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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook

"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr

"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion

"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson

"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri

"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke

"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant

"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville

"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant

"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.

"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus

"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814

"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944

"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News

"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas

"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero

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

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson

"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler

"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein

"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms

"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).

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

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

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

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

"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128

"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)

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

"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs

"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden

"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman


Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber

Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog

Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Saturday, January 31, 2004
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE. I know that when I post something such as this, a piece on the hardships the fence will cause Palestinian villagers, the inevitable knee-jerk response from some will be along the lines of "well, that's what happens when you support terrorism," and "they need to get a new government and there will be no need for a fence," and so on.

There's certainly some truth to that, but it's also true that by no means do all Palestinians support terrorism, and most would be happy to get a new government. The fact is that the Israeli/Palestinian situation is a complex one, not simply reducible to Everything Israel Does Is Right And Palestinians Should Just Have To Lump It.

Some of the same folks who will argue with my pointing to the plight of these people in this article will happily quote Haaretz when it's a piece about Arafat being duplicitious, or about the horrors of Palestinian terrorism, or on several dozen other subjects. But, then, on this sort of topic, suddenly Haaretz will be revealed as the liberal organ of bleeding-heart peaceniks, many of whom turn out to be traitors to Israel!

It's remarkable that I have to say this, but Palestinians are people, too, and many of them don't deserve to be punished. In the end, it's to Israel's benefit to not appear to them as Pharoah.

Read The Rest: 4 out of 5.

1/31/2004 09:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE EKPYROTIC UNIVERSE. John Scalzi explains the difference between how science is actually challenged, and creationism. He does this by way of briefly and clearly explaining the "brane" theory of creation. This after arousing the ire of Creationists here with a post on the much-discussed proposal that Georgia delete the word "evolution" from their curriculuum.
So, why is this good science?

1. It attempts to explain the observed data collected about the universe.
2. It does not start from a conclusion about the nature of the universe and work its way backward.
3. Those who have presented the hypothesis work in the field and know its intricacies -- indeed, one of of the presenters helped create the current "best-fit" model of the universe.
4. The presenters questioned their own hypothesis extensively and critically over a significant amount of time before presenting it to their peers -- i.e., performed due diligence.
5. They have presented it for peer review and accept the idea that it may be incorrect and recognize the need for data to support their hypothesis.

Should we teach the ekpyrotic universe in our schools alongside the Big Bang, as an alternate theory of the creation of the universe? No -- because there's not enough data to support its hypothesis one way or the other. And certainly if its fundamental theses are disproved by data, it should be tossed aside as a viable theory -- much like the "Steady State" theory was displaced by the Big Bang theory. We might briefly note it as an example of an alternate theory (and I should note that in my own astronomy book, I do just that -- giving it a paragraph in a sidebar about alternate theories), but until it proves itself viable, it doesn't merit displacing the current model or being taught as a "separate-but-equal" alternative.

This is how science is challenged: Thoughtfully, carefully and in service to the universe as it is, not how we wish it to be. Would that all those who wish to their "theories" considered in our places of learning were so devoted to the processes of science, and willing to have it challenged before proclaiming it as a viable "alternative."
Fine stuff. Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

1/31/2004 07:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE OBJECT OF EMULATION. Some examples of speech-writing for the current crop of Presidential candidates to study:
"Progression is not proclamation nor palaver," began his speech nominating William Howard Taft at the 1912 convention. "It is not pretense nor play on prejudice. It is not of personal pronouns nor perennial pronouncement. It is not the perturbation of a people passion-wrought, nor a promise proposed...."

In the 1920 campaign he used a memorable stream of alliterations to tell the country what to expect of a Harding presidency:
not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality but sustainment in triumphant nationality.
As the famous quote goes:
Senator William McAdoo described his mature speeches as "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea."
Suggestion for a slogan for one candidate: "Return To Joenormalcy!"

Read The Rest as interested if you want to see the interesting meeting of John W. Dean and Warren Harding, as narrated by Russell Baker.

1/31/2004 04:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NOT THE SCHOOL OF ROCK. Inspired by the Jack Black film, the Guardian gathered several 6 and 7-year-olds, played them some classic rock, and asked them what they thought. The results: pretty hilarious.
Gabrielle Argh! Vampires!

Beth Ooh, I think this is by my dad.

Ben This is rock music but you could play it at a disco.

Benjamin Yeah, at a dude disco.

Sophie No, not Australia, somewhere like Australia but different.

Read as interested, for considerable amusement. Prediction: Ben will grow up to be a rock critic. Notice the growth in Benjamin's numbers.

1/31/2004 04:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE VERY MORAL, ANTI-WAR EU. Peace is the new way for Europe. In this it contrasts with the militaristic United States, whose arms, along with Israel's, are a threat to the whole world. Right?
The Bush administration has quietly lodged a series of formal protests with the European Union and its members in an attempt to persuade the body not to lift its 14-year ban on weapons sales to China, according to diplomats from several European countries.

China has stepped up its campaign to persuade the European Union to end the arms embargo it adopted after the Chinese military's violent 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. France and Germany have already sided with the Chinese and succeeded in pushing the EU to conduct an unprecedented review of the embargo.

What. A. Surprise.

Read The Rest as interested.

1/31/2004 04:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LEO FRANK AND MARY PHAGAN. I don't know if you've heard of this famous case that took place in 1913 in Atlanta, Georgia, but in the guise of a book review, as is the norm, the New York Review of Books has a superb recounting.

I remark from time to time that many Jews, having some knowledge of the long course of three thousand years of anti-semitism, remain always alarmed at possibilities of recurrence. Here's a typical example why:

Mary Phagan was a country girl, her family part of the haggard Southern yeomanry that, with the onset of industrialization in post-bellum Georgia, had forsaken the land for the bleak mill villages around Atlanta. She was auburn-haired and blue-eyed, with ruddy cheeks, and was said to have an eager and sprightly nature. Little more is known of her beyond, as Oney reports, the fact that she was entranced with the new glamour of the movies. She had been working since the age of ten, most recently for about a year in the National Pencil Factory. On the morning of the day she was to die—Saturday, April 26, 1913—"after eating a breakfast of cabbage and wheat biscuits," in Oney's striking opening line, she had dressed and boarded a trolley car for downtown Atlanta to pick up her pay envelope of $1.20.


But many of its factories were flourishing on child labor, Georgia law allowing ten-year-olds to work as long as eleven hours a day. The dispossessed country folk like Mary Phagan's family, from whom those child laborers came, felt a sullen resentment at their desperate dependence on that license. It was a rancor, with many of the factories owned by Jewish entrepreneurs, that would smolder throughout the trial following Mary Phagan's death.


While Atlanta had long shown an unusually easy and hospitable acceptance of the Jewish families settled in its midst, neither they nor Frank could have been unaware that they made their home in a region of raw racism. Though the Klan with its anti-Semitic vituperations had been fairly dormant since the 1870s, lynchings continued at a brisk pace—in Georgia, there would be 508 of them between 1882 and 1930, twenty-two in 1915 alone. But this readiness for vigilante execution had seemed almost exclusively occupied with African-Americans, and Atlanta's Jews maintained a resolute cheerfulness about the comfortable normalcy of their own place in the community.


However bizarre and unlikely these notes seemed, police suspicions quickly settled on Leo Frank, principally owing to his behavior when they arrived at his house early Sunday morning to notify him of Mary Phagan's murder. It was a time when much melodramatic import was placed on particulars of manner, and police would later testify that Frank paced about his front parlor "nervous" and "excited," blurting questions as he twisted his hands, his voice "hoarse and trembling." Being aroused early on a morning to receive such macabre news from two bluff and baleful Atlanta police officers might have been enough to unnerve anyone. But it was to be presented as additionally incriminating that when Frank was taken to the factory site, he answered detectives' queries with explanations that struck them as too elaborately voluble and that, on being taken to a mortuary, he had turned away from the sight of Mary Phagan's body lying on the concrete slab. On little more evidence than this, he was formally arrested a day later and put in Atlanta's city jail.

The murder notes, though, remained something of a puzzle until the factory's twenty-nine-year-old black sweeper, James Conley, was also arrested when seen at the factory's water cooler trying to wash out red stains from a work shirt. Having been frequently jailed before for drunk and disorderly conduct, once for attempted armed robbery, with two terms on Georgia chain gangs, Conley now offered up a succession of contradictory avowals—including, initially, that he couldn't read or write. But under the sort of strenuous interrogation Southern lawmen could apply to a black subject, he finally professed that Frank, after killing the girl on the factory's second floor in a ravishment attempt gone awry, had enlisted his aid in transporting her body in the elevator down to the basement, and then dictated to him the murder notes, with the rather improbable remark to him, Conley claimed, "Why should I hang, I have wealthy people in Brooklyn."

