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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
The Mahablog
Brilliant at Breakfast
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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, March 27, 2004
GO, BABY, GO. I surely hope this works.

Read the rest if you're a spacepuppy.

3/27/2004 04:07:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, March 26, 2004
EVER FELT SYMPATHETIC TO THE PLIGHT OF INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES? Here is an explanation of why not to. Whine, whine, whine, whine. It's everyone's fault but my own lousy service. Damn you readers, publishers, writers, critics, librarians, collectors, teachers, and all you human beings! Damn the public! Damn you all!

3/26/2004 10:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I believe you belong in Pride and Prejudice; a
world of satire and true love. A world where
everything is crystal clear to the reader, and
yet where new things seem to be happening all
the time. You belong in a world where your
free-thought puts you above the silly masses,
and where bright eyes and intelligence are
enough to attract the arrogant
millionaire/prejudiced young woman of your

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

3/26/2004 09:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, March 25, 2004
GUESS WHO'S BLOGGING. Yes, though you probably don't need me to tell you, it's Noam Chomsky.

And I think: good for him. Putting one's ideas out there to be challenged and discussed is always to be applauded.

Or, subsequently, pissed on.

Whatever, putting them out there is the right thing to do, and is a healthy and good thing.

3/25/2004 09:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
PHIL CARTER HAS IT RIGHT here, and here. Carter also points out flaws in the Guantanamo cases here.

Read it all, and read the links. Read The Rest Scale, including all the links, 6 out of 5.

3/23/2004 09:32:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, March 22, 2004
THE RIGHT TO BE SNOTTY IS THE RIGHT TO BE FREE. The Supreme Court heard arguments on Hiibel today.
"A name itself is a neutral fact" that is neither incriminating nor an undue invasion of privacy, Conrad Hafen, Nevada's senior deputy attorney general, told the court in defense of a state statute that requires people to identify themselves to the police if stopped "under circumstances which reasonably indicate that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime."

Justice David H. Souter told Mr. Hafen, "It's a neutral fact that I'm wearing a pinstripe suit." But, he added, if someone who had just robbed a bank was reported to be wearing a pinstripe suit, that fact, if reported to the police, might no longer be so neutral.

The Bush administration joined the state in defending the statute.

One of the Fourth Amendment questions in the case is whether a person's refusal to answer a seemingly benign identity question can convert a police officer's "reasonable suspicion" into probable cause to make an arrest. Only Justice Scalia appeared to endorse that prospect. "I would think any reasonable citizen would answer," he observed.


As a matter of Fifth Amendment analysis, one question is whether giving one's name is sufficiently "testimonial" to invoke the constitutional protection against self-incrimination. "The question, it seems to me, is whether a name itself has intrinsic testimonial consequences," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told Mr. Dolan, the public defender.

If it did not, Mr. Dolan replied, "the government could require nametags."

If they do, one hopes they at least require them to be in a properly sized font.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. God knows what rule will come of this.

ADDENDUM: Dahlia Lithwick, unsurprisingly, has more.

3/22/2004 06:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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REMEMBER WHEN the war in El Salvador was the rage, and all the cool kids were talking about it? After the end of the military fighting in Central America, and the election of Bill Clinton, the whole region pretty much abruptly dropped off the map of public perception in the US.

Many of the political disagreements, tensions, and some of the problems remained, but at least they didn't tend to involve large masses of armed people shooting each other, or so many cases of death squad and guerrilla attacks; who said the world always goes downhill? (Of course, you can always go further south to Columbia, or look at the political tribulations in Venezuala, or to plenty of other spots south of us, for less good news, but let's not now.)

All of which is an excuse to say: isn't it faintly odd that both candidates for President of El Salvador in yesterday's election were born of Palestinian families from Bethlehem?

Put together with the former Presidency of Alberto Fujimori of Peru, and the US looks curiously hidebound by continuing to have a Constitution saying "No Pasaran!" to any "foreign born" becoming President (or Vice-President). "Anyone can become President" and give us your tired, your poor, but there's a glass ceiling (albeit a stratospheric one) for y'all.

Read The Rest as interested.

3/22/2004 12:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, March 21, 2004
WHY SERENITY IS BEING MADE: background reasons on the financial and other aspects.

Read The Rest only if you're a Whedon fanatic.

3/21/2004 11:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I WANT IT DEAD! Compared to the majority of people I know, I'm not a fussy eater. I'm fairly omnivorous (with a curious dislike of unchopped steak, due to formative nasty childhood experiences with gristle and insufficiently cooked meat; hamburger or other slabs of meat are fine, though), and reasonably adventurous in trying new food, though not to the point of frenetically seeking out cooked brains, eyeballs, and certain other body parts.

On the other hand, I'm sadly untraveled in the world, and haven't had the opportunity to dine in the fashions in which much of the world does.

However squeamish this adds up to, I think I'll pass on the live fish. I guess I'm fussier than I think of myself as; I kinda want all animal life to have ceased animation by the time it gets to my mouth.

Although qagh is, of course, best served live.

3/21/2004 10:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JAMES YEE, MASTER CONSPIRATOR. I've lightly followed here the saga of Captain Yee, the Guantanamo chaplain originally charged with High Treason and a vast conspiracy to smuggle intelligence out of there and back to his nefarious masters, as it slowly collapsed, like a slow-motion souffle of whipped lawyers, into a degenerate farce, wrapped in a clown show, hidden inside a carnival of onions.

And if it had gone on any longer, I would have mixed more metaphors. Without even using a MixMaster, or any mechanical aids, as metaphors are best stirred, not shaken.

