed his defence minister and close relative under house arrest in an extraordinary move apparently designed to prevent a coup.
Iraqi opposition newspapers, citing sources in Baghdad, yesterday claimed that the head of the Iraqi military, Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai, was now effectively a prisoner in his home in the capital.
The minister's apparent detention, also reported by Cairo-based al-Ahram newspaper, is surprising. He is not only a member of President Saddam's inner circle, but also a close relative by marriage. His daughter is married to Qusay Hussein, the dictator's 36-year-old younger son - considered by many as his heir apparent.
Hardly surprising. I've lost track of the number of members of his family Hussein has had tortured and killed. As the story later points out:
In 1996 he had his two sons-in-law executed after he persuaded them to return to Baghdad following their defection to Jordan. His estranged first wife Sajida is no longer on speaking terms with him after the mysterious death of her brother.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for more details on Strain In Baghdad.
As I mentioned in comments, while Blogger was down for about the last 21 hours, Salem Pax in Baghdad says this isn't so. You should read everything on his blog, anyway; how many other citizens of Iraq do you know blogging about life in Baghdad?
THE DENNIS CANAVAN PARTY: I freely admit to being no expert in the Holyrood Parliament in Scotland. So I was intrigued to, in the course of dropping the always interesting Jim Henley an e-mail to note that it wasn't terribly accurate to call the mother of Parliaments presently "two-party," check the current makeup of the Scottish Parliament, as well, and see that the listing of parties had something that stuck out.
Scottish Labour Party, Scottish National Party, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Dennis Canavan, Independent. Say what?
After being a Labour MP for 25 years, Dennis Canavan was excluded from Labour's list of candidates for the Scottish Parliament, despite having the support of over 95% of the members of Falkirk West Constituency Labour Party. At the first election to the Scottish Parliament he stood as a candidate without the support of any party and was elected with the biggest majority in Scotland.
Not news to many readers: present makeup of UK Parliament: Labour has 410 seats, Tories 163, Liberal Democrats 53, Scottish Nationalist 9, Ulster Unionist 6, Democratic Unionist 5, Sinn Fein 4, Social Democratic & Labour Party 3, Independent 1, Independent Conservative 1.
Particularly given the lack of people outside of England who voted for the Conservative Party in the last election, the Liberal Democrats are arguably about as significant an opposition at present as the Tories are. Just mentioning, Jim.
(For near-completism's sake, here is the homepage the Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru (love that Welsh); somewhere in there is, I presume, a party breakdown, but damned if they make it easy to find, and I'm uninterested in spending more time looking at the moment. I'll similarly pass on looking up the precise breakdown for the Northern Ireland assembly.)
A GUIDE TO BLOGGERS is something The Talking Dog has been doing a superb job of, with thoughtful and useful descriptions of more bloggers than you possibly have time to read. He's up to "V" now. Here's his description of our effort, by the way:
Amygdala is the thoughtful blog of Boulder, Colorado's Gary Farber (no relation). I'm not so sure I'd call Gary a "moderate" as I would an "eclectic". Gary, I believe, writes science fiction as well as his blog, and covers a wide variety of subjects in a manner where I am unable to knee jerk classify him as "lefty or rightie". Because of this inscrutibility, TD Designation: Pekingese
Although I've pointed out to Seth (no relation) Farber in e-mail that I do not, and never have, in fact, write or written science fiction, but I have had some work history, over the years, in professionally editing it (as well as a great deal of other experience in the subculture), I'll otherwise take that description as more than acceptable.
2/18/2003 06:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
That heavy personal price for the failure to win the political battle is already being reflected in this month's ICM survey. Mr Blair's personal popularity has slumped from a positive net rating of plus six points last May to a devastating negative net rating of minus 20 points.
Mystery (to me) solved; this is a form of British polling measuring I was previously unfamiliar with. Interestingly:
In fact, the detailed figures for Labour voters on the ICM Iraq tracker show that more approve of his stand than disapprove. It shows that 44% of Labour voters support military action and only 38% oppose it. This should be born in mind by those preparing to write off Mr Blair's political career.
