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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!)
The Mahablog
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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.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Colleagues won't sit next to sprout tester

Tesco's chief vegetable tester says his colleagues won't sit near him because he's currently eating five kilos of Brussels sprouts a week.

I quite like Brussels sprouts, myself. With a little butter and lemon juice.

12/22/2003 07:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LIFE'S A SHOW. Britain's Channel 4 is holding a vote for "Best Musical of All Time."
An all singing episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is in the running to be named the greatest musical of all time. It will battle it out with productions such as Chicago, Cabaret and The Sound Of Music for a Channel 4 special.
See here.

12/22/2003 07:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I SEE YOU. No press release here about their Analyst's Notebook software being the product that allegedly led to finding Saddam Hussein, and is being used to track Osama bin Laden, according to this story.

Read as interested. (Newsweek story via Unfogged.)

12/22/2003 08:40:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW CAN I GET YOUR ATTENTION? Long account of one of America's most successful assets in the Soviet Union, A. G. Tolkachev, until he was betrayed by CIA traitor (note: this is what an actual traitor looks and acts like) Edward Lee Howard; Tolkachev was subsequently executed.
In January 1977, on a typically depressing winter evening in Moscow, the local CIA chief left his office and drove to a nearby gas station used by diplomats. While waiting for gas, he was surprised when a middle-aged Russian approached him and asked him in English if he was an American. When the CIA chief answered affirmatively, the Russian placed a folded piece of paper on the car seat and departed. The CIA chief later noted that his was the only American-plated car at the gas station, and it appeared obvious that the man was waiting for an American to appear. The man was calm and clearly had thought out his approach.

The note, written in Russian, was short and to the point. The writer said that he wanted to “discuss matters” on a “strictly confidential” basis with an “appropriate American official.” He then suggested a discreet meeting at a given time and place in the car of an American official or at a Metro station entrance. The writer also suggested a signal—a parked car at a certain place and time, facing either one direction or the other—to indicate which meeting arrangement was preferred. The note contained sketches of the exact locations of the two optional sites and where the car should be parked to trigger a meeting.


The point in time when Tolkachev chose to try to establish contact with the CIA in Moscow was a particularly sensitive one. CIA personnel in Moscow had several operational activities scheduled to take place over the next several months that they and CIA headquarters were loath to complicate by the possibility of getting caught in a KGB dangle operation. In addition, Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of State-designate in the administration of newly elected President Jimmy Carter, was scheduled to visit the USSR soon to lay the basis for bilateral relations, and it was clear that the new US administration did not want anything untoward to roil the waters between the two countries. As a result, given the absence of any identifying data on this prospective volunteer, the lack of any indication of his access to sensitive information, and the difficult counterintelligence (CI) environment, CIA headquarters decided against replying to the note.


On 3 February 1977, the volunteer again approached the local CIA chief, this time as he got into his car. (Although the chief’s car was parked near the US Embassy, it was blocked from the view of the Soviet militiamen guarding the Embassy by high snow banks, a fact that Tolkachev later said he had taken into account.) He again spoke briefly, dropped a short note into the car, and departed. The note reiterated the writer’s desire to establish contact with an American official. Based on the previous CIA headquarters decision, no action was taken to respond to the note.

Two weeks later, the CIA chief was approached after work by the same individual, who dropped another note into the car. This note said that the writer understood the concern about a possible provocation. He claimed that he was an engineer who worked in a “closed enterprise” and was not knowledgeable about “secret matters,” so he might not be going about this the right way. He said that he had not included specific information about himself because he worried about how his letters would be handled. He repeated his request that he be contacted, and he provided new instructions for establishing contact.

By now, the CIA chief was impressed with the man’s tenacity and asked headquarters for permission to respond positively by parking his car in a spot that had been indicated in the note, so that the writer could pass him a letter with more details about who he was and what information he wanted to share. Headquarters, however, continued to demur, citing overriding CI concerns, and forbade any positive response.

In May, the volunteer approached the CIA chief for the fourth time, banging on his car to get his attention. The chief ignored him.

More than six months passed before the volunteer appeared again. In December 1977, he spotted an individual who had gotten out of an American-plated car and was shopping in a local market. The volunteer gave a letter to this individual and pleaded that the letter be hand delivered to a responsible US official. The letter was passed unopened to the US Embassy’s assistant security officer, who in turn gave it to the local CIA chief.

This went on and on. It's an amazing tale, as is the rest of Tolkachev's tragic and heroic career.

Read The Rest if you're interested in intelligence stories and tradecraft.

AFTER-THOUGHT: Although Tolkachev was only caught by the Soviets due to being turned over by Howard, it seems to me that the tradecraft CIA set him up with was inherently flawed:

For example, Tolkachev could be called at home once a month, on the date that corresponded to the number of the month, that is, 1 January, 2 February, 3 March, and so forth. Tolkachev would cover the phone between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on those dates to await a “wrong-number” call. Depending upon the name asked for by the caller, Tolkachev would be directed to one of three prearranged deaddrop sites: “Olga,” “Anna,” or “Nina.” The caller also had the option of asking for “Valeriy,” which would trigger a personal meeting at a prearranged site one hour from the time of the call.

Once a month, on the date that corresponded to the number of the month plus 15 days—18 March, 19 April, 20 May, etc.—Tolkachev was directed to appear at one of several prearranged sites, at a specified time according to the month, and to wait for five minutes—a password and recognition signal were incorporated into the plan in case someone other than the regular case officer should make the meeting.

Once every three months, on the last weekend of the month, Tolkachev would have the opportunity to pass materials via deaddrop.

I'm just a guy who sits around, reads a lot, and mouths off. But it seems idiotic to me to set up any regular routine for passing off messages, let alone dead drops. Patterns are the enemy of successful spying. Routine is how one is caught. Patterns can be analyzed and spotted. Why do I know this and the CIA didn't care? Am I wrong?

(The introduction in 1980 of using the Short-Range Agent Communications (SRAC) encrypted burst system mitigates this somewhat.)

12/22/2003 03:35:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JULY 17TH, 1968. This was the date that Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhamad Arif was overthrown as President of Iraq by Baathists (having overthrown the previous Baathist government on Nov. 18, 1963, Abd-al-Karim Qassim and Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif's previous government having been briefly overthrown by a Baathist coup on Feb. 8, 1963). Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr became president. Saddam Hussein rose to vice president.

Since Joe Katzman here promised that I "offered more background on the coup" here, when I really didn't, much, I feel compelled to actually provide a bit more on these coups.

Here is a brief timeline of modern events.

A very brief backgrounder on Saddam Hussein.

Here is a version that says the US was closely involved, even the mastermind of, the 1963 coup. Here is kind of an anthology of accusations of rather unverifiable veracity.

Here is a differing version.

If you go here and scroll to "THE EMERGENCE OF SADDAM HUSAYN, 1968-79" and click, you'll find useful information on that subject. Clicking first on "COUPS, COUP ATTEMPTS, AND FOREIGN POLICY" and "REPUBLICAN IRAQ" will give more detailed useful background.

Tangentially, here is a semi-official look at the UK and US view of the Iraqi threat to Kuwait in the 1960's.

Ultimately, whatever level of involvement the CIA did or did not have in the 1963 coup -- and it's acknowledged by Bobby Kennedy that there was some -- it is clear that the Baath regime was in no way a puppet regime of the US. Their policies make that indisputable.

On April 9, 1972, Iraq and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship. The two countries agreed to cooperate in political, economic, and military affairs. The Soviet Union also agreed to supply Iraq with arms.

To strengthen the Ba'th regime, two important steps were taken: the conflict with the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which had arisen after the revolution of 1958, was reconciled; and the National Progressive Front was established to provide legitimacy to the regime by enlisting the support of other political parties. Since the March Manifesto had established a basis for settlement of the Kurdish problem, Kurdish political parties were willing to participate in the National Progressive Front. The ICP had also shown interest. A Charter for National Action, prepared by the Ba'th Party, was published in the press for public discussion. It became the basis for cooperation with the ICP and other parties.

In March 1972, Ba'thist and ICP leaders met to discuss the content of the charter and express their views about basic principles such as socialism, democracy, and economic development. A statute was drawn up expressing the principles agreed upon as the basis for cooperation among the parties of the front. It also provided for a 16-member central executive committee, called the High Committee, and a secretariat. The front officially came into existence in 1973.

And, of course, Iraq didn't exactly reconcile with Israel. Some US tool. But however much the coup in Iraq in 1963 was very much an Iraqi coup, it would also be false to declare that the US had no involvement, just as it would be false to declare that the US bore ultimate, or anything resembling full, responsibly for it. More to the point, Saddam Hussein didn't come into serious power in government until the subsequent Baath coup of 1968, of which no one has accused the US of involvement.