Meanwhile, the pitiful show is over.

What this is, of course, is seriously disturbing, given the powers the executive government has taken unto itself, partially granted by Congress and the courts; if the government wants the people to trust it to use these awesome legal powers for good, it damn well can't make an ass of itself while using them. Kinda spoils the whole illusion, doesn't it? It might even give you cause for worry if a government agent ever finds you suspicious.

Read The Rest as interested.

3/21/2004 08:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STAGGERING PICTURES, truly. Just trust me, and go look, please. Would I steer you wrong?


(Via John Robinson.)

3/21/2004 08:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DON'T WORRY, BE OUTSOURCED. Most economists, as well as Professor Daniel Drezner will tell us that it's really very few jobs, that it overall helps the economy grow, and thus more Americans -- as well as those nasty foreign people -- will have jobs. Not to mention that most of the proposed "solutions" are highly destructive economically, and will often result in far more jobs lost for Americans (and, you know, those other people, who don't, apparently, count).

I tend to agree with that view, overall, but I'm also aware that although I've been reading on economics for a good number of years now, the subject is so farkin' complicated, that I'm apt to be wrong if I go very far, and at the least, unable to defend the notions I've tentatively learned. (Which, frankly, I happen to think puts me way ahead of a lot of people who are perfectly fearless in making strong pronouncements on what is and is not good economics, when they plainly are speaking through prejudice and preference, not mere knowledge.)

But I also happen to believe that a social safety net leads to a healthier society for all, socially, individually, and I suspect, economically. That doesn't mean I approve of any and every nostrum proposed for government to help people; obviously, there are many terrible ideas, for an infinite number of reasons.

But not all government programs are inherently bad, and not all steps taken to help people in need are economically destructive. I'm not wise enough to put forth a Program. But I'm not indifferent, either, to the fact that, however small the overall numbers of lost jobs may be, one only has to lose one job for it to rilly rilly matter to your life. And in many cases, to your family.

So for all that I'm for free trade, and inclined to oppose many proposals to "fight" "outsourcing," I'm also inclined to be quite open-minded about what might be able to help those who have lost their jobs later in life, be that training programs, money for relocation (probably both, at a minimum), or what.

Because somehow saying "lie back and think of America overall" seems poor response to real people in real need.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a mildly long exegesis on the virtues of outsourcing. Drezner ends up saying something, near the end, not far from what I did, but there's also a matter of emphasis to be considered.

3/21/2004 08:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE AL FRANKEN DECADE. Those who love to hate Al Franken will undoubtedly find more to excite them here.

As it happens, though I'm rather more of the left than not, I do find Michael Moore, whom one might consider an ideological neighbor of Franken's, to be an irresponsible, misrepresenting, clown, whose work is often outright dishonest (though some of it I've liked, such as certain moments on TV Nation and in his first two "documentaries," semi-fictional though they are); moreover he himself often seems to be outright dishonest.

So I've tromped on Moore quite a bit over the past couple of years, much to the displeasure of many.

I happen to like Al Franken, though, and although I've not yet read his book, I've never seen in him any of the misrepresentational dishonesty Moore engages in (need I say that soulmates, in technique, though not ideologically, of Moore's such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly, are even worse?).

Undoubtedly this opinion will annoy and alienate as many on "the other side" as my opinions about Moore have.

Oh, well.

Read The Rest as interested: it's a mildly lengthy, close-up profile.

3/21/2004 08:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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QUIET. Sorry for being so much so this week, and at other times. This week I've been fine, actually. Reading quite a lot. Just feeling quiet.

Sometimes, recurringly often, actually, I find myself reading many things of interest, but few of them seem to rise to the level of shouting to other people about them.

Or I find them of worth, but can't seem to find anything original or particularly insightful to add to them.

Shocking, for a blogger, I know. But sometimes I, frankly, just bore myself. Same old cliches all that come to mind. Meaningless noises such as "indeed," and "yup," and "we'll see."

That's not even enough to be thin gruel.

And I actually do find so many articles of interest, blogging them would simply be a long list, much of which consists of the major pieces in the major English-language papers and magazines. Hey, you can find that on your own, and if I'm not filtering or adding, what's the point?

So sometimes I feel uninspired, and quiet.

But I'm still here. And my noisy prolixity always, also, recurs.

For better, for worse.

Of course, now I'm wondering if you needed or wanted to know this.

3/21/2004 07:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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In recent months Dr. Khusayer like many Saudis, had become dangerously impatient with the sluggish rate of government reforms. Twelve days ago, after the Saudi government formally announced the country's first National Commission on Human Rights, he sent me an email message: "We now have our first human rights committee. 100 percent selected by the Interior Ministry. 75 percent are agents or loyal clerks. We will keep running in circles until we get tired."

Well, apparently he and several other prominent reformists decided to create their own circle first. They defied the ban on public gatherings, met in a hotel, set up their own independent human rights organization and planned to issue a paper criticizing the government's commission. Except that the royal family beat them to the finish, and last Monday, the professor's auguries bore fruit. The minister of interior, Prince Naif, who by all accounts was enraged by the petition, sent the police to round up several prominent reformists - professors, writers, activists.


The day after the arrests Abdul Rahman Alahim, a lawyer and rights advocate, was on the satellite television network Al Jazeera criticizing the government for just that. Arresting people for their opinions, he said, is against the very human rights the government is calling for. The next day he, too, was in prison.


