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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 --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
Dr. Frank remains one of the sanest political voices I know, and so I endorse the movement. Since I recommend daily checking of Dr. Frank. And listening to his songs is also a fine enhancement of your life.
You'll recall that she is the opposition leader who has spent most of the past decade under house arrest, after winning elections in 1990, after which the ruling junta of Myanmar (Burma) refused to turn over power, and arrested her, releasing her only less than a year ago.
International expressions of concern have followed the the arrest of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and closure of her pro-democracy party headquarters in Rangoon.
Burma's ruling military junta said she was taken into "protective custody" after clashes overnight between her supporters and pro-government protesters.
More than a dozen members of her entourage were also being held, officials said.
Four people died and 50 were injured in the violence, according to the military.
LORD OF THE RINGS, THE MUSICAL, will make its debut in London.
Nonetheless, it was announced today that the show will receive its world premiere in London in spring 2005, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the completion of the trilogy with the publication of The Return of the King.
Hollywood heavyweight Saul Zaentz will co-produce with Kevin Wallace. Zaentz was involved with the disastrous 1978 cartoon version of the Fellowship of the Ring. Let's hope this venture meets with a happier fate.
Bob Geldof astonished the aid community yesterday by using a return visit to Ethiopia to praise the Bush administration as one of Africa's best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids.
The musician-turned activist said Washington was providing major assistance, in contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response to the continent's humanitarian crises. "You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian.
The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."
Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all."
The force of about 1,200 troops, whose mandate runs until Sept. 1, will be led by the French and will include a substantial contingent of South African troops.
Matthew Yglesias, who perhaps has not made much study of military matters, otherwise inexplicably calls this "good news," seeming not to recognize that it means nothing, given that a force numbered minimally in the tens of thousands, with major air support, and armor, is needed to accomplish any pacifying. 1,200 troops is nothing but a joke. A, dare I say it, extremely black joke.
OUR BORING POLITICS: Israeli politics is so much more colorful.
The Knesset had taken up the somewhat radical economic plan backed by Binyamin Netanyahu.
A Knesset plenum composed of only members of the
government, some of them visibly dozing off, approved the final reading of the emergency economic plan by a vote of 52-1 shortly after 4:30 A.M. Thursday morning in a marathon session that began more than 14 hours earlier.
The length of the vote was primarily due to the separate votes held for the amendments and thousands of objections to the plan, as demanded by the opposition. But shortly after 3 A.M., after a recess, the Knesset House Committee decided to speed up the voting process by combining some of the amendments and thousands of objections. In response, opposition MKs walked out.
Late Wednesday night opposition factions of the Knesset were outraged when United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni discovered that a vote was submitted in favor of an amendment to the emergency economic plan in the name of Likud MK Gilad Erdan, even though he was not present for the vote.
As you might imagine, some trouble ensued over this, but was eventually smoothed over. Meanwhile: calls for investigation, delays, new amendments, threatened filibusters, rulings, counter-rullings, threats, etc. Later:
The opposition had threatened to demand a roll-call vote not only for almost every article of the massive bill, but also for hundreds of the 8,000 proposed amendments that have been submitted by various MKs. If the demand had been met, the voting could have taken up to several days instead of ending late Wednesday as scheduled.
Many of the proposed amendments are not substantive - for instance, a proposal that the bill's name be changed to "The Law for the Starvation of Israeli Citizens."
I liked that one. Very creative.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for less interesting detail.
KURDS SWEEP ELECTIONS IN KIRKUK. Another sign of non-betrayal of the Kurds.
A Kurd was elected today to head the local interim government, a significant political victory for the Kurds that tipped the ethnic balance in this oil-rich northern city that was dominated for years by Arabs from the Baathist-led regime.
The vote came just two days after Kurds swept City Council elections, taking the largest single block of votes on the 30-seat council. American forces here organized the elections, which officials say are important steps toward establishing democracy in Iraq. Other elections have taken place in the northern city of Mosul and three cities in Iraq's south.
An Arab was elected deputy mayor, and six Arabs were elected to the Council.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for detail if you want to keep up on the issue.
FREE LENNY BRUCE: Okay, it's a little late for that. But there's a move to posthumously grant him a pardon.
The movement to win a pardon for Bruce boasts an impressive roster of backers, from 25 First Amendment lawyers (including Floyd Abrams) to 10 performers and writers (including Robin Williams, the Smothers Brothers and Penn & Teller).
"A pardon now is too late to save Lenny Bruce," supporters said in a letter to Gov. George Pataki. "But a posthumous pardon would set the record straight and thereby demonstrate New York's commitment to freedom -- free speech, free press, free thinking."
For those who don't recall, Lenny Bruce's great crime was to say four-letter words. Like "fuck." In public. On stage. He was convicted after a six-month trial, and died a broken and obsessed man, at the age of 39.
If the same laws were still in effect, no one presently appearing on HBO comedy would be there, and few on any late night tv show.
Okay, I grant that that might not be entirely a bad thing, but, seriously, the idea that Bad Words should be illegal is rather insane (if you don't like them, you're free to use the off switch, or walk out), and it's Lenny Bruce who practically gave his life to establish that not-then-obvious point.
So while there are innumerable more important causes in the world, to put it mildly, this is still, I'd say, a (small) Good One.
As Dr. Tatiana, the lovelorn columnist (or, in British, "agony aunt," or in this case maybe "ant"), she fields inquiries in her book from neurotic fairy wrens in Australia and homosexual manatees in Florida and from "Anxious in Amboseli," an African elephant afraid to shower with the other guys because his member has turned green.
Dear Dr. Tatiana,
I'm a European praying mantis, and I've noticed I enjoy sex more if I bite my lovers' heads off first. . . .Do you find this too?
I Like 'Em Headless in London
"Some of my best friends are man-eaters," the good doctor replies, "but between you and me, cannibalism isn't my bag. I can see why you like it, though. . . . Whereas a headless chicken rushes wildly about, a headless mantis thrashes in a sexual frenzy. Why can't he be that way when he's whole? Well, it's hard to have wild sex if you're trying to keep your head. . . . Females in more than 80 other species have been caught eating their lovers before, during or after."
Clearly there is no such thing as safe sex -- which, Judson says, is sort of the point.
The answers she does have constitute a sort of salad bar of evolutionary facts and theories to which the reader ends up bellying up, wide-eyed, with an increasing appetite. Garden slugs who mate hanging upside down on a string of mucus! Lions who copulate 157 times in 55 hours with two different females!
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 for entertaining science, and, hey, sex! (Via Unfogged.)
Over the past four years, Congo's war has claimed more lives than any other. The International Rescue Committee, an American aid agency, says that by the middle of last year, 2.5m people had died because of the war in eastern Congo alone. Some were shot or hacked to death; many more succumbed to starvation or disease as nine national armies and a shifting throng of rebel groups pillaged their country. By now, the death toll is probably over 3m, although this is the roughest of estimates. As one UN worker puts it: "Congo is so green, you don't even see the graves."
The peasants of Ramba Chitanga, a village too tiny to appear on any map, tell a grisly tale. When the RCD left, Hutus moved in, and accused the villagers of feeding their enemies. Then the Mai-Mai attacked. During the ensuing battle, the Hutus hacked off 29-year-old Janet Vumilia's hands. Now, with her skittle-like stumps, she ticks off the relatives they killed: her parents-in-law, her brother-in-law, her pregnant sister, her niece.