12/22/2003 02:29:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DON'T TREAD ON ME. General Wesley Clark:
Standing before a packed auditorium at Phillips Exeter Academy here earlier this month, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark suddenly turned away from the lectern and grabbed hold of a U.S. flag hanging from a pole at the back of the stage.

"You know, the American flag doesn't belong to the Republican Party," he said. After asking the veterans in the audience to stand, he continued, still clutching the fabric. "That's our flag. We saluted that flag. We served under it. We fought for it. We watched brave men and women buried under it. And no Tom DeLay or John Ashcroft or George W. Bush is going to take this flag away from us."

There are plenty of stupid leftists to be found who make false and scurrilous accusations about the Administration and/or Republicans or conservatives in general. I am not kind to that where and when I see it.

But one of the most offensive things in current political discourse is the casual slurring, by many loud voices, of all Democrats, or "liberals," or "leftists," as outright traitors. Members of the "Terrorcrat Party." Etc., bloody etc.

This is no way to engage in civil debate. This is no way to engage in respectful political discourse. This is no way to seek any common ground whatsoever.

This is a refusal to admit to any possibility of legitimate, honorable, reasonable disagreement. This is a refusal to allow debate.

This is a refusal to engage in democracy.

This is wrong. This is something respectable Republicans and conservatives should not, by their own honor, let stand.

This is, in the end, un-American.

The American flag does not belong to the Republican Party.

12/22/2003 01:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, December 21, 2003
PAKISTAN, OH, PAKISTAN, who could have believed you'd be guilty of transmitting nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, North Korea, and perhaps elsewhere?

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

12/21/2003 08:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GEEK DVDS. Nice piece about both the Firefly official DVD, and an unofficial one plugged on Slashdot, and the growing phenomenon of cutting together your own versions of tv shows and movies (such as Buffy vids).

For Joss Whedon fans:

Mr. Whedon himself seems bemused by the project, recognizing that he's the strangest possible viewer for such a disc. "I find it kind of fascinating," he said. "It starts out with bunches of praise, which, you know, works for me." Mr. Whedon can imagine the appeal of such commentaries to fans, although he wonders how consumers would sort out thoughtful options from mere chatter. And he's aware of the potential for harsh commentary: "It's because of the feeling of intimacy and privilege of being in this community; people feel as though they're almost friends with the creator, and they can say such personal stuff." (Not that Mr. Whedon is immune to such fantasies himself: he considered creating his own angry commentary track for the film "Alien Resurrection" — which he helped write, only to have his work mangled in production — but declined, for fear of being sued.)
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for insight into contemporary pop culture hinting at the near future, along with, miraculously for the Times, some actual live links.

12/21/2003 06:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Test if your writing can be identified by gender, if you like.

12/21/2003 04:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Ain't it sweet?

12/21/2003 04:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The elusive piece of this phenomenon is cultural: the Internet. Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.'s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House's prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington's wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was "the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop."

Such has been much of the reaction to the Dean campaign's breakthrough use of its chosen medium. In Washington, the Internet is still seen mainly as a high-velocity disseminator of gossip (Drudge) and rabidly partisan sharpshooting by self-publishing excoriators of the left and right. When used by campaigns, the Internet becomes a synonym for "the young," "geeks," "small contributors" and "upper middle class," as if it were an eccentric electronic cousin to direct-mail fund-raising run by the acne-prone members of a suburban high school's computer club. In other words, the political establishment has been blindsided by the Internet's growing sophistication as a political tool — and therefore blindsided by the Dean campaign — much as the music industry establishment was by file sharing and the major movie studios were by "The Blair Witch Project," the amateurish under-$100,000 movie that turned viral marketing on the Web into a financial mother lode.


To say that the competing campaigns don't get it is an understatement. A tough new anti-Dean attack ad has been put up on the campaign's own site, where it's a magnet for hundreds of thousands of dollars in new contributions. The twice-divorced Dennis Kucinich's most effective use of the Web thus far has been to have a public date with the winner of a "Who Wants to Be a First Lady?" Internet contest. Though others have caught up with, only the Wesley Clark campaign is racing to mirror Dr. Dean's in most particulars. The other Democratic Web sites are very 2000, despite all their blogs and other gizmos.

"The term blog is now so ubiquitous everyone has to use it," says the author Steven Johnson, whose prescient 2001 book "Emergence" is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand this culture. On some candidates' sites, he observes, "there is no difference between a blog and a chronological list of press releases." And the presence of a poll on a site hardly constitutes interactivity. The underlying principles of the Dean Internet campaign "are the opposite of a poll," Mr. Johnson says. Much as thousands of connected techies perfected the Linux operating system's code through open collaboration, so Dean online followers collaborate on organizing and perfecting the campaign, their ideas trickling up from the bottom rather than being superimposed from national headquarters. (Or at least their campaign ideas trickle up; policy is still concentrated at the top.) It's almost as if Dr. Dean is "a system running for president," in Mr. Johnson's view, as opposed to a person.

Read The Rest if you like.

12/21/2003 04:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE PURPOSE OF SEX. Avedon Carol has the best rant in blogdom in response to the ne plus ultra silliness in the National Review.
Another thing I wish is that complete strangers would not try to tell us how our motivations differ from what they believe their own are. This is a kind of expertise from ignorance: I assume that my reasons are better than your reasons, even though I don't even know you, and I therefore make up the reasons you do the things I think you do, from what I imagine to be bad reasons, and therefore I am morally superior to you. I have sex for reasons of "sociability and community building", but you are just using a consumer good. I am connected by bonds of love to my sexual partner(s), but you look at your partners as "an object that satisfies [you] more or less well."
Dear Reader is invited to go forth and read the entirety.

12/21/2003 01:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE VALUE OF BEING DEVALUED. A three-screen story in the Times tut-tutting that getting a standing ovation no longer means anything because it's de rigeur at all major performances now, and the world isn't what it used to be, children contradict their parents, gobble their food and tyrannise their teachers, soon cats and dogs will be living together.

Or words to that effect. But the closing wisdom on standing ovations comes at the end:

"Maybe it's become rather common, but I can't say it feels any worse," Mr. Fierstein said. "It's kind of like sex. Just because the guy down the street got it doesn't mean it doesn't feel good."
Read The Rest Scale: no applause.

12/21/2003 01:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The same week that President Bush signed an act regulating junk e-mail, the makers of the original Spam endured more bad publicity as networks replayed images of their canned meat in Saddam Hussein's grubby hideout — the product placement from hell. How do you respond to an unsolicited endorsement from the Butcher of Baghdad? "It's not the most positive association," conceded Julie Craven, a spokeswoman for Hormel Foods. But she pointed to the upside, "It's further evidence of the worldwide appeal of Spam."
Eric Idle should solicit them to be a sponsor for Spamalot, don't you think? And wouldn't they be smart to take him up on it?

If Hussein had stuck to butchering Spam, we would all have been better off; makes you stop and think, doesn't it? Just not for very long.

Read The Rest Scale: only if you want to see other miscellaneous political observations of the week.

12/21/2003 12:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NO GET OUT OF JAIL CARD. Whatever your politics are, can you say this doesn't strike you in the least bit as creepy, or cause you to wonder a tad about the ultimate justice rendered?

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

12/21/2003 11:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A thorough, near-scholarly, but funny, collection and summary of Tolkien's writings on the matter. (References to "LACE" is to Tolkien's "Lore And Customs of The Eldar.")

The good news is that elves like sex. “The union of love is indeed to them great delight and joy.” (LACE) The bad news is that elves tend to lose interest in sex after they’ve had kids. “With the exercise of the power (of generation), the desire soon ceases, and the mind turns to other things…they have many other urges of body and of mind which their nature urges them to fulfil.” They do look back happily on the sexually-active time in their lives, though, a period of one to several hundred years. (LACE) Also, “they are seldom swayed by the desires of the body only, but are by nature continent and steadfast.” (LACE) Sorry.
There's a lot more. Compare and contrast, of course, with the Secret Diaries.

12/21/2003 09:22:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEVEN WORDS. Bad words. Must be made illegal.

12/21/2003 12:37:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, December 20, 2003
DOES YOUR COMPUTER WUV YOU? Affective computing.
Picard makes a far less-popular assertion - that computers should be designed from the outset to take into account, express, and influence users' feelings. From scheduling an appointment to picking a spouse, humans routinely listen to what their gut is telling them. Without the ability to understand emotion, says Picard, computers are like the autistic pizza delivery guy who says, "I remember you! You're the lady who gave me a bad tip."
Not a new subject, but a quite interesting exposition.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

12/20/2003 09:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUNG JOE MCCARTHY. An excellent potted history which told me a great many details about his pre-Senate life I hadn't known.