Meanwhile, public fevers had already begun gathering. On the afternoon of Frank's visit to the funeral home, some ten thousand local folk had also collected there to shuffle past an open casket holding Mary Phagan's body, and Frank's subsequent arrest was announced by a local paper, above a photo of him, "POLICE HAVE THE STRANGLER," in what had become a free-for-all among the city's three newspapers of clangoring headlines like "NEIGHBORS OF SLAIN GIRL CRY FOR VENGEANCE." This rising clamor stirred no little unease among those in Atlanta's Jewish community sensitive to the precariousness of their position in a society into which they had assiduously strived to absorb themselves. After a somewhat raffishly opportunistic local attorney was found to have offered money for stolen police documents that might compromise the case against Frank, he simply counter-blustered that the police had "sold out to the Jews for big money" to humiliate him in order "to protect this damned Jew." Thus, only a month after Frank's arrest, what Atlanta's Jews feared most—an outbreak of anti-Semitic antipathies lurking in the populace—was loosed into the air.


Instead, those proceedings to decide Frank's fate turned into largely a tournament of competing racisms. It was one of the few instances in the South of a white man, in every other way impeccably respectable, being tried for a capital crime mainly on the testimony of, as Conley was characterized by the defense, "a plain, beastly, drunken, filthy, lying nigger...fired with lust...." In fact, the racial derision of Conley was heartily participated in by all parties, including the press, one reporter pointing out, "Conley isn't a cornfield negro. He's more of the present-day type of city darkey," and even The New York Times would eventually describe him as a "drunken, lowlived, utterly human animal." But the prosecution as well concurred in the racist caricaturing of its central witness, Dorsey declaring, about Frank's reluctance to directly confront Conley before the trial, "never in the history of the Anglo-Saxon race...did an ignorant, filthy negro accuse a white man of a crime and that man decline to face him."

The telling difference in that formulation, of course, was that Frank didn't happen to be of the Anglo-Saxon race. And as if in acknowledgment of that liability, a defense lawyer insisted, "Frank's race don't kill. They are not a violent race," and later, the defense felt it had to stipulate that one of its witnesses was, "it's true, a Jew, but she was telling the truth." The defense finally risked arousing exactly what it was protesting by claiming that Frank had only invited prosecution because he "comes from a race of people that have made money." To counter that suggestion, Dorsey intoned that while "this great people rise to heights sublime...they sink to the depths of degradation, too," mentioning among a list of Jewish malefactors Judas Iscariot, "a good character and one of the Twelve" who nevertheless "took the thirty pieces of silver and betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ."

It wasn't long before these two contending racisms would be joined by the offstage vociferations of Georgia's raucous demagogue Tom Watson. A scruffy populist evangel descended from Jefferson's old dream of a democracy of small farmers, Watson had originally labored to mobilize, against the advent of the industrial Gilded Age financed by Wall Street, an alliance between the poor whites and blacks of the South. But after a defeat for reelection to Congress and then as the vice-presidential nominee of William Jennings Bryan's Populist Party, Watson by 1913 had retreated into a rancorous vilification of not only blacks but Catholics and Jews. He wrote in his weekly The Jeffersonian, as the trial began to catch the appalled attention of the national press, "It seems that Negroes are good enough to hold office, sleep in our beds, eat at our tables, marry our daughters, and mongrelize the Anglo-Saxon race, but are not good enough to bear testimony against a rich Jew!"; "the fact" was, he quoted from a dingily anti-Semitic volume of the time, "pleasure loving Jewish businessmen spare Jewesses, but PURSUE GENTILE GIRLS...." Before things were over with, Watson's weekly had tripled its readership to almost 100,000 across the state.


After a trial lasting a month, the jury took only an hour and forty-five minutes to declare Frank guilty. The throng of five thousand outside the courtroom broke into a tumult of celebration, hats tossed in the air, and when Dorsey emerged, he was hoisted up and passed by jubilant hands over the heads of the crowd. The next morning, Frank was sentenced to hang, and shortly thereafter, the jurors, Dorsey, the judge, and reporters congregated at a park for a convivial barbecue with catfish and Brunswick stew.

But Atlanta's Jewish citizens had been left profoundly shaken by the trial's revelations of the anti-Semitic sentiment lingering in the society where they had with such determined optimism chosen to make their lives. Even so, against the pronounced misgivings of some Jewish leaders, others now mounted within the nation's Jewish community—which would later evolve into the Anti-Defamation League—a campaign to appeal to the whole country's conscience, for a rejection of the plainly anti-Semitic verdict against Frank. The publisher Adolph Ochs, after an initial reluctance to involve his New York Times lest it be perceived as simply "a Jewish newspaper," finally opened its pages to a series of condemnatory reports and editorials. And before long, the Frank case had amplified into a national scandal, with protests in magazines and newspapers from Boston to Milwaukee to Houston, and popular appeals for clemency and a new trial from an array of governors and senators and figures ranging from Boston's mayor James Curley to Jane Addams, Thomas Edison, even, improbably, Henry Ford.

Yet for the most part, the national furor only had the effect in Georgia of producing a popular backfire of indignation over being maligned by outsiders, and an intractable resolve that Frank must hang. That reaction was especially invigorated by the invective of Tom Watson in The Jeffersonian: "The pure little Gentile victim is dust in the grave, while the Sodomite who took her sweet young life basks in the warmth..., the be-flowered pet" of a national solicitude promoted by "millionaire Jews." And he delivered, in his usual circus-poster effusion of punctuation and typefaces, clear exhortations to a lynching: "If Frank's rich connections keep on lying about this case, SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN."

And something did. It didn't just affect Leo Frank, but all the Jews of Georgia. Please Read The Rest to find out, including about the silverware, Hatikva, and the Klan.

1/31/2004 04:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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UH, THE NEXT ONE WILL BE NAMED "UH.". New frickin' elements! Go read about it!

1/31/2004 02:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TRIPPIED UP. Long, in the end, sad, profile of Joe Trippi, done in a very intimate way. A few excerpts:
"WHAT?" he screams into his cell phone. It's Kristen Morgante—his fiercely capable assistant, a pretty 24-year-old who often prefaces her reports to Joe with "Listen, asshole." "His mom's gonna be calling me? ME? About what?" He moans like he's just been stabbed. "Why, Kristen, why?" It turns out Howard's mother is concerned that her son is worn-out and wants to discuss this with Trippi. Like a lot of people, Mrs. Dean is apparently under the impression that Howard actually listens to everything Trippi tells him.

A minute later, Kristen calls back. Now the man himself is trying to reach him, she reports. "Fuck!" Trippi says. He's lost his signal. He contemplates what could be so important to Howard this late at night. He's dialing like a madman and finally gets through to headquarters. Howard didn't say anything, um, wrong today, did he? Not today. The only glitch was when Howard veered off his prepared speech, the one they'd handed out to the press. "He delivered the first one and a half pages of it," Trippi explains. "He promised to deliver the first three pages of it and then go off." He laughs. "But that's one of the reasons people like Howard Dean. He's unscripted. He speaks extemporaneously. And I don't wanna mess with that." Well...maybe sometimes. "When I leave, I'm terrified. Half the shit he's had to apologize for is stuff the staff did when I was on the road."

And the other half?

"You can't tell him what to say. I mean, you just can't. It pisses me off sometimes."


But the tears first come when he talks about...Kevin Costner.

Kevin Costner?

"You don't get it," he says.

Costner, it turns out, did a treacly movie called For Love of the Game that is well-known in the Dean campaign as "Trippi's movie." When he first tells me that I have to watch it to unnerstand him, he insists that I not say in print that he told me to watch it. Until I discover that Joe Trippi has told everyone in the Burlington headquarters to watch the movie. So they could unnerstand him. It's about an old pro baseball player, he explains, "who's pitching the game of his life, knowing"—drama-queen pause—"that it's his last game." He gets choked up. "That's what's going on here," he says. "This is it for me."

There is one particular scene in the movie that so resonates with Trippi that the young members of his staff will frequently walk into his office and shout the line. It's when the catcher approaches Costner on the mound and says: "We suck, but right now we're the greatest team in baseball."

He pulls himself together. "I don't usually come unglued," he lies. Then he shouts: "We SUCK, but right now we're the greatest team in baseball!"

Almost on cue, his little dog, Kasey—an overly caffeinated terrier who appears on the Dean Web site as the "director of canine outreach"—comes scampering into his office. "Kasey!" says Joe. "Sit!" He rises from his desk and stands menacingly over the dog. "Would you rather work for John Kerry or be dead?" The dog whimpers. "WOULD YOU RATHER WORK FOR JOHN KERRY OR BE DEAD?" Kasey rolls over and acts dead.

"Good girl! Good girl!"

Some excellent stories here; very flavorful. I love this stuff, because, y'know, politics is my sports. And Trippi is my kind of amiable passionate nutbar.

Read The Rest as interested. (Fans of The West Wing should give it a try; picture a younger, crazier, more Internety, more frenetic, non-Jewish Toby Ziegler.)

1/31/2004 02:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TOUR MIDDLE-EARTH. You can get a tourist package to New Zealand based around the sites the movie was filmed at.

The article also discusses tourist packages and touring sites of other popular movies or fiction.

Read The Rest as interested, or if you're a Tolkienican.

1/31/2004 01:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."

Kerr's findings mirror those of two probes being conducted separately by the House and Senate intelligence committees, which have interviewed, under oath, every analyst involved in assessing Iraq's weapons programs and terrorist ties.


There were instances before the war in which intelligence analysts said they sensed pressure to reach certain conclusions, but the House and Senate investigators said there was no indication they bowed to such wishes.

Last year, for example, some analysts at the CIA complained to senior officials when Vice President Cheney made multiple trips to CIA headquarters to question their studies of Iraq's weapons programs and alleged links to al Qaeda.

And analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency told investigators they sensed pressure when civilian Defense Department leaders constantly questioned why their analysis had found only tentative links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

But "their constant message" to congressional investigators was "they didn't buckle to pressure," another congressional official said.

Neither the CIA inspector general nor the agency's ombudsmen received any complaints about outside meddling, a senior intelligence official said. Added one congressional official: "There were no anonymous calls, no letters, nothing."

People of my predilection were/are prone to conclude or assume that part of the responsibility for the conclusion that the WMD stockpiles existed lay in pressure from the Administration. Now, it shouldn't escape anyone's attention that both Congressional investigations are run by the Republican majority, and that there's still potential bureaucratic pressure not to complain.

Nonetheless, I'm not going to insist that my prejudices are correct in the face of no evidence. If it's not there (at this time), it's not there, just like the WMDs themselves. In neither case does it do to not face reality-as-we-know-it and make claims supported only by our preferences, rather than by, you know, mere evidence.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

1/31/2004 01:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY; IT'S NOT A BLOOD OATH. Rather wrenching examination of the black voting community in rural South Carolina, and how the Democrats are losing them by ignoring them and taking them for granted.
Countywide, unemployment is 14.5 percent and the average wage is $8.72 an hour, but a more palpable measure of the area's financial state is the generous presence downtown of pawnshops and all manner of loan-fixer and car-title repurchaser.


More than 27 percent of the county's households survive on $15,000 a year or less, a condition of persistent poverty that ensnares so much of the South, especially the rural Black Belt.


And everyone says it: the poor have been written off. The poor, the state, the South. Who's next?


''If you want to know what's wrong with the Democratic Party, just look right here. There's this perception that there's a strong Democratic toehold in Orangeburg County, but really the party itself is almost nonexistent. There's no real concerted effort to involve young people. And at the state level, until the old guard got thrown out in '02, it was like, to hell with the base vote.''

Separately, each woman noted that the former state party chairman, Dick Harpootlian, who is white, had once quipped, ''I don't want to buy the black vote; I just want to rent it for a day.'' That was in 1986, he told me, an offhand joke that no one takes seriously, adding that as a state and a country, ''we've got to get beyond racial division, and we can't seem to do that.'' Memories are long; the three women were not the first to mention his quotation to me. Nor were they the first to assert that white Democrats would jump party (and have) before accepting black leadership. Or to say they'd felt used by the former Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, who was elected in 1998 with the help of black party activists and who then, some say, ignored black, poor and working-class voters.

Many fault Hodges for skimping on grass-roots campaigning in his 2002 re-election bid. He went down on Nov. 5, Cobb-Hunter's birthday. It was, her friends joked, the best present she got. '''Y'all ain't got nowhere to go,' Dick Harpootlian would tell me in meetings for the 2002 cycle,'' she said. '''Are they gonna vote Republican?''' One of her best friends, a born Democrat, did. More than 10,000 South Carolinians left the top of the ballot blank or, like at least one of Cobb-Hunter's fellow legislators, voted for Kevin Gray, a black write-in candidate. Gray, who later served as an adviser to Carol Moseley Braun's campaign, studied state Election Commission statistics and found that almost 289,000 blacks stayed home in the 2002 election, more than went to the polls.

The state Democratic Party executive director, Nu Wexler, maintains that as a percentage of overall turnout, that was among the better recent performances, which can't be reassuring. In any event, it's hard to overstate the residual bitterness. Just last November the Rev. Hayes Gainey of Edisto Fork United Methodist Church, in Cobb-Hunter's district, got ''amens'' when in a Sunday sermon he mentioned black voters' feeling of being used and abused by the Democrats, specifically noting 2002. It's a sensitivity that carries over in assessing national candidates now. ''John Kerry had his people in Orangeburg one night,'' Gainey told me. ''They were trying to push his platform to a group of us, and one of them says, 'If we decide to use you -.' Well, 'Hold on,' I said. 'You're not going to use anyone in this room. If we decide to support John Kerry's campaign, we'll let you know.' Thought to myself, Man, you talking to us as if you're the pimp and we're the workers.''


Some 260,000 eligible black voters in South Carolina aren't registered. Added to registered no-shows, that means half a million or so African-Americans are ''missing voters,'' a group sizable enough to turn any statewide election for the Democrats -- if they saw a reason to. But everyone I met who's doing voter registration in town, on campus or in the countryside said they're up against it. Cheeseboro recalled that two years ago, ''folks actually ran me out their yard. They'd say: 'Get out! I'm not voting. I don't want anything to do with it. Ain't nothin' gonna change.' I have heard that over and over again.''

You can't take people for granted. And, moreover, both Democrats and Republicans have been fixated for the past thirty-five years on "the middle-class." Remember when the Democratic Party had an anti-poverty agenda? Whatever happened to that?

Read The Rest if interested; it's a well-written piece, mostly told through characters.

1/31/2004 12:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SHIA RISING. No great revelations, but a good summary of the growth of Shiite political power in Iraq.

A few excerpts:

For centuries, Najaf and Karbala were among the principal places of pilgrimage for pious Shiites. They were also the places for funerals. Religious injunctions encouraged the faithful to bury their dead in these cities' vast cemeteries. Iraqis call it the ''coffin trade,'' and it has gone on for centuries, to the point that Najaf today really is as much a city of the dead as of the living. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, there is a constant movement of coffins in and out of the mosques, some accompanied by vast motorcade corteges, others by a few elderly men barely able to carry the casket through the mosque entrance. You see the cars, coffins strapped on top, leaving Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad for the south, and in Najaf, you see buses taking mourners back to these same Baghdad neighborhoods, the most popular destination being Sadr City.

At every major Shiite shrine, elderly pilgrims -- not only Iraqis but now, with Hussein gone, large numbers of Iranians too -- are being fleeced by trinket salesmen, as ubiquitous in the Shiite holy cities as they are in Lourdes. Entering one mosque, my interpreter whispered to me, ''Watch out for your wallet.''


In the wake of the failed Shiite uprising of 1991, Hussein turned much of southern Iraq into a Shiite graveyard. Its deserts and its farmlands hold the corpses of the tens of thousands of Shiites murdered by Hussein's security forces. Almost every Iraqi, and certainly every Shiite, seems to believe that the United States encouraged them to rise against Saddam Hussein. The fact that the Americans did nothing to help causes many Shiites to feel great enmity for the United States. For most Iraqi Shiites, the betrayal of 1991 is a scar that even the overthrow of Saddam Hussein cannot heal.

Moderate voices, including some Iraqi exiles who lobbied hard for the American invasion, will tell you that it was the American decision not simply to liberate Iraq but to declare Iraq an occupied country that has turned the Shiites against the United States. Some radical clerics agree. Moqtadah al-Sadr's deputy in Najaf told me: ''The Americans say they're sorry about 1991, and that now they're liberators. At the beginning, in early April, that was very good. But when they declared an occupation, everything changed in our minds.

''Why should we believe the Americans have changed since 1991, when they showed no concern over our fate, when, after tantalizing us, they stood by as we were tortured?'' he continued. ''It is the same people, Cheney, Bush's son, the Zionist Wolfowitz,'' he said, referring to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary. ''It is not our liberation they want; it is to strengthen Israel and to fight Islam everywhere in the world. We think you are crusaders, not liberators. If you were liberators, you would give us free elections, not the fake ones to put Ahmad Chalabi in power that the Americans want.

Of course, this is one of the best examples of "Zionist" being used when what is meant is "Jew," there is. But the resentment over the stain of '91 is very real, and very justified.
''We must wait,'' one cleric in Najaf told me. And, almost ruefully, he added, ''We in the Shiite majority of this country have been waiting to play our rightful role in Iraq since the death of Imam Hussein'' -- some 1,300 years ago. ''Having done that, we can certainly wait another six months.''

Not long after talking with that cleric, I met an aide to Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, a close associate of Sistani's, and asked him what he thought of that proposition -- that the Shiites had been waiting to remake Iraq since the death of Imam Hussein in 680. He grew indignant. ''What do you mean, Imam Hussein?'' he replied. ''We have been waiting since the murder of Imam Ali'' -- 19 years before Imam Hussein was killed -- ''to begin a just Iraq!''


Yet Sistani's call for demonstrations and the rhetoric of those demonstrations were anything but moderate. The crowd shouted slogans like ''One man, one vote'' and ''No, no to appointment,'' and demonstrators and speakers insisted that they would never accept an American ''colonialist'' state.

A very odd characterization by David Rieff. How much more moderate can a demand be than "one man, one vote"?


Baghdad remains an anomaly -- a place where, for the moment, anyway, secularism is still alive and well in the schools and streets and nightspots. But in all of the Shiite south and even in Baghdad's Sadr City, a slow-motion Islamicization is steadily gathering strength. It is difficult to see how any transitional government, even one shaped by the Iraqi Governing Council and the C.P.A., could stop this.

A balanced solution, many think, would be some sort of federal system, and a two-body Parliament, with the senior body balancing the population centers, something like our own system. Of course, the Turks, Syrians, and Iranians all oppose this as granting dangerous amounts of power to the Kurds and possibly leading to the fragmentation of Iraq, and it's difficult to imagine there would be much enthusiasm for such a scheme by Iraqi Shi'ites. In the end, I'm dubious it's possible to achieve in the present day.