Villagers say they can distinguish different factions by their actions. The Hutus, they say, are more vicious than the Mai-Mai, while the rebels are more likely than the Rwandans to abduct children. But sometimes the distinctions become blurred. Francine, a 14-year-old new mother, says she thinks her baby's father was an RCD rebel. But he could have been a Mai-Mai; men from both groups raped her. When her father objected, the Mai-Mai slit his throat.
John Cole has joined in, and Matthew Yglesias has been on it. Have you blogged on the issue today? Written a politician to ask that the US (or your government) get the UN to act, and contribute troops and logistics? Called a talk radio show? Done anything at all?
Read The Rest Scale: 6 out of 5; a good recounting of recent history here for anyone who needs a program to know the players.
"I MISS IT A LOT," Bakr said, sitting in a computer repair shop next to one of Baghdad's shuttered state Internet cafes. "I used to use it at least five to six hours a day."
While Bakr and other Iraqis are upset about the slicing of their precious tether to the world, they’re also optimistic about the future of the Internet in Iraq, where access was previously available to a tiny minority -- and only then under severe restrictions.
For the past few weeks, Abdulla's technicians have been hammering together an Internet base station that will soon serve a 50-seat Internet cafe and some homes for the first time since April.
Until then, Internet access comes only via personal satellite phones carried mostly by reporters here or through a cafe in the city’s Babil district with five computers hooked up to a satellite phone.
Which re-emphasizes yet again how privileged Salem Pax has been.
The rest of the story has more interesting info on Iraqi's Internet past and potentioal future. Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.
I NEVER THOUGHT, in 1977, when I was going to CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, and a few other clubs, seeing Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, and other bands, most now forgotten, that twenty-five years later I'd be seeing commercials on tv using The Ramones doing "Blitzkrieg Bop." (Or any other Ramones song, ever.)
THE AIR ASSAULT ON BAGHDAD: an interesting analysis from Fred Kaplan of Slate of the official Air Force report.
It turns out, however, that of the 18,898 targets hit from the air in this war, just 1,799 -- fewer than 10 percent -- were related to the regime's leadership or the military's command structure.
The vast majority of targets struck -- 15,592 of them, or 82 percent of the total -- were Iraqi troops, tanks, and other weapons concentrated on the battlefield.
Of the 1,801 airplanes sent to the region (not including helicopters), 60 were A-10s, more than any other single type of combat plane (except for the Navy's F/A-18). While the report does not say how many "tank kills" can be credited to those A-10s, it does say that they fired 311,597 rounds of 30mm ammunition.
That A-10 rules for ground support; always has. It's ancient news, but as relevant as ever, that the Air Force last made one in 1986 and has desperately tried to retire the fleet ever since.
But the report indicates that, while a little Stealth can go a long way, we probably don't need any more than a little.
The Iraqis fired their anti-aircraft artillery 1,224 times and launched 1,660 surface-to-air missiles. As a result, they put out of action six helicopters and a single A-10 (the only attack plane that flies at altitudes measured in hundreds or even dozens of feet, not tens of thousands).
The Air Force planners knew this from the beginning. Of the current stealth planes in the arsenal, they sent just 12 F/A-117s and only four B-2s.
By comparison, they sent 28 B-52s -- bombers originally designed to carry nuclear weapons, all converted in the past decade to hold conventional bombs -- most of them older than the pilots flying them.
The fact is, in this era of precision-guided munitions or "smart bombs," the airplane matters much less than the weapons and electronics inside. You could take a 747, snap on a bomb bay, fly it at 10,000 feet -- and it would do just fine.
That last is rather an exaggeration -- particularly given that not all situations are ones where you have utter air superiority -- but is probably more true (in conditions of utter air dominance) than not.
Last major point:
However, it turns out that of the 19,948 smart munitions fired during Gulf War II, 8,716 -- two-fifths -- were the '90s-era laser-guided bombs. Substantially fewer, 6,642, were JDAMs. The other 4,590 smart weapons were GPS-guided but much more expensive models than the JDAM.
More surprising, another 9,251 bombs -- or one-third of all the bombs dropped during this war -- were unguided, unmodified dumb bombs. It would be good to know where these dumb bombs -- and the less-reliable laser-guided bombs -- were dropped: on the battlefield, in cities?
Worthwhile information. And, yes, I'd like details on that last question.
Read the Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for more detail and opinion.
LILEKS REVIEWS MATRIX. You should read Lileks every day, of course, and I assume you do, which is why I rarely link. (I'm sorry if you Think He's Too Right-Wing Sometimes; a) four out of five dentists have determined he's not; and b) I encourage, in a gentle, New Agey, way, working on getting past that, or you're missing Something.)
Did I mention that there's a Spunky Kid in Zion? An eager Spunky Kid who idolizes Neo? Gosh, Neo, next year I'll be old enough to join a crew, and I was thinking I could join yours! It's as if someone sampled a ladleful of an early draft of the script, pursed their lips, and finally said "Needs more Wesley Crusher. And maybe a dash of Short Round." At one point the Spunky Kid gives Neo a gift from all the other orphan kids down at the Zion Orphanage and Bean-Paste Processing Center. It's a spoon. Get it? A SPOON! Because as we know from the first movie, there is no spoon. Except when there is.
I'm not going to quote him on the building of Zion, or the Metaphysical Nature of Beans, but it's all good.
"But what is good? Do you want the good you are thinking of, or the good you will have?"
"I am not certain. Perhaps Amygdala will know."
"Perhaps. Amygdala knows what is good. Whether it knows whether the good it knows is the good that is right for you only Amygdala will know. You must choose whether you accept what Amygdala says."
So don't accept what our massive editorial staff conclusively says, if you like. See if we care!
Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5, and don't drink while reading.
"But what if I do not?"
Then you will confuse Harold Ramis with Rick Moranis, and think Chief Engineer Trip is First Officer when T'Pol is.
No, wait, that's what happens if you trust James to check his facts, and use ASCII punctuation marks. Never Mind. (I think that his reference to a mysterious "William Pederson" is actually to "William L. Petersen", star of many things, including CSI and To Live And Die In LA [whose William Friedkin chase scene I believe he's referring to]. But given James' oft-creative way with names, it's hard to be sure.)
REVERSING HISTORY, frequently occupied Poland is one of the three countries now occupying Iraq. More on the upendingly unlikely overall Polish situation.
Poland is the most pro-American country in the world. It is more pro-American than America
-- ADAM MICHNIK, Editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza
President Aleksander Kwa´sniewski, the man in charge of foreign policy, watched the antiwar movement in Western Europe with a mixture of incomprehension and disgust. When France, Germany and Belgium forced NATO (which Poland recently joined) to reject Turkey's request for antimissile defenses, Kwa´sniewski wondered what solidarity among allies really meant to them. And when Jacques Chirac suggested that Eastern Europe's leaders "missed a good opportunity to stay quiet" after they failed to back his antiwar policy, Kwa´sniewski was furious. In the end, it was like choosing a spouse: a gut feeling about who would make a loyal partner for life. "We had a chance to change the brotherhood of words to the brotherhood of blood," says Marek Siwiec, Kwa´sniewski's National Security Adviser. "And we took it."
When U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced in London on May 2 that Poland was to be one of three countries controlling territory in postwar Iraq, it caught even some senior officials by surprise. Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was at an E.U. meeting on the Greek island of Rhodes when the news broke. He visibly blanched, according to one E.U. diplomat who was nearby. "He had no mandate coming from the Polish President; he had no decision from his parliament," said the diplomat.