One, consistent with his personality and record, bit:

The interview took place just before Pearl Harbor. According to the notes of John Wyngaard, who was present, McCarthy delivered an isolationist tirade against the war. “My contact with the would-be greats has merely confirmed and crystallized the thoughts which I have long held,” he told Imlay. “I was appalled at the rapidly increasing momentum of our march toward war. . . . One of our Wisconsin congressmen said 'my voters know how I feel, so why should I worry?’ If we get into war, the fault will lie with the administration and it will perhaps mean the end of the Democratic party.” McCarthy also disparaged the arguments of the Wisconsin congressmen, which he said were based on their opinions of Hitler and Hirohito and their political theories. Only once had he heard “a careful weighing of the advantage of a British victory against the cost in human lives and political and social upheaval. One of course does not feel that our representatives are evil or dishonest men, but merely weak men . . . who lack either the force of character or the intelligence to assume even a semblance of leadership—men who are weather-cocks swaying in the breeze of public opinion.” McCarthy was playing to the isolationist sentiments of Wisconsin’s German population, but the interview, which ran on December 6 in The Shawano Evening News, The Appleton Press-Gazette, and The Green Bay Press-Gazette, could not have come at a worse time. On the heels of his antiwar diatribe came Pearl Harbor, and America was at war. In addition, he had smeared the Wisconsin congressmen who had befriended him in Washington, and his remarks were published in their districts.

Instead of accepting the responsibility for his fatuous remarks, McCarthy blamed the messenger for the message. He complained to Virginia Imlay that “what was given as a general observation of official Washington was distorted into a vicious condemnation of our Wisconsin representatives. For the life of me . . . I can’t understand why you . . . dressed up my statement. Mr. Murray informs me that I have credited him with some brainless statement in regard to war. . . . The only comment I made about Mr. Murray was that I was rather amazed at the way he had made himself into an authority on agricultural questions during the short time he was in Washington.” But Wyngaard’s notes, which he kept and which can now be found in the Marquette archives, show that Imlay’s article was substantially accurate.

Read The Rest if you're interested.

12/20/2003 08:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE LIFE OF BEING A PROFESSIONAL PLACE-HOLDER in line at Congress. Hey, you can earn $10-15/hr as a paid employee, and the two main companies that have 80% of the business charge their clients $32 to $40 per hour.

Of course, you have to wait outside, whether it's raining or snowing, and mostly you can't sit down, even if you are waiting for several days. Still, it's a better job than McDonalds.

Read The Rest if interested.

12/20/2003 07:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ON PRIVACY AND THE ADMINISTRATION by William Safire. Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/20/2003 03:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SAURON, THE RING, THE DWARVES, and contract law.


5 out of 5 for funniness.

(Via Natalie Solent.)

12/20/2003 02:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AN HOUR LATER THEY WERE HUNGRY AGAIN. Interesting details on how Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig turned over to Mao Tse-tung a complete set of US intelligence information on Soviet military forces arrayed against China.
After some discussion of the Shanghai Communiqué and the importance of secrecy for the briefing, Kissinger gave a run-down of Soviet forces deployed along the Sino-Soviet border, including ground forces, tactical aircraft and missiles, strategic air defenses, and strategic attack forces. The briefing was detailed, with specific numbers of on Soviet divisions, aircraft, missiles, etc. Kissinger gave special attention to nuclear forces, providing considerable detail on four types of tactical missiles, including the explosive yield of their nuclear warheads.


When Kissinger concluded his presentation, he emphasized that except for Nixon and those Americans present, "nobody in our government" knew about it, even the "intelligence people" who had prepared the information. While Kissinger, through Nixon's approval, had the authority to disclose the information to the Chinese, undoubtedly Deputy of Central Intelligence Richard Helms would have wanted to vet the briefing in the name of protecting sources and methods. (Note 17) In any event, Marshall Ye expressed his gratitude to Kissinger, saying that not only was the information "very useful" but that it also was an "important indication" of the U.S.'s "willingness to improve our relations." This would not be the last of such presentations; they were regular features of Kissinger's visits to China until October 1975, when relations had soured and the Chinese rejected his offer of a "special briefing." (Note 18)

Only Nixon, eh? Imagine that a Democratic administration had done that. After all, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are traitors for what happened on their watch with the Chinese.

Read The Rest if you have the patience and interest.

12/20/2003 01:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW WASTED ARE YOU? Use this EPA site to plug in your zip code and find out just what toxic chemicals have been dumped or exhausted into the air near you.

Hey, 920 pounds of barium compounds in the air; 29,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid; 140,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride. I'm sure it only makes the mountain air tastier.

(Via Kathryn Cramer.)

12/20/2003 01:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR SEASONAL ITEM from the National Security Archive:
The two versions of this document provide one of hundreds of examples - in this instance an amusing one - of the divergent results sometimes produced by separate declassification decisions on the same document. The CIA produced "Weekly Situation Reports on International Terrorism" for the Cabinet committee on terrorism established by the Nixon administration in the wake of the Black September attacks on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and a spate of aircraft highjackings. In this instance, two CIA reviewers came out with rather different results when they scrutinized the classified version of the same document. The last page of the version released at the Ford Library in 1997 includes, on page B-VI-1, a droll item about a report of a plan to sabotage the "annual courier flight of the Government of the North Pole" (GONP). Interestingly, the version released by the CIA in 1999 through its CREST database of scanned images withheld the item about "Prime Minister and Chief Courier S. Claus." (Note 14) Apparently, the CIA staffer who made the 1997 decision about the Ford Library document rightly believed that it would do no harm to disclose that an anonymous Agency intelligence officer had a sense of humor. Why the 1999 reviewer reached the opposite conclusion is a mystery.
Even now the terrorist threat to the GONP exists. Shoulder-launched missiles are a particularly deadly danger. And terrorists are particularly desirous of taking out the one entity who knows when they've been naughty.

12/20/2003 01:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE COUP THAT BROUGHT HUSSEIN TO POWER. It's not unheard of to see the US being accused of being responsible for Saddam Hussein coming to power. This is largely silly, insofar as there were US/CIA connections to the 1963 coup, but it was essentially an Iraqi affair, and Saddam Hussein didn't come to significant power until the 1968 coup.

Without attempting to write a detailed history of events, here is an interesting clue. An invaluable paper by John Prados on the Diem coup -- which the US bore intimate, though certainly not full, responsibility for, though there was no thought given on the US side to the possibility that Diem would be killed, rather than simply removed from power -- which contains this statement from Bobby Kennedy from a taped White House discussion in 1963:

The Kennedy tape from October 29, 1963 captures the highest-level White House meeting immediately prior to the coup, including the President's brother voicing doubts about the policy of support for a coup against Diem: "I mean, it's different from a coup in the Iraq or South American country; we are so intimately involved in this…."
Bobby weren't lying there.

Read The Rest: the National Security Archive is as invaluable as ever, even if it doesn't fulfill your preconceptions. More useful information on Hussein and the West here.

ADDENDUM: See this subsequent entry for further information.

12/20/2003 01:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHY DO YOU LIKE LOTR? is the question being asked here. (Go answer if you like.)

Here is the story about it that led me there. Color me dubious that anything interesting will come of this, but who knows?

12/20/2003 12:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE SEGWAY'S REAL USE MAY COME WITH robots. Giant fighting ones, that will blow things up.

Just kidding on that last part.

But not entirely.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for techie news.

12/20/2003 12:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NO! IMPOSSIBLE! This couldn't be true!
RealNetworks Accuses Microsoft of Restricting Competition
What credulous soul could believe such a scurrilous accusation?

Read The Rest if you are shocked by this.

12/20/2003 12:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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RALPH NADER WANTS YOUR VOTE on whether he should run for President in 2004. Go tell him. Remember, a vote for Ralph is a vote for George W. Bush!

12/20/2003 11:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PEOPLE OF ELF-NESS! YOU ARE BEING discriminated against! That's what this is. Simple and clear anti-elfishness!
HELSINKI, Finland - Santa's workshop may not be the joyous place it was in years past for the tens of thousands of tourists expected to visit northern Finland this winter. Facing a blizzard of debt, Saint Nick laid off many of the elves who work at the SantaPark attraction near the Arctic Circle.

"I feel really dejected, because being an elf is part of my identity," said Milja Vilmila, who was told her job as an elf helping Santa no longer existed. "Something will definitely be missing this Christmas."

Bad Santa.

Read The Rest Scale: ho, ho, ho, there's lots more detail.

