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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.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson

"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin

"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton

"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan

"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt

"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley

"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss

"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon

"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates

"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?"
-- Cicero

"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld

"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).

"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman

“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison

"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France

"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)

"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)

"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."
-- Batman


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 cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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Contents © 2001-2013 All rights reserved. Gary Farber. (The contents of e-mails to this email address of Gary Farber are subject to the possibility of being posted.)

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world

[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula

...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...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

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd,

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

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.
-- Ogged

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.

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

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


Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

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

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit

December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
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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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003
NEW DR. WHO: Here.

Read The Rest Scale: if you are a Who fan.

9/30/2003 08:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HELPFUL HINT TO THE LEFT: The Plame Affair is serious. Referring to it by such names as "Traitorgate" is self-destructive.

Hello? The idea is to get voters who aren't already furiously against Bush to pay attention? That means not sounding like the insane nutcase people outside your milieu think that language indicates.

Hint: half of the American people [and I'm not one] have actually disagreed with you for years and years now. And every year of Bush your utter righteous correctness [which I tend to factually agree with, in most cases, though ask me a case] has further convinced them that You Are A Nut.

The key now is not to indulge your anger, but to present the facts. "Traitorgate" is more hysterics.

Get. A. Fucking. Grip.

Win. The. Field.

Stop working on feeling pure, and fricking work on electing a Democrat.

Or wait to be regarded like Nader activists are now. Hey, look, Joe Lieberman or Wesley Clark might actually be electable. We can't have that! Let's re-elect Bush! Yay! We're pure! Woo-hoo!

"Traitorgate." How counter-productive and out of touch are these people? Why do they hate our Democratic Party?

(Hint: Josh Marshall uses "Wilsongate.")

9/30/2003 08:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A BRITISH GENTLEMAN of the press gets it about the US.

That doesn't mean ignoring My Lai and war crimes and the US history in Latin America and Iran, etc., ignoring slavery and racism, or idiotically believing the US has ever been flawless, domestically or internationally. It means recognizing that there is also a vast and powerful good side, and that we're not exactly slipping into fascism, just yet, despite the sometimes idiotic and appalling actions of our government.

Those things need to, always, be paid attention to, and fought, but they're hardly the dominant things about this country, much as it's hard to know from the way it is often, hysterically, perceived or told.

Driving across America last month, an exhilarating and enthralling three-week trip covering 26 states and 7,896 miles to California and back, I was struck by how a country can be so misunderstood when so much about it is known.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. (Also via Josh Chavetz at Oxblog.)

9/30/2003 07:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CHANNELLING THE INNER BLAIR. Yipes. Since no one else will, David Aaronovitch does it.
Well here I am again. Vlad the Impaler, the effete warmonger, the Granita fop, Tony B Liar. Worse, by far - judging by what is being said and left unsaid here - than Saddam Hussein himself. Even if I said word for word what Gordon Brown said to you in his job application yesterday, you'd still hate me.

Last year I told you that we were at our best when we were boldest. I could have added that we are at our worst when whingeing. But whingeing is all most of you have done since then. It has been a year of complaint.

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5. (Via Josh Chavetz at Oxblog.)

9/30/2003 07:25:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, September 29, 2003
BERLUSCONI'S MOUTH: Some comments from Haaretz:
In public statements, Berlusconi delivered blow after blow - but who cared? Italy, he said, warrants investment because secretaries there are beautiful? Sexism, after all, has never been a criterion relevant to statesmanship. Judges in Italy, on Berlusconi's prognosis, arementally disturbed? After all, we're familiar with this sector, which has honed witch-hunting into a skilled craft. Specific, focused criticism voiced by a German politician reminds the prime minister of a kapo in a concentration camp? Quarrelling with such associations is hard. Islam is inferior to Western civilization? What's there to doubt?

Berlusconi, however, isn't satisfied with that. "Mussolini didn't kill anyone," he declared earlier this month. At most, he sent his opponents to "holiday on internal exile," he added. In fact, 7,000 Italian Jews were sent to death camps, thousands of opponents of the regime were rounded up, exiled or murdered, and hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians, Libyans, Yugoslavians, and Greeks were killed during Mussolini's wars of conquest. Berlusconi, however, has suffered a sudden, extreme case of amnesia.

The writer goes on to savage the ADL's decision to give Berlusconi an award.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/29/2003 10:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE if you have health insurance and live above the poverty line?
The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year, and the median household income declined by 1.1 percent, the Census Bureau reported today. The worsening economic conditions fell heaviest on Midwesterners and nonwhites.

It was the second straight year of adverse changes in both poverty and income, the first two-year downturn since the early 1990's.

The number of people without health insurance shot up last year by 2.4 million, the largest increase in a decade, raising the total to 43.6 million, as health costs soared and many workers lost coverage provided by employers, the Census Bureau reported today.

The increase brought the proportion of people who were uninsured to 15.2 percent, from 14.6 percent in 2001. The figure remained lower than the recent peak of 16.3 percent in 1998.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Attention must be paid.

9/29/2003 09:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STRICT NEUTRALITY: There are those who believe that the US and Europe should engage in this in regard to Israel and the Palestinians. Superficially, to someone from Mars, this sounds fair, reasonable, and nothing but sensible. After all, there's a "cycle of violence" and clearly people on both sides are violent crazies, so what must be done is step in as neutral, fair-minded, outsiders, adjudicate the case and rule on who gets what. And then everyone lives happily ever after.

A classic case, of course, of assuming that truth and justice is arrived at by splitting the difference down the middle, in every situation. Hey, Hitler wanted to kill the Jews, and the Jews didn't want to be killed. Fair solution: kill only three million Jews, rather than six. Just, innit?

True, people on both "sides" of the Israeli-Palestinian situation play this game. I won't bore with examples; you've all seen enough cases.

Here is a case where those who want the US and Europe to be "neutral" mean "neutral towards Israel," alone:

Marwan Barghouti, a top aide to the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, is charged with murder in attacks that killed 26 Israelis in the first 18 months of the uprising, which began three years ago. He faces a possible life sentence when the Tel Aviv district court pronounces its verdict, probably in November.

But today he closed his own defense in a yearlong trial that has become a focal point for Israelis and Palestinians with a mocking prediction that he would be released soon in a prisoner exchange.

"Put together a commemorative book, because this is history," he told the Israeli prosecutor, Devorah Chen, according to the reporter from Reuters, one of those admitted to the courtroom under a pool arrangement. "I'll be out soon enough." The remarks, the report said, were greeted with cheers from a group of European lawmakers attending the trial. Mr. Barghouti is accused of leading Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement.

Cheers. Hurrah!

That's "neutrality" for you. (Note to Howard Dean: learn from this.)

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

9/29/2003 09:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WAR PROFITTEERING: Compare and contrast:
In 1940, as World War II tightened its grip on Europe, Congress prepared for eventual U.S. involvement by appropriating $10 billion in defense contracts. Early in 1941, stories of widespread contractor mismanagement reached Senator Truman. In typical fashion, he decided to go take a look. During his 10,000-mile tour of military bases, he discovered that contractors were being paid a fixed profit no matter how inefficient their operations proved to be. He also found that a handful of corporations headquartered in the East were receiving a disproportionate share of the contracts.

Convinced that waste and corruption were strangling the nation's efforts to mobilize itself for the war in Europe, Truman conceived the idea for a special Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program.


By unanimous consent on March 1, 1941, the Senate created what proved to be one of the most productive investigating committees in its entire history.

During the three years of Truman's chairmanship, the committee held hundreds of hearings, traveled thousands of miles to conduct field inspections, and saved millions of dollars in cost overruns.

Then-Secretary of the Navy John Dalton, in 1998:
Few people are aware that Senator Harry Truman's reputation of “the buck stops here” began through his persistent investigations of inefficiency and corruption in the military procurement system preceding, and during, World War II. In fact, prior to his efforts in the Senate, on what became known as the Truman Committee, there was no systematic effort to ensure fair competition and integrity in the procurement process. Before his committee was formed, the sole oversight of military acquisition consisted of a group of industry executives who worked directly for the President, while simultaneously drawing their corporate salaries.

During initial inquiries, the Truman Committee discovered unprecedented waste and incompetency: Army bases constructed at a cost ten times their comparable civilian value… monopolies on raw materials… faulty steel production… and a lax attitude towards customer satisfaction.

President Truman could not understand why blatant waste and incompetency had gone unchecked, but he endeavored to expose and repair these faults. His success on the home front directly translated into victory abroad. Today, the enormous difficulties that he contended with are hard to imagine. President Truman understood the direct correlation between fixing these problems and the ability of our forces to fight and win battles. This relationship has never changed.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 -- A group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects.