A U.S. official does not really disagree, explaining that the Bush Administration, intent on rewarding Poland's support over Iraq, decided to "throw her in at the deep end and let her swim." If it works, Poland could emerge as the equivalent of, say, "a Spain or an Italy," he said. Sink or swim, "it will be an education." Poles recognize the risk of drowning.
Poland has some peacekeeping experience, but not much cash or equipment: no humvees, no boats to move soldiers on the Tigris and Euphrates, not even a military cargo plane. The military effort got off to a rocky start when Poland suggested Germany might contribute troops too, which the German press dismissed as insolent. But last week, NATO, excluded from a larger role of its own in Iraq, agreed to organize headquarters, communications and other logistics for the Polish-led force, while several countries, including Bulgaria, Ukraine, South Korea and the Philippines, pledged to serve under Polish command. The force is expected to reach 7,000 soldiers before deploying in mid-July, according to a senior Polish defense official.
Meanwhile, Poland's economy remains in the toilet, and they face a referendum in June on whether or not to join the European Union. The bottom line on that last?
Puffing on a Gitanes cigarette at his top-floor office in a leafy Warsaw suburb, Michnik says a yes vote is his dream, a no his nightmare. "I am not an enthusiast of Chirac or [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroder," he says. "But I prefer them to [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko."
Times are as interesting as ever for Poland, but in general, a heck of a lot better than for most of the twentieth century.
Georgia State University researchers have come up with a Web browser that allows people to surf just by thinking.
Previous research has shown that it is possible to move a cursor by controlling neural activity. The researchers' BrainBrowser Internet software is designed to work with the limited mouse movements neural control allows.
The browser window is divided into an upper section that resembles a traditional browser and a lower control section. Common controls like "Home", "Refresh", "Print" and "Back" are grouped in the left-hand corner and provide feedback. When a user focuses his attention on a button, it becomes highlighted, and when the user successfully focuses on clicking the button, it emits a low tone.
The researchers are working on a virtual keyboard with word prediction technology that will allow users to enter URLs.
The technology will be ready for practical communications applications in two to five years, according to the researchers.
MARIJUANA IS AS DANGEROUS AS HEROIN. According to federal law. It says here. Speaking of drugs, this article in the terribly liberal Washington Times tells us that:
House bill that would provide public funding for ad campaigns to fight medicinal-marijuana initiatives has been turned back because of language that could allow ads to become partisan attacks.
The Republican-sponsored legislation would also allow the movement of drug-enforcement money intended to fight the prevalence of drugs at the state and local level to the coffers of federal agents so they could better police the use of medicinal marijuana.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, would repeal a law that bars White House drug-policy director John Walters from using public funds for "partisan political purposes."
In other words, to target lawmakers who are "soft" on drugs, and to campaign against and fight state laws allowing for medical use of marijuana, etc.
The good news is that this (sponsored by a Republican) provision was rejected; the bad news is that it stood a serious chance of passing.
THE BIO-WEAPONS WE'VE NOT YET FOUND are, according toTime, Uday and Qusay;
Saddam's nastiest biological weapons may have been his sons Uday and Qusay.
Long, horrifying, set of accounts, reportedly after examination of many documents and interviews with many witnesses and former Hussein employees, of the horror and terror of the sons, particularly Uday.
Read The Rest Scale: to be nauseated. Even if you discount for propaganda purposes served, and likely interviewee desire to please an interviewer.
THE FLEEING TEXAS LAWMAKERS and the Republican dragnet to catch them, which went over the line, is a story Thomas Nephew of Newsrack has been on top of, among others, including nailing down whether Tom DeLay was correct in claiming that FAA numbers are available via the internet. Surprise! They aren't.
Where have I heard this one before? Houston Chronicle: Malfunction blamed for gap on DPS tape:
Texas state police officials on Monday blamed a faulty duplication machine for a five-hour gap in a Capitol security tape that was given to a House committee investigating how authorities handled the Democratic walkout. [...]
"It's odd that it was the day and time that we wanted," [committee chairman] Bailey said. "It's fine all week, except for that one period."
BUFFY SPOILERS if you're not an American and thus may be a season behind: don't read this post.
But here is confirmation that Spike (James Marsters) will overcome not just death, but utter and complete discorporation, in the final episode of Buffy to -- somehow -- move toAngel next series.
Jordan Levin, president of The WB Entertainment, isn't sure how the character might be reintroduced to the world of the living. "We're awaiting word from (creator Joss Whedon) on that," Levin says. "I'm sure he'll figure out a way."
Other "Buffy" characters are scheduled to make appearances on "Angel" next season. However, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on both shows, will not return.
It's fantasy, so it's not the biggest deal in the multiverse to pop back in from some other dimension where you've been re-incorporated, or existing in non-corporeal form, or simply utterly non-existent, after all. Too bad about Cordy, though; hope Carpenter has good prospects lined up elsewhere, and that's why she's leaving; it's understandable; she's not getting any younger, and the market in Hollywood for female actors once they're over 40 remains absymal.
WHAT DID THE WHITE HOUSE KNOW AND WHEN DID IT KNOW IT?: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports:
Why is the Bush administration blocking the release of an 800-page congressional report about 9-11? The bipartisan report deals with law-enforcement and intelligence failures that preceded the attacks. For months, congressional leaders and administration officials have battled over declassifying the document, preventing a public release once slated for this week.
AMONG THE PORTIONS of the report the administration refuses to declassify, sources say, are chapters dealing with two politically and diplomatically sensitive issues: the details of daily intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 and evidence pointing to Saudi government ties to Al Qaeda. Bush officials have taken such a hard line, sources say, that they're refusing to permit the release of matters already in the public domain -- including the existence of intelligence documents referred to on the CIA Web site.
Katharine Mieszkowski of Saloninterviews Schlossberg about it (you have to wade past the Salon ad). One fact mentioned is that 20,000 Americans are in federal prison for pot offenses.
Since the book went to the printer, I got sent a clipping from Alabama. This principal of an Alabama high school was pissed off that kids were smoking pot. So, he invited in cops ... One of the undercover agents at the school bought three ounces from a high school senior who had never been arrested for any crime, had never been charged with any crime before in his life.
He sold three ounces to an undercover cop, and they made an example of him. He got 26 years. That's a lot of time for pot, and it's based on this very moralistic view of what's permissible, and what's not permissible.
On Bill Bennett:
And his explanation, I think, is a beautiful one when applied to many other things in life.
When asked about his gambling, he said: It's like drinking. If you can't handle it, don't do it. That's fine for him to say about gambling, which was illegal across the United States, everywhere except Nevada, as recently as 1978, but he clearly has no problem with marijuana offenders getting massive prison sentences. I think that smoking pot is probably not as harmful for you as compulsive gambling.
These are very arbitrary decisions about where the market is free, and where the market is restricted.
The economic essentials of pot:
A bushel of corn sells for $2, and a bushel of marijuana for $70,000. And those are the workings of the market right there. When you start sentencing people to life in prison for marijuana, you greatly increase the value of marijuana.
This is a weed. It grows wild in all 50 states. It's hard to kill. Most of us who couldn't grow a thing could probably grow some marijuana if we wanted to. So, in the absence of these really tough laws against it, it's not going to be a very lucrative commodity.
Most immediately, the U.N. is facing that test in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where seven hundred poorly armed U.N. peacekeepers in the northeastern Ituri region have watched helplessly over the past few weeks as massacres by tribal militias have filled graves with fresh corpses at about the same clip that the dead of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror have been exhumed in Iraq.