12/20/2003 11:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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X MARKS THE SPOT. Burt Rutan took another step towards the X-Prize as SS1 went supersonic this week.
In 1986, as a junior editorial employee for Avon Books, I was given the mandate by our new editorial director, who had come from Bantam, to start finding books to begin a new program of popular science and technology books, as Avon had no such program, and Bantam had done very well by one. When Rutan's Voyager craft made the headlines, I spent days working phones around the world, trying to reach Rutan to work a deal for a book on the flight and him.

Alas, despite endless work for the next year on this science books program, it never came to fruition (as neither did some other projects, of course, such as a book on Iran-Contra done by Walter Pincus and other WashPo reporters; naturally, hundreds of other books I worked on did come out). The man's had an admirable career.

Read The Rest if you're a space buff.

12/20/2003 10:46:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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REPUBLICANS: you can count on them for fiscal responsibility. Sure is a good thing we have them in power, protecting tax-payers, and keeping the budget balanced, eh?

Read The Rest if you like pulled pork.

12/20/2003 07:46:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DAN DREZNER GETS MAIL. I particularly liked this one:
"We're shooting through an uncharted, terrorist-filled galaxy at light speed, and the spinners like you are all playing the role of Mr. Scott, shouting over the intercom to James T. Kirk that "..she can't take much more!" Bush, like Kirk, is facing something nobody ever wants to face: The unknown. He's boldly going where no man has gone before, and I think it's high time he gets some credit for doing a pretty damn good job at it."
Apparently George W. Bush is eventually going to steal the ship of state to go rescue the katra of his dead friend, Rummy, after which he will be reduced in rank.

The amusing part is that Professor Drezner is a Republican supporter of the war, here being denounced as a crazed Commie. (In response to this.) Damnit, Jim, he's a Republican blogger, not a commie doctor!

Mr. Sulu, raise anti-terrorist deflectors!

(My story, by the way, is that I'm not violating what I wrote here about the War On Straw because a) feebly, I did not go searching for dumb remarks, but b) substantially, because I am not using this to make a general case that Ha, Ha, Right-Wingers Are Stoopid.

My point here is that People Are Stoopid. And primarily that I'm amused. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

12/20/2003 12:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOOGLE PRINT. Google gets a start on doing books. Not up here yet, though.

12/20/2003 12:07:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, December 19, 2003
SOLID OR AIR? How real is the Heliodisplay?
IMAGINE a touch screen on which the elements of the image displayed can be moved around with a fingertip. Now imagine the same scene without the screen: the image can still be moved with a fingertip, but it floats unsupported above a quietly whirring gray box that is connected to a laptop computer.

That describes what took place here when the prototype of a new device called the Heliodisplay was shown publicly for the first time.

The Heliodisplay is an interactive technology that projects into the air above the machine still or moving images that can be manipulated with a fingertip. The images are two-dimensional, and they are not holograms. The Heliodisplay's inventor, Chad Dyner, says the technology could one day replace conventional cathode-ray tubes, liquid crystal displays and plasma screens.


A prototype shown to a reporter (and later to an audience attracted by a notice on IO2's Web site) looked like a bulky breadbox. It displayed images over a field measuring 15 inches diagonally, including streaming video scenes of brightly colored tropical fish and soaring jet planes. Other images, including illustrations of a strand of DNA and a human skeleton, could be moved from one part of the display to another using one's finger, while four colored circles expanded or contracted at a touch.

Very interesting. It would be nice if this turns out to be for real.

Read The Rest Scale: if you're into techie.

12/19/2003 11:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW UNIONS HAVE DONE GOOD for workers in Las Vegas casinos.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

12/19/2003 10:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE BEAGLE HAS SEPARATED. May she make it okay all the way to Mars.
To cheers from scientists in Britain and Germany, a European spacecraft the size of a large washing machine detached a package the size of a home barbecue yesterday and sent it spinning gently on a five-day journey towards Mars at 12,500mph.

On board were a parachute, a set of airbags, a heatshield, a camera, a drill, a torch, a Damien Hirst painting, music by Blur, a set of solar panels and an oven capable of heating rock to 1,000 C - powered by a source just big enough to light up a 60 watt bulb.

Beagle 2, Britain's first emissary to another planet, had begun the last leg of its 250m mile journey. After tense minutes, Mars Express mission control at Darmstadt in Germany confirmed at 11.12 GMT that the separation mechanism had worked perfectly.

Better hope the Martians don't shoot this one down like the others. Especially since they've been sent a Damien Hirst painting.

Read The Rest if you're interested.

12/19/2003 10:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. Gotta hope gay Moslem Irshad Manji does after writing The Trouble With Islam and giving interviews like this.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

12/19/2003 10:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MONOPOLY FAN FICTION as written by Jonathan Edelstein. Who hasn't been waiting for this?

Or you could read his other posts; it's all good. I will now await the Peter Schickele fan fiction.

12/19/2003 09:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. What's left of the World Trade Center is falling apart. What should be done? Idea?

12/19/2003 08:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Details on the chief of the Nazgul, and four others.

Read if interested in the most detail published to date on how Saddam was staying in communication, and how he was found.

12/19/2003 08:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SADDAM TODAY, GONE TOMORROW. Details of the Rumsfeld-Hussein meeting in 1984.
Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy, was urged to tell Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that the U.S. statement on chemical weapons, or CW, "was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs," according to a cable to Rumsfeld from then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

The statement, the cable said, was not intended to imply a shift in policy, and the U.S. desire "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing," remained "undiminished." "This message bears reinforcing during your discussions."

The smart observation:
Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archives, a Washington-based research center, said the secret support for Hussein offers a lesson for U.S. foreign relations in the post-Sept. 11 world.

"The dark corners of diplomacy deserve some scrutiny, and people working in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Uzbekistan deserve this kind of scrutiny, too, because the relations we're having with dictators today will produce Saddams tomorrow."

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/19/2003 07:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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UM, OKAY. Tolkien rappers.
Shouts, props, and praises be to Eru the One (who in Arda is called Iluvatar), to our Moms, to all the elf girls, to Radagast the Brown, Fingolfin the Valiant, Curufin the Crafty, Morgoth the Suck Lord...
Um. Yo. Word.

12/19/2003 07:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOOD LIBYA. Biscuit.

12/19/2003 06:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CON COUGHLIN, WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD. That Telgraph story so conveniently both claiming that Mohammed Atta had support from Saddam Hussein and that al Queda had arranged a shipment from Niger to Iraq has, in a completely shocking and unforseen way, fallen apart. Who could have predicted this?

Read The Rest for details.

12/19/2003 05:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE MIT GALLERY OF HACKS. The latest hack, in honor of the one hundred anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight.

I'm taken back to my days of temping at MIT, working at the Media Lab....

Read And See The Rest: 3.75 out of 5.

12/19/2003 04:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THAT LIBERAL MEDIA. This is quite the blunt and brutal attack on Howard Dean, particularly given that it is presented as a news story, not an op-ed.

I'd have no serious problems with it -- that is, I might and could argue with details, but would have no problems with its approach of challenging Dean -- if I had ever seen the WashPo approach George W. Bush in one-quarter as blunt a fashion. Has the paper ever published lines about "George Bush's... penchant for false statements?," say? Flatly stated that Bush "has a... history of making statements that are mean-spirited or misleading"?

Can one argue with such claims? Obviously many would. But so would many argue with these declarations about Dean. Why the double standard? It's quite outrageous.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/19/2003 03:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MY FRIEND, I AM SO VERY GLAD TO SEE YOU. John Rhys-Davies speaks out and makes clear that he really understands Tolkien.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/19/2003 03:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, December 18, 2003
I really regret the way we toss the term "democracy" around in our foreign policy rhetoric. It gives people the idea that the most important thing in politics is voting. But the most important thing in politics is freedom. The American model is not "democracy," it's constitutionally-limited government with a democratic component (even still). Far, far more important than the fact that Americans get to vote is the large category of things on which Americans don't get to vote. Locking up people who write bad things, jailing people for worshipping the wrong gods, compelling self-incriminating testimony in criminal cases, issuing bills of attainder and other items on an admittedly shrinking list. Even here, it's shameful that people can vote to prohibit behaviors that a sane country would call "making an honest living." But we had the idea right. Then we go an screw up explaining it to everyone else.

"Democracy," circumscribed, appears to be an indispensible component of the free society package. But it is not itself freedom and our evangelists could make that clearer. If they believe it. If they don't they should tell us, so we can better use our circumscribed votes next time they come up for election.

Preach it, brother.

Read The Rest Scale: always read the Jim.

12/18/2003 12:11:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Ambassador Ken Cochran:

I want to speak to your supervisor.

Charlie Young: My supervisor? Well, I'm personal aide to the President, so right now my supervisor is kinda busy looking for a back door to throw you out of. But I'll let him know.