The firm, New Bridge Strategies, is headed by Joe M. Allbaugh, Mr. Bush's campaign manager in 2000 and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency until March. Other directors include Edward M. Rogers Jr., vice chairman, and Lanny Griffith, lobbyists who were assistants to the first President George Bush and now have close ties to the White House.

At a time when the administration seeks Congressional approval for $20.3 billion to rebuild Iraq, part of an $87 billion package for military and other spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, the company's Web site,, says, "The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq."

The site calls attention to the links between the company's directors and the two Bush administrations by noting, for example, that Mr. Allbaugh, the chairman, was "chief of staff to then-Gov. Bush of Texas and was the national campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign."

Pants on fire:
Mr. Howland said the company was not trying to promote its political connections.
Of course. Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/29/2003 09:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE SMART WAY TO DO THINGS: Europe goes to the moon for the first time, with humanity's first lunar probe in four years.

But who will win the X Prize?

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for space buffs.

9/29/2003 06:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BERLUSCONI. Don't like him.

In case you weren't clear on that.

Seriously, he's gotten a lot of flack in the blogosphere lately for his amazing ability to speak with a foot jammed down his mouth. As this exhaustive, but readable, account makes clear, his crimes and corruption are simply amazing in their scope and sweep. One hardly knows where to begin or end.

Although he vowed during the 2001 election campaign to address the conflicts of interest posed by his holding so much public and private power simultaneously, Berlusconi has steadfastly refused to divest himself of any part of his financial and media empire. Instead, he passed a law stating that "mere ownership" does not pose a conflict of interest with public office. Berlusconi then had his children run his television empire while his brother and wife own his two daily newspapers.

Berlusconi's solution to the problem of being prime minister and a defendant in numerous criminal trials is to decriminalize many of the offenses of which he and his closest associates are accused. They include accounting fraud and illegally exporting capital. But he has also passed strict bank secrecy laws so that his codefendants could have courts exclude evidence uncovered by prosecutors of millions of dollars in bribes made by Berlusconi's Mediaset group, which owns his television stations and magazines, among much else. Various mafia witnesses have testified about ties between Cosa Nostra and the Mediaset company. By way of response, Forza Italia has slashed benefits for the witness protection program and imposed limits on the use of mafia testimony.

Berlusconi has also endorsed judicial reforms that have literally doubled the time it takes to try criminal cases in Italy. As a result, many prosecutions have been canceled for having outlasted the statute of limitations, including cases on appeal in which Berlusconi himself was convicted at trial.

An opposition politician half-jokingly suggested last year that rather than tear apart the entire criminal justice system piece by piece for the sake of one defendant, why didn't they just pass a law saying that the laws didn't apply to Berlusconi and his friends? This is, in effect, what the Italian government did this summer when it passed a law that exempts Berlusconi and five other high-level members of his government from prosecution so long as they hold office.

These laws have been drafted by legislators who also serve as Berlusconi's defense lawyers in his corruption trials in Milan. Berlusconi's two chief lawyers are members of the Justice Commission of the Italian parliament, and one of them is its president. Thus in his corruption case Berlusconi's lawyers fly from Rome to Milan to defend their client in court; then they fly back to Rome where, as members of parliament, they have helped write the legislation that has gotten their client off the hook.

Berlusconi owes much of his success to his near-total control of the Italian mass media, on which he often complains that he is the victim of a vicious witch hunt. Berlusconi's three private channels have a 45 percent share of the television audience, equal to that of the three public channels, giving him direct or indirect control of 90 percent of Italian television. On his own networks, according to recent data from the Media Research Observatory at the University of Pavia, Berlusconi himself accounted for more than 40 percent of all statements by political figures and for between 15 and 20 percent on the state-owned networks. He thus has been quoted five times more than any other political figure. Moreover, he has been purging the state networks of the few journalists who have dared to criticize him on the air.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

In other Italian news:

...a study by her firm found cell phones involved in nearly nine of every 10 discovered affairs in Italy.

9/29/2003 05:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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In Khaldiyah, scene of several previous firefights between the U.S. military and guerrilla fighters, the battle appeared to be the biggest engagement in the area in months.

M1A2 tanks fired 120-mm cannons as helicopters strafed farm houses with 50-mm machine-gun fire. Two A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft bombed guerrilla positions, while F-15 jets streaked across the sky.

Six U.S. armored personnel carriers, two of them ambulances, had earlier arrived as reinforcements. As the fight continued, eight Humvees carrying U.S. troops could also be seen heading toward the battle.

A U.S. armored personnel carrier left the area carrying six blindfolded Iraqi prisoners. In the distance, civilians, including women and children, could be seen fleeing on foot. A U.S. recovery vehicle towed away two Humvees, one of which had a bullet hole in the windshield.

The military said 14 people were detained by the time U.S. troops pulled out before nightfall. Angry residents cursed at reporters who entered the fire zone after the battle.

An Iraqi man, fleeing on foot with his wife, three other women, a nephew and five children, said at least 10 houses had been destroyed. He would not give his name.

"Is this the freedom that we were promised?” he asked. "I had to get my family out. ... The helicopters were firing almost nonstop. My 7-year-old is too young to hate, but how can he not hate them [the Americans] after this?"

Hearts and minds, people. Hearts and minds.

Oh, yeah:

Lt. Col. David Poirier, who commands the 720th Military Police Battalion, said the operations that ended Monday morning were designed to "break the back of the Fedayeen."

"The 12 to 15 we were after were the trigger pullers. This was the biggest operation we’ve conducted in Tikrit so far. Unfortunately, it looks like we didn’t get any of them,” he told reporters who witnessed the raids by 200 Iraqi police and about 100 U.S. troops while helicopters patrolled overhead.

So it was worth it, in the end.

I'm not trying to pick on the troops; they're trying their best to do an impossible job with very limited resources.

But good intentions won't win this thing. They never do.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/29/2003 05:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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An awful lot of this is pretty silly, and I don't mean in an intentional way. The author, Louis Menand, is clearly Word-illiterate, and deeply frightened by Word.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But he assumes that his illiteracy and non-functionality is inherently present in all users, which is a generalization useful up to a point and which then fails badly.

Nonetheless, this overly-comprehensive look at the pitfalls of doing End Matter both past and present, is amusing, at least for those of us with a pedantic fascination with words and usage.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you're One Of Us.

9/29/2003 04:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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KEEPING AN EYE ON ARDA, while they keep an eye on us. No, not ARPA: ARDA.
The Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) is an Intelligence Community (IC) center for conducting advanced research and development related to information technology (IT) (information stored, transmitted, or manipulated by electronic means). ARDA sponsors high risk, high payoff research designed to produce new technology to address some of the most important and challenging IT problems faced by the intelligence community. The research is currently organized into four technology thrusts, Information Exploitation, Quantum Information Science, Global Infosystems Access and Novel Intelligence from Massive Data.
I'd rather be able to have Novel Intelligence from Miniscule Data, but there you go.

NIMD is interesting. Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/29/2003 04:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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While privacy worries are frustrating the Pentagon’s plans for a far-reaching database to combat terrorism, a similar project is quietly taking shape with the participation of more than a dozen states -- and $12 million in federal funds.


Dubbed Matrix, the database has been in use for a year and a half in Florida, where police praise the crime-fighting tool as nimble and exhaustive. It cross-references the state’s driving records and restricted police files with billions of pieces of public and private data, including credit and property records.


"It’s federally funded, it’s guarded by state police, but it’s on private property? That’s very interesting," said Christopher Slobogin, a University of Florida law professor and expert in privacy issues. "If it’s federally funded, the federal government obviously has a huge interest in it."


It gives investigators access to personal data, like boat registrations and property deeds, without the government’s possibly violating the 1974 Privacy Act by owning the files.

But California and Texas dropped out, citing, among other things, worries over housing sensitive files at Seisint. And a competing data vendor, ChoicePoint, decided not to bid on the project, saying it lacked adequate privacy safeguards.

Aspects of the project appear designed to steer around federal laws that bar the U.S. government from collecting routine data on Americans.

For instance, the project is billed as a tool for state and local police, but organizers are considering giving access to the Central Intelligence Agency, said Phil Ramer, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s intelligence office.


Florida officials have acknowledged that users of Matrix, which stands for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, can “monitor innocent citizens.

Ramer and others say, however, that unscrupulous spying will be prevented through Florida police oversight of Matrix users, along with audits and background checks on people with access to the database.

Criminal history files in the database are maintained by 15 Seisint employees, watched over by Florida state police, Ramer said.

Yet a Florida Department of Law Enforcement memo obtained by The Associated Press shows potential lapses in oversight. The memo says background checks on Seisint’s Matrix workers took place only last month, more than a year into the program, and a privacy policy governing the database’s use has yet to be finalized.