Accounts of the horror in Ituri have the quality of Hieronymus Bosch's grotesque tableaux of apocalypse: torched villages; macheted babies in the streets; stoned child warriors indulging in cannibalism and draping themselves with the entrails of their victims; peacekeepers -- mostly Uruguayans -- using their guns only to drive off waves of frantic civilians seeking refuge in their already overflowing compound; a quarter of a million people in frenzied flight from their homes. For nearly five years, such suffering has plagued much of the eastern Congo along the tangled battle lines of warring political and tribal factions, stirred up and spurred on by the occupying armies of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have been killed in the fighting, and many more have died as a consequence of the displacement, disease, and hunger that attend it. By any measure, Congo is one of the most hellish places on earth, and of all the hells within that hell Ituri province has come to be known as the most infernal.
"We've been sending messages every day to New York that this was going to happen, that we need more troops," the French commander of the U.N. peacekeepers told a reporter. "Nothing was done." This has become a routine scenario: massacres foretold, warnings ignored, slaughter erupting under the noses of U.N. forces with useless mandates. The mutilated remains of two peacekeepers were found in Bunia last week, and the commander, who has given shelter to some thirteen thousand civilians, was slashed with a machete at the gates of his compound.
If you have a blog: you can do something to help spread the word.
If you have a voice, you can help spread the word.
WE'RE INCORRUPTIBLE! is what the FCC would be happy to have everyone believe. Isn't it nice that those nice people who are about to let corporations own as many tv stations and newspapers as they like let those same folks pay for millions of dollars in FCC trips?
From May 22nd:
Vegas. Rio. 'Frisco. Paris. The Big Easy. Over the past eight years, Federal Communications Commission officials have taken 2,500 business trips to global tourist spots, most of which were paid for by the media and telecommunications companies the agency oversees, according to a study to be released today.
FCC officials accepted $2.8 million in free trips, mainly to industry conventions, academic symposia and technical forums. The top destination -- Las Vegas, with 330 trips -- is the site of many media industry conventions, such as annual gatherings put on by the National Association of Broadcasters. The second-most popular destination for FCC officials was New Orleans, with 173 trips, followed by New York (102 trips) and London (98 trips), the study said.
The NAB paid the most, spending $191,472 on trips, the study said, followed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association ($172,636) and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association ($149,285). Last November, a group of technology firms paid $2,646 to fly FCC Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy to a two-day conference in Montpellier, France.
I've not seen anyone else blogging on this nice form of legal corruption and bribe-taking. Bloggers? Go groundswell and echo-chamb, hokay?
OH, DEAR. The kilogram is getting lighter. This won't do. It simply won't do. Something must be done!
In these girth-conscious times, even weight itself has weight issues. The kilogram is getting lighter, scientists say, sowing potential confusion over a range of scientific endeavor.
The kilogram is defined by a platinum-iridium cylinder, cast in England in 1889. No one knows why it is shedding weight, at least in comparison with other reference weights, but the change has spurred an international search for a more stable definition.
"It's certainly not helpful to have a standard that keeps changing," says Peter Becker, a scientist at the Federal Standards Laboratory here, an institution of 1,500 scientists dedicated entirely to improving the ability to measure things precisely.
Even the apparent change of 50 micrograms in the kilogram -- less than the weight of a grain of salt -- is enough to distort careful scientific calculations.
Dr. Becker is leading a team of international researchers seeking to redefine the kilogram as a number of atoms of a selected element. Other scientists, including researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington, are developing a competing technology to define the kilogram using a complex mechanism known as the watt balance.
The final recommendation will be made by the International Committee on Weights and Measures, a body created by international treaty in 1875. The agency guards the international reference kilogram and keeps it in a heavily guarded safe in a château outside Paris. It is visited once a year, under heavy security, by the only three people to have keys to the safe. The weight change has been noted on the occasions it has been removed for measurement.
Aha! A perfidious French plot! Clearly they can't be trusted to weigh in on this. Also:
A total of 80 copies of the reference kilogram have been created and distributed to signatories of the metric treaty. The sometimes colorful history of these small metal cylinders underscores how long the world has used the same definition of the kilogram.
Some of the metal plugs were issued to countries that later vanished, including Serbia and the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese had to surrender theirs after World War II. Germany has acquired several weights, including the one issued to Bavaria in 1889 and the one that belonged to East Germany.
German imperialism! Tsk.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for more precise details on this weighty issue.
LOVELY. Some (certainly not all) Christian evangelicals are busily dissing Islam at the grassroots level, now, as well as at the level of Franklin Graham, et al.
But although the teacher, an evangelical preacher from Beirut, stressed the need to avoid offending Muslims, he projected a snappy PowerPoint presentation showing passages from the Koran that he said proved Islam was regressive, fraudulent and violent.
"Here in the Koran, it says slay them, slay the infidels!" said the teacher, who said he did not want to be identified because being a missionary to Muslims put his life at risk. "In the Bible there are no words from Jesus saying we should kill innocent people."
At the grass roots of evangelical Christianity, many are now absorbing the antipathy for Islam that emerged last year with the incendiary comments of ministers like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Jerry Vines, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mr. Graham called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion, and Mr. Vines called Muhammad, Islam's founder and prophet, a "demon-possessed pedophile."
In evangelical churches and seminaries across the country, lectures and books criticizing Islam and promoting strategies for Muslim conversions are gaining currency. More than a dozen recently published critiques of Islam are now available in Christian bookstores.
High school junior Dominique Houston is a straight-A student enrolled in honors and Advanced Placement classes at Northview High School in Covina. She is a candidate for class valedictorian and hopes to double-major in marine biology and political science in college, preferably UCLA or the University of San Diego.
But the 17-year-old said she has written only one research paper during her high school career. It was three pages long, examining the habits of beluga whales.
Houston frets over whether she will be able to handle assignments for long, footnoted research papers once she gets to college.
"Bibliographies? We don't really even know how to do those. I don't even know how I would write a 15-page paper. I don't even know how I would begin," she said.
Her experience appears to be increasingly common. Across the country, high school English and social studies teachers have cut back or simply abandoned the traditional term paper.
A report by the National Commission on Writing in America's Schools and Colleges, a panel of academics gathered by the College Board, found that 75% of high school seniors never receive writing assignments in history or social studies.
The study also found that a major research and writing project required in the senior year of high school "has become an educational curiosity, something rarely assigned." In addition, the report found that, by the first year of college, more than 50% of freshmen are unable to analyze or synthesize information or produce papers free of language errors.
WHAT DOES THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY DO?Branding.
Tom Ridge has a 9 o'clock with John Ashcroft. But Ashcroft is running late so Ridge is left to putter outside the Attorney General's office. He is performing what is, in essence, the soul of his job -- waiting.
There is macro waiting, for Something Awful to Happen. And micro waiting, like this. Ridge checks his watch: 9:05. No sign of Ashcroft. He picks up the USA Today sports page while an Ashcroft aide compliments his peach-pink tie. "It's never boring in the Department of Justice," he says to the aide. "Never boring at all."
The Secretary of Homeland Security checks his watch again: 9:07. Ashcroft walks in three minutes later.
The two share an extended handshake, one of those Washington celebrity clenches that persist for several seconds and that, one suspects, is done for the benefit of people watching. One suspects this because Ashcroft and Ridge were together just an hour earlier.