Meanwhile, debate begins today in the Iraqi Government Council on the draft law for the transitional government.

Iraqi leaders are to begin debate Saturday on a newly crafted proposal for a transitional government that would fuse European and American styles of democracy, with executive, legislative and judicial branches underpinned by a bill of rights.The draft law calls for a tripartite presidency, which could help balance power between the three dominant religious and ethnic groups. It is likely to be made up of members of those groups -- Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

The proposal would also require that women hold at least 40 percent of the seats in the transitional national assembly and in a constitutional convention, an effort to ensure women's rights in a nation that has vocal fundamentalist Muslim strains.


Included in the draft law is a bill of rights that guarantees freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, the right to demonstrate and strike and the right to schooling and healthcare.

The law also grants an array of other rights that were unheard of in Saddam's time, including a ban on arbitrary arrest or detention; the right to a fair and public hearing, the right to speedy public trial, the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty and a ban on the use of physical or psychological torture.

Whether any of this will have much effect upon reality remains to be seen.

Read The Rest as interested.

1/31/2004 09:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, January 30, 2004

Read The Rest if you're a Tolkienocrat.

1/30/2004 10:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE HEAD-BUTTS ARE AWESOME, SAHIB. Who doesn't love elephants playing soccer?

KAZIRANGA, India (AFP) - Nearly 100 elephants played soccer and saluted spectators as India's northeastern Assam state kicked off a three-day carnival to boost tourism and end bitter rivalries between local inhabitants and the giant beasts.


The annual elephant festival in central Assam, home to more than half of India's estimated 10,000 elephants, also packed in a majestic parade by the beasts with their keepers playing drums and cymbals in the swampy riverside park.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

1/30/2004 09:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IS THAT A MILLION BARRELS OF OIL IN YOUR POCKET, or are you just glad to see me?

ABC News is buying that list of people who allegedly were bribed with oil contracts with Saddam. They better hope it turns out to be accurate, or won't they look funny with oil on their face?

It's not as if I have trouble believing that George Galloway received profits of 19 million barrels.

Read The Rest Scale: depending upon how prurient you are.

1/30/2004 09:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A LOTR NIT-PICKER'S GUIDE to differences between Tolkien's books, and Peter Jackson's movies. Note that I am not endorsing any specific plaints; I'm just letting y'all know that this is here in case you want to improve it.

Read The Rest if you're a Tolkienite, or, on the contrary, if you're not, but are curious for a quick version of the differences.

1/30/2004 09:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE IMPERFECT STORM. More on the Dean meltdown:
First, while I think Trippi was absolutely right on the conceptual level, his execution clearly left something to be desired. For example, the idea of flying thousands of twentysomethings into Iowa to help organize the state for Dean--Trippi's so-called "perfect storm"--proved to be a colossal, money-draining failure. As Ryan Lizza has reported, these twentysomethings turned out to be incompetent amateurs who got their hats handed to them on caucus night--not only by the professional organizers of rival campaigns, but by these campaigns' more dedicated volunteers. Worse, the perfect stormers probably scared off a significant number of Iowans, who took one look at their nose-rings and their died hair and decided that they had nothing to talk about. In retrospect, it would have obviously been wiser for Trippi et al to rely on local volunteers to beef up his Iowa ground game--something that worked reasonably well in New Hampshire (at a fraction of the cost).

Second--and this is something I completely missed in the piece, but which proved to be hugely important--is that Trippi, though a brilliant tactician, turns out to be a less than brilliant strategist. That is, Trippi was great at engineering the machine that would get the most out of a given message; he was not so good at devising the message itself. Now there was clearly a point in the campaign when that didn't matter, since the machine was the message--i.e., the idea of bringing new blood into the political system and making an end-run around the Washington establishment. But, as we found out in Iowa last week, when it came time to actually pick a candidate, voters wanted a worldview, not just a set of procedural innovations. With Trippi at the helm, the campaign didn't make that leap until the eve of New Hampshire, by which point it was probably too late.
From the Ryan Lizza story:
Later, at the Kerry victory party, giddy aides were stunned at how over-hyped and amateurish the Dean ground game was. "The Dean people were on the corner of the street in downtown Des Moines waving signs," one woman laughed into her cell phone. "They had no sense of organization." The Dean campaign called it the "perfect storm," which produced chuckles from Holly Armstrong, a Kerry organizer. "I kept telling everybody," she said, "in The Perfect Storm everybody dies at the end." Vindication.
None of this stuff is password-protected. Read The Rest only if you're a junkie.

1/30/2004 08:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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For months now, Pentagon officials have resisted growing political pressure to add more soldiers to the nation's overstretched fighting force. To understand why, meet the $99,000 soldier.

That's how much, on average, each active-duty service member cost in 2002 in pay and benefits, the Congressional Budget Office said this month. And it is what makes defense officials quake at the prospect of putting more men and women in uniform.


Benefits aside, members of the military average $43,000 a year in pay, and most won't stay long enough to reap retirement money. But all the entitlements wreak havoc with the defense budget's bottom line -- and raise the stakes of increasing the size of the military.


Between 1988 and 2002, Pentagon spending on healthcare -- adjusted for the overall rate of inflation -- tripled, while salary per active-duty service member increased by 39 percent, the CBO said. That far outstripped the gains by other federal employees.

If Congress approves the Pentagon's budget request for fiscal 2005, the amount being spent to pay the nation's soldiers will increase still more. According to budget documents disclosed Friday, base pay for members of the military would rise by 3.5 percent.


The Army is so strained that it has pulled up more than 100,000 reservists for long stretches, doubled the length of deployments for regular military and ordered tens of thousands of soldiers to remain in the service involuntarily. With some commanders on the ground in Iraq complaining publicly that they are short the soldiers they need, more than two dozen House Democrats have backed a bill to add about 82,000 troops -- 40,000 soldiers, 27,000 airmen and 15,000 Marines -- to the congressionally approved limit of 482,000.

This week, in an unexpected move that military officials say will relieve some of the stress on the force, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld invoked emergency orders authorizing the Army to grow temporarily by 30,000 troops.

But defense officials insist that the increase, expected to be in effect for about four years, should not be permanent.

"There are real fixed costs here, and I can understand why the tops of the heads blow off the budgeters at the Pentagon when they think of adding people. But you cannot fight the reality that this is a labor-intensive war, and we're in it, and I don't know anybody that has the ability to predict when we'll be out of it," said Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Calif., one of the bill's sponsors.

Such talk is precisely what worries administration officials. If Congress votes to approve the Pentagon's 2005 budget request for $401.7 billion, a 7 percent jump, it will be the seventh straight year of Pentagon budget increases -- a string unprecedented since the end of World War II.

"There's good reason to think that this ride won't go on indefinitely, and that if we increase end strength, that we might be left with a larger force structure that we don't have money to modernize," a defense official said.


Base pay, bonuses, special pay and allowances for things including food and on-base housing -- plus the advantage troops receive because some allowances are not subject to federal income tax -- typically make up only 43 percent of a service member's total compensation.

The other 57 percent is made up of subsidized goods and services that can be used immediately, such as medical care, groceries and child care, along with the accrued cost of retirement pensions, health care for retirees and veterans benefits that service members get after they leave the military.

No one begrudges this, of course. People who risk their lives for us deserve thanks and support. It's just that it adds up.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

1/30/2004 08:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHY DEAN WAS YELLING. Not everyone has heard what Diane Sawyer said:
After my interview with Dean and his wife in which I played the tape again -- in fact played it to them -- I noticed that on that tape he's holding a hand-held microphone. One designed to filter out the background noise. It isolates your voice, just like it does to Charlie Gibson and me when we have big crowds in the morning. The crowds are deafening to us standing there.

But the viewer at home hears only our voice.

So, we collected some other tapes from Dean's speech including one from a documentary filmmaker, tapes that do carry the sound of the crowd, not just the microphone he held on stage. We also asked the reporters who were there to help us replicate what they experienced in the room.

Reena Singh, ABC News Dean campaign reporter: "What the cameras didn't capture was the crowd."

Garance Franke-Ruta, Senior Editor, American Prospect: "As he spoke, the audience got louder and louder and I found it somewhat difficult to hear him."

Dean's boisterous countdown of the upcoming primaries as we all heard it on TV was isolated, when in fact he was shouting over the roaring crowd.

And what about the scream as we all heard it? In the room, the so-called scream couldn't really be heard at all. Again, he was yelling along with the crowd.

Of course, the facts about this don't matter now. It's too late for Dean.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

1/30/2004 08:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW REPUBLICANS HAVE CHANGED THE RULES OF CONGRESS. My impression is that there are a lot of independent, and sensible moderate Republican, folks who have not paid attention to this stuff, and have the impression that Congress is either doing business as usual, or has simply redressed Democratic unfairness. That's not the case.
The power to write legislation has been centralized in the House Republican leadership. Concretely, that means DeLay and House Speaker Dennis Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, working with the House Committee on Rules. (Hastert is seen in some quarters as a figurehead, but his man Palmer is as powerful as DeLay.) Drastic revisions to bills approved by committee are characteristically added by the leadership, often late in the evening. Under the House rules, 48 hours are supposed to elapse before floor action. But in 2003, the leadership, 57 percent of the time, wrote rules declaring bills to be "emergency" measures, allowing then to be considered with as little as 30 minutes notice. On several measures, members literally did not know what they were voting for.