It's impressive when a project is deemed to have problems by ChoicePoint, the company responsible for striking so many voters off the rolls in Florida in 2000.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/29/2003 04:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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"I'LL TRY THAT" may have been George Plimpton's unofficial motto, given his forays into everything from professional football to playing the triangle in the orchestra to attempting to be a trapeze artist. Not to mention, of course, founding the Paris Review and being a man of almost every letter.

Thanks for being there for us, George. Here is a typically charming little piece he wrote about being at the Oscars in 1977.

Attending the rehearsals the day before the ceremonies, I got word that a gate-crasher had been nabbed by the security people. I was standing at a side entrance of the Shrine Auditorium when they brought him out in handcuffs. He was wearing a dinner jacket, his cummerbund askew so that the white of his dress shirt showed at his belt line. As he was hurried to a police car, he spotted me. "Hey, George," he called. "I was only trying to do the sort of thing you do." I paled. It had indeed occurred to me to work it out somehow so that I was up on the great stage, just to get the feel of it.


A stage manager asked if I would care to be a mock accepter. I jumped at the chance. The award was for achievement in music. Gregory Hines, the presenter, opened the envelope. "And the Oscar goes to Patrick Doyle, for 'Hamlet.' " I threw up my arms and headed for the stage, the creepies crouching along in front of me. I looked out at the auditorium to savor the sight. I said into the microphone, "I wish to thank Mr. Shakespeare and his charming wife, Anne" -- I waved at a couple out in the semi-darkness—"and Queen Elizabeth, our patron, and all the folks down at the Globe Theatre. . . ." I asked if there were any extra wooden Oscars around. No, that was the only one they had. Sorry.


Afterward, Leon and David asked if I was going to the Governors Ball. "I haven't got a ticket," I said.

"But that's the place to be. You'll have to crash."

So that's what I did. Leon slipped me his Oscar, and I held it aloft as they waved me on. I hoped no one noticed that my cummerbund was askew.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for amusement.

9/29/2003 04:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/28/2003 11:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, September 26, 2003
I HAVE YOU NOW. This picture may not stay up for long, as LucasFilm seems to be searching for mirrors and sending letters asking it be taken down. But. Heeeerrre's Darth:

Principal photography on what rumors call "Revenge of the Sith" wrapped last week. Now begins eighteen months of post-production (and possible additional of filming of pick-ups, which usually happens).

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/26/2003 08:16:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE CRACK AMYGDALA EDITORIAL STAFF in no way endorses Allah Is In The House. Such disrespect to Islamofascists cannot be tolerated, and we firmly wish to distance ourself from any possibility anyone might confuse attitudes towards Islamofascism and Islam itself.

So you won't see any links to this blog in such questionable taste here! Not at Amygdala, the sensible blog!

9/26/2003 07:27:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, September 25, 2003
WHERE DO COMPUTER FONTS FOR OGHAM, SINHALA, LINEAR B, and other kewl languages come from? Michael Everson, more than anyone else.

Lovely story on how Unicode is handcrafted on a part-time basis by a dedicated obsessive.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for, well, being the type of story that appeals to me. Ha!

9/25/2003 10:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I'm inclined to think so, but you can tell me why we shouldn't. Here is why it's a key part of the war on terrorism. No, really.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for both stories.

(And here is Tom Friedman on why eliminating farm subsidies is also a key part of the war on terror, and how the Bush Administration is shooting us in our foot, or worse.)

9/25/2003 09:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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KNEW IT ALL ALONG!: Kim Jong Il is a comic book hero!

Well, there's a Japanese manga comic book of his life story, anyway. I can't wait until he battles Wolverine! (And really, how far off from Dr. Doom is he, anyway?)

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5.

9/25/2003 09:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
I HAVE NO IDEA if John Wells has Zoey Bartlett alive or dead. But, as oft, I wept.

I'm just saying.

I'm easy that way, for good drama.

Damn, John Goodman is good.

9/24/2003 07:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS GUY is scum! A filthy supporter of al Queda! A traitor! A violator of his oath to the Constitution! He should be hung! Drawn and quartered! Then rot in jail til doomsday!

Do you know what he did?!?!

The accusations contained in the six-page charge sheet, copies of which the Air Force provided tonight, include wrongfully taking photographs of the camp sites, transferring classified information to an unclassified computer and unlawfully delivering baklava to detainees.
Fucking scumbag! He... wait a sec, he unlawfully delivered baklava to detainees?

Ohmigod. Can the Republic survive this?

Okay, yes, sure, he may absolutely have done terrible things that result in great harm. I absolutely believe it's quite possible, and I entirely want to believe that otherwise the government wouldn't charge him.

But: baklava delivery?

The other fascinating aspect to the charges is that the repeated reference to the "enemy" makes clear that said "enemy" is Syria.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/24/2003 04:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS SUCKS. We should have flooded the country with our and NATO troops and strategically disarmed the warlords. Before getting to Iraq. [Okay, we don't always have that luxury. -- ed. But we could have done ten times better without Iraq, is the reply. And there is the debate.]

Now we're tied down in Iraq, and can't. And, of course, our Special Ops folks have had many resources diverted away from Afghanistan.

We have to decisively settle problems before we grab too much sand that will slip through our fingers.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

9/24/2003 08:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MIND THE CHINA: The government-owned publisher of Hillary Clinton's memoir, which has been the best-selling foreign political memoir (I doubt this is a major category in China, meself, and I do wonder what number two is) has censored out every negative comment about China she made.

They refer to this as "minor, technical" alterations.

In fact, the publisher has advertised the book -- titled "Qinli Lishi," which translates to something like "Personal History" -- as the most unabridged foreign political memoir in Chinese publishing history.

"In the past, translated books always had some cuts," an official of Yilin Press told the Beijing Evening News after the book's release last month. "But the Chinese translation of this keeps 99.9 percent of the original's content."

What the official did not mention is that the other one-tenth of 1 percent, if the edited passages indeed constitute such a tiny fraction of the total, involve most references to China itself.

Clinton is reportedly furious, has demanded that the publisher recall the book and publish the full version; Simon & Schuster has posted a correct translation.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

9/24/2003 07:04:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BETTER THAN DOUGHNUTS. Or, as Sore Eyes puts it: Best. Tanker. Spill. Ever.

Read The Rest Scale: Mmmm!

9/24/2003 06:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I'd read some other accounts of this in years past, but nothing remotely so comprehensive in presenting the differing, somewhat contradictory, versions, all claimed to be definitive by those in a position to so say.

Which leads us to Murphy’s Law. The reason most people get it wrong, Nichols indicates, is that they don’t know how it was originally stated or what it meant. “It’s supposed to be, ‘If it can happen, it will’,” says Nichols, “Not ‘whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.’” The difference is a subtle one, yet the meaning is clear. One is a positive statement, indicating a belief that if one can predict the bad things that might happen, steps can be taken so that they can be avoided. The other version presents a much more somber, some might say fatalistic, view of reality.
Other versions have it differently.

Digressing, Murphy's son:

Among other things, Bob tells me an amusing story about how he once got a job as a consequence of the Law. He was sent to Japan, where he worked as a technical writer, after an auto company there misprinted several hundred thousand owners’ manuals. They said “five speed shitting transmission” instead of shifting.


Before we part, Robert relates one more anecdote. “You know my father became good friends with Lawrence Peter? Right. Well, Peter was going to contact Parkinson. You know, Parkinson’s Law?” Robert says. “‘Work expands to meet the time and money that is available.’” Having the three of them together would have been a heck of an historical moment. Unfortunately the meeting never took place because naturally, something came up.

The author converses with General Chuck Yeager:
The conversation is flowing along, and the General is full of interesting yarns. But when I ask Yeager whether Stapp ever checked his ribs, prior to the first supersonic flight, he gets upset. “Who told you that?” he says forcefully. “That’s a bunch of crap!” I explain I have it from two different sources, although I’m not entirely certain they’re credible. There is a brief pause on the phone, and then Yeager responds gruffly, “That’s the way rumors get started, by these people…who weren’t even there... Guys become, if you’ll pardon my expression, sexual intellectuals. You know what the phrase is for that?” I have to admit no, I’m not familiar with the term. Sexual what? “Sexual intellectuals. They’re fucking know-it-alls, that’s what.”


There is another brief silence, and then he cautions me, “Look, what you’re getting into here is like a Pandora’s Box. Goddamn it, that’s the same kind of crap…you get out of guys who were not involved and came in many years after. It’s just like Tom Brokaw’s book if you’ll pardon the analogy here, about the best of the breed or something like that. Well, every guy who wrote his story about World War II did it fifty years after it happened.”

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. The stories of Dr. Capp, alone, are worth it. Especially of the rocket sled.