Nearly all politicians care about branding -- just as Procter & Gamble fixates on creating positive "brand awareness" about Crest, Cheer, Pampers and Pepto-Bismol. But Ridge is the rare public official who uses the term. He is attuned to small details of his department's "visual brand." These include the creation of DHS logos, patches and signs.
Ridge aide Susan Neely, a self-described "marketing and communications professional," says her job is to oversee "the branding of the Department of Homeland Security" -- its agencies, its mission and its secretary. In Washington terms, Neely is Ridge's assistant secretary for public affairs. "'Brand' is just a jargon word for identity,'" she says.
But the word also carries connotations of salesmanship, and Ridge is selling the brand hard. His work and his realm are in a formative stage. He wants Americans to know he's doing more than just waiting.
He wants to make the "respected brands" of the Homeland Security agencies (FEMA, Customs, Coast Guard) as powerful as the brands of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Air Force).
I feel safe now.
When Ridge started, during the anthrax crisis:
(Comedian Jon Stewart said Ridge was issuing an alert for "partly evil around Texas and Oklahoma while, in the Midwest, morning evil will give way to afternoon skulduggery.")
HOW LIVID?: On Tony Blair's reaction to Peter "he's just another backbencher" Mandelson's recent comments on the state of affairs between Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown:
'Tony is livid,' one of the Prime Minister's closest aides told me the day after Mr Mandelson let it all it hang out at a lunch with female journalists. On the Richter Scale of lividness, how livid would that be? 'A definite 10. Totally livid, absolutely livid, never more livid, staring out of the window and into outer space livid.'
So he's not happy, then?
Read The Rest Scale: depending on your interest in British Cabinet politics; if high, 4 out of 5.
I'LL BUY THAT FOR A QUARTER. Speaking of the demand for versions of Western products in Iraq, as I was, is this a harbinger for the rest of Iraq?
ULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- This dusty town near the Iranian border does not yet have a McDonald's. But it does have a MaDonal, as well as a Matbax, both of which sell cheeseburgers and french fries using an unmistakably familiar pair of golden arches. It is the only city in Iraq with mobile telephone service and has dozens of shops selling electronics. It has liquor stores with shelves full of Tennessee whiskey and Dutch beer, plus Internet cafes offering espresso.
Now, with Hussein gone and market forces beginning to seep into Iraq, the Kurdish areas of the north seem likely to take the lead in the development of a private sector, serving as a sort of incubator for capitalism in the rest of the country. Trading networks are already established here, with merchants well versed in how to move products into Iraq from neighboring Turkey and Iran.
Sulaymaniyah today is a place that feels unlike the rest of Iraq, a place where money can fetch what it desires and the traditional mores that prevail elsewhere generally do not obstruct the selling of product. It is a place that feels prosperous, as evidenced by Swiss watches on many a wrist and the BMWs ubiquitous in the traffic.
At a cafe in the lobby of the Sulaymaniyah Palace Hotel on a recent afternoon, patrons in well-tailored clothes sipped bottled peach juice from Turkey as they watched music videos on a large-screen television -- Abba, followed by an animated sketch featuring a pair of women in bikinis exploring Miami in a convertible adorned with vanity plates: "Make Luv."
Down the street....
There are 85 ways, at least, for things to go terribly wrong in Iraq. But there's also potential for, five, ten years, from now, Iraq to be highly prosperous. One can hope.
DON'T SIT UNDER THAT APPLE TREE WITH ANYONE ELSE BUT ME:
Two arts students intend to grow trees whose DNA has been spliced with that of humans, giving a whole new meaning to eating apples called Granny Smiths.
The scheme would replace the unused, or "junk", DNA in the trees' chromosomes with the non-junk parts of the human donor's, to create a hybrid where the human genes were inactive, but still present in every cell of the plant - including any fruit.
The intention was to create a modern form of memorial, said Georg Tremmel and Shiho Fukuhara, of the Interaction Design Department at the Royal College of Art. "We are interested in the moral, ethical and social issues this new kind of tree will raise," Mr Tremmel said. "How will a person's approach to a tree change, if the tree carries human DNA? Will it still be just a tree, or will it be more?"
They have at least the seed of an idea here; will it take root?
MAGNANIMOUS IN VICTORY doesn't always apply to one's own soldiers. Good backgrounder on the much-written about Col. Tim Collins, famed now both for his pre-war speech and for the recent investigation into allegations made against him. Lastest news is the revelation that he is former SAS.
Most of those who witnessed his conduct in Iraq say that he met his own criteria - "ferocious in battle and magnanimous in victory". The real issue is where the line between battle and victory should be drawn. Three decades of conflict in his owns native Northern Ireland have failed to deliver a decisive answer to that question.
Church leaders in moral spin over pole-dancing on a Scottish island.
As if the introduction of Sunday flights were not enough for the staunchly Presbyterian island of Lewis, church leaders are now facing a greater threat to the alleged moral purity of the Scottish community.
Last night, Lewis's inhabitants were treated to a pole-dancing competition, raising fears that the event could "open the door to other forms of eroticism".
When the first Sunday flights landed at Stornoway in October last year, Iain MacDonald, of the Lord's Day Observance Society, warned it was "the first step in a gradual moral and physical decline".
Yesterday the Rev Iain Campbell, the minister at Back Free Church, admitted that the Heb event had caused him concern. "I don't think this is healthy." he said. "People will be exposed to a temptation that they could easily drift into. The morals of our nation and islands continue to drift further from the absolute standard of God's law."
THE AFFAIR OF THE BROWN BUNNY: The Canne Film Festival has been going on, and Roger Ebert has been reporting, as always.
CANNES, France -- The Affair of the Brown Bunny, one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, took another turn Friday when director Vincent Gallo apologized for his film and said, "It is a disaster and a waste of time."
Gallo's "Brown Bunny," which screened as one of three American entries in the official competition, was the lowest-rated film in the history of Screen International, the British trade paper that tabulates votes of a panel of critics. It was booed and laughed at during its screenings, there were countless walkouts, and its inclusion as an official selection called into question the judgment, even the sanity, of the programmers. That several French critics liked it was, Gallo said, "almost like salt in the wound."
But that is not the headline. The news is that on Tuesday night, Cannes showed a film so shockingly bad that it created a scandal here on the Riviera not because of sex, violence or politics, but simply because of its awfulness.
Those who saw Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" have been gathering ever since, with hushed voices and sad smiles, to discuss how wretched it was. Those who missed it hope to get tickets, for no other film has inspired such discussion. "The worst film in the history of the festival," I told a TV crew posted outside the theater. I have not seen every film in the history of the festival, yet I feel my judgment will stand.
Imagine 90 tedious minutes of a man driving across America in a van. Imagine long shots through a windshield as it collects bug splats. Imagine not one but two scenes in which he stops for gas. Imagine a long shot on the Bonneville Salt Flats where he races his motorcycle until it disappears as a speck in the distance, followed by another shot in which a speck in the distance becomes his motorcycle. Imagine a film so unendurably boring that at one point, when he gets out of his van to change his shirt, there is applause.
And then, after half the audience has walked out and those who remain stay because they will never again see a film so amateurish, narcissistic, self-indulgent and bloody-minded, imagine a scene where the hero's lost girl reappears, performs fellatio in a hard-core scene and then reveals the sad truth of their relationship.
Of Vincent Gallo, the film's star, writer, producer, director, editor and only begetter, it can be said that this talented actor must have been out of his mind to (a) make this film and (b) allow it to be seen.
That this film was admitted into Cannes as an Official Selection is inexplicable. By no standard, through no lens, in any interpretation, does it qualify for Cannes. The quip is: This is the most anti-American film at Cannes, because it is so anti-American to show it as an example of American filmmaking.