Sorry, No Amendments. DeLay has used the rules process both to write new legislation that circumvents the hearing process and to all but eliminate floor amendments for Republicans and Democrats alike. The Rules Committee, controlled by the Republican leadership, writes a rule specifying the terms of debate for every bill that reaches the House floor. When Democrats controlled the House, Republicans complained bitterly when the occasional bill did not allow for open floor amendments. In 1995, Republicans pledged reform. Gerald Solomon, the new Republican chairman of the committee, explicitly promised that at least 70 percent of bills would come to the floor with rules permitting amendments. Instead, the proportion of bills prohibiting amendments has steadily increased, from 56 percent during the 104th Congress (1995-97) to 76 percent in 2003. This comparison actually understates the shift, because virtually all major bills now come to the floor with rules prohibiting amendments.

DeLay has elevated votes on these rules into rigid tests of party loyalty, on a par with election of the speaker. A Republican House member who votes against a rule structuring floor debate will lose committee assignments and campaign funds, and can expect DeLay to sponsor a primary opponent.


The Senate still allows floor amendments, but Senate-passed bills must go to conference with the House. Democratic House and Senate conferees are increasingly barred from attending conference committees, unless they are known turncoats. On the Medicare bill, liberal Democratic Senate conferees Tom Daschle and Jay Rockefeller were excluded. The more malleable Democrats John Breaux and Max Baucus, however, were allowed in. [See Matthew Yglesias, "Bad Max," page 11.] All four House Democratic conferees were excluded. Republican House and Senate conferees work out their intraparty differences, work their respective caucuses and send the (nonamendable) bill back to each house for a quick up-or-down vote. On the Medicare bill, members had one day to study a measure of more than 1,000 pages, much of it written from scratch in conference.

Legislation Without Hearings. Before the DeLay revolution, drafting new legislation in conference committee was almost unknown. But under DeLay, major provisions of the Medicare bill sprang fully grown from a conference committee. Republicans got a conference to include a weakened media-concentration standard that had been explicitly voted down by each house separately. Though both chambers had voted to block an administration measure watering down overtime-pay protections for workers, the provision was tacked onto a must-pass bill in conference. The official summary of House procedures, written by the (Republican-appointed) House parliamentarian and updated in June 2003, notes: "The House conferees are strictly limited in their consideration to matters in disagreement between the two Houses. Consequently, they may not strike out or amend any portion of the bill that was not amended by the other House. Furthermore, they may not insert new matter that is not germane to or that is beyond the scope of the differences between the two Houses." Like the rights guaranteed in the Soviet constitution, these rules are routinely waived.


Appropriations bills are must-pass affairs, otherwise the government eventually shuts down. Traditionally, substantive legislation is enacted in the usual way, then the appropriations process approves all or part of the funding. There has long been modest abuse in the form of earmarked money for pet pork-barrel projects and substantive riders being tacked onto appropriations bills. But since Gingrich, a lot of substantive bill drafting has been centralized in House leadership task forces appointed by the majority leader. And under DeLay, Appropriations subcommittee chairs must now be approved by the leadership, as well as by the Appropriations chairman.

But didn't the Democrats commit the same abuses during their 40-year House majority? Basically, no. The legislation written by stealth in the Rules Committee and in conference, and the exclusion of the minority party from conferences, are new. In 1987-89, Speaker Jim Wright occasionally used closed rules restricting floor amendments, but DeLay has made the railroading systematic.

Before 1975, conservative Democratic committee chairs often blocked liberal legislation, despite nominal Democratic House majorities. In 1975, rules changes supported by the large and idealistic "Watergate class" allowed the caucus to elect committee chairs, overturning the system of seniority. During the speakerships of Tip O'Neill (1977-86) and Wright, the caucus gradually strengthened both the leadership and itself at the expense of committee chairs. As speaker, Wright gained control of the Rules Committee and occasionally used his powers to frustrate floor amendments. He devised complex rules that permitted nonbinding preliminary votes to be overridden by the final vote. This maneuver, bitterly criticized by Republicans at the time, was the germ of the rules abuses that DeLay has taken to dictatorial levels.

To enforce party discipline, the DeLay operation has also perfected a technique known as "catch and release." On close pending votes, the House Republican Whip Organization, with dozens of regional whips, will target, say, the 20 to 30 Republican members known to oppose the legislation. When the leadership gets a final head count and determines just how many votes are needed, some will be reeled in and others let off the hook and given permission to vote "no." According to Michigan Republican Nick Smith, the leadership threatened to oppose his son's campaign to succeed him unless he voted for the Medicare bill. Basically, Republican moderates are allowed to take turns voting against bills they either oppose on principle or know to be unpopular in their districts. On the Medicare bill, 13 Republican House members voted one way on the House-passed bill and the other way on the conference bill. That way they could tell constituents whatever they needed to. As one longtime House staffer observes, "They can say, 'I would have voted to amend it, but I didn't get the opportunity.'"

Here again, some previous House and Senate leaders were adept at squeezing wavering members with rewards or punishments. The difference is that today's tight caucus discipline is used to enforce broader anti-democratic abuse. On the Medicare bill, the final roll-call vote was held open a full three hours well after midnight so that the leadership could keep pressuring Republican legislators who wanted to vote "no." Back in 1987, Republicans went ballistic when then-Speaker Wright held a vote open for a then-record extra 15 minutes. Dick Cheney, at the time a Wyoming representative, termed the move "the most arrogant, heavy-handed abuse of power I've ever seen in the 10 years that I've been here."

In short, some of these maneuvers had embryonic antecedents, but under DeLay differences in degree have mutated into an alarming difference in kind. Wright's regime lasted just one congressional session. It ended unceremoniously when a minor ethics breach (Wright's bulk sales of his book) was bootstrapped into a major scandal by a Republican back-bencher named Gingrich, leading to Wright's resignation and his replacement by the far less partisan Tom Foley, and then to the Democrats' loss of the House in 1994. DeLay's regime shows every sign of going on and on and on -- with abuses of which the Democrats never dreamed.

Why is there no revolt of the Republican moderates? They are split along issue lines, too intimidated and too few to mount a serious challenge, and almost never vote as a bloc. The only House Republicans who openly challenge DeLay as a group are those to his right, almost all of whom voted against the Medicare bill as too expensive.

It's easy to hand wave this stuff off as either boring, or exaggeratedly partisan, or however. But it's important, and unless you have a few spare tens of thousands of dollars to slip in the right pockets, or are the head of a powerful Republican interest group, Tom DeLay and company are not your friends, even if you think they are.

Read The Rest as interested.

1/30/2004 05:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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KEVIN PHILLIPS, probably the most experienced political demographer in America, makes the case for a Democratic Northern Strategy that doesn't neglect the South.

Read the Rest if you're a political junkie.

1/30/2004 05:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LAGOS, Nigeria, Jan. 28 — North Korea has offered to share missile technology with Nigeria, and the two countries are expected to sign a preliminary agreement soon, a Nigerian government spokesman said Wednesday.

The United States said it would encourage Nigeria to reject any arms deals with the Communist government of North Korea.
One can certainly understand why North Korea would be thrilled. Hard currency? Wonderful!

Heck, soft currency, which could be spent on whatever is available in some country, say, Cuba, would be a tremendous boon.

Barter, even, for some natural resource, would be a great aid.

Actually, a shipload of grass would be a worthwhile addition to the national diet.

When you come right down to it, a boatload of fertile dirt would be a trade the North Koreans would make, and be ecstatic with it.

In the end, the deal was made for a drawer full of used cellophane, and three pencil stubs. And the North Korean reaction? Good deal!

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

1/30/2004 02:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE GROWTH OF RUSSIAN PROTO-FASCISM, the decimation of its democracy, and how US papers largely ignore it. Good coverage by TNR of Putinism and the last "election." No password required.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

1/30/2004 02:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NEW HAMPSHIRE'S FLAVOR ISN'T MAPLE. Some campaign tidbits:
Lieberman has a unique strategy for winning the Democratic primary--ignoring the Democratic vote. Well, almost. These days, Lieberman is targeting independents all but exclusively. He talks about John McCain more than he talks about Bill Clinton. "John McCain and I--have I mentioned him enough?" he jokes in Nashua. His campaign's final piece of direct mail in New Hampshire goes out to 70,000 independents. You have to look hard at the two-sided flyer to learn that Lieberman is, in fact, a Democrat. In big, block letters it announces that "independents can vote in the democratic primary," "you can make a difference for our country," and "you can make a difference by supporting joe lieberman." It is left to a smaller subheadline to note that Lieberman is "The one Democrat who every day has leveled with voters"--the only explicit mention of his party affiliation anywhere on the flyer. By contrast, it refers to McCain three times and Lieberman's nearly 300 endorsements from New Hampshire independents twice. A featured quote from Greg Smith, former New Hampshire attorney general and "lifelong Independent" (mentioned twice by name in the mailer) declares, "I don't vote for the party, I vote for the person."