Meanwhile, the religious establishment imposed a ban on the importation of dolls; in Wahhabism, human representations are heresy and may lead to idol worship.

It's all going very well.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

3/21/2004 07:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you're a politics junkie.

3/20/2004 07:39:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
HONOR THE CORPSICLE. Who says folks in Colorado don't know how to have fun? It's Frozen Dead Guy Days!

(Via Walter In Denver.)

3/17/2004 06:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Of course, there are no socially constructed aspects to knowledge. Accusations of "bias" in tests are simply excuses.

3/16/2004 06:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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For example, male arousal, studies find, is strongly visual, and when men engage in sexual activity or even anticipate it, brain structures once thought to have little connection to sex spring into action. The same brain regions, however, remain relatively quiet when women are aroused.

At the core of the sexual divide, some researchers say, is the amygdala, an almond-shaped nugget embedded in the limbic system, the brain's seat of emotions. Once thought to be involved exclusively with emotions like fear and anger, the amygdala is now believed to be more complicated.

In one recent study, a team of researchers at Emory University had 28 men and women look at erotic photographs while an M.R.I. took snapshots of their brains. A pattern immediately emerged. The photographs set off a frenzy of brain activity, particularly in the amygdalae of men. Yet the two groups reported equal arousal most of the time.

"This definitely emphasizes that up until recently the amygdala has been overlooked," said Dr. Stephan Hamann, a professor of psychology and the lead author of the study, which was published online by Nature Neuroscience last week and is scheduled to appear in the journal in April. "Often, the amygdala is involved in the anticipation of positive emotions, which this parallels nicely with."

Much of the insight into the amygdala's role in anticipating sex, and possibly other pleasant emotions, stems from research on animals.

In a study in 1989, scientists trained caged male rats to gain access to females by pushing a lever. The researchers then destroyed part of the amygdala. The rats lost interest in pressing the lever. Yet despite this lack of motivation, they had no problem engaging in sexual intercourse when the females were placed in their cages.

Other studies have gone further. In a study published last year, researchers in the Netherlands recorded brain activity in men as their female partners brought them to orgasm.

The amygdala, the scientists found, showed decreased activity during climax. Other studies have suggested that a larger amygdala may lead to a more robust sex drive.

Dr. Hamann pointed out that the amygdala is known to have intricate connections to primates' visual systems. One reason for the powerful response to visual stimuli in men, he said, could be cultural. Men tend to be inundated with sexual imagery and, possibly, are more likely to seek it out.
Read The Rest if you're interested in sex.

I'm going to go seek out some sexual imagery now.

3/16/2004 08:08:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, March 15, 2004
FOR US, THOSE GRATEFUL HEINLEIN WROTE LATER STUFF, a NY Times piece, on the Last And First Book.

Read The Rest as interested in Heinlein.

3/15/2004 05:17:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FAVORITE SEARCH HIT OF THE DAY: "thomas+jefferson+alexander+hamilton+slash+fiction"

3/15/2004 01:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SPAWN OF GAIMAN. You may or may not have heard of writer Neil Gaiman's longstanding legal battle with comics artist/writer Todd McFarlane over copyright to characters Gaiman invented for McFarlane's Spawn, and related contractural issues, and you may or may not have given a rat's patootie (I don't believe I've ever seen such a patotootie, myself; do other animals have a patotootie?; must look into this; makes note).

When I read that Richard Posner was the judge who wrote the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision settling the case recently, I got curious, and looked it up; it can be found here as a PDF.

I find the sight of Posner, a renowned figure, writing on aspects of this case, quite amusing, in a fish-out-of-water, entirely dry, way. But I'm a big fan of dry humor, and I constantly get into trouble through overly-dry humor. I also have a long-standing interest in copyright law.

A few excerpts:

We need to do some stage setting. Gaiman and McFarlane are both celebrated figures in the world of comic books, but they play different though overlapping roles. Gaiman just writes scripts; McFarlane writes scripts too, but he also illustrates and publishes the comic books. In 1992, shortly after forming his own publishing house, McFarlane began publishing a series of comic books entitled Spawn, which at first he wrote and illustrated himself. "Spawn," more precisely "Hellspawn," are officers in an army of the damned commanded by a devil named Malebolgia, who hopes one day to launch his army against Heaven. The leading character in the series is a man named Al Simmons, who is dead but has returned to the world of the living as a Hellspawn. Al's story is an affecting one.


The early issues in the series were criticized for bad writing, so McFarlane decided to invite four top writers each to write the script for one issue of Spawn. One of those invited was Gaiman.


McFarlane's argument, however, reflects a misunderstanding of both the function of copyright notice and the nature of the copyright in a compilation. The function of copyright notice is to warn off copiers, [...] not to start the statute of limitations running.


Remember that a claim inconsistent with the copyright holder's interest sets the statute running, and in particular circumstances a notice indicating that the defendant was the sole copyright holder might amount to such a claim. [...] But not when the work is a compilation, as Spawn No. 9 plainly is. For it contains, besides Gaiman's contributions and goodness knows who else's, a letter-to-the-editors column containing a number of signed letters from fans plus art work contributed by fans. As McFarlane concedes, the copyrights on those letters and on the art work are owned by the fans and his copyrighting the issue is not a claim to own their copyrights.


But unless there is a duty of authors to read the copyright pages of works containing their copyrighted materials -- and there is not -- then since as we said the purpose of copyright notice is not to affect the time within which the victim of an infringement can sue (which is why there is no duty of authors to study copyright notices), the notice can affect the accrual of the cause of action only if the victim reads it. The jury was entitled to believe Gaiman's testimony that he had never seen the paperback books in which the suspicious notices appeared.