Roger tends to hold back his feelings. I think this all may be his subtle attempt to sneak out his artfully hidden opinion that BB is not the best film it could have been.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for entertainment.
As perhaps the clearest evidence yet of the computing power of sophisticated but inexpensive video-game consoles, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has assembled a supercomputer from an army of Sony PlayStation 2's.
The resulting system, with components purchased at retail prices, cost a little more than $50,000. The center's researchers believe the system may be capable of a half trillion operations a second, well within the definition of supercomputer, although it may not rank among the world's 500 fastest supercomputers.
I wonder how few years it will be before a Sony PlayStation model has the same power as one of today's 500 fastest supercomputers?
Naturally, the PlayStations are being run on Linux; interestingly, it took only 70 of them together to rank as a "supercomputer." Cultural Observation:
While the most advanced computing technologies have historically been developed first for large corporate users and military contractors, increasingly the fastest computers are being developed for the consumer market and for products meant to be placed under Christmas trees.
But they noted that the computer was already running useful calculations on quantum chromodynamics, or QCD, simulations. QCD is a theory concerning the so-called strong interactions that bind elementary particles like quarks and gluons together to form hadrons, the constituents of nuclear matter.
On PlayStations. Who is writing this novel we're living in?
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a bit more detail.
If all went as scheduled, Warren Zevon's last album should now be mixed and ready for an August release. The album's title during the recording sessions was tentatively, My Dirty Life And Times, but will now be released as The Wind.
Our nation is at war and the conditions on the battlefield are constantly in flux. It is difficult to gather and process the information needed for a meaningful situation analysis. Therefore, it is almost impossible to provide informed opinions and assessments at his early stage of the conflict.
Punditwatch is not going to grasp at the ether of pundit speculation and opinion on this war until enough time has passed to make it informed speculation and opinion. I trust David Brooks and Mark Shields to tell me who's up and who's down in the political arena. I don't trust them to tell me where a war is and where it's going after only 10 days.
Punditwatch will return when the fog of war lifts.
[S]omeone on al-Muajaha (before you start wondering, the "salam" who works for Muajaha is not me) was out in the streets a couple of days ago asking "where is saddam?". the best answer he got was from a 10 year old kid:
THUMB-SUCKER ON THE STATE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY from Adam Clymer ("that asshole") here. Dolorous and predictable, many of the cliches remain correct:
As Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster, put it: "My biggest problem with the Democratic Party is we think tactically and not strategically -- one election at a time." Mr. Hart said, "We take the issue we can exploit, but we don't take the party and say this is what we are about." The effect, he said, is that "we always seem to be buffeted by what's in the political winds."
The party suffers when it is blinded to everything but the demand of one faction.
Damn straight. Potential good news?
Another project nearing realization is the creation of a foundation like that of the conservative Heritage research group. The Democrats' organization will be led by John D. Podesta, President Clinton's last chief of staff. In September, Mr. Podesta said he expected to open the tentatively named American Majority Institute as "a think tank that both generates new ideas and provides a hard-hitting and consistent critique of the conservatives."
More, obvious, bad news?
But Democratic efforts to build a new infrastructure pale next to the layers of affiliated political groups, research groups and like-minded media organs that the Republicans have fortified over the decades, especially since the election of Mr. Reagan as president in 1980. And, as Mr. Hart noted, Democrats are not trying to make inroads into Republican constituencies, like white male conservatives (who gave Mr. Gore only 11 percent of their votes in 2000) the way Republicans are going after African-Americans and Hispanics.
This last is, particularly, is a classic blunder.
The overall tone, inevitably, of this piece is defensive and depressed. The corresponding, previous, profile of the Republican party state portrays them as, understandably, triumphalist.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 only if you're a junkie of US politics, in which case you've probably already read these.
THINGS GO BETTER WITH KUFAH COLA. There's been a lot of recent smoke and heat about the Meaning and Place and Trustworthiness of "Salem Pax."
Most of which, aside from some responses, has left me wide-eyed in wonder, because I always thought it was perfectly obvious where SP was coming from (metaphorically and literally speaking), and I've never had the hallucination that he was, or there exists anywhere, an "objective" utterly reliable observer.
As Jeff Jarvis has observed (I'm too lazy to provide a link at the moment), observers are commonly worthwhile without being deemed either objective or reliable.
Point being, everyone gets their own bit out of "Salem Pax." Here's mine for the moment:
I am not so sure about the juice place so we decide on canned fizzy drinks. Kufa-Cola. Iraqi Shia soft drinks (Kufa is a city with an important Shia mosque), how good is that? I bet "god's great miracle" al-hakiem only drinks Kufah Cola.
While sipping on our blessed cokes Riyadh, one of the older volunteers tells us about an army training camp where families have taken shelter after their houses were bombed or couldn't pay the rent the last two months when the country came to a stand still.
(With accompanying picture, one of many many in this entry.)
My observation: of course it was impossible for a Western company to have a soft drink, a cola, franchise in Iraq in modern times. But evidently there was a demand for a canned fizzy soft drink, a cola. Solution?
Kufah Cola! (Shouldn't that be "Kufa Kola"?)
It's Iraqi! It's not part of the evil Western imperialist conspiracy! It's Islamic! It's Shia! It's Kufah!
More power to them, though I can't help but wonder if there is anything that makes Kufah Cola particularly Islamic, let alone Shiite. And will western cola companies be coming to Iraq soon? How soon? Or will Iraqi political resistance keep them out? Will Coke or Pepsi win this international battle (remember who won Red China and who won the Soviet Union Cola Battles?)?
Microcosmic cultural stories can give fascinating fractal understanding of larger political issues, sometimes (other times, just a good illusion/delusion that they do). I'll be fascinated to see how this one unfolds.
Read The Rest Of Salem Pax: 5 out of 5. Ohmigod, he has a point of view, and biases. Heavens!
SELECTIONS FROM SADDAM'S BAD SF CONart show. Much mentioned; now view a few for yourself. Wot, no elvish women with big tits, on the backs of unicorns? Not even a Vulcan? Must be some of the other selections.
The American occupation authority in Iraq, apparently preserving the prewar distinction between Kurdish-controlled northern areas and the rest of the country, will allow Kurdish fighters to keep their assault rifles and heavy weapons, but require Shiite Muslim and other militias to surrender theirs, according to a draft directive.
The plan has engendered intense criticism by Shiite leaders involved in negotiations with American and British officials who have met privately with the heavily armed political groups that have moved into the power vacuum here.
It was not clear what the reaction of neighboring Turkey to the new directive would be.
ONE MAN'S LONELY PURSUIT OF DIRECT DEPOSIT. Who happens to be the new Palestinian Minister of Finance. Who, doubtlessly not coincidentally, was the first Palestinian Minister that George Bush agreed to see, yesterday. A hagiographic spin here, to be sure, but quite interesting and worth reading, nonetheless.
This is a story about fighting Palestinian chaos and corruption, about seeking to throw off Israeli occupation and build a democratic state of Palestine. It is about these things, because it is about one man's lonely pursuit of direct deposit.
The man is Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian minister of finance, the kind of Palestinian you rarely hear about, an economist trained in Texas who has never fired a gun, sent men into battle or served time in prison or exile. He met recently in Gaza City with half a dozen men who had done these things -- who do some of them still -- the chiefs of Yasir Arafat's Gaza security services, the most hardened of Palestinian warriors. It was Fayyad's intention to intimidate them.