9/24/2003 06:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The idealistic speechwriter is well-liked by just about everyone. He's known for his excellent writing, sense of humor, and tendency to be clutzy. Although being younger than the rest of the staff, he's often treated as so, much to his dismay.

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::
I am, however, not surprised. But, then, I might also be, as much, Toby. Perhaps more. Jewish, ageing, grumpy.

I guess they're both sarcastic. (Is anyone on West Wing not sarcastic?)


9/23/2003 08:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, September 22, 2003

It ain't like the movies. (Speaking of which, I was bemused to recently see the Al Pacino CIA flick, The Recruit, whose plot revolves around How To Get Secret Information Out of Langley Computers To The Outside; we learn that the CIA has never heard of USB drives; how very reassuring a thought.)

What's part of one solution? Blogging:

One of the obstacles to moving DI analysts to new assignments is the challenge of bringing them up to speed on new substantive accounts. Currently, only two options exist: the analysts currently covering the accounts can take time off and brief the new team members; or the new analysts can try to find their way around by performing CIRAS and CIASource searches or plodding through folder after folder of hardcopy.

If analysts had personal websites on the CIA classified network, they could post links to all of their products as they are written.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 if you're interested.

9/22/2003 09:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Bill, I don't dispute your facts; they are accurate. I don't dispute the logic of your reasoning. I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man. Harry [Hopkins] says he's not and that he doesn't want anything but security for his country, and I think if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.
Good call! Of course, post-war events only developed as they did because Harry Truman was mean and suspicious and his anti-communist advisors' mistrust of Stalin frightened the Russians into paranoia. If only FDR had lived, everything would have worked out great with Stalin! Anything contrary here is just CIA propaganda.

Read The Rest for more detail on the Russian bugging of the Big Three conferences.

9/22/2003 09:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE HMONG, CIA, AND LAOS. Interesting long memoir by CIA operative Richard L. Holm of his activities in 1962-64 in Laos and Thailand running Hmong against VC. His conclusions:
Now, some 35 years later, I lament many of the unintended results of our efforts from 1961-1973. The ignorance and the arrogance of Americans arriving in Southeast Asia during that period were contributing factors. We came to help, but we had only minimal understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the people we wanted to aid. The discussions in Geneva were about big power issues more than about Laos or Vietnam. Our strategic interests were superimposed onto a region where our president had decided to “draw the line” against communism. And we would do it our way.

US policies in Laos are largely responsible for the disaster that befell the Hmong. Vang Pao’s meeting with Bill Lair in late 1960 was the beginning of more than a decade of warfare and hardship for his people, although neither man that day could have foreseen the outcome. From its origins as an effort to organize and train the Hmong in guerrilla tactics to resist communist encroachment, our program gradually evolved into a direct confrontation not only of the local PL, but also of North Vietnamese forces. More training, larger units, increased firepower, and air support were introduced little by little. But it remained a mismatch. Despite our best efforts, the Hmong were slowly decimated.

US policies in South Vietnam drove decisions in Laos. The Hmong had to have seen what was happening, but they pressed on. Vang Pao, confident that with our support he would carry the day, actually pushed for many of the offensive actions undertaken as the conflict wore on. But his decisions were clouded, I believe, by the “stars” around him—his own, when he was promoted to lieutenant general, and those of the generals and ambassadors whom he saw as equals. He believed that US power ultimately would save him, and the Hmong.

When the war ended in South Vietnam, it also ended in Laos, where we forced a political arrangement in Vientiane that virtually guaranteed communist control. And then we left.

Many Hmong have come to the United States as refugees, but thousands still languish in Thai refugee camps. Their way of life has been destroyed. They can never return to Laos. In the end, our policymakers failed to assume the moral responsibility that we owed to those who worked so closely with us during those tumultuous years.

With great power comes great responsibility, one of the deep philosophers said. The US has a sad and sordid history of using other peoples -- often with good, even noble motives, sometimes, and sometimes not -- and then failing those people, in the end, due to Great Power, Big Picture, reasons. The Hmong are another classic case. This is, again, why we must not fail the Afghani and Iraqi people, more than we have.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for flavor of the time, place, and attitudes.

9/22/2003 08:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Despite Galileo's stunning success, and the scientific treasures it discovered at Jupiter, it will be many years before we return to the planet.

Only the distant gaze of the Hubble Space Telescope will keep watch on the giant world's gas clouds, and the eruptions on its moon Io, the most volcanic body in our Solar System.

But of Galileo's major discovery - the properties of Jupiter's ice-crusted moons - we will have to wait a long time to investigate them up close again.

In 2018 in fact, by which time the Galileo mission will be scientific history.


The new mission, Jimo - the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter - will use an ion-drive engine.

These engines shoot out a propellant gas much faster than a chemical rocket. Their greater power will enable Jimo to go into orbit around Jupiter and its moons rather than just conduct brief flybys like Galileo.

Ion drives have been tried several times over the years. Test rigs were on a Soviet space station and an early version of the technology has even flown on the Deep Space 1 probe. Europe will also trial an ion-drive technology on its Smart-1 Moon probe this month.

But Jimo's ion-drive will be in a different league. Powered by a small nuclear reactor, it will have a hundred times the efficiency of a chemical rocket.

As it leaves Earth orbit, Jimo will unfurl a series of heat-radiating panels designed to prevent the spacecraft from overheating.

Then it will begin the long haul to Jupiter. It will take six years.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for more detail on the JIMO mission, the Cassini mission, and other stuff. I can't wait for these events.

But I have to. Damn.

9/22/2003 08:25:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BUT THEIR SOCIAL PROGRAMS DO SUCH GOOD WORK. The Covenant of Hamas. Lovely people. Everyone should support them since, as you know, they do such good work and are only forced into doing Bad Things in response to the oppression of Israel.

Or perhaps not.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).


The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.


Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. "Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know."

Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?

"But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah." (The Cow - verse 120).

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.


The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised. To do this requires the diffusion of Islamic consciousness among the masses, both on the regional, Arab and Islamic levels. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.

Jihad, of course, refers to an inner spiritual struggle, and in no way implies any violence. Of course.

This thing goes on and on. I like Article Seventeen, which explains:

That is why you find them giving these attempts constant attention through information campaigns, films, and the school curriculum, using for that purpose their lackeys who are infiltrated through Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, espionage groups and others, which are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs.
This theme is returned to again, and again; sometimes the Lions are included.

Article Twenty-Two explains the perfidy of the Jew, who is the cause of all evil in the world. Another article refers to the "Nazi Zionists."

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. This should be as well known as the Protocols of The Elders of Zion.

9/22/2003 07:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FULL DETAILS OF THE IRAQI MUSEUM: Here. Bottom line: what mostly happened is that stuff was taken by Iraqis to safeguard it, and most of it has been found or returned. Yet other items were genuinely looted by locals. And a small amount was taken by professionals. Different sets of items were dealt with in different ways by different people. US troops had a security plan, but didn't count on having to fight their way into a building supposed to be neutral. There were a few significant pieces of damage or missing items, but only a very small percentage. A complete inventory, however, is not yet done.
The raids on targeted locations in Iraq based on information given to us by Iraqis have resulted in the recovery of over 900 separate artifacts.


So far, over 750 artifacts have been recovered in four different countries.


Years before Iraqi freedom, most of the gold and jewelry that was kept at the museum was removed to the Central Bank of Iraq. It was moved in 21 separate boxes. Sixteen of those boxes contained the royal family collection of gold and jewelry, approximately 6,744 pieces, placed in one of the underground vaults of the central bank. A second set of five boxes contained the fabled Treasure of Nimrud and the original golden bull's head from the Golden Harp of Ur.

The vaults themselves were flooded prior to the team's arrival in Baghdad, but with the assistance of Mr. Jason Williams and his National Geographic crew, we pumped out the water -- took three weeks to pump out the water from the underground vaults -- and ultimately were able to gain entry into the vaults. And in a moment that can only be characterized as sheer joy, we opened each of those boxes and found the treasure of Nimrud completely there, intact. And ultimately it was able to be displayed at the one-day opening we had on the 3rd of July.

Months before the war, the staff moved all of the manuscripts from the museum in 337 boxes, totalling 39,453 manuscripts, parchment, vellum and the like. They moved it to a bomb shelter in western Baghdad. On the 26th of April, we located that bomb shelter and began to arrange for the return of those items to the museum.


Weeks before the war, the staff moved 179 boxes containing 8,366 of the more priceless artifacts from the display cases in the museum itself. They moved those items to a secret place, and you will recall that on May 16th, when I last spoke to you, we had not learned the location of this secret place, because the senior museum -- five senior museum staff members had sworn on the Koran not to reveal the location of the secret place.

After weeks and months of developing and building a trust with the museum staff, we were able to gain access to the secret place on the 4th of June. And when we did, we found that all 179 boxes were present and all of their contents accounted for. Those items have been returned to that secret place and will be placed on display in the museum once the security is sufficient.