One peculiarity of trying to cobble together a coalition from people who don't vote by party is that the people who attend Lieberman's events are more quirky and unpredictable than the staid, establishment Democrats who pack Kerry's events or the Paul Wolfowitz-hating liberals who swoon for Wesley Clark.


Lieberman also seems to attract an inordinate number of voters with attitudes and people with pet issues, who, if Lieberman were president, I suspect he would not spend much time on. (For example, one voter complains to the senator about car insurance.) These people occasionally make Lieberman's town-hall meetings compelling theater. His first question in Nashua is from a visibly agitated woman who has apparently seen an ad on television that has made her furious. She leaves the crowd of about 500 people that rings Lieberman and walks right into the open space where he stands. "You knew about Al Qaeda, and you did nothing about it!" she charges, pointing a finger. It turns out the ad in question is actually a Lieberman commercial, which boasts that the senator knew about Al Qaeda before Bush ever heard of the group. Lieberman tries to explain that he knew Al Qaeda was a threat but didn't have any foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks, but this only angers her more. "How did you know about Al Qaeda?" she asks. "What ties do you have to them?"


Like all seasoned politicians, Kerry tries to take any question and answer it with one of the key messages from his stump speech. The more obscure the question, the harder it is for a candidate to do this, and Kerry's very first question is plenty obscure. It's one of those setups from a supporter who thinks he is helping his candidate even as he's steering him into trouble. "I think it's unfair that, as a New Englander, people often say that you won't resonate with the key Democratic constituencies around the country," a man tells Kerry. He suggests that the Massachusetts senator demonstrate his broad appeal by explaining the importance of the letter X on his baseball cap. At first, Kerry is confused. "The importance of ... the Latin--the ten?" he asks. The man clarifies that he means Malcolm X, which hardly makes things any easier for Kerry. His challenge now is to move from the deep water of radical black politics to the island safety of one of his campaign slogans.


"We need a political process," he says, finally confident he is reaching safe harbor, "that keeps faith with those real concerns that stare us in the face and not a political process that is there for the benefit of Halliburton, and drug companies, and powerful people who distort the agenda of the nation. That's at the center of what this race is about." Kerry has managed to jump from Malcolm X to campaign boilerplate about special interests in just three moves. Not bad.

That woman at the Lieberman rally better not find out about my ties to al Queda (string ties, they are, and hideous).

Read The Rest only if you're a campaign obsessive.

1/30/2004 02:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THREE MEN IN SUDAN. From The Economist:
IF JEROME K. JEROME were alive today, he would be proud. Over a century after he wrote it, "Three Men in a Boat", his quintessentially English comic novel about accident-prone Victorian gentlemen paddling down the River Thames, is a bestseller in southern Sudan.

This may seem unlikely. Southern Sudan is the scene of Africa's longest-burning civil war. Its people have for decades lived in fear of death or enslavement at the hands of mounted militiamen. How could they relate to a comedy about chaps in red-and-orange blazers sculling to Hampton Court and getting lost in the hedge maze there?

Sudan's two wars.

"People find this book a bit hard to understand," admits William Luk, a bookseller in Rumbek, the war-scarred capital of Bahr el-Ghazal province. But a book doesn't have to sell many copies to qualify as a bestseller in this part of the world. Mr Luk's shop, which he opened in May 2002, is believed to be southern Sudan's only bookshop, and its stock is limited. Apart from three rather tattered mathematics text books, it has Charles Dickens's "David Copperfield", Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and 20 copies of “Three Men in a Boat".

Since he opened his shop, Mr Luk has sold eight books, five of them “Three Men in a Boat”. “If I had a catalogue I would try to choose different books but for now we have to rely on the Ugandan distributors to send us what they think is appropriate,” he says.

Some of his customers are happy, though. A friend enjoyed the book so much that he named his goat “Montmorency” after the dog that accompanies its three heroes down the river. And the Rumbek Secondary, one of the few remaining secondary schools in the south, is considering making it a set text this year, in place of “A Tale of Two Cities”.

There may not be many books, but at least they're good books. Still, gotta feel for these poor folk. And how many people can afford books?

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

1/30/2004 01:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NO WATERMARKS. Gotta get some:
Electronic paper looks set to start rolling off the presses soon, thanks to a new process developed at the electronics company Philips1.

The Philips researchers, based at Eindhoven in the Netherlands, have figured out how to make thin, flexible sheets of electronic paper using inexpensive and light-weight organic materials that don't demand the costly production methods used for conventional silicon microelectronics.

The electronic paper (e-paper) looks like a flexible plastic sheet printed with black and white text or images. But the 'ink' can be rearranged in an instant to display different words or images. A single page could effectively house an entire library.

The new 'organic' e-paper unveiled by the Philips team can be switched up to 75 times per second - faster than a standard television screen.


The prototype e-paper made in this way has a fairly crude resolution: the display contains 64 by 64 pixels, each half a millimetre across. By comparison, a computer screen is typically 800 by 600 pixels. But a sheet of e-paper weighs only about a gram, and can be rolled up tightly without damage. Powered by the kind of battery typically used for portable electronics, it can operate continuously for 20 hours - but the Philips team wants to find ways of reducing the power consumption.

Philips has formed a company called Polymer Vision to turn their approach into an industrial process. Polymer Vision is now setting up a pilot production line, and hopes soon to be producing more than 5,000 e-paper displays a year.

Unlike a lot of tech news, which is about prototypes or theories or vaporware, this seems very very real. Yee-ha.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for more technical details.

1/30/2004 08:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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In another sign the Islamic militant group is changing course, its leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin declared Friday that his group is making an all-out effort to kidnap Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Yassin spoke a day after a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. Israel released more than 400 prisoners, mostly Palestinians, in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers.

Yassin appeared to be trying to explain why Hamas has failed to free its prisoners from Israeli jails. 'The (Palestinian) factions will not spare any effort to kidnap Israeli soldiers,'' Yassin said outside a Gaza City mosque after Muslim prayers. "And they tried many times, but the Israeli soldier today is as cautious as a bird is about its chick.''

About 7,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli custody. "They (Israelis) only understand the language of force, and they will never give us our freedom,'' Yassin said.
This is the problem with making deals to trade 400 Palestinians for one live Israeli and three dead ones. Talk about incentives in marketing!

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

1/30/2004 08:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LET US REMEMBER. I was more than a little annoyed last week, when in discussions of Howard Dean's yelling in Iowa, there were repeated mentions by tv pundits, as context, of how "Al Gore lied [or exaggerated] when he said he invented the Internet," and other such variants.

It's probably impossible to kill this untrue (lying?) trope, but a reminder by Declan McCullagh, not exactly a Democrat, but someone out to depth charge them with distortions and insults (now trying the same on Howard Dean):

If it's true that Al Gore created the Internet, then I created the "Al Gore created the Internet" story.

I was the first reporter to question the vice president's improvident boast, way back when he made it in early 1999.

Since then, the story's become far more than just a staple of late-night Letterman jokes: It's now as much a part of the American political firmament as the incident involving that other vice president, a schoolchild, and a very unfortunate spelling of potato.

Poor Al. For a presidential wannabe who prides himself on a sober command of the brow-furrowing nuances of technology policy, being the butt of all these jokes has proven something of a setback.


Which brings us to an important question: Are the countless jibes at Al's expense truly justified? Did he really play a key part in the development of the Net?

The short answer is that while even his supporters admit the vice president has an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate, the truth is that Gore never did claim to have "invented" the Internet.

During a March 1999 CNN interview, while trying to differentiate himself from rival Bill Bradley, Gore boasted: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

That statement was enough to convince me, with the encouragement of my then-editor James Glave, to write a brief article that questioned the vice president's claim. Republicans on Capitol Hill noticed the Wired News writeup and started faxing around tongue-in-cheek press releases -- inveterate neatnik Trent Lott claimed to have invented the paper clip -- and other journalists picked up the story too.

My article never used the word "invented," but it didn't take long for Gore's claim to morph into something he never intended.

The terrible irony in this exchange is that while Gore certainly didn't create the Internet, he was one of the first politicians to realize that those bearded, bespectacled researchers were busy crafting something that could, just maybe, become pretty important.

In January 1994, Gore gave a landmark speech at UCLA about the "information superhighway."

Many portions -- discussions of universal service, wiring classrooms to the Net, and antitrust actions -- are surprisingly relevant even today. (That's an impressive enough feat that we might even forgive Gore his tortured metaphors such as "road kill on the information superhighway" and "parked at the curb" on the information superhighway.)

Gore's speech reverberated around Democratic political circles in Washington. Other Clinton administration officials began citing it in their own remarks, and the combined effort helped to grab the media's attention.

Their timing was impeccable: In July 1993, according to Network Wizards' survey, there were 1.8 million computers connected to the Internet. By July 1994, the figure had nearly doubled to 3.2 million, a trend that continued through January 2000, when about 72 million computers had permanent network addresses.

Small wonder, then, that as the election nears, Gore's defenders have been rallying to defend him. In a recent op-ed piece in the San Jose Mercury News, John Doerr and Bill Joy claim "nobody in Washington understands" the new economy as well as Gore does.

Net-pioneers Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, a Democratic party donor, have written an essay saying "no other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time" than the veep.

Scott Rosenberg, in a recent Salon article, joined the fray: "The 'Gore claims he invented the Net' trope is so full of holes that it makes you wish there were product recalls for bad information."