I want my wings nuclear hot.

12/17/2003 03:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SECULARISM GONE WILD. This is, to use the vernacular, nuts.

And have I mentioned I'm an atheist?

12/17/2003 01:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Don't worry, Sam. Rosie knows an idiot when she sees one.
From the collection of Not Tolkien Movie Quotes Made While Watching The DVDs. Again. Of course.

12/17/2003 02:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OUR AMYGDALA PROMISE: whenever our crack editorial team leaves the office, for however long or short, we're not going to bring in some dumbass crackhead, who is too cowardly to give a name, to substitute for us. We won't even bring in any dumbasses, or crackheads, or other folks with real names!

Amygdala: accept no substitutes because you can't! We won't let you. And we don't fake it.

(Geez, if a blog can bring in a pinch hitter, what's the frigging point in the first place?)

Our alternative slogan: Amygdala: Not a team player!

Last try: I'm me. Beat that, group blogs, or subbies!

12/17/2003 02:00:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, December 16, 2003
PEOPLE WHO WEAR TIN-FOIL HATS was what my friend Kathryn Cramer wrote about, and now she's attracted messages from people who wear tin-foil hats. Oh, dear. Man, I've got to start writing more about smart beautiful women interested in meeting single male bloggers, and nifty well-paying jobs involving writing, editing, or research.

Read The Rest if you dare risk Remote Neural Monitoring!

12/16/2003 02:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BAD VIBRATIONS. Yes, it's those dildos in Texas again.
A Texas housewife is in big trouble with the law for selling a vibrator to a pair of undercover cops, and the Brisbane vibrator company she works for says Texas is an "antiquated place'' with more than its share of "prudes.''

Joanne Webb, a former fifth-grade teacher and mother of three, was in a county court in Cleburne, Texas, on Monday to answer obscenity charges for selling the vibrator to undercover narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple in search of a sex aid.

Webb, a saleswoman for Passion Parties of Brisbane, faces a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

At least they're not wasting time on the War On Some Drugs. Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

12/16/2003 02:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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COMMENTS. I'd noticed a few days ago that my comments were occasionally not being listed properly, meaning there might be two comments, but the little thingie (is there a technical name for it?) would only say "one comment," say. Actually, this has on and off happened before, but it was happening a lot lately. I've checked and suddenly confirmed that it's presently all bonkers, and there's no way to tell if comments have been left without opening them. And, of course, Enetation is frequently hard to reach anyway.

You get what you pay for, so I can't complain, but I'm letting you know. Feel free to comment! I hope I'll find them!

ADDENDUM: I've fiddled about with the debugging functions on the Enetation page, and I hope this will have fixed the problem.

12/16/2003 01:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW TO FLY ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL at 220 miles per hour with no plane. Kewl.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

12/16/2003 06:51:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BRAVE, BRAVE, SIR ROBIN. Peter Jackson's CGI soldiers were programmed to react individually as to how they would fight and move. It was realistic enough that they kept not being able to keep the soldiers from fleeing the battlefield.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5. (Via Sore Eyes.)

12/16/2003 06:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE WAR ON STRAW® is what Andrew Northrup called it, with typically apt precision. I've been meaning to write about it for quite some time, but have kept waiting for some diamond-like brilliant prose to come to me. Or something. As usual, it hasn't, so I'm just going to say it.

There are, I think we can all agree without resort to snobbishness, 50% of the people who are below average in intelligence, or sense, or wit, or perceptiveness, or any measure we wish to take.

Another way of putting that is that there are, without getting into particular definitions, or digressions into the 47 kinds of intelligence, a fair number of stupid people out there to balance all you saintly and brilliant people who are so kind as to put up with my gibberings and annoying lapses.

So we can take it as given that for any political position, or political set, we can find a bunch of idiot supporters for that set, just as we can also find at least a few brilliant explicators who can make clear why that seemingly loony position is actually quite defensible, when you look at it the right way.

So I have to say that the ever-increasing recent trend of many political bloggers -- some from each side of the column as they perceive it, though I'm seeing more from the right guilty of this of late (but that might be sample error on my part) -- to react to any news event they perceive as likely to be politically polarizing by going to a site known to be full of what H. L. Mencken called "the booboisie," mouthing off with sub-simian mewlings admidst the mouth breathings, is not a pretty sight. It would seem to be a masochistic endeavor, but no! It has a purpose! Because then said blogger can pull up this eagerly sought handful of soiled straw and proclaim: this is what The Other Side believes! That Other Side! They're so stupid! Ha ha ha, stupid other side! Me not stupid like them! Me smart. Stupid other side!

As it turns out, many scientific studies on this blogging practice have been done, and the research clearly indicates that this is, in fact, a completely ridiculous technique that only makes the highly intelligent blogger engaging in it look like a self-serving hypocritical (since the technique can universally be applied back to Your Side) nitwit.

A suggestion therefore: stop looking like a self-serving hypocritical nit-wit. I'll turn this car right around if I have to! Don't make me come back there!

Let's just say that many of the Biggest Name bloggers, as well as the most hysterically enraged, have been rilly getting into this kewl technique of late. Y'all might want to rethink that one.

Sites to avoid trolling and citing: Democratic Underground; Lucianne .com; any blog's comments section.

See, it's arguing against straw because random people you've never heard of who are foaming at the mouth, scientific studies reveal, turn out not to be spokespeople for a given Party or position.

Fair game, on the other hand, are actual respected bloggers, reputable professional columnists, or actual politicans. They can actually be mocked as representing some respected segment of a population holding an opinion for a given Party or position.

They can be held to the standard of being expected to generate a defensible, intelligent, position.

Are we all clear on this now? Okay. Have a good shift, and let's be careful out there.

ADDENDUM: Roy Edroso asks, at some length, where do we draw the line on who is legitimate to respond to? This came up in e-mail with another blogger who was unnecessarily apologetic about taking on a prominent blogger. Here's my (slightly edited) response:

As I said, I think linking to a "reputable" blogger -- which I didn't define, but all I meant is someone who has some noticeable number of either readers or links from other bloggers -- is fine. If people are actually granting someone some status, by methods such as those, taking them down is utterly legitimate.

It's the technique of going trolling for unknown loonies at sites guaranteed to supply them -- be that the comments section of LGF, or Democratic Underground, or wherever you can find lots of heavy breathing and ranting, and then holding said ranter up as evidence of what "The Left" or "The Right" believe, that I'd like to see mercilessly mocked until it's regarded as illegitimate throughout the blogosphere. It's a nonsensical use of a straw man, and although I didn't name names, I'm extremely disappointed to see otherwise respectable bloggers using it as a crutch. People including [X], [Y], and many lesser-known lights, such as [Z] and on and on.

To paraphrase Andrew Northrup -- who is a must-read, in my opinion -- people need to argue with actual representatives of the positions they disagree with, not with representatives of the voices in their head.

If you'd like to help push forward this meme, I'd be delighted.

And so I would be. So, yes, Roy Edroso, take on NRO's The Corner all you want. Just don't go fishing at Free Republic, which is a prime example of the sort of luncheon buffet I had in mind. And:
Oh, yeah, the other problem with this program -- it just wouldn't be as much fun.
Sorry, not good enough. Of course, if that's the sort of writing you want to do, you're free to do so. But if you do, the terrorists will have won. Just so you know.

Thanks to various other linkers here and there. And there. And here.

LATER: I guess no one can now link to WorldNetDaily (which would be a blessing towards the truth) without also agreeing that Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons.

12/16/2003 05:37:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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T. PRATCHETT explains:
When I was 13, I went to my first science fiction convention. How long ago was that? So long ago that everyone wore sports jackets, except for Mike Moorcock.

Most science fiction writers were once fans. There's a habit they have, not of paying back, but of paying forward; I know of no other branch of literature where the established "names" so keenly encourage wannabe writers to become their competitors. I came back from that event determined to be a writer. After all, I'd shaken hands with Arthur C Clarke, so now it was just a matter of hard work...

And goes on to explain how he writes. Me, I was 14 when I went to my first conventions, but I'd already been involved in fanzines since I was 12. I started working professionally in the field when I was 15. Come to think of it, I was also 14 when I shook hands with Arthur C. Clarke, too.

Read The Rest Scale: if you're interested. I would be, but you? Who knows? It's good stuff, though, I'm telling you.

12/16/2003 04:58:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FOR US, THE LECTURING. Details on the unpublished first novel by Robert Heinlein that he felt was so awful he burned what he thought were all the copies.
In Heinlein's America of 2086, the country did not enter the Second World War, remaining isolated. (Hitler commits suicide after the collapse of the German economy, Mussolini just retires and the Duke of Windsor becomes king of a united Europe).