But it is abundantly clear that the original number of 170,000 missing artifacts was simply wrong. But again I stress, numbers simply cannot tell the whole story, nor should they be the sole determinant used to assess the extent of the damage or of the recovery itself.

For example, it is simply impossible to quantify the loss of the world's first known Samarian mask of a female deity. That's one number; you cannot possibly quantify it, and it is irreplaceable. On the other hand, a single clay pot recovered at an archeological site in 25 separate pieces, depending on the circumstances under which it is recovered, counts as 25 separate pieces -- each bead, each pin, each amulet, each pendant counts as a separate piece. So numbers simply cannot tell the whole story. They do, however, offer, used appropriately, a metric with which we can assess what indeed has been done, and what so far is being recovered.


o, of the 451 display cases, only 28 of them were damaged. All of them had been emptied. Those items that were too large to be moved by the museum staff were covered with foam padding and laid on their sides in order to prevent any damage.

From the galleries themselves, 40 pieces or 40 exhibits were stolen, most notably among those, the famous Bassetki Statue from approximately 2300 B.C., and the Roman heads of Poseidon, Apollo, Nike and Eros.

Of the original 40 missing items, 10 have been recovered, including the Sacred Vase of Warka, an exquisite white limestone votive vase dating from approximately 3200 B.C., and arguably the most significant piece possessed by the museum. While it was damaged during the looting and during its theft, it should be noted that the vase was returned on 11 June, pursuant to the amnesty program. It was in exactly the same condition it was when it was found by German archeologists at Al Samawa in 1940. In other words, there's no additional damage, and this item, the sacred vase, can and will be restored by the museum staff. Also recovered during the investigation is one of the oldest known bronze relief bulls, and my favorite, two pottery jars from the 6th millennium B.C. from Tell Hassuna.

Unfortunately, 30 exhibits from the main gallery, 30 display- quality, irreplaceable pieces, are still missing from the museum. Another 16 pieces were damaged, most notably, the Golden Harp of Ur, although its golden bull's head, as I mentioned, had previously been removed. And you can see the harp on the left there in three pieces, and then you can see the golden bull's head. That photograph was taken when we uncovered the Treasure of Nimrud in the underground vaults of the Central Bank of Iraq. The Golden Harp itself can also be restored.

In turning to the Heritage Room, consisting of more recent scrolls and Islamic antique furniture and fine porcelain, 236 pieces were originally stolen. We've recovered 164, which leaves 72 still missing.

Turning then to the restoration and registration rooms, which were temporary storage areas -- (to staff) next side please Senior -- temporary storage areas, we found 199 pieces originally missing, of which we've recovered 118, leaving 81 still missing. It was in this room that the Golden Harp of Ur and several delicate ivories were kept and subsequently damaged during the looting.

The museum also, in additional to the public galleries themselves, had eight storage rooms. Of the eight, only five were entered, and only three had anything missing. Because these rooms contain tens of thousands of clay pots, pottery shards, copper and bronze weapons, tools, statuettes and pieces, as you're looking at now, the inventory is simply not complete. It contains items both from museum-sponsored excavations as well as from internationally sponsored excavations. The inventory in these rooms will take months to complete.


Those boxes, while -- the contents, while not of the same caliber as the items in the storage cabinets, were nonetheless valuable in their own right. All together from those boxes, there were 4,997 pins, beads, amulets and pendants, and 4,795 cylinder seals. An additional 500 smaller pottery pieces and bronze weapons from the shelves were also taken. So, from this room alone, 10,337 pieces were stolen, of which, 667 have been recovered.


Q: Just to clarify, when you say "items" and "pieces," you said that it could be one bead, one piece of a pot, one -- I mean, so these thousands of items could be just little things?

Bogdanos: Let me give you -- that's a great point. Yes. When I say items and pieces, I use them interchangeably. All of the items and pieces taken from the basement storage room downstairs could fit in a large backpack -- all 10,000. Does that give you a sense?


Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for more detail, including how the museum was used as a sniper position by Iraqi forces.

9/22/2003 06:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOING UP: The space elevator convention.

Someday the convention will be held in orbit, and, boy, will the elevator monitors to prevent crowding have a long ride.

It will be particularly annoying if you accidentally punch the button for the wrong floor.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for a smooth ride.

9/22/2003 02:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MISSING TRANSLATION of dialogue from Lost In Translation is here.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for amusement value on its own, even if you don't intend to see the movie (I do).

9/22/2003 01:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TERMINAL CASE: This guy has lived, without ever leaving, at the Charles deGaulle airport terminal for fifteen years. Now Steven Spielberg is making a movie partially inspired by him, starring Tom Hanks.
Planted on the 1970's red plastic bench he calls home, and surrounded by stacks of newspapers and magazines, Nasseri, also known as Alfred or ''Sir, Alfred'' (title and comma appropriated from a mistake in a letter from British immigration), has organized his life's belongings into a half-dozen Lufthansa cargo boxes, various suitcases and unused carry-on luggage. On a nearby coffee table spotted with aluminum ashtrays, Nasseri's universe includes a pair of alarm clocks, an electric shaver, a hand mirror and a collection of press clippings and photographs to establish his present and his recent past. He seems both settled -- and ready to go.

To the pilots, airport staff, fast-food merchants and millions who have passed through the terminal on their way to somewhere else, the 58-year-old Nasseri has become a postmodern icon -- a traveler whom no one will claim. Little do they know that he is on his way to becoming a Hollywood icon, too. Inspired by Nasseri's intriguing tale of lost identity, bureaucratic limbo and persistence, Steven Spielberg has bought the rights to his life story as the basis for the new Tom Hanks vehicle, ''The Terminal.''

Okay, the guy clearly seems to have mental health issues, but it's still a rather weird life story.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 for the weirditude.

9/22/2003 12:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FUCKING USA! BUSH EVIL! It's the latest rock video from those masters of soul, those ultimate punks, the hardest working people in show business, the fresh new hotness, the North Koreans!

They're hot, they're nubile, and they're rocking our world! These guys will drive MTV International right off the air and into outer space!

Equally touching is the disclaimer on this web page:

Note: This video does not reflect the views of Rob Pongi nor those of anyone else associated with War is not the answer. Peace!
Right on, dudes! Woohoo! down with the running dog paper tiger puppet masters! Wooooo! Peace! Love! Rock'n'roll!

View The Rest Scale: who doesn't eagerly watch every North Korean music vid? And this one features Bush! Wooooooooo! Kim Jong the Second rocks!

9/22/2003 12:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THAT'S RICH: On Mel Gibson:
When Gibson expressed his feelings about Rich. "I want to kill him," he said. "I want his intestines on a stick. . . . I want to kill his dog." — The New Yorker, Sept. 15

PETA members may be relieved to learn that I do not have a dog.


In the New Yorker profile, Mr. Gibson says that "modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church," a charge that Abraham H. Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, labels "classic anti-Semitism." Mr. Gibson also says that he trimmed a scene from "The Passion" involving the Jewish high priest Caiaphas because if he didn't do so "they'd be coming after me at my house, they'd come to kill me."

Who is this bloodthirsty "they" threatening to martyr our fearless hero? Could it be the same mob that killed Jesus? Funny, but as far as I can determine, the only death threat that's been made in conjunction with "The Passion" is Mr. Gibson's against me. The New Yorker did, though, uncover one ominous threat against the star: "He's heard that someone from one of his hangouts, the Grand Havana Room, a Beverly Hills smoking club, said that he'd spit on him if he ever came in again." Heard from whom? What is the identity of that mysterious "someone"? What do they smoke at that "smoking club"? Has the Grand Havana Room been infiltrated by Madonna's Kabbalah study group? I join a worried nation in praying for Mr. Gibson's safety.

The lines are drawn on, the most elaborate Web site devoted to championing Mr. Gibson. There we're told that the debate over "The Passion" has "become a focal point for the Culture War which will determine the future of our country and the world." When this site criticizes The Times, it changes the family name of the paper's publisher from Sulzberger to "Schultzberger." (It was no doubt inadvertent that Mr. O'Reilly, in a similar slip last week, referred to the author of a New Republic critique of Mr. Gibson, the Boston University theologian Paula Fredrikson, as "Fredrickstein.") This animus is not lost on critics of "The Passion." As the A.D.L.'s Rabbi Eugene Korn has said of Mr. Gibson to The Jewish Week, "He's playing off the conservative Christians against the liberal Christians, and the Jews against the Christian community in general."


Mr. Gibson has told the press that he regards "The Passion" as having actually been directed by the Holy Ghost. If the movie is only half as fanciful as its promotional campaign, I'd say that He has a lock on the Oscar for best director. A Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for Mr. Gibson himself, though, may be something of a reach.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5, for dry wit and the facts.