We think they were copyrightable from the start, and that Gaiman owns the copyrights jointly with McFarlane. To explain this we must say more about the characters, black and white pictures of whom we append to this opinion. A detailed description of the characters may be found , along with color pictures, at

McFarlane's original Spawn, Al Simmons, was a tall figure clad in what looks like spandex (it is actually "a neural parasite") beneath a huge blood-red cloak, making him a kind of malevolent Superman figure, although actually rather weak and stupid. His face is a shiny plastic oval with eyeholes but no other features.


To make him credibly medieval, Gaiman in his script has Olden Days Spawn say to a damsel in ap-parent distress, "Good day, sweet maiden." The "damsel" is none other than Angela, a "maiden" only in the sense of making her maiden appearance in Spawn No. 9. Angela is in fact a "warrior angel and villain" who, scantily clad in a dominatrix outfit, quickly dispatches the unsuspecting Olden Days Spawn with her lance.


In a brief scene, Cogliostro, drawn by McFarlane as an old man with a long grey beard who faintly resembles Moses -- McFarlane had been dissatisfied with Gaiman's verbal description, which made Cogliostro sound like a wino -- explains to Simmons-Spawn some of the powers of Hellspawn of which Simmons is unaware. Cogliostro displays his mysterious wisdom by calling him "Simmons," to the latter's bafflement -- how could Cogliostro have known? Angela then appears in her dominatrix costume, there is another duel, and she vanquishes Simmons (whose powers are in fact unimpressive), but does not kill him. He then blows himself up by accidentally pushing the wrong button on Angela's lance, which she had left behind. Happily he is not killed -- merely (it seems) translated into another dimension -- and will reappear in subsequent issues of Spawn.


Had someone merely remarked to McFarlane one day, "you need a medieval Spawn" or "you need an old guy to move the story forward," and McFarlane had carried it from there, and if later a copyeditor had made some helpful editorial changes, neither the suggester nor the editor would be a joint owner.


Otherwise almost every expressive work would be a jointly authored work, and copyright would explode.

But where two or more people set out to create a character jointly in such mixed media as comic books and motion pictures and succeed in creating a copyrightable character, it would be paradoxical if though the result of their joint labors had more than enough originality and creativity to be copyrightable, no one could claim copyright. That would be peeling the onion until it disappeared.


A stock character is a stock example of the operation of the doctrine, [...] and a drunken old bum is a stock character. [...] If a drunken old bum were a copyrightable character, so would be a drunken suburban housewife, a gesticulating Frenchman, a fire-breathing dragon, a talking cat, a Prussian officer who wears a monocle and clicks his heels, a masked magician, [...] and, in Learned Hand's memorable paraphrase of Twelfth Night, "a riotous knight who kept wassail to the discomfort of the household, or a vain and foppish steward who became amorous of his mistress."


Cogliostro's age, obviously phony title ("Count"), what he knows and says, his name, and his faintly Mosaic facial features combine to create a distinctive character. No more is required for a character copyright. DC Comics Inc. v. Reel Fantasy, Inc., 696 F.2d 24, 25, 28 (2d Cir. 1982) (Batman, though assumed rather than actually determined to be copyrightable); Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates, 581 F.2d 751, 753-55 (9th Cir. 1978) (Mickey Mouse et al.); Detective Comics v. Bruns Publications, 111 F.2d 432, 433-34 (2d Cir. 1940) (Superman); Fleischer Studios, Inc. v. Ralph A. Freundlich, Inc., supra, 73 F.2d at 278 (Betty Boop). As long as the character is distinctive, other authors can use the stock character out of which it may have been built without fear (well, without too much fear) of being accused as infringers.

We are mindful that the Ninth Circuit denied copyrightability to Dashiell Hammett?s famously distinctive detective character Sam Spade in Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 216 F.2d 945 (9th Cir. 1954). That decision is wrong, though perhaps understandable on the "legal realist" ground that Hammett was not claiming copyright in Sam Spade -- on the contrary, he wanted to reuse his own character but to be able to do so he had to overcome Warner Brothers' claim to own the copyright.

The Ninth Circuit has killed the decision, see Olson v. National Broadcasting Co., 855 F.2d 1446, 1452 and n. 7 (9th Cir. 1988); Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates, supra, 581 F.2d at 755 and n. 11, though without the usual obsequies, but even if the decision were correct and were binding authority in this circuit, it would not rule this case. The reason is the difference between literary and graphic expression. The description of a character in prose leaves much to the imagination, even when the description is detailed -- as in Dashiel Hammett's description of Sam Spade's physical appearance in the first paragraph of The Maltese Falcon: "Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down -- from high flat temples -- in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan." Even after all this, one hardly knows what Sam Spade looked like. But everyone knows what Humphrey Bogart looked like. A reader of unillustrated fiction completes the work in his mind; the reader of a comic book or the viewer of a movie is passive. That is why kids lose a lot when they don?t read fiction, even when the movies and television that they watch are aesthetically superior.


But the Lone Ranger doesn't have a proper name either (at least not one known to most of his audi ence -- actually he does have a proper name, John Reid), so that can't be critical.

I love how Posner manages to work in side lectures on how kids lose out by not reading fiction -- take that! -- and say to his readers neener-neener, I know the real name of The Lone Ranger. And how often do you read summaries of comic books, complete with criticism, in judicial decisions?