In the novel, in the 1950s, Fiorella LaGuardia (mayor of New York when Heinlein was writing) begins a series of economic reforms, starting with a banking system based on the Social Credit theories of Socred thinker Clifford Hugh Douglas. In the novel, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds these changes. In reality, in Canada, the Supreme Court rejected them.

In For Us, the Living, later presidents complete the reforms. These reforms then give people a basic income that bridges the gap between production and consumption, which then allows the Americans of 2086 to do what they really want, free of economic fear.


For Us, the Living also includes one chilling incident, a surprise attack on the island of Manhattan by two giant helicopters that flood the island with poison gas, killing 80 per cent of the population. The helicopters are based on aircraft carriers and the attack comes when the United States is at war with Argentina, Brazil and Chile in December 2003.

Given my growing up as a Heinlein reader, deep involvement with science fiction society at such an early age, and later passing contacts with Heinlein, naturally I'll read it when I get a chance. I can't help but find it of historical interest, but rather strongly doubt I'll find it any more enthralling than his later, bloated, rambling, lecturing, novels, which did I mention I don't feel were entirely successful? (Friday being a part exception.)

Here's a really stupid, extraneous, line, by the way:

He supported Senator Barry Goldwater for president in 1964 (some political analysts consider Goldwater the first neo-conservative).
Hello? Strike the "neo." Migod, we have to explain to people now that Goldwater was a conservative? I don't remember him writing The Conscience Of A Neo-Conservative, do you? Nitwit.

12/16/2003 04:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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KINGS, RETURNING. Reviews, ecstatic. John Shirley. Stephen Hunter. Elvis Mitchell. To start. And, alas for Johann Hari, LOTR wins the Big Read.
The trilogy won 174,000 votes, 23% of the poll.

The other main contender going into Saturday night was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which won 135,000 votes.

Philip Pullman's metaphysical trilogy of children's books, His Dark Materials, came third with 63,000; Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was fourth with 57,000; and JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was fifth with 55,000.

Damn shame about all that trashy fantasy being so popular, eh, but whaddya gonna do?

12/16/2003 04:39:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, December 15, 2003
The boss looked like a pig, his secretary was a brainless blonde, the computer geek was a sexual pervert and the senior broker was a chronic drunk.

The tension they supposedly created in an insurance company was so distressing that Bruno Perara, 46, turned to violent fantasy and wiped them all out in a novel called Little Murders Among Partners.

The book, inspired by his workmates' characters, cost him his job after selling only 858 copies - half of them bought by the company's 450 staff. But the author, an administrator, has ended up £50,000 richer.

The money was awarded by a mediation court in Brittany for unfair dismissal, after it ruled that the unique case of literary office rage could not be blamed for internal conflicts at the French Defence and Protection Company.

When the book was published last year several employees, including the chairman, began legal action, claiming to have recognised themselves behind the invented names for staff who were supposedly sleeping together, putting their hands in the till or taking too many sickies.

"The workers were portrayed with violence and nastiness," the company's lawyer, Myriam Adjerad, said. "No one wanted to work with Mr Perara any more. The caricatures were insulting and amounted to virulent personal attacks."

But Mr Perara told the mediators that he had issued a disclaimer at the front of the book, saying the story was pure fiction, and "there had never been any murders in the company".

The mediators said the company had not suffered any loss, because sales had risen after the book was published, and Mr Perara had not committed a serious enough fault to be sacked without proper notice.

Mr Perara is preparing a second book, inspired by the obscure world of the French mediation system.

Those wacky French. Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

12/15/2003 09:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GEE, WHAT DID HE SAY? Eric Alterman:
Speaking of whom, last night at the 137th anniversary dinner for the Nation—watching a moving, poetic and deeply patriotic speech by Robert Byrd followed by a belligerently moronic one by Aaron McGruder--I....
Gotta wonder.

12/15/2003 08:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I CAN'T HEAR YOU! My fingers are in my ears. I generally quite like Johann Hari's writing, so I'm studiously ignoring this classic piece of anti-Tolkien stupidity. It hauls out all the traditional cliches and condescension, including the classic "Middle-Earth is racist" trope. Eye-roll.

12/15/2003 07:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FUN MATH PROBLEMS. Brad deLong has 23 listed and wants one hundred total to help his kids get why math can be fun. I have trouble with that one, myself. Give generously to this man. He needs only, uh, 56, no, 173, uh, 12 more! Send them now!

(And dig the fabulous art here.)

12/15/2003 06:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EVERYONE LOVES NEW ZEALAND, especially after it became Middle-Earth. But. Oopsie.
But the complexion of a sitting government should not always be taken to represent that of the country as a whole, and there are cracks in New Zealand's tolerant self-image.

The most worrying of them at the moment is spreading around the figure of Ahmed Zaoui, a member of Algeria's Islamist FIS party which was deposed after winning the country's 1992 elections.

He sought asylum in New Zealand just over a year ago, and since then he has been held in detention, accused by the spy agency SIS of being a threat to national security and threatened with deportation back to Algeria, where he faces a death sentence.

Were it not for his situation, it would be easy to regard the whole thing as Kafkaesque farce; certainly, there has been a touch of the keystone cops in his treatment.

When Zaoui arrived at Auckland airport last December, a translation error resulted in officials believing he had owned up to being a member of the GIA, a brutally militant Algerian Islamist group. Before the mistake could be corrected, it was flashed to Interpol offices on five continents.

Seven months later, a communications breakdown within the immigration department led to a senior official denying any knowledge of Zaoui while his colleagues were simultaneously owning up to it. Worse still, a memo was then leaked in which the official lambasted his staff for failing to "lie in unison".

In August, the government's refugee appeals body rejected the SIS's threat assessment, saying it was based on questionable sources gleaned from the internet and news reports. The SIS responded in the traditional manner of spy agencies caught with their pants down: by announcing that it had other, more damning evidence, that was unfortunately too sensitive to release.

What little credibility the original threat assessment retained was demolished in September, when it turned out that the decision had been based on material taken from the website of an American conspiracy theorist who believes the IMF created Aids and the Queen is a drug dealer.

I guess Lyndon LaRouche's fame hasn't spread to New Zealand. Until now.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

12/15/2003 06:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A TRYING QUESTION is "who tries Saddam?"

The people with the best claim are the Iraqis. We have a certain interest, as well, of course. Then there's the fact that Iraq doesn't currently have a functioning justice system, and also that under present circumstances, any Iraq-only trial will be seen in many quarters of the world as being the work of American puppets; thus the suggestion of international involvement (the current trial of Milosovic isn't being complained about by anyone but pro-fascists). Mention has also been made of a minor Kuwait grievance.

No one mentions that a country called "Iran" has a pretty good claim. Hey, hey, Saddam Hussein, how many Iranians did you kill in those days?

The Iraqis suffered an estimated 375,000 casualties, the equivalent of 5.6 million for a population the size of the United States. Another 60,000 were taken prisoner by the Iranians. Iran's losses may have included more than 1 million people killed or maimed. The war claimed at least 300,000 Iranian lives and injured more than 500,000, out of a total population which by the war's end was nearly 60 million.
No, I'm, of course, not proposing he be turned over to the Iranians. I'm just always interesting in Big Honking Obvious Things that just, well, slip people's minds.

I do wonder at the assumption many Americans seem to have that the US should -- of course, it's not even a question -- decide what to do with Saddam, rather than the Iraqis. Yes, possession is nine-tenths of the law, it is said, but I've looked into this, and it turns out we don't actually hold that up as a principle of justice or law.

12/15/2003 05:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Customized paperback editions of classic novels starring YOU! We offer the largest selection of personalized books where YOU and your friends and family enter the story. Whether you're looking for the perfect birthday, wedding, anniversary or romantic gift or simply a unique present for the holidays, you've come to the world's best source for personalized gifts — Customized Classics!


Currently we offer the following personalized books: A Christmas Carol, Anne of Green Gables, several Sherlock Holmes titles, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . Shortly we will also be adding Robin Hood, Tarzan, Pride & Prejudice and The Mark of Zorro and a new line of personalized children's books.

Ya gotta pay for the service, though. Romeo and Juliet has a happy ending version.
Romeo What the heck was that big scene all about?
Juliet Who knows? I just passed out for a second and everybody's losing it. Luckily the dagger wasn't sharp.
Romeo And the apothecary screwed up big-time! What do you say we head home?
Juliet Sounds like a plan, my medieval man!
[Exeunt Romeo and Juliet hand in hand]

12/15/2003 05:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOU'VE SEEN THIS political map, right?