9/22/2003 10:34:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TAIKONAUTS ARE GO!: James Oberg has a detailed look at the Chinese manned space program, which is aimed at surpassing European and Russian efforts and shows every sign of ultimate success at that.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 if the subject interests you.

9/22/2003 10:12:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BILL O'REILLY KNOWS who should shut up.

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

9/22/2003 09:39:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IN DUTCH: Edmund Morris, biographer of Ronald Reagan, reviews two collections of Reagan's letters:
The central paradox about Ronald Reagan, our most world-changing president since Harry Truman, was that a man so attractive in his public persona, so irresistible in negotiation, and so transparently decent a human being, could have been such a bone-cracking bore. I interviewed him regularly throughout his second term, read half a million words of his presidential diaries and reams of his manuscripts (including most of the letters collected in these two volumes), and can only endorse the bemused remark of his first wife, "Ronnie never shut up."

It wasn't what he said or wrote that glazed your eyes. At least through late middle age, when his hard drive filled up, Ronald Reagan was exceptionally well informed. An editor of The Washington Post met him in December 1939, and was amazed by his detailed knowledge of the situation in Finland. The silky voice, the delightful humor, the clarity of expression (his manuscripts are remarkable for their lack of erasures) never failed to impress -- at first. Only when you began to note, the sixth or 36th time he repeated himself, that his facial expressions, his phraseology, even his self-deprecating chuckles seemed to be projected from some inner, infinitely replayable DVD, did you get the creepy feeling he was not quite real, and wondered where, if anywhere, the real Reagan was.

I found out on the night of his farewell address, as president, to the American people. He came into the Oval Office at about quarter of 9 and sat at his desk while the TV crew completed their preparations. He seemed ill at ease until a blank monitor came to life with his image at center screen, the desk shiny beneath his cuffs, the flag draped behind him. "Ah!" said Reagan, suddenly animated. "There he is!"

I remember wondering, "Well, if that's him, who are you?"

Morris, incidentally, who is obviously not one of those he refers to as the "incense-swingers," also says:
(Those penned in the late 1980s should disprove rumors that the president was affected by Alzheimer's disease during his second term.)
Which will obviously do nothing to silence that argument.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for further jaundiced observations on Reagan.

9/22/2003 09:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW LOW OUR POLITICS HAVE BECOME! Not like the good old days.
"The history of our Revolution will be one continued lie from one end to the other," John Adams wrote to Benjamin Rush in 1790. "The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod, and thence forward these two conducted all the policy, negotiations, legislatures and war."


Philip Freneau, the editor of the National Gazette, regularly denounced Washington as a monarchist: "He holds levees like a King, receives congratulations on his birthday like a King, makes treaties like a King, answers petitions like a King, employs his old enemies like a King." Benjamin Franklin Bache, Freneau's comrade-in-opposition (and the grandson of Benjamin Franklin), compared Washington to Oliver Cromwell and Louis XVI. In the columns of the Philadelphia Aurora, Bache alleged "political iniquity" and "legalized corruption" in the Washington Administration, and called the first President "the source of all the misfortunes of our country." Thomas Paine, the leading propagandist of the Revolution, accused Washington of abandoning the cause for which the Revolution was fought (not to mention abandoning Paine in a French prison, where he languished during the French Revolution). In an open letter to Washington, addressing him in the third person, Paine wrote, "[Washington] has no friendships ... He is incapable of forming any. He can serve or desert a man, or a cause, with constitutional indifference; and it is this cold, hermaphrodite faculty that imposed itself upon the world and was credited for a while, by enemies as by friends, for prudence, moderation and impartiality."

Washington believed that his sacrifices and service to the country had earned him better. His decision to step down after two terms owed much, as he put it to Hamilton, to his "disinclination to be longer buffeted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers." When he handed the presidency to John Adams, he did so with palpable relief. "Me thought I heard him think," Adams recalled, "'Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!'"

Adams soon decided, being as sensitive to criticism as Washington and even more subject to it. Benjamin Bache tore into him as "the blasted tyrant of America" and "a ruffian deserving of the curses of mankind." He taxed Adams for obesity, referring to him as "His Rotundity," the possessor of a "sesquipedality of belly."


Adams fell out with Hamilton, whom he called "the bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar," and Hamilton devoted a long pamphlet to cataloguing the President's deficiencies.


Jefferson was called "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." His deism shocked pious Christians (though it wasn't much different from that of Washington or Franklin or many other educated persons of his day), and his early enthusiasm for the French Revolution made him a Jacobin in Federalist eyes. Timothy Dwight, a Congregationalist minister and the president of Yale, foresaw a lurid future of freethinking: "The Bible cast into a bonfire ... our children ... chanting mockeries against God ... our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution ... our sons the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat." A Connecticut paper warned of the orgies a Jefferson presidency would bring: "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught and practiced; the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed; the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes."

And so it came to be.

H. W. Brands actually has a serious point in this look at the way history has treated the Founders over the years:

The Founders got the country off to a good start, but they would have been the first to admit that it was no more than a start. They were acutely aware of the continuing nature of their experiment in self-government, and they expected future generations to accomplish as much as they had. They would have dismissed as ludicrous the notion that theirs was a blessed generation, to which others might never compare. That notion is essentially anti-republican, too, and therefore insults all they struggled to achieve.

In making giants of the Founders, we make pygmies of ourselves; in making saints of them, we make sinners of ourselves. Sinners we may be, but no more so than they (where is our Benedict Arnold? our Aaron Burr?). And although humility is a virtue, when consciousness of our sins becomes an inferiority complex that causes large numbers of the present generation to turn away from politics as incomparably inept or corrupt, it does the Founders no honor. The point of their revolution was to craft a government based on the will of the people; they would have judged themselves failures if they thought their mechanism required saints to run it.
He goes on to advocate solving a number of problems by not being afraid to rewrite the Constitution where necessary or helpful, and assails our timidity in shying away from this.

While not wholly without point, he fails to address the obvious cause. We fear tampering with the Constitution because of the slippery slope argument and the fear that once Pandora's Box has a revolving door attached, where we end up may be far worse than whatever the unsolved problems of the present may be.

Whenever one thinks of the vast number of people in the country with political views strikingly opposed to one's own, the notion of allowing them to have their way in rewriting the Constition to their pleasure rightly strikes fear into the heart of any sensible person.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for a good piece.

9/22/2003 08:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Mormons believe proxy baptisms give those in the afterlife the option of joining the religion. It's primarily intended to offer salvation to the ancestors of Mormons, but many others are included.

Baptisms for the dead are performed inside Mormon temples, with a church member immersed in water in place of the deceased person. Names of the deceased are gathered by church members from genealogy records as well as death and governmental documents from around the world.


Radkey has been researching Jews included in the Mormon databases since 1999, when she found Anne Frank and her extended family listed as being baptized.

Also among those baptized posthumously by the church, according to Radkey's research: Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Buddha.

And wouldn't that group make for an interesting dinner party?

Especially now that they're all Mormon.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you want to know more about the Mormon's baptizing dead Jews. (Via Meryl Yourish.)

9/22/2003 12:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I TOY WITH YOU with the EyeToy.
It's probably too early in the year to declare any particular item this holiday season's "must have" product. But Sony is about to release a sure-fire contender for those bragging rights.

It's called the EyeToy -- and it's already a bona fide sensation in the U.K. Hitting U.S. shelves on Nov. 4, the EyeToy is a small, motion-sensitive camera that sits on top of your TV and plugs into your PS2. Using your arms, legs or any other body part you'd like, you physically become a part of the game, with your movements affecting onscreen action.

Granted, the games aren't graphic marvels or rich in storyline. In fact, the 12 party games that ship with the peripheral are sometimes a little beyond what you might think of as a traditional video game. Take "Wishi Washi", for example. The point of the game is to clean windows by wiping away an on-screen soap film by waving your hands like mad. "Kung Foo" lets you swat away tiny ninjas as they fling themselves at you. Or "Beat Freak" takes the boogying dance moves of "Dance Dance Revolution" and flips them around, making you use your hands instead of your feet to keep time with the music.


The EyeToy has spent four consecutive weeks as the U.K.'s top-selling game. Since its release in early July, it has spent five weeks at the top, only to be briefly knocked out of the top spot by the lingering sensation Pokemon. A second collection of games is reportedly in the works, which should keep the device selling briskly there through the holidays.

I don't plan to rush out to get one of these; I can pretend to wash windows on my own. But it's an interesting development in ways to input and interact with electronic/computer games. How soon will interactive body suits hit the consumer market, I wonder.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. (Via Greg Costikyan.)

9/22/2003 12:49:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MONKEY SEE, MONKEY NO DO. Monkey justice:
Monkeys have a sense of justice. They will protest if they see another monkey get paid more for the same task.