It's also true that, as a senator, Gore in the 1980s supported universities' efforts to increase funding for NSFNet, a measure that became law in the High Performance Computing Act of 1991. Gore's guest columns in Byte magazine at the time showed an appreciation of technology that was far from usual on Capitol Hill.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5. In the words of Kahn and Cerf:
Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore’s initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening.

It's long past time this was laid to rest.

1/30/2004 08:20:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SHOCKING SURPRISE: Republicans don't use party's winter meeting to praise Kerry, but to bury him. As I'd expected.
Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, devoted much of a speech at the party's winter meeting here to questions about Mr. Kerry's positions on military strength and national security and his voting record over four terms as a senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. Gillespie's focus on Senator Kerry, compared with only passing references to other candidates — Howard Dean, Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina — left the impression that Republicans are convinced that Mr. Kerry is likely to be President Bush's opponent in November.

Mr. Gillespie cited at least eight examples, like a 1972 promise Mr. Kerry made to vote against military appropriations when he was running, unsuccessfully, for Congress and a 1995 Senate vote to cut spending for the F.B.I. by $80 million.

In another sign of Mr. Kerry's rise, the Republican Party of South Carolina, one of seven states with a Democratic primary or caucus on Tuesday, held a news conference with veterans to raise questions about the candidates' records, focusing particularly on Mr. Kerry, said Luke Byars, executive director of the state party.
Citing a 1972 promise? That's relevant. Just killer. Don't they have something on what Kerry said in third grade about not liking the Korean War?

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

1/30/2004 07:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, January 29, 2004
JUST WONDERING. So, now that Dr. David Kay, whom President Bush has declared he has the utmost faith in, and whom we look to for answers, has answered, and has declared that "we were almost all wrong" that there were stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; now that it seems uncontrovertibly uncontroversial that there was certainly no uranium imported from Africa, including Niger, is there anyone who attacked Ambassador Joe Wilson, praised by President George H. W. Bush, who has something updated to say about the Ambassador?

Specifically, is there anyone who attacked him as a "tea-drinking, partisan, incompetent, out to get President Bush, utterly unreliable and wrong about whether uranium went from Niger to Iraq, hack" who would like to, you know, admit that, in fact, they were wrong?

For the sake of their credibility?




We can fact-check your ass with Google, you know, and provide lists.



1/29/2004 11:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FORGET THE SOUTH? Timothy Noah argues that Democrats should stop coddling and pandering to the South. It's a debate worth having, and Noah supplies some good argumentation.

Read The Rest as interested.

1/29/2004 04:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MR. MACINTOSH. From Andy Hertzfeld:
Steve Jobs often came by Texaco Towers after dinner, to see what was new, and we'd usually show him whatever recent progress we made. Sometimes he'd be pissed off about something, but other times he'd be really excited about a new idea.

I was the only one in the office one evening when he burst in, exclaiming that he had a flash of inspiration.

"Mr. Macintosh! We've got to have Mr. Macintosh!"

"Who is Mr. Macintosh?", I wondered.

"Mr. Macintosh is a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again. It will be so quick that you won't be sure if you saw him or not. We'll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he's real or not."

Engineers like myself always daydream about building surreptitious little hacks into the software, but here was the co-founder and chairman of the company suggesting something really wild. I enthusiastically pressed him for details. Where should Mr. Macintosh appear? How often? What should he do when he shows up?

"One out of every thousand or two times that you pull down a menu, instead of the normal commands, you'll get Mr. Macintosh, leaning against the wall of the menu. He'll wave at you, then quickly disappear. You'll try to get him to come back, but you won't be able to."

I loved the idea and promised that I would implement Mr. Macintosh, but not right away, since there were still so many more basic things to get done. Steve told the idea to the marketing team, and eventually recruited the French artist Folon to do some renditions of Mr. Macintosh. I also asked my high school friend Susan Kare, who hadn't started with Apple yet, to try to draw some Mr. Macintosh animations.

Most of the Macintosh system software had to be packed into a 64 KByte ROM, and ROM space got more scarce as development proceeded and the system grew. Eventually, it was clear that we'd never be able to fit bitmaps for Mr. Macintosh into the ROM, but I wasn't willing to give up on him yet.

I made the software that displayed the menus look at a special low memory location called the "MrMacHook", for an address of a routine. If the routine is present, it's called with parameters that let it draw in the menu box, and it returns a result that tells the menu manager if it did anything. Using this, an application or system module could implement Mr. Macintosh (or perhaps his evil twin) if they saw fit.

I'm not sure if anybody ever actually implemented Mr. Macintosh or used the "MrMacHook" for something worthwhile.
Lots more tales of the creation of the MacIntosh here.

1/29/2004 04:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LOVE ME, I'M A LIBERAL, but I think this is a bad idea.
President Bush plans to scale back requests for money to fight AIDS and poverty in the third world, putting off for several years the fulfillment of his pledges to eventually spend more than $20 billion on these programs.

Hardest hit would be the United Nations-supported Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose contribution from the United States would drop to $200 million in fiscal year 2005 from $550 million, according to Congressional officials who have been briefed on the president's budget proposal.

Over all, however, Mr. Bush's programs to combat AIDS and poverty to the world's poorest nations still represent a big leap from those of the Clinton administration.

The financing request to fight AIDS for the 2005 fiscal year would be nearly $2.7 billion. That includes an increase for bilateral programs to $2.5 billion from $1.9 billion. That is still less than the $3 billion expected when Mr. Bush promised in his State of the Union address last year to increase financing for combating H.I.V. and AIDS by $15 billion over the next five years.

"I would love to see the administration match the figures outlined in the president's speech," said Patrick Cronin, the former assistant administrator at the United States Agency for International Development."But for all of our quibbling, this is a serious commitment and these figures are still very good."

Nonprofit aid organizations complained on Wednesday that while the request represented an overall increase for some countries, it would be a blow to international cooperation in the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

"That's robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, a nonprofit organization created by the Irish rock star Bono to help Africa. "We will work with Congress to increase the contribution to the fund."

In the fiscal 2004 budget, Congress more than doubled the administration's orginal request of $200 million, giving the fund $550 million.


The request for Millennium Challenge Account, a new development initiative that requires poor nations to meet criteria of good government in order to receive aid, will be $2.5 billion, down from the $3.3 billion expected this year.

At a conference in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico, Mr. Bush had promised to increase America's foreign aid budget by 15 percent a year — or $5 billion over three years, the first real expansion in more than a decade.

I am, of course, aware of the deficit. I'd much rather take the money from farm subsidies.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

1/29/2004 02:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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One good reason for progressives to work for President Kerry: "Senator Barney Frank." (That’s the word in the Massachusetts delegation).
I don't advise putting much stock in rumors, but a fascinating thought.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

1/29/2004 12:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ANOTHER STEP towards human augmentation, the Starship Troopers battle armor, and new ways of interacting. Like all such steps, possibilities both useful and alarming abound.
One corporate executive who heard about the project e-mailed Merkle and asked, "Where do we get the version that tells people they are boring in meetings? Please hurry and send that system to us. A truck full or two should cover us."
This system could also be terribly useful if we could get feedback from blog readers with it.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for techies.

1/29/2004 11:11:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Howard Dean was taking questions from a crowd of New Hampshire voters the other day when a young man asked him, "Governor Dean, can I pray for you?"

Dr. Dean, the Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Vermont, responded that he could use all the prayers he could get. Whereupon the young man immediately began a dialogue with the Almighty.

"Oh, I didn't know you meant right now!" Dr. Dean interjected, before telling him to go ahead.

As bizarre campaign moments go, this one was brief and not really all that bizarre. But Mike Roselli, a producer for CNN, thought it was worth alerting his bosses in case they needed fresh tape of Dr. Dean.

So Mr. Roselli quickly punched an e-mail message into his BlackBerry. He titled it "Pray For Me," concisely recounted the incident and concluded: "The prayer includes a plea to God asking him to cure Dean's cold." It ended: "Amen. Live NBC Feed. 12:47:22."

With the time code, CNN could find the comment, which was being filmed by a pooled crew from NBC. Mr. Roselli, a campaign veteran, thought the prayer was more interesting than some of the material being beamed from CNN producers who were following other candidates ("Candidate X drinks a chocolate milkshake!") but conceded that he had sent it partly because he could. And he worried that someone else might.
A prelude which seques into descriptions of exactly what sort of tech reporters are carrying now, and how they use it. And what the effects are:
But there is a drawback. Because reporters can now file around the clock without a hard phone line, campaigns have reduced the filing time that they build into a candidate's schedule. This has also reduced the need for a filing center, an often-intense place that campaigns would set up at least once a day with phone lines and power outlets for the traveling press corps.

For reporters, filing time in the filing center was relatively sacred. It was a chance to sit still, hook up with the home office, check e-mail, focus, and usually eat. But on a bad news day for a candidate, the campaign handlers might restrict that time.

"Sometimes, campaigns would limit the time you had for filing so they could control the amount of research you did and who you talked to," said Mr. Johnson of The Globe. With wireless Internet access, "we're free from that shackle," he said. "The wireless card works in 75 percent to 80 percent of the places where we are. You don't have to work within the parameters of the filing center."