Read The Rest as interested.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention that, based upon my extremely limited sampling, my impression is that Spawn sucks. I liked his early Infinity, Inc. art, though. Neil Gaiman, on the other hand, is a damn good writer. Period.

3/15/2004 01:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HARLAN ELLISON'S Julius Schwartz obituary is finally online. Given Harlan's typical emphasis on not copying a word, I won't, but it's here if you want to read it.

3/15/2004 10:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, March 14, 2004
I WONDER IF THE FACT THAT this will be on the boards before this will affect the latter?

I'm considerably more interested in the former than the latter, for now, at least.

Read The Rest Scale: yes, please.

3/14/2004 11:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JUST SO YOU KNOW. Apologies for delays in setting up the new e-mail account. I stubbornly refuse to use Outlook Express, which, as I mentioned down below, I suddenly realized is the only e-mail program currently on this machine. (Before the temporary AOL interregunum, I used a shell account (my distinct preference), and it was via my other Pentium I, which only has a wireless card, no modem, and has starting only working intermittently as of three weeks ago, anyway; that shell account is no longer available, as well.)

I'm momentarily delayed in downloading a POP e-mail program by having tried out Internet Download Manager, which turned itself off after 60 days, and now is refusing to fully Get Out of my registry.

I'll work on fixing this over the course of this week, but it may be a couple of, or even a few, days before I get it taken care of. Humble apologies.

Meanwhile, many, many, many thanks to those six people who have contributed in the past few days, particularly to the gentleman who made three large donations, any one of which was generous (though not the single largest contribution ever made so far), which together, however, is far more than anyone else has given. You know who you are, and it's made a huge difference, make no mistake.

People can be good; it's always a joy to be reminded.

(April rent and expenses are coming up fast, alas; I'm not out of need, nor yet in permanent work, or close, so further donations from kind souls -- or any kinds of souls -- remain equally appreciated, alas.)

3/14/2004 11:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the interaction of Mars science and Mars science fiction. Good potted history, pleasant little piece.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

3/14/2004 07:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE RESULTS OF THE RUSSIAN ELECTION. All that needs to be said:
"We do not have a liberal electorate at this point. No fair election will give liberals more than they get today. There are no more liberals in this country."
I guess there's a good reason Bush likes him, after all.

Read The Rest as interested.

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"In 2000, the necessity was to demonstrate that he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do, that he had a plan of action that all fit together, that he could talk with assurance," said one of Bush's most senior advisers, who asked not to be identified. "This had to be a credible governing statement. [Today] we have a credible governing statement; it's called the budget."
This quote of the "most senior advisor" directly followed quotes from Karen Hughes, it should be noted. I'm sure that's just coincidence.

Read The Rest if you're a campaign fanatic.

3/14/2004 04:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BEWARE THE DANGER. You may have this present in your home.

Worse, you may have ingested it. Many people are unaware of how many substances contain it.

Amygdala's message: we care about you.

3/14/2004 12:03:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, March 13, 2004
MESSAGE: I HAVE A MESSAGE. Amygdala cares.
On January 15, 1992, during a gruesome New Hampshire "town meeting" at the dawn of his reelection campaign, the first President Bush struggled heroically, and in the end famously, to get a point across to an indifferent audience in Exeter. His political consultants in Washington had prepared him for a bad reception: Focus groups were united in seeing their president, in those recessionary days, as out of touch and uncaring. The political purpose of his trip to New Hampshire was to dispel the notion.

President Bush opened the town meeting like so: "One of the things that I'm pleased to be able to do here is to at least let the people of this state know that even though I am president and do have two or three other responsibilities, that when people are hurting, we care."

A moment later: "Of course, we care."

A moment more: "And of course, we care."

It wasn't working. The questions became increasingly hostile.

And so: "I'll take my share of the blame. I don't take it for not caring."

And again: "I do care about it. I just wanted to say that."

"Two things. One, I know you're hurting; two, I care about it."

Still nothing, until, in his frustration with yet another unfriendly question, he let go finally, desperately, deathlessly. "But," he said, "the message: I care."


"He blurted out his handlers' notes verbatim," said Newsweek, astonished.

Bush 41 always had a smooth way with voters. Let's fast forward, shall we?
Yet now, in the pomo primaries, the elision doesn't seem weird at all. In fact it's become customary for a presidential candidate to "get his message across" by simply announcing that he's getting his message across. Attending a rally for John Kerry, or watching one of his TV ads, or drifting through his website, a voter will hear the candidate say: "My message isn't for just part of America, it's for all of America--a message about how we're going to put Americans back to work." The voter will wait in vain for particulars, such as how this message is to be realized and Americans put back to work. (I do know it has something to do with raising taxes on rich people.) Nevertheless, when asked, the voter will tell an inquiring reporter that he "really likes Kerry's message about jobs." At a rally for John Edwards a few weeks ago, in South Carolina, I heard the comely Carolinian announce: "Let me tell you something. My message of hope and optimism is resonating all across America." And the crowd applauded! He might as well have hollered "applause line!" to receive the same reaction. "My message works," Edwards told an interviewer not long ago. "And it's going to continue to work." In South Carolina he said: "My message is optimism. My message is about hope." Marshall McLuhan was wrong. The medium isn't the message. The message is the message.
And our current dynastic incumbent's message is "Message: I will save you from the bad men" and "Message: my opponent is treasonous and he flip-flops. Those are bad, you know."

Read The Rest Message: 3.5 out of 5 on post-modern politics.

ADDENDUM. Actual Bush messages: March 4th:

Members of Congress must hear this message loud and clear: We need tax permanency.
October 22nd, 2003:
And my message is, thank you for the hospitality, and thank you for the wonderful exchange we've had with the President.
(Of Indonesia.)