Jacques Chirac last night launched a furious attack on east European candidates for EU membership, saying they had behaved "recklessly" in making pro-American statements on the Iraq crisis.
Speaking at the end of the emergency Brussels summit, the French president astonished diplomats and dismayed the European commission and other governments by accusing the incoming and aspirant members of "infantile" and "dangerous" behaviour.
Letters signed [by the East European countries] were "not well-brought-up behaviour," he complained.
"They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet. When you are in the family, after all, you have more rights than when you are asking to join and knocking on the door," Mr Chirac said, warning Romania and Bulgaria that they had been particularly incautious since they were still seeking EU membership.
Americans aren't the only ones who can make diplomatic gaffes and lecture other countries.
"The more complex you sound, then the more not only will sexy females recognise you but also predators. So when you raise these birds in pet shops, they actually develop more complex syntax than birds in the wild."
Oh, er, you noticed that bit about birds, did you? Well, it's a British newspaper. It's just slang.
Okay, we at Amygdala can't fool you. Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for interesting, overly short, story on brain structure and its role in language and syntax. (Another version here.) (Yes, the AAAS is meeting right here in River City. Er, Denver.)
POLITICAL MANIACS: Cheery little report/review on how China continues the grand communist tradition of political psychiatry by putting dissidents in "psychiatric hospitals."
According to an account given to Munro in 1987 by a former prisoner at a Shanghai facility, inmates were punished by intravenous injections that made their tongues bulge out of their mouths and by extremely painful acupuncture which applied an electric current to the sole of the foot. But whatever further inquiry may show, the fact that dissidents are sent to an Ankang, diagnosed there as "political maniacs," and imprisoned, according to official sources, for an average of five years is a violation of their human rights and of the international medical standards which China insists it follows. According to Chinese psychiatric documents cited by Munro, by 1992 the total number of Ankang hospitals had risen to twenty, with several others under construction. According to one source, large Ankang centers can accommodate around one thousand inmates; the Tianjin facility, however, is now believed to have around twice that capacity. According to another official source, some inmates are being held for as long as twenty years. The government's eventual goal is to establish one Ankang center for every city in China with a population of one million or above.
One of the main categories of "people taken into police psychiatric custody" for diagnosis, according to an official police encyclopedia cited by Munro, are those
commonly known as "political maniacs," who shout reactionary slogans, write reactionary banners and reactionary letters, make anti-government speeches in public, and express opinions on important domestic and international affairs.
I thought we called these people "bloggers."
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for depressing detail on how to be "politically deluded" and so on. (Yet another example of that rampant leftism I so often read The NY Review of Books accused of, by the way.)
OHMIGOD!: We learn from this breathless profile of Richard Powers, entitled "The Author as Science Guy":
Richard Powers wrote his new novel, "The Time of Our Singing," in bed, using a wireless keyboard to beam his prose to a giant computer screen across the room.
The contraption broke down a month ago, but Mr. Powers's reserves of electronic hardware run deep. There is a desktop monitor on the swivel stand next to his bed; on the coffee table in his living room lies a gleaming, featherweight laptop that deciphers his longhand and even takes dictation.
Unbelievable! Definitively the science guy!
At 45, this tall, thin, bluntly handsome and appealingly unpretentious man is widely considered the country's pre-eminent literary chronicler of the technological age.
[Much adulation elided.]
"I've been dictating more and more," Mr. Powers said, flipping up the lid of his laptop to reveal a page of notes for his next novel, a book about memory. "I can lie in bed, stretch out or walk around." He did a quick turn about his living room to demonstrate, the machine balanced on both hands. "My goal for technology has always been to reach a point where the technological mediation becomes invisible," he said, a touch of wonder in his voice. "Now I can compose the way Wordsworth used to, wandering around the Lake District."
Hey, I've heard about this amazing new technological transcription device: it's a solid-state stylus, can be as short as an inch, thinner than a finger, and allows transcription on portable sheets, or endless sorts of media, and is also biodegradable! Some call it a "pen-cell" device....
Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5 to hear what a genius Powers is, though not actually so much more on how "his reserves of electronic resources run deep." Deep, yet, apparently, shallow.