12/15/2003 04:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Indeed, Dean suggested that on some issues, the difference between Bush and himself was more of tone and temperament. He said, for instance, he would not have warned Taiwan not to hold a referendum on Chinese missiles if the Chinese premier was at his side, as Bush did last week. "The president's policy is right, but the president's public slap [at Taiwan] wasn't necessary," Dean said.
This is exactly wrong. One can take several levels of stand as to how we should approach the Taiwan question, which at present is largely a question of how we deal with the ruling party's movement towards declaring Taiwan to be a separate state from China, and their use of that issue as a campaign issue to ensure re-election (and re-election).

Standing up for their democratic choice to be free and independent is, of course, the morally correct, pure, and right thing to do. Especially given the still ruthless and authoritarian, not to mention corrupt, nature of the mainland regime.

Small problem, of course, is that China keeps loudly announcing that any steps towards Taiwanese independence means war. And they mean it. They're utterly fixated on keeping Taiwan as part of China, however loosely and in name only for the semi-indefinite furture. They are not going to compromise for any reason in the forseeable future.

And, of course, in the real world, this means that if Taiwan takes even further significant rhetorical steps -- such as the proposed referendum on an intent of eventual independence -- a rain of missiles will pour down on Taiwan.

That would be bad. All around.

Now, Bush, seeking to preserve the peace of the status quo, has recently publically rebuked the Taiwanese leadership. Dean has now criticized this. Problem is, all reports from Taiwan make utterly clear that the Taiwanese leadership is in complete denial that they won't have full military and diplomatic support from the US in defense of their independence, or, at the very least, their right to declare their feelings on the matter. Reports make clear that what Bush needs to do to have any effect is make louder declarations and rebukes of the Taiwanese leadership, if he is to penetrate their state of denial, and cause them to pull back from their dangerous, if completely understandable and sympathetic, course.

Now, you can take any number of stands as to how much or little we should oppose or counter Taiwanese independence, or, again at least, their free speech right to state their aspirations.

But to say, as Dean just has, that we should support Bush's policy (which is to maintain the status quo, and thus prevent the Taiwanese from holding their referendum and causing war), but not publically rebuke the Taiwanese, well, that's simply insane. We can't secretly speak to the majority of Taiwanese (a land that is now, thankfully, a democracy at long last). If they're not publically disabused of their confusion as to how far the US will support them, they will walk into war, and possibly take us with them.

That's not the foreign policy, nor the foreign policy smarts, I want to see from Howard Dean. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Relevant stories: here, here, here, for example.

12/15/2003 11:06:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MUSINGS ON A PLOT DEVICE. Zoe Bartlett spent a season dating Charlie, and being a source of plot tension as threatening letters were received against inter-racial dating, culminating in a season finale with the shooting of the President, the deputy White House chief of staff (Josh Lyman), and others.

Zoe Bartlett spent another season having broken up with Charlie, dating Jean-Paul, the French dandy, culminating in a season finale in which she is dosed with Ecstasy, and kidnapped, and the President temporarily steps down as the Republican Speaker of the House becomes Temporary President.

I very much like the actress who plays Zoe (Elisabeth Moss, I had to look it up), and the character they've given her, but if she's seen taking one step near a mountain lion, I'm outa there.

12/15/2003 10:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHY DEMOCRATS SHOULDN'T GET THEIR KNICKERS IN A TWIST over the horrors of the anti-Dean ad with, gasp, outrage, Osama bin Laden in it is explained by Andrew Northrup.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

12/15/2003 01:32:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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After his capture, Saddam was taken to a holding cell at the Baghdad Airport. He didn’t answer any of the initial questions directly, the official said, and at times seemed less than fully coherent. The transcript was full of “Saddam rhetoric type stuff,” said the official who paraphrased Saddam’s answers to some of the questions. When asked “How are you?” said the official, Saddam responded, “I am sad because my people are in bondage.” When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, “If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?”
Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for interesting interrogation stuff. If you can read while his people are in bondage.

12/15/2003 01:11:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, December 14, 2003
SO IF TASK FORCE 121 IS SO SUPER-SECRET, how come I keep reading about it?

(That's a rhetorical question, I say, son.)

12/14/2003 11:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ROBERT MCNAMARA HAS SOMETHING TO SAY about governments not being willing to admit being wrong. I suspect that since this piece is in the Movie section, most bloggers will miss it. That would be a shame.
Re-examining our reasoning is not something that has come naturally to American statesmen. In fact, Mr. McNamara is one of very few senior American government officials ever to admit major error without being forced to do so. In an interview last month, I asked him why. "People don't want to admit they made mistakes," he said. "This is true of the Catholic Church, it's true of companies, it's true of nongovernmental organizations and it's certainly true of political bodies. My rule has been to surface the tough problems. It's very unpleasant to argue with people you admire and associate with. But you have to force debate."


Remarkably, what seems to grate at people most about Mr. McNamara these days is less his role in shaping a disastrous Vietnam policy than what many take to be his public martyrdom. While it is true that his reckoning is partial and unsatisfying, and while it is true that the book did help launch him back into the limelight, it is also true that he had a lot to lose by awakening the ghosts of Vietnam. By choosing to excavate the past, he has exposed himself to ridicule, resuscitated his lowest moments in public life and let an emotional genie out of the bottle. And since Mr. McNamara seems to have generated more scorn than those who never acknowledged error — e.g., Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger, and three American presidents — it is unlikely that other officials will be eager to follow his example.

In the absence of full-fledged Congressional investigations, American policymakers rarely look back. They are bound by continuity and fealty across administrations and generations. With the proliferation of class-action suits and the advent of global courtrooms, American officials are now explicitly counseled to avoid public reckoning, for fear of creating legal liability (or constraining their ability to do it all over again, when it suits them). Whether regarding the Vietnam War, America's cold war assassinations or our misguided former alliance with Saddam Hussein, American officials keep their eyes fixed on the future. They rarely admit responsibility for failure, for costly meddling or for large-scale human suffering. They resist debate — internally or publicly — on how good intentions went astray. And they most certainly don't apologize to those harmed.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/14/2003 08:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Read The Rest Scale 4 out of 5 for a colorful account of colorful language. Interesting that they're saying that:

Mr. Bremer and General Sanchez, they said, did not speak, though Dr. Chalabi said that Mr. Hussein was "deferential and respectful to the Americans."

"You can conclude from that some aspect that he was reconciled to his situation," he said.

I wonder if they have a team that's been prepped to interrogate him. Imagine having that job.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for a colorful account of colorful language.

12/14/2003 07:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HECK OF AN NEW IRAQI ARMY they're turning out with these methods. What a fiasco.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

12/14/2003 05:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ARE YOU Grammatically Incorrect?
Nice work!

Do you diagram sentences in your spare time? You got 10/10 correct.

Geez, give us a tough one. This one isn't:
Watch Your Language

You sure know what you are talking about! You got 8/8 correct.

12/14/2003 01:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A LITTLE DISSING HERE, not unearned, from Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post towards the Telegraph:
Annapolis, Md.: Will the Post be looking into the story reported by the Telegraph about connections between Abu Nidal, Mohammad Atta and Saddam Hussein?

Very likely to be untrue, but would be immensely significant if true. And there's no mention on the Post's Web site about it yet.

Robert G. Kaiser: If we put every rumor and story in the British press (not to mention many others around the world) on the Web site, you'd be dizzy--and no wiser. The Post does not print other papers' uncheckable "exclusive" stories. And I can tell you that there have been dozens of bad--that is, wrong--ones over recent months. The Telegraph, Daily and Sunday, has not earned our respect for accuracy or careful reporting.

Yeah. I'm always surprised how many bloggers, of every flavor of partisanship, will pick up stories from British newspapers, and solemnly make declarations based on assertions in the story, not noticing that the claims made have no source whatever beyond the writer pulling it out of his or her ass. British papers are just full of that sort of "reporting." "So and so is doing such and such." Our source? Radio waves in our teeth.

12/14/2003 01:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Happy happy joy joy.

12/14/2003 06:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, December 13, 2003
THE FCC IS A THOUGHTFUL BODY as everyone knows.
...that students can use a common swear word "only in the figurative noun form or the adjective form." The students, like many lawmakers, are puzzled.
George Carlin's career is about to take off again:
Ose and Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.) last week introduced a bill that lists eight words and phrases that could not be spoken on broadcast television without punishment.
Read The effing Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

12/13/2003 05:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JEEZ, THAT IS cromulent. Who knew?

12/13/2003 05:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, December 12, 2003
Not a dreidl. This ad went out to thousands of households in north Texas. The story says it's "creating controversy."

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Incidentally, the dates this year are from sunset of December 19th to December 26th, and it's not the equivalent of Christmas. How come nobody ever wishes me happy Lag BaOmer, or Simchat Torah? Oh, well, it beats "Happy Yom HaShoah!