As the chiefs arrived at the Saraya, the military headquarters in Gaza, some of them wore fatigues and were trailed by men carrying guns. Fayyad, as usual, arrived alone, carrying his black satchel and wearing his nice blue jacket, red-and-blue tie and spectacles.
AN OBSERVATION ON TWO FILM WRITER-DIRECTORS: The style, both visual, and most particularly in dialogue, as well as approach and choice of topics, of Noah Baumbach is uncannily similar to that of Whit Stillman.
Why is it that neither of these guys has made a film in five years?
MUGABE'S HENCHMENkidnapped and illegally deported the last foreign correspondent, Andrew Meldrum of the Observer/Guardian, who has been a permanent resident of Zimbabwe for 23 years.
The door slammed and the car screeched off at high speed. I was in the back seat, flanked by two men in plain clothes, surely agents of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). One threw a jacket over my head and held it tightly around my neck. 'The games are now over,' said the other, thumping me on the back for emphasis. 'Now it is serious.'
I knew this procedure only too well - the brusque abduction, the handover from police to CIO, the hood over the head, the drive to remote police stations where the victim was brutally beaten and often suffered convulsing electric shocks. I had interviewed many Zimbaweans over the past few months, including opposition members of parliament and lawyers, and heard them tell the same terrible story.
I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans because I did not want to let them know I was frightened. I sat up, put my shoulders back and tried to take a deep breath inside the dark shroud. 'If only we go to the airport, then I might be OK,' I told myself.
The road to Harare's airport is long, straight and well paved. My stomach lurched when we made a sharp turn to the right and slowed down, going over big humps. This was not the airport road.
'Now we are going to a special place,' said one man, and the rest chortled ominously.
A tad overheated, because actually, he was on the way to the airport. But the man's entitled to a bit of tabloid emphasis, given that he might not have been, and his fears were valid.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for more details on the misery of Mugabe's failed dictorial rule.
AT LONG LAST, HAVE YOU NO SHAME, MR. BUSH?: Well, I don't expect anyone to be asking this in any Congressional hearing, any time soon, nor even, more plausibly, asking the same of any Administration minion.
But this is still welcome news, even if my cynical expectations, which I'll append, come to fruition.
Senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers asked today that the Congressional investigation into how federal contracts were awarded for the reconstruction of Iraq be expanded to include nearly every aspect of the American occupation of that country.
In an unusual show of bipartisan cooperation, the ranking Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee sent a letter today to the head of the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, asking that he immediately begin assessing the effectiveness of the security efforts, humanitarian programs, economic development, procurement and political operations in Iraq.
The letter to David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the G.A.O., was signed by Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, by Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware and the committee's ranking minority member, by Representative Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who is chairman of the International Relations Committee, and by Representative Tom Lantos of California, the committee's ranking Democrat.
"The members gave up on getting the administration to share information, so they asked for this full investigation," a senior Congressional staff member said.
In the letter, the senior lawmakers said that "we recognize the complexity and sensitivity of this assignment" and asked Mr. Walker to force the Bush administration to give him the information that they have requested from the White House and Pentagon for months including some idea of how long the United States plans to occupy Iraq and how much it will cost.
My cynical expectation is that the Administration will, over the long term, put sufficient political political pressure on Lugar and Hyde and the other Republicans so that the investigation will, aside from being resisted in most every significant way in the mid-term, be gutted and come to little save a minority Democratic report, in the end.
But I can hope that I'm being too cynical here, and an at least vaguely independent investigation will actually proceed, and, $DEITY-willing, provide useful information and insights. We'll see. I suggest not paralyzing one's breath apparatus while waiting.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a bit more detail, particularly on how the UN representative might actually prove useful.
THE DANGERS OF MEDIA MONOPOLY AND THE FCC'S policy as proposed by Michael Powell, are warned against by... William Safire.
The future formation of American public opinion has fallen into the lap of an ambitious 36-year-old lawyer whose name you never heard. On June 2, after deliberations conducted behind closed doors, he will decide the fate of media large and small, print and broadcast. No other decision made in Washington will more directly affect how you will be informed, persuaded and entertained.
The F.C.C. proposal remains officially secret to avoid public comment but was forced into the open by the two commission Democrats. It would end the ban in most cities of cross-ownership of television stations and newspapers, allowing such companies as The New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune to gobble up ever more electronic outlets. It would permit Viacom, Disney and AOL Time Warner to control TV stations with nearly half the national audience. In the largest cities, it would allow owners of "only" two TV stations to buy a third.
Over the years there have been experiments by the Russians, by NASA, and by private organizations. The Mars Society started in 2001 in the Arctic, when we built the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station. Flashline was the dotcom that donated almost $200,000 to help us build the facility. The second one, called the Mars Desert Research Station, was built in the Utah desert. A third is being constructed by the European Mars Society and will be shipped to Iceland this summer. And a fourth is being created by the Australian Mars Society; it is intended to be located in the desert of southern Australia. The structures are all about the same size; 8 meters in diameter. The ones that are in the Arctic have two floors: an upper deck with eating, sleeping and working areas, and a lower deck with the laboratory, toilets, and other facilities.
Caddell has one more important piece of Centcom to show me. "How would you like to see the JOC help desk?" he says, motioning me out of the container. We head toward the far end of the warehouse, where Specialist Adam Cluff - a heavyset, droopy-eyed kid from Utah - stands at attention when he sees Caddell. It looks like he'd been taking a nap. I ask him what he does here.
"If a general has a problem with his Web browser, then I fix it," Cluff says.
"How do you fix it?" I ask.
"I consult Microsoft online help," he replies.
I've flown here from Qatar to learn more about the 11th Signal Brigade, the soldiers tasked with wiring the battlefield. They tote M16s, but their job is to jump out of helicopters and set up packet-based wireless networks. Their unofficial motto: Connecting the foxhole to the White House.
Each oversees the health of one of the brigade's five networks. That means all of the Army's battlefield communications flow through these five people.
Their laptops display icons representing a web of nodes and switches. When the icons are green, everything is running fine. But when a link turns red, panic sets in. "A link went red yesterday," says Sergeant Danny Booher, one of the controllers. "One of my guys came under mortar fire near Basra and the satellite got hit." Booher got on the phone with his nearest unit, and, minutes later, there was a humvee racing through the desert, towing a satellite dish on wheels.
Lieutenant Colonel Mims - the officer who made sense of the dead sheep - chimes in. "If it's a question of the network going down, we get helicopters, air support, tanks - whatever we need," he says.
Swarm theory is also moving online - into chat rooms, an application Mims is pioneering for military purposes. When a problem develops on the battlefield, a soldier radios a Tactical Operations Center. The TOC intelligence guy types the problem into a chat session - Mims and his colleagues use Microsoft Chat - and the problem is "swarmed" by experts from the Pentagon to Centcom. Not only is the technology changing the way we maneuver, Mims notes, it's changing the way we think.
But the system is not without problems. Because anyone on Siprnet who wanted to could set up a chat, 50 rooms sprang up in the months before the war. The result: information overload. "We've started throwing people out of the rooms who don't belong there," Mims says.
"What's funny about using Microsoft Chat," he adds with a sly smile, "is that everybody has to choosean icon to represent themselves. Some of these guys haven't bothered, so the program assigns them one. We'll be in the middle of a battle and a bunch of field artillery colonels will come online in the form of these big-breasted blondes. We've got a few space aliens, too."