Researchers taught brown capuchin monkeys to swap tokens for food. Usually they were happy to exchange this "money" for cucumber.

But if they saw another monkey getting a grape - a more-liked food - they took offence. Some refused to work, others took the food and refused to eat it.

Scientists say this work suggests that human's sense of justice is inherited and not a social construct.

Differential reward experiment

The research was carried out at Emory University in the US, by Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal, and is reported in the journal Nature.

"I'm extremely interested in the evolution of cooperation," Sarah Brosnan told BBC News Online.

"One of the most interesting areas is the recent suggestion that human cooperation is made more effective by a sense of fairness."

She wanted to find out if the human sense of fairness is an evolved behaviour or a cultural construct - the result of society's rules.

So she and her colleagues devised an experiment using capuchin monkeys.

Sarah Brosnan said: "I chose the capuchin because they are very cooperative, and because they come from a very tolerant society.

"We designed a very simple experiment to see whether or not they react to differential rewards and efforts."

Capuchins like cucumber, but they like grapes even more. So a system was devised whereby pairs of capuchins were treated differently after completing the same task.

"They had never before been in any sort of situation where they were differentially rewarded," she said.

"We put pairs of capuchins side by side and one of them would get the cucumber as a reward for a task."

The partner sometimes got the same food reward but on other occasions got a grape, sometimes without even having to work for it."

'A highly unusual behaviour'

The response was dramatic, the researchers said.

"We were looking for a very objective reaction and we got one. They typically refused the task they were set," Sarah Brosnan said.

"The other half of the time they would complete the task but wouldn't take the reward. That is a highly unusual behaviour.

"Sometimes they ignored the reward, sometimes they took it and threw it down," she added.

They never blamed their partner, say researchers
The researchers were not surprised that the monkeys showed a sense of fairness, but they were taken aback that they would turn down an otherwise acceptable reward.

"They never showed a reaction against their partner, they never blamed them," Sarah Brosnan said.

Laugh while you can, monkey boy.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

9/22/2003 12:07:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, September 21, 2003
With fists and middle fingers upraised, a booing, hissing and chanting crowd of about 1,200 people awaited United States Attorney General John Ashcroft when he arrived at Faneuil Hall at Boston University Tuesday morning, decrying his support of what some protesters called government policies undermining civil rights.

Ashcroft was bombarded by cries of "Shame!" and the sound of the "Imperial Death March" from the movie "Star Wars" as he entered a meeting with law enforcement officials in Faneuil Hall.

Wait till people see the giant robot army Ashcroft has been amassing.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

(Audio link to my title quote here, thanks to Thomas Nephew and my laziness.)

9/21/2003 11:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, September 19, 2003
LISTENING TO WHISPERS: John Burns of the NY Times speaks out.
Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance. CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in The New York Times missed that point completely. The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us. Of course we do. But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq. So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq? It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror. Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered.


Now left with the residue of all of this, I would say there are serious lessons to be learned. Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth. I have a conviction about closed societies, that they're actually much easier to report on than they seem, because the act of closure is itself revealing. Every lie tells you a truth. If you just leave your eyes and ears open, it's extremely revealing.

We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away. I cannot tell you with what fury I listened to people tell me throughout the autumn that I must be on a kamikaze mission. They said it with a great deal of glee, over the years, that this was not a place like the others.

I did a piece on Uday Hussein and his use of the National Olympic Committee headquarters as a torture site. It's not just journalists who turned a blind eye. Juan Antonio Samaranch of the International Olympic Committee could not have been unaware that Western human rights reports for years had been reporting the National Olympic Committee building had been used as a torture center. I went through its file cabinets and got letter after letter from Juan Antonio Samaranch to Uday Saddam Hussein: "The universal spirit of sport," "My esteemed colleague." The world chose in the main to ignore this.


The people who we write about have none of these advantages. They are stuck here with no food and no money. I don't want to be pious about this, but for a journalist to present himself as a hero in this situation is completely and totally bogus.

We have the lure of a spectacular reward. That draws us on. I got a Pulitzer Prize in Sarajevo, which was awarded for "bravery" or something somewhere in the citation. I said, and I absolutely meant it, "I assume that we are talking here about chronicling the bravery of the people of a city that was being murdered. That was where bravery came into this. Then there were no rewards save the possibility of surviving." So I don't want to present myself here as anything like that. No, I don't. As a matter of fact, I think this vainglorious ambition is part of the same problem really. It is the pursuit of power. Renown. Fame.

There is corruption in our business. We need to get back to basics. This war should be studied and talked about. In the run up to this war, to my mind, there was a gross abdication of responsibility. You have to be ready to listen to whispers.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5; look for the account of the director general of the Iraqi Ministry of Information, and for the fury in Burns' words.

9/19/2003 11:56:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THANK GOODNESS FOR ESTONIA: a breakdown of the "coalition forces" in Iraq:
Gotta wonder what those nine New Zealanders are up to.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

9/19/2003 08:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT WOULD BE LOVELY to be able to attend BloggerCon, but I can't remotely afford it, alas.

9/19/2003 08:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JET BLUE SAYS THEY'RE SORRY about sharing information on over a million passengers with a data-mining company, but they're spokesman also says no one will be punished, and more or less justifies the act.
Gareth Edmondson-Jones, a spokesman for JetBlue, said in a telephone interview that the decision to provide the passenger information to Torch Concepts was a clear violation of the company's own policy. "We have the strongest privacy policy in the industry, which clearly says that we don't supply customer data to third parties," he said.

Asked if Mr. Neeleman or other senior executives had approved the sharing of the passenger information, Mr. Edmondson-Jones said he did not know, adding that there had been no discussion of disciplinary action against anyone at the company for the policy breach. "That's not even come up," he said. "We made the decision as a company, at whatever level it was done."

He suggested that the decision to turn over the passenger information to the contractor was motivated by the airline's concern with security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "In a post 9/11 word troubled by security issues and terrorists, we had a special request from the Department of Defense to assist in a military project," he said. "The decision was made to assist."

You can defend JetBlue's action (I won't); but this is the response of a weasel.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/19/2003 07:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HARVEY PEKAR has what he calls a blog, which it isn't, unless you define "blog" as "personal diary which contains no links whatsoever and consists solely of talking about one's self."

Which doesn't mean it isn't of interest if you're interested in Harvey Pekar. Who isn't exactly living a normal life anymore. Which is mostly what used to make American Splendor interesting. But anyway.

9/19/2003 07:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOT ANY ANSWERS?. Blink. Here's a comment, in full, from a readers' discussion forum on the site of the British newspaper, The Independent. It's entitled "Why Are Americans So Easily Offended?":
From contributing to these discussion forums in recent months, I have noticed that many, though by no means all, Americans take great offense when comparisons are made between current US government activities such as Gauntanamo Bay, military aggression and the Patriot Act and the activities of the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany.

Interestingly, in the UK and France which were much more badly affected by Nazis than the US and which are home to sizeable Jewish populations, it is commonplace to compare any government move towards authoritarianism with Nazi activities. For example, in the UK, such comparisons have been widespread in response to curfews, the proposed introduction of ID cards and the 'Prevention of Terrorism Act'.

I find it strange given that I and most British people of my generation have relatives that were killed or injured in WW2 than my peers in the US. Further, many British cities were destroyed by German bombing. A much smaller proportion of people in the US (with the notable exception of Jewish people) have got a direct personal link to WW2 as a much smaller proportion of the US' population was affected. However, to reiterate the point, my grandfather and great uncles who fought in WW2 are more than ready to make comparisons when authoritarianism is on the move. I know that they are appalled by the activities of the current US administration and have made the comparison between the lies and deceit that led to the Iraq invasion and the lies and deceit which led to many Nazi invasions.

Can anyone explain why Americans whose earlier government did more to support the Nazi regime than any other Western government and whose current government has more similarities with the Nazis than any other Western government, take such deep offense to these kinds of comments?

Oh, I don't know. Maybe it's because we don't like being called bloody Nazis?

No, that couldn't be it. It must be because we're so easily offended. That's it. (Interesting to learn that FDR's government did more to support Hitler than, oh, Francisco Franco.)


Other topics include: USA: How can a people this stupid...., USA the new Nazis?, The US is slipping Let's give it a push, Add Israel to the axis of evil, expel Arafat? aswell as Sharon!, Sharon Or Arafat--Who's The Terrorist?, Will Americans Face The Ugly Truth?, and "Our friends the French!"

I am not making any of this up.