Febrary 10, 2003:

My personal message is that I want to keep the peace and make the world more peaceful.
And so on. Amygdala's new message: we may begin announcing more messages in future. Our message: we care.

3/13/2004 05:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HE DOES, you know.

I particularly like the Google ads at the bottom.

(Via Unfogged.)

3/13/2004 04:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE LATEST BUSH COMMERCIAL is a winner. Kerry should just give up now.

View The Rest: 4 out of 5.

3/13/2004 01:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I've been reading this on and off throughout the past day. Compelling, fascinating, important. Read The Rest scale: 5 out of 5. This is a placeholder; I'll expand this post after I've gotten some sleep; meanwhile, go read the article for information both important and wacky, and see if you have any thoughts on the questions it raises as to what the best intersection of foreign policy and the courts should be.

Expansion? We ain't got no expansion. We don't need no expansion. I don't have to show you any stinking expansion!

You must trust master. Follow me, come on. Come. Come, réadergol. Nice réadergol. That’s it. Come on.

Réadergol, don’t struggle! Réadergol, listen to me!

3/13/2004 05:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SO: Leo, Toby, Josh, and C.J make $151,000 a year. Sam used to make $125,000. Will Bailey probably also makes that, though he likely started at $54,400. Donna makes $42,700. Ainsley made either $109,300, or $93,700, or $90,000; it's unclear; probably the lowest figure, though. Mrs. Landingham, and now Deborah Fiderer, only $65,300.

Did you know the White House has a "Senior Gift Analyst"? ($31,200) (Not much more than the mere "Gift Analyst" makes at $30,000.) Charlie makes $52,100.

3/13/2004 05:06:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TREATED LIKE A MUSHROOM? Remember when stories about vat-grown food were science fiction?

I recall writing about Quorn a couple of years ago. I like to do it, because I just like saying Quorn.

Read The Rest if interested in strange food stories.

3/13/2004 12:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, March 12, 2004
WHY IS THE US CONGRESS SO UNCIVIL? Perhaps it should be more like this:
At least we seem to have put the physical fights on the floor into our past.

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NIGHT WATCH. The Turkish generals are on to something.
ANKARA, Turkey — The country's powerful generals have ordered local officials to spy on individuals, a move seen as the latest step by the military to continue its watchdog role over civilian life.

The Land Forces Command demanded information on terrorist groups, but military leaders said officials should also monitor a host of unlikely troublemakers such as "pro-European Union and pro-Americans, rich kids, ethnic minorities, Satanists, magicians and people who practice meditation," according to a document published this week by the daily newspaper Hurriyet.
We at Amygdala beg your pardon. We mean on something.

But, believe it or not, this is deadly serious.


It has also created unease among Turkey's allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and raised fresh questions as to whether the military supports this predominantly Muslim nation's push to become a full member of the European Union.

The controversy grew Wednesday, when the Turkish general staff confirmed the accuracy of the reports about the document.

Is there a NATO Anti-Witch Task Force we should be told about?

By the way:

Last week, top generals, including Land Forces commander Aytac Yalman, were among those who applauded a Turkish academic's call to cut ties with "imperialist America and the EU" and instead forge alliances with Russia and China.
They're afraid of our Joint Meditation Task Force, which is a little known part of SOCOM.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for those interested.

3/12/2004 11:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THEY'RE FLAT, BUT ROCKY. This is some story. One might call it "radioactive."

Headline: "Book Says U.S. Aides Lied in Nuclear-Arms Plant Case."

Read The Rest as interested.

3/12/2004 10:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CUTTING OFF YOUR WEBSITES TO SPITE THE PERSON UPSET BY PEOPLE WITH BIG NOSES. This is an absolutely idiotic solution to a problem involving one person. What would happen if every entity in a similar situation also banned all websites by their staff?

Read The Rest Scale if you're interested in either idiots, bureaucracies, educational institutes, or how not to deal with anti-Semites.

3/12/2004 07:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS, HAL. Matthew Yglesias has a fascinating excerpt from the 2001 budget. It beats Arthur C. Clarke's vision.

Read The Rest for true fantasy.

3/12/2004 07:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WOULD THIS BE LYING? The Medicare bill:
When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.


Five months before the November House vote, the government's chief Medicare actuary had estimated that a similar plan the Senate was considering would cost $551 billion over 10 years. Two months after Congress approved the new benefit, White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten disclosed that he expected it to cost $534 billion.

Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the $551 billion estimate, told colleagues last June that he would be fired if he revealed numbers relating to the higher estimate to lawmakers.

"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish," Foster wrote in an e-mail to some of his colleagues June 26, just before the first congressional vote on the drug bill. "I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy makers for political reasons."


Foster didn't quit, but congressional staffers and lawmakers who worked on the bill said he no longer was permitted to answer important questions about the bill's cost.

Cybele Bjorklund, the Democratic staff director for the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, which worked on the drug benefit, said Thomas A. Scully - then the director of the Medicare office - told her he ordered Foster to withhold information and that Foster would be fired for insubordination if he disobeyed.

Health and Human Services Department officials turned down repeated requests to interview Foster. The Medicare office falls under the control of HHS.


Scully said Liz Fowler, the chief health lawyer for the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, could confirm the actuary's independence. Fowler didn't.

"He's a liar," she said of Scully.

At a Ways and Means Committee hearing last month, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson all but repudiated Scully's tactics.