12/12/2003 12:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEARCH VOYEURS lets you see what people are searching for on eighteen search engines, as well as make random searches on several.

12/12/2003 12:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A deviously smart American administration would have quietly distributed contracts for rebuilding Iraq as it saw fit, without any announced policy of discrimination. At the end of the day, it would be clear that opponents of American policy didn't fare too well in the bidding process. Message delivered, but with a certain subtlety.

A more clever American administration would have thrown a contract or two to a couple of those opponents, to a German firm, for instance, as a way of wooing at least the business sectors in a country where many businessmen do want to strengthen ties with the United States.

A truly wise American administration would have opened the bidding to all comers, regardless of their opposition to the war -- as a way of buying those countries into the Iraq effort, building a little goodwill for the future, and demonstrating to the world a little magnanimity.

But instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing. The announcement of a policy of discriminating against French, German, and Russian firms has made credible European charges of vindictive pettiness and general disregard for the opinion of even fellow liberal democracies. More important, it has made former Secretary of State James Baker's very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible. This is to say nothing of other areas where we need to work with these governments.

This decision is a blunder. We trust it will be reversed.

What goddamn, wimpy, Euro-loving, soft-on-the-UN, Donk cheese-eating surrender-monkey liberals wrote this trash?

William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. 4 out of 5 to check the "sponsored links" at the bottom of the page; gotta love it.

12/12/2003 05:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The amazing thing is that these are passages from real books, not stuff written as parody to enter a contest.

Read The Rest Scale: Yes! Yes! YESSSSS!!!

12/12/2003 03:45:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ERIC IDLE HAS a new song.
Wow. Last night was a blast. I don't remember a noisier reaction from an audience ever. Not even in the old Python days. Two thousand one hundred people were jammed into the Orpheum Theater and boy did they have a good time. Huge explosions of laughter greeted my opening gags, waves of sound like thunder claps came bounding back from the depths of this old theater. They almost pushed you over on stage. It was gigantic. I don't recall anything like it. It was almost scary and this old house, decorated in Moroccan bordello style, reverberated with their response. I can die a happy man, with "Remember Vancouver" on my lips as I expire backstage in some Birmingham shit hole.


We started out loud and full at Edmonton and built in Calgary and last night in Vancouver capped it all. They screamed and bayed and stood and roared. At the end I said I'd like to try out a new song John and I had just written, and craved their patience for the world premier of this new song. Well I could hardly get past the first line.

John played a soft Christmassey Jingley Bells intro. It was Bing Crosby time.

"Fuck Christmas" I began.

Well I had to stop. The gales of laughter that greeted that line were overwhelming. We began again, more huge laughs. They laughed and cheered at every single line. At the end of Verse One I had to stop them they were applauding and yelling so hard. We managed to get through Verse Two to hysteria but the capper last two lines had them screaming. I have never witnessed anything like it. It was beyond gratifying.

Here is a good beginning to an entry:
At least three of the Seven Dwarves are present today: Cranky, Grumpy, and Horny. I need a good stirrup-pumped enema, a spanking and a thorough work out by a butt-naked heavily-oiled sexual athlete. I have to settle for doing my show in Seattle.
Two other thoughts:
I like the simple things in life. Like luxury.


I think it is high time Python was recognized as a Religion. People say it changed their lives. It seems to give people hope. They gather together in groups to chant mass quotes. We have all spent three days on a cross. And it would give us a very decent tax break. For fuck sake if Scientology can be rated a religion then Pythology ought to qualify under any decent tax system.

Read The Rest: as you wish, unless you're a lumberjack, and you don't care.

12/12/2003 03:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I'D LIKE TO READ this biography of Nikita Sergeyevich, by William Taubman.

12/12/2003 02:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE PATRICK O'BRIAN compendium. Also this. I give you all joy. Hoist the Blue Peter!

12/12/2003 02:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I HAVE A FALSE MEMORY THAT ALAN ALDA has hosted Scientific American Frontiers since 1990. In some strange new meaning of "new," the Grauniad announces that Alda has a "new guise as host of a science series on American TV."

However, the article on implanted memory is otherwise quite worthwhile. Based largely, but not entirely, on the work of Elizabeth Loftus, it's very good on describing how entirely easy it is to create wholly false memories in other people.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/12/2003 01:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Read The Rest Scale: if you're into logic and math problems.

12/12/2003 01:41:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PRIVACY? WHAT'S THAT? Fighting fat is what's important in Britain.
David Hinchliffe, the MP who was instrumental in securing a ban on tobacco advertising earlier this year, suggested supermarkets' loyalty cards could be used to monitor eating habits.

"You have enormous power with these," he said, holding up a Sainsbury's Nectar card. "Perhaps there is a use for these to steer people, in some respects, towards more healthy products."

Hell, why not just issue people rations that will be good for them?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 to learn about Westminister bullying supermarkets and people for Their Own Good.

12/12/2003 12:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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One year after President Bush sought to energize the nation's bioterrorism preparations with an unprecedented smallpox vaccination campaign, the program has all but ground to a halt. A report released yesterday, meanwhile, finds that only two states -- Florida and Illinois -- are prepared to distribute and administer vaccines or medicines that would be needed in the event of a major outbreak or attack.

Fewer than a dozen states have written plans for dealing with other public health threats such as pandemic flu, the report added, and most remain ill-prepared for any large-scale emergency.

After two years of work and $2 billion in federal aid, "states are only modestly better prepared to respond to public health emergencies than they were prior to Sept. 11, 2001," the Trust for America's Health, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health advocacy group, concluded.


When Bush announced the program -- he was among the first people to be inoculated -- the administration said it intended to immunize nearly 500,000 public health and hospital workers by the end of February this year. The plan called for vaccinating millions of police officers and firefighters by spring, and by summer, Bush promised, any American who insisted would be able to receive the vaccine. That has not happened.

Read The Rest Scale: if this sort of thing, you know, bothers you.

12/12/2003 12:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LETTERS TO STARS AND STRIPES from soldiers. Some unhappy and some upbeat. Some comment positively about the Bush visit, some don't.

It's clear there's a mix of opinions. Bloggers using this sort of thing to "prove" Their Side Is Right don't wind up looking like they're doing anything other than cherry-picking to Prove Their Case. I'm just saying.

12/12/2003 12:27:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, December 11, 2003
THE DEAN CAMPAIGN AS revival tent movement. I have mixed feelings about a campaign as therapy. It may be immensely useful, but a) in the wrong person's hands it can be the basis for proto-fascism, and b) I'm old fashioned and have the notion that campaigns should be about policies, not Feeling Better About One's Self.

This is highly impractical and idealistic, I know. Shame on me.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

12/11/2003 11:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NO COMMENT. From Haaretz:
An official French government report submitted by an Interior Ministry sponsored task committee concluded there was a rise in the so called ‘new anti-Semitism,’ relating to a surge in attacks on European Jews since the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Israel Radio reported Friday.

The task force was created to address the problems associated with the assimilation of Muslims into French society.

The committee stated that for the first time, the number of attacks on Jews surpassed the number of racist attacks on any other minority last year.

According to the report, wearing a skullcap in the street or on public transportation could be dangerous, and that the expression ‘dirty Jew’ has become common in school yards. Many Jewish pupils and teachers have left the public education system for Jewish and Catholic private schools because of the racial problems they encountered.

In several schools it is impossible to teach about the Holocaust, because pupils dispute taught facts about the genocide of Jews by the Nazis, the report stated.

The report also concluded that the rise in anti-Semitism is nourished by media images of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The authors emphasized that despite feelings of rage or solidarity with one of the sides, the conflict cannot be displaced into French society.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5; that's the whole thing.

12/11/2003 11:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MY NEW "WORD" OF THE DAY is "sharognard" , which is the product of some nutbar running around posting raving messages about "judeofascists" to various blogs.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

12/11/2003 11:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE OLD GUARD is going to war for the first time since Vietnam. Movie fans may recall the portrayal of this in 1987's sad Gardens of Stone starring James Caan, Anjelica Huston, and James Earl Jones (and a lot of other folks, from Lawrence Fishburne to Dean Stockwell).

I don't usually like to refer to movies, particularly about the military, when discussing real life, but GoS was such an elegiac, tragic, film that it gives today's news a particular resonance for me. (It's not a great film; it was less than the sum of its parts, but its parts were very good; the garden of stone is Arlington Cemetery.)

Read The Rest Scale: as you wish.

12/11/2003 10:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEYMOUR HERSH does his intelligence-focused reporting on counter-insurgency strategies in Iraq, advice from Israel, Task Force 121, General William Jerry Boykin, and so on. Hersh is always worth reading.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

12/11/2003 09:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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