9/19/2003 05:44:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STUNNING THE BLAIR GOVERNMENT, Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat candidate, defeated the Labour and all other candidates in the Brent East by-election, the former seat of Ken Livingstone, now Mayor of London, having been expelled from the Labour Party and re-admitted. More importantly, here are the full results:

Sarah Teather (Lib Dem) 8,158,

Robert Evans (Lab) 7,040,

Uma Fernandes (C) 3,368,

Noel Lynch (Green) 638,

Harold Immanuel (Ind Lab) 188, Iris Cremer (Soc Lab) 111, Brian Butterworth (Soc Allnce) 361, Alan Howling Lord Hope (Monster Raving Loony) 59 , Brian Hall (UK Ind) 140, Khidori Fawzi Ibrahim (Public Services Not War) 219 , Rainbow George Weiss (WW.XAT.ORG) 11, Kelly McBride (Ind) 189, Winston McKenzie (Ind) 197, Neil Walsh (Ind) 101, Aaron Barschak 37

What a relief it is to see that the Monster Raving Loony Party is still soldiering on, despite the tragic loss of Screaming Lord Sutch.

9/19/2003 04:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SOMETHING of major importance has happened to Andrew Olmsted. Congratulations to him! (His recent posting of notes from a friend who is an officer in the 7th Infantry Division in Iraq on lessons learned was fascinating and valuable.)

9/19/2003 04:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SO IT IS WRITTEN: Wonderful.
Once a year, when I was a Hebrew-school student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Morningside Heights, our class would visit the seminary's rare-book library, which houses one of the great collections of Judaica in the world. Despite our antsy, adolescent irreverence, there was something about those books that commanded immediate attention, even a kind of awe.

I have never forgotten the image of a small High Holy Days prayer book from 15th-century Spain, its odd oblong shape designed, the curator speculated, so that the owner could conceal the little volume in the sleeve of his coat to avoid detection by the Inquisition.


I recently went back to the seminary's rare-book collection. You do not browse. Rabbi Jerry Schwarzbard, the librarian for special collections, wearing white cotton gloves and laying out the books on a strip of black velvet, retrieves the old volumes for me one at a time. The first book he shows me is the prayer book I remembered seeing as a student. It was printed around 1480, which makes it an incunabulum. The Latin name means "from the cradle," a reference to books produced between 1450 and 1501, when Gutenberg's invention was in its infancy. The book, printed somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula, is the only one of its kind. What happened to its owner is unknown. Rabbi Schwarzbard handles the volume as if it were still in the cradle, turning the pages gingerly to show me where a passage was snipped out by a censor. But despite its wound, the book is in remarkable shape.


What are 20 years to a book that survived the Inquisition? I, meanwhile, am more than twice the age I was when I saw it last. I am married, I have children and I am mourning my father, who died this year. I can't help thinking that part of the dread I felt seeing those fragile books as a teenager was unconscious anticipation of the moment when I would see them again as an adult and realize that I was the ephemeral one.

Several works in the collection have all but come back from the dead, like the fragments from the Cairo Geniza, which lay for 800 years in the attic of the medieval Ben Ezra Synagogue in Egypt before they were discovered in the late 19th century. A geniza is a sort of above-ground burial chamber for sacred books, which are never thrown away if they contain the name of God; but the books and letters in the Cairo attic included many documents that were not sacred and mysteriously wound up there. They have awakened in a transformed world, but like Rip van Winkle, they have found living relatives to take them in, which is perhaps the true test of civilization.

The seminary has about 30,000 fragments from the geniza, including a letter from Maimonides signed in his own hand in 1170, requesting money to ransom captives taken prisoner by the crusader king Amalric I of Jerusalem. There is a love letter written in Judeo-Arabic by a traveler in 1204 to his wife, and an account of a brawl that broke out in the synagogue after some disliked person was called to the Torah.

Scholars are still working to match these jigsaw pages and tell their stories. For years a Hebrew poem mysteriously bearing the Gregorian notations of the medieval church had baffled scholars — how did Jews wind up with Christian musical notes? — until several pages of a diary, also in the geniza, were pieced together from various collections and the notes were discovered to be the work of one Obadiah the Proselyte, a monk who converted to Judaism in 1102 and brought along a knowledge of church music.

The way cultures flowed into one another is most evident in the polyglots, Bibles printed in multiple languages. I am shown, among others, the Genoese Psalter, which offers each psalm in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Aramaic, side by side across a double page. The book was published in 1516 and edited by a priest named Agostino Giustiniani who, in glossing the verse "And their words go forth to the ends of the earth," included the first printed biography of Christopher Columbus.

Alas, the linguistic harmony of the polyglots hardly mirrored the world of flesh and blood that they inhabited. Ferdinand Columbus did not like the little biography of his father and prevailed on the Genoese senate to destroy the Psalter, making the copy before me even rarer than a 400-year-old book would ordinarily be.

Fire and human hatred have always been the ultimate enemy of books. Rabbi Schwarzbard shows me a broadside posted in Venice in 1553 that bears the lion of St. Mark at the top. It calls on anyone with a Talmud to turn it over to the "Executors against Blasphemy" within eight days to be publicly burned in the Piazza San Marco.


Someday my children will learn how books can be unmade into fragments and fragments bound into books. Someday they will, I hope, visit the seminary library.

But for now I take my eldest to the children's room of the New York Society Library, on East 79th Street in Manhattan, where I went as a child. She settles herself on a tiny chair and I settle myself on a tiny chair — the same one, perhaps, I sat in decades before. My daughter hands me a book. I open at the beginning and start to read.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 for the tale of the fire that burned the tower of the books.

9/19/2003 09:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE FIREFLY WRAP: I recently noticed this. Tim Minnear:
And for those who are wondering if maybe we reworked the pilot -- for certainly what you saw can't have been what Fox insisted was too "slow and uninvolving," thereby putting the stink of failure on the show before we ever had a chance to air an ep -- not so much. Joss added the battle scene at the top of the ep, added one or two lines of clarification, but by and large -- yep. That's what Fox didn't want us to air.


What a strange week.

Two and half days into my eight day shoot (I was directing) for this last episode, they cancelled us.


Today was kind of a bummer. I finished shooting my episode yesterday. We shot a gigantic flashback battle scene with Mal and Zoe. It was great fun.

But today was a day for pick-ups and added scenes for episodes nearing completion and some small reshoots. Part of that was pieces of a montage for "Heart Of Gold." Alan, Sean, Summer and Jewel wrapped out yesterday (at the end of the night I had one group shot of the entire cast walking together. I finally got it after they quit goofing off for twenty minutes, breaking the crew up as they did "model runway walks" complete with turns and snaps. I have that on film. I knew it was likely the last time the entire cast would be together in a frame of film. Maybe ever. So that was kind of wonderful. And kind of sucked)

Morena, Gina, Ron, Adam and Nathan worked today. Anyway, one of the sets was a small rebuild of a tiny portion of a larger set from the aforementioned "Heart Of Gold." Each character had a shot or two for this montage.

I brought in Gina, we shot her shot, then the AD announced, "that's a "Firefly" wrap for Gina."

When an actor, usually a guest actor, finishes his or her last scene in an episode, that is what happens. The AD (assistant director) announces, "That's an episode wrap for so-and-so."

Doesn't happen with regulars.

But it did today.

Gina got a long and loving round of applause from the crew. She said many warm and wonderful things. We hugged. She left.

Then I brought in Ron. Same thing. "That's a "Firefly" wrap for Ron Glass." Ron couldn't speak at first. He finally said, "I didn't know it could be like this." He thanked everyone and talked about what a special experience this had been for him. We applauded some more. After many hugs, Ron left. The AD called for "the next victim."

I was starting to hate this ugly little set. These unexpectedly generous, grateful actors would come in to it, and that would be all. "That's a "Firefly" wrap for Nathan." Nathan thanked everyone. For about the ten millionth time.

Adam was brought onto the set. He lit a cigar, held up a gun. Smiled. That was the shot. Adam's last shot. "That's a "Firefly" wrap for Adam Baldwin." Adam thanked everyone. He said no one ever let him be funny before. He was grateful for that. He said he was glad everyone seemed to appreciate what a really exceptional experience our time had been. He was glad that it wouldn't have to be regarded as such in retrospect, but that the gratitude was of the present.

Adam and Nathan hung out until Morena shot her scene. Nobody wanted to leave. "That's a "Firefly" wrap for Morena." She said it was the best job she'd ever had. Not that she'd had a lot of jobs, she said. She doesn't want it to be over. None of us do. Then I packed up my things. Shook hands.

I drove off the lot. I got home. Turned on the TV. And they were finally airing the pilot.

That's a "Firefly" wrap.

I'm glad we'll have a Firefly DVD and a feature film, but I'd rather have had three more seasons of the tv show, telling us, oh so slowly, the story of the government program to develop psychic powers, and telling us the story of the background of the Reverend, and telling us all those other back stories of each and every character.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/19/2003 09:17:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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