"I may have been derelict in allowing my administrator, Tom Scully, to have more control over it than I should have. ... And maybe he micromanaged the actuary and the actuary services too much. ... I can assure you that from now (on), the remaining days that I am secretary you will have as much access as you want to anybody or anything in the department. All you have to do is call me."

Democrats asked Thompson on Feb. 3 and March 3 for a complete record of Foster's estimates. They've yet to get it.

Read The Rest Scale: if interested in the topic, 3.75 out of 5. Scully will continue to be made the scapegoat for this, of course.

3/12/2004 06:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE BLAME FOR SPAIN. It's natural to ascribe this atrocity to al Queda. It's also too soon to know. One part of the discussion has revolved around the alleged claim by "the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades of Al-Qa'ida."

There's good reason to pay no attention to this claim, though an alternative explanation for its inconsistencies might be that it is from another part of the decentralized group than we are previously familiar with. There's strong reason to believe bin Laden did not write the claim, but, then, I wouldn't really expect him to have one available this quickly, anyway; that, too, would be inconsistent with his past style.

MEMRI has a translation and useful points.

Here's a significant point:

It should be noted that the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades claimed responsibility for the August 2003 blackout in the U.S. (which was a large-scale technical failure), calling it "Operation Quick Lightning in the Land of the Tyrant of This Generation."
They also claim credit for operating in Iraq.
By striking at the Italian forces in Nasiriyya [Iraq], we sent you and America's agents a warning....
I find it highly unlikely the same individuals would be involved, though the writers of this message could be taking a sweeping view of "we." Perhaps so sweeping that their main involvement is writing this note.
"Take your hands off us! Release our prisoners! Get out of our lands! Then we will leave you alone."
That's contra bin Laden's grievances, as well; he wants everyone to convert or die.

If anything can be funny in the midst of tragedy, one might draw humor from this:

"In another operation, the Al-Quds Army Brigades struck the Jewish Masonic temple in Istanbul, and this was the main Masonic temple, and three of the greatest Masons were killed… Had it not been for the technical failure, all the Masons would have been killed. But for reasons of divine wisdom, only three were killed. Allah be praised.
Allah be praised for that divine wisdom. And I never even knew I was a Mason.

MEMRI has other points leading them to believe this message is not authentic. If you take another view, the message has other semi-specific threats, against Yemen, and others, worth reading.

"We say to you that the Death-Smoke Squad will reach you soon, and then you will see [i.e. count] your dead by the thousands, Allah willing.... [...] We announce to the Abu Ali Al-Harithi Squad [4] that headquarters has decided that Yemen will be the third swamp [5] [in which] America the Tyrant of This Generation [will sink].... [...] and we promise the Muslims in the world that the strike of the Winds of Black Death (the anticipated strike on America) is now in its last phase [of preparation]. [It is] 90% [complete], Allah willing…
Worth reading, overall, but I wouldn't worry too much.

3/12/2004 05:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.

The $1.5 billion cut Kerry proposed represented about the same amount Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Senate that same day he wanted cut from the intelligence spending bill based on unspent, secret funds that had been accumulated by one intelligence agency "without informing the Pentagon, CIA or Congress." The NRO, which designs, builds and operates spy satellites, had accumulated that amount of excess funds.

Bush's charge that Kerry's broader defense spending reduction bill had no co-sponsors is true, but not because it was seen as irresponsible, as the president suggested. Although Kerry's measure was never taken up, Specter's plan to reduce the NRO's funds, which Kerry co-sponsored with Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), did become law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the GOP leadership.


In his campaign speech Monday, Bush said that in 1995, "two years after the [first] attack on the World Trade Center, my opponent introduced a bill to cut the overall intelligence budget by one-and-a-half billion dollars. His bill was so deeply irresponsible that he didn't have a single co-sponsor in the United States Senate. Once again, Senator Kerry is trying to have it both ways. He's for good intelligence, yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war."

Bush repeated the charge in New York last night, saying, "Intelligence spending is necessary, not wasteful."


Five days before Kerry introduced his legislation, The Washington Post reported that the NRO had hoarded $1 billion to $1.7 billion of unspent funds without informing the CIA or the Pentagon. Months earlier, the CIA had launched an inquiry into the NRO's funding after complaints by lawmakers that the agency had used more than $300 million of unspent classified funds to build a Virginia headquarters for the organization a year earlier.


Read The Rest as interested.

3/12/2004 05:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IRAQ. An update on my position on the war, as written by Michael Ignatieff. I don't endorse everything Ignatieff says, nor is it the whole of my view, but it comes closer than any other position I've seen of late on what my own position remains at present.

I continue to believe that we won't know clearly whether the Iraq intervention was justified, or not, for another few years; between four and ten, probably.

It will rise or fall depending upon whether or not Iraq is a reasonably free democracy in ten years -- preferably three to five years, and, naturally, the sooner the better -- untorn by civil war.

But we don't have the luxury of complete suspension of judgment, of course, and this is pretty close to mine.

Any other lefty blogs want to drop me now?

3/12/2004 04:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SKY CAPTAIN! The world of tomorrow is today!

You've probably been reading about the film for months; here's the story.

But like the old serials it emulates, ''Sky Captain'' is mainly preoccupied with the strange promises of the future. The astonishing things you will see in the world of tomorrow include: an immense, silvery zeppelin docking at the Empire State Building; an elephant that fits in the palm of your hand; a troop of giant robots marching down Sixth Avenue and the carpet at Radio City Music Hall. None of these things actually exist, though. Conran has not constructed a single set or miniature. Rather, they are computer images, built and animated in a virtual 3-D environment, or stitched together from photographs, which are then draped around the flesh-and-blood actors, who have been shot separately on an empty set in front of a blank ''blue-screen'' background, along with those few minimal props with which they actually interact (a ray gun, a robot blueprint, a bottle of milk of magnesia). The film, in other words, is one long special effect with Jude-Law-size holes in it.