Theoretically, the commander of the convoy should know its position. This guy hasn't been able to figure it out. But even without human error the system can break down. One soldier I talked to said the screen icons representing the convoy and all other forces disappeared when we crossed the border. All that was left was a map of Iraq.
There are other problems. "When we were deployed from the States," says Lieutenant Marc Lewis - the commander of the convoy's 27 heavy equipment trucks - "they told us that we would be given encrypted, military-issue radios when we got here. When we arrived, they told us we should have brought our own."
In the intensity of my discovery, I didn't notice him watching me. For a second, I worry that he'll slam the system shut. Instead, he shows me the chat application. He points to a horizontal window running across the top of the screen above the map. A few messages are visible, one highlighted in red.
"This one's new," he says, double-clicking on it.
Guess who? it reads.
Is this Sergeant Lopez? Fox types in.
No, comes the reply.
Is it Sergeant Walker?
"What do you normally use the system for?" I ask, wondering about the use of my tax dollars.
"Not much yet," he shrugs. "We just got it installed last week."
The transformative revolution in military warfare. Thank you. We'll be here all week.
Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5. (The rest of the issue is largely devoted to issues of multiple kinds of "space." Lots of excellent stuff.
LESSONS OF TOPOFF 2: That we must hold more and more such drills, and train countless volunteers. And probably all of us who can should volunteer.
When a sharp explosion rang out across a grungy Seattle warehouse district this week, and moon-suited firefighters rushed to rescue actors spattered with fake blood, it started the biggest homeland-security "war game" ever staged in the US - and underscored the importance of mock exercises in helping the nation gird for any new terror attack.
• In the wake of a bioterror attack, for instance, officials might be tempted to impose quarantines. But drills suggest they're risky - and can spark civilian violence against authorities.
• A mock smallpox attack helped persuade policymakers that millions of vaccine doses needed to be manufactured - and that healthcare workers should be preemptively protected from any outbreaks.
• Volunteers are sometimes more crucial to providing a good response than, say, gun-toting national guardsmen. For instance, legions of trained volunteers would be key to distributing medicines after a bio-terror attack.
One lesson: how complicated transportation issues are.
The faux radiation in Seattle forced several bus lines to be rerouted, which affected mass transit in several counties.
But that's nothing compared with the mass panic a real dirty bomb or bio-attack could spark. Indeed, one official buzzphrase this week is "shelter in place," which signals officials' desire to avoid setting up a quarantine yet still have people stay put.
Quarantine history includes serious violence. In Muncie, Ind., in 1893, residents resisted a smallpox-induced quarantine. Violence broke out, and several officials were shot.
With quarantines, "you have to decide whether you're going to shoot a grandma in her pickup who's trying to leave the city," says Randall Larsen, head of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security.
At a recent bioterror drill in Chicago, by contrast, officials decided against quarantine. Instead they used the media to put out a slogan that aimed to keep people in their homes: "Stay at home, stay alive." Officials then decided to mobilize postal workers to deliver medicines to affected neighborhoods.
THE HEMA OF THE CONGO ARE BEING KILLED: It would be nice to see attention being paid to this, among other situations, now that we've re-affirmed the principle of deploying military power for humanitarian reasons.
Allegations of cannibalism and mass murder are coming from Congolese civilians of the Hema ethnic group who have fled across the border into western Uganda.
It is impossible to verify some of the more extreme claims - for example that the ethnic Lendu militia have eaten the hearts of Hema victims or worn their intestines as a grisly headdress.
But there is no doubt about the fear felt by fleeing civilians.
United Nations officials are taking the allegations of cannibalism seriously and plan to investigate.
Amos Namanga Ngongi, head of the UN mission in Congo, told reporters that the reports were too persistent to be entirely without foundation.
That's the flashy part. The rest is simple killing, and refugees.
He criticises the UN for deploying as few as 700 peacekeepers on the ground while the Ugandan army has been withdrawing some 9,000 troops from Congo.
I asked Ngadjole Lonema what advice he would give to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
"He must deploy at least 15,000 troops immediately to prevent the Hema being eliminated from the map of Congo. If he doesn't act quickly he will count the dead bodies like they were counted in Rwanda in 1994."
While hope is currently pinned on a ceasefire between the opposing factions, many suggest that militias capable of carrying out horrendous human rights atrocities are unlikely to turn into a disciplined force overnight.
So the immediate deployment of a large peacekeeping force is essential.
HOW HISTORY ENDED AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS by Ken MacLeod. After 2001 And All That, says Ken, but it bears hints of Molesworth to my ear.
Karl Marx said that communist society would bear the birthmarks of the old, and Mikhail Gorbachev bore one of them on top of his head. Gorbachev rose to power as a result of the Chernobyl Reaction, which came about because the Russians discovered that their previous two leaders - Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko (these are three, but the third does not count) - were dead but still standing. They had been propped up every May Day on the Leaning Mausoleum, reviewing the workers and soldiers who marched past. The workers and soldiers carried large pictures of the leaders to help them remember who they were, and for many years, they did. Fortunately for them, President Reagan had by then forgotten who he was too.
Gorbachev attempted two important things. The first was to abolish the Leading Roll of the Party. Without its Leading Roll the Party did not know what to do, and it lost the elections. Afterwards it won elections again, but without its Leading Roll it could do nothing, except sit in Parliament, which was soon abolished to save democracy (see under Yeltsin). Because it was abolished with artillery it became known as an
Now, Mr. Caro said, he also has access to records he first requested from the library more than a decade ago, including documents that he says are reshaping his view of Johnson's vice presidency.
Many more former Johnson aides have asked to be interviewed, he said, among them George Christian, Johnson's last press secretary at the White House, who refused for years to give interviews to Mr. Caro but relented and gave him several before his death in November.
Mr. Caro was turning pages again, pages of records he said the archive had only recently made available to the public.
"Look, this was opened on 3/24/03," he said of one box. "They were literally working one day ahead of me. If you're a researcher, it's thrilling to see a box that was opened on 3/23 and you're seeing it on 3/24. I don't know that anyone's seen them since Johnson left the White House."
"Look at this," he said at one point, producing a 1963 memo to Johnson from George E. Reedy, Johnson's press secretary. In the memo Reedy tells Johnson not to worry that he might be dropped from the Democratic ticket in 1964, when President John F. Kennedy was expected to seek re-election; be concerned about 1968, Reedy says. The Kennedys, he writes, are positioning Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general and the president's brother, for a run then.
Mr. Caro said he was thrilled to have finally seen the Johnson suite. He even got to see the industrial strength shower system that Johnson had installed in the bathroom. Johnson, Mr. Caro said, had a thing for showers. He had to have the precise nozzles, at the precise height, with the precise water pressure, which library officials now joke about, saying it could tear the skin off an average man.
"I really needed to see Lyndon Johnson's shower," Mr. Caro said as he hunched forward in his reading room chair, whispering so as not to disturb his fellow scholars. "Somewhere in here, there's a memo."
He paused to recall a Johnson anecdote.
"He's traveling to some foreign country, and he's got to have the specifications for the shower," Mr. Caro says. "So all these years I'm sitting down here, and there this is, right over there. I have to tell you that that's the best thing that happened to me last night, seeing that shower. I thought I'd have to describe that thing from drafts and diagrams."
One immediately wonders if this will lead to a revised edition of Caro's multi-volume work-in-progress. One hopes it will.
Read The Rest Scale: if the subject interests you. (One is a tremendous fan of Caro's work, so it extremely excites one (me), but one (you) may not be.)