Mr. Naylor agreed. "This rewrites the rule book of the little chess game that the media and the campaigns play, and it tilts the advantage more toward the reporters," he said. "A campaign operative can't use a filing center or a phone cord to limit your access to what's happening in the world."

Good stuff. Read The Rest as interested.

1/29/2004 11:02:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has taken one more step towards removing a five-year unofficial ban on new biotech crops and products when its executive backed a proposal to allow imports of gene-altered sweetcorn.

EU ministers now have three months to consider the proposal to authorise the maize, known as Bt-11 and marketed by Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta.

A "yes" verdict would end the EU's biotech ban, which has angered its top trading partners. If ministers cannot agree by the deadline, the executive Commission will then have the right to rubberstamp its own proposal.

"The EU has put in place a clear, transparent and stringent system to regulate genetically modified food, feed and plants," Commission President Romano Prodi said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It is only logical that this safe system continues to be applied in practice and that the EU moves ahead with pending authorisations," he said.
Now if only the British papers would stop their demogogic use of the term "Frankenfoods." Don't they remember that the stirred-up peasants with pitchforks, led by fear-mongerers, out to destroy the "monster," were in the wrong?

Read The Rest as interested.

1/29/2004 10:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FERMIONIC CONDENSATE. They do good scientific work in my current adopted hometown. This is just one example:
A long-sought new form of matter has been created for the first time. The matter, called a fermionic condensate, consists of atoms that are ordinarily forbidden to exist in the same quantum state but have been tricked into it by linking into pairs.

It occupies the middle ground between loosely linked particles that form superconductors and tightly bound ones in Bose-Einstein condensates, another exotic form of matter produced fleetingly since 1995. The creation of the new condensate is considered the crucial first step toward producing superconductors that work at room temperatures.

"This is a tremendous success," says Keith Burnett, a physicist at Oxford University, UK. The University of Colorado researchers who accomplished the feat are "fantastic experimentalists", he says, adding that scientists around the world have been racing to overcome the technical challenges of creating the matter.


Researchers hoping to create a fermionic condensate doubted they could even reach the super-cold temperatures necessary for the fermions to pair up. But in 2001, physicist Murray Holland suggested controversially that the fermions could be coaxed into pairing up at somewhat higher temperatures by subjecting them to magnetic fields of particular strengths.

That is what University of Colorado researchers Deborah Jin, Markus Greiner, and Cindy Regal did in December, and announced on Wednesday. First they cooled a gas of half a million potassium atoms to just 50 billionths of a degree above absolute zero, and then precisely tuned a magnetic field to force the atoms into pairs.

Two fermions that bind strongly into a molecule become a boson because their spins add to an integer value but, in the Colorado experiment, the fermions did not link that tightly. However, they behaved enough like bosons to allow them to share the same momentum for about one ten-thousandth of a second.

"When we first saw it, we were sceptically excited," Jin told New Scientist. "It looked very interesting, but we wanted to make sure we knew what was going on." A week of feverish checking later, she and her team were convinced.

The ability to create new forms of matter by simply tuning a magnetic field presents a powerful new tool to study basic physics, she says. Burnett says the research could lead to "forging other types of matter from the ground up", including condensates formed from linking three or more particles.

But the ultimate goal is to create room-temperature superconductors, which would revolutionise the supply of electric power. Currently, the highest temperature at which superconductors work is a chilly -135°C.

A room-temperature super-conductor would have revolutionary effects upon technology, of course, leading to astounding ability to give tremendous power to tiny devices, and endless repercussions.

But the possibilities opened up if we gain the "ability to create new forms of matter by simply tuning a magnetic field" are almost out of E. E. Smith.

Read The Rest for a few more details. This work, incidentally, is done a not long walk from where I type this

1/29/2004 10:41:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A lot of bloggers have been gawking at this story. I'll simply quote Chuq von Rospach's entry on it:

British Scientists are in a dither because of N'Kisi, an African Grey with a vocabulary of almost 1,000 words, and the ability to use them in complex sentences in with proper tense.

Um, why are the british so surprised? They evidently don't read Science magazine, have never read this book, haven't followed the research of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her african grey, Alex (which reaches back to 1985), and don't read my blog and have never met my cockatoo.

there's very little N'Kisi is doing Alex didn't do a decade ago. It's a little disingenuous to be declaring this as new or revolutionary when it's a rehash of stuff others have been showing for a long time. At best, more sloppy, lazy journalism.

As someone who's lived with large birds for almost 20 years now, and who's currently involved with an exceptionally intelligent female cockatoo going through her sullen teenager years (her current tactic uses self-invented passive-aggressive control techniques. it's been -- fun. At least she hasn't gone off and gotten a tattoo... yet....), none of this is surprising. My bird's the intellectual equal of a four year old, at least. Very expressive in language, not in number of words, but through inflection and tonality. She's a toolsmith, she's self-aware, she has a fairly good understanding of time, she is stubborn as hell (just like her dad), and she's smart enough and aware enough to know that a given behavior will get herself in trouble and to decide that it's worth doing anyway. it's one thing to be unaware of the implications of something, and quite another to decide to do it anyway, and then haul your little white feathered butt off to your cage and put yourself into a time-out, just to prove a point.

Trust me. If these folks really want to understand this stuff, go talk to Dr. Pepperberg. or stop by some night about bed time. Tatiana has decided that she's a big girl now, and she'll put herself to bed, thank you.

N'Kisi is a fascinating bird -- but he's not new, or original. or, so those of us who share their lives with these birds, particularly surprising.

Now, Chuq's a smart guy, but not a professional in this area, so I don't take his word as gospel, but his cites seem good to me.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

1/29/2004 10:28:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT IS RACE? Excellent site on the topic. I highly recommend exploring it. It's entirely possible you will learn crucial facts you were unaware of.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

1/29/2004 10:01:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MY GOODNESS, OR YOUR BADNESS. Norman Geras points out this amazing exchange with -- how to characterize him?; let's minimize -- "opposition journalist" John Pilger, including this quote:
Do you think the anti-war movement should be supporting Iraq's anti-occupation resistance?

Yes, I do. We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the "Bush gang" will attack another country. If they succeed, a grievous blow will be suffered by the Bush gang.

Isn't it lovely to have one's priorities straight? Killing British, American, and soldiers and civilians of all the other countries serving in Iraq, along with whatever Iraqi civilians and police it is necessary to kill, destruction of whatever Iraqi services are being built, assaults upon whatever NGOs and Iraqi institutions are necessary, all are a small price to pay to deal a blow to the imperialists.

Nothing more need be said. And, no, Pilger's views should not be attributed to the masses of good citizens who oppose the war, because very few venture anywhere near that territory, or anything like it, and it is not an inevitable extension in the slightest from the many sorts of sensible anti-war positions. But: my goodness.

1/29/2004 09:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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It was also Mr. Trippi who suggested that Dr. Dean give a rousing, fired-up speech after his crushing third-place finish in Iowa, a speech — and screech — that may have led to his undoing in New Hampshire.
Rather large error, that. And, no, one really can't place all that much blame on "the media" for that debacle. Anyone with the slightest media sense would know that anything perceived as a major gaffe -- let alone one with such a dramatic audio-visual flair to it -- would be replayed eight hundred million times.

Hell, one of those sets of thousands of falling dominos the Japanese so love gets replayed a lot on tv news, or pictures of a guy getting repeatedly buried by a snow-plow. A front-running outsider presidential candidate acting like a cross between Tarzan and the Hulk? Yeah, that'll get endless play, and a manager who can't forsee that is sending his candidate over the cliff, no matter his other virtues (and make no mistake, Joe Trippi has displayed virtues no other campaign pro of modern times has, in his ability to see and act at the intersection between new technology and the new social phenomena it produces).

Of course, there were plenty of other reasons to take Trippi out as the sole Commander, no matter how inspiring he was. It's a classic dynamic of campaigns for a charismatic leader-behind-the-scenes, a Big Vision person, to take the campaign to a brink, but also be a very disorganized person, a person lacking the ability and experience to put into logical order, and control, and delegate-but-supervise, an organization that has grown several quantum levels of size and complexity. (It's not just a campaign thing; it's common and inevitable in private business, non-profits, and simply any sort of organization experiencing massive growth in numbers and complexity.)

Which leads to these sort of strains:

Since his third-place finish in Iowa, Dr. Dean has been flooded with advice from all corners, and spent much of the week huddled with two long-serving aides from Vermont, exacerbating a standing feud between them and Mr. Trippi.

Those aides, Kate O'Connor, who travels with Dr. Dean, and Bob Rogan, a deputy campaign manager, did not return telephone calls.

And now they're down to ~$5 million. So much for the "war chest" to carry them throughout the campaign. That is the truly huge news, the devastating news, the overwhelming news, for the Dean campaign. It's now make-or-break in the next two weeks, possibly a month. Either the momentum can be kept up (even without a victory, the way they're trying to sell it now?; possible, but unlikely), or the wheels come off.

I'd go for Washington State, among other states, Doctor; it's your kind of territory, in the urban western part -- trust me. And Michigan would be a great prize, but you probably don't have the connections and organization to take it -- but if you can, go for it. Wisconsin also has a lot of your kind of Democrats. Good luck.

Myself, I've very much warmed to John Edwards, and wish him more luck, I think, than any other Democrat in the race. Go, John.

1/29/2004 09:41:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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