For Conran, the question, as he put it, was ''Could you be ambitious and make a film of some scope without ever leaving your room?'' And so 10 years ago, Kerry Conran went into a room in his apartment to make a movie. In some ways, he is just now beginning to come out of it.


Word of ''Sky Captain'' began to spread around the Internet only after Conran finished primary shooting in London last spring -- extraordinarily late for the Internet, which often seems invented specifically to track movies with giant robots in them.

Uh-oh. The truth is slipping out! Send the giant killer robots!

Read The Rest Scale: are you mad!? Mad? It's got giant robots!

3/12/2004 02:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE'RE PRO-EDWIN. The fight to keep the Hubble alive continues.
Under Congressional pressure, NASA agreed on Thursday to have the National Academy of Sciences examine plans to cancel a space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade it.

Astronomers who scan the telescope's spectacular images of the universe for lessons on cosmic history were jubilant about the decision, with one of them calling it a "grand slam." But the NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, said that although he was willing to have outside experts analyze his decision against a shuttle repair mission, he saw little chance of any new evidence that would change his mind.


"We probably would not be able to mount a mission in time to meet those requirements," he added. "I'm still very much of the mind that unless the facts change substantially, my decision will stand."


Ms. Mikulski said if Mr. O'Keefe disregarded Congressional concerns and did not continue planning for the service flight while the study proceeded, she would work to have financing for the mission included in the NASA budget.

Would the Hubble gain more support if they pointed it at Earth now and again and took pictures of nekkid people? I hear Internet porn is very popular, though I personally would know nothing of this.

Read The Rest if interested: 3.5 out of 5.

3/12/2004 02:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOOD KNEES. Praise the Lord! At the National Association of Evangelicals yesterday:
One of the few discordant notes at the convention came from Robert Schuller, a televangelist and senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., who delivered an address gently criticizing some conservative evangelical Christians for acting as if they know the only possible route to salvation.

"What upsets me about religious leaders of all faiths is that they talk like they know it all, and anybody who doesn't agree with them is a heretic," he said later in an interview.
God bless you.

Read The Rest Scale: Bush swore to support the anti-gay-marriage amendment, and otherwise properly do the bidding of the convention (don't send in the clones), which represents, they say, thirty million Americans -- now the Scale is 1 out of 5.

3/12/2004 02:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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"But we have a message."
"Okay, what?"
"AOL finally dropped our connection and disconnected us last night."
"After what, two weeks after telling you they would?"
"Yeah. Anyway, after a bit of struggling, our new donated dial-up is working. It will be slightly longer before I activate the new e-mail account; for one thing, I suddenly realized that, due to factors not worth boring you with, I have no e-mail programs on this machine, and the idea of having to use Outlook Express horrifies me. I'll download a program, but at 33k, it's a bit slow. I could post the expected e-mail address now, but it's probably best to make sure it works first. Anyway, just letting you know. And donations to help me make March rent (let alone April) still desperately appreciated."

3/12/2004 11:20:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, March 11, 2004
AMYGDALA is sorrowful for the loss of life in Spain; we but lack words.

3/11/2004 04:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S ALL RELATIVE. A walk with Brian Greene.
We're going for a walk with Brian Greene, the physicist, at 5 in the afternoon, but this is a rough approximation, since spacetime has no absolutes, and even the familiar notion of "right now" has no meaning in a strict scientific sense. Also neither one of us has a watch.

We have departed from the canopied entrance of the Topaz Hotel and are moving west, following the sun. In this little slice of spacetime the day is coming to an end. Animate blobs of sentient matter rapidly stride toward their cars and the Metro.


"I don't think that the past is gone. I think the past feels gone," Greene says. "There you were at a party, New Year's Eve, you were experiencing that moment. I would say you are still experiencing that moment."

Greene isn't just saying that somewhere on some distant place in the universe, an astronomer can see the light finally arriving from some event in our past. That's not controversial. That's simply speed-of-light stuff. When we see the Andromeda galaxy, we're looking about 2 million years into the past, because it takes that long for the light to reach us across the enormous distances of space.

Greene's point is more radical: That there is no such thing as "now." That just as there is no center of the universe, there is no location in the "loaf" of spacetime that's more special than any other . This is an implication of Einstein's theory of relativity (his "special" theory, if you can stand the irony).

"This is really a question of what's real. You're saying what's real to me is 'now' " -- the former judo competitor is hacking at the air in a fashion that might alarm other pedestrians -- "but she" -- a woman walking by -- "would slice through the spacetime continuum at a different angle."

Her very motion alters the way she organizes spacetime. Time passes differently for people in motion relative to one another. Their watches, if initially perfectly synchronized and perfectly constructed to tick at the same pace (this is an imaginary scenario, so never mind the engineering issues), will cease to agree when they move apart. Their version of "now" will no longer match.

It's hard to fathom, but physicists say it's what the equations show, it's incontrovertible, it's just that kind of universe. This time-altering effect is so infinitesimally small that it has no impact on ordinary life, but over cosmic distances the effect can be significant. To Greene, the logical conclusion is that our sense of "now" is a psychological seduction. Sure, you might think that the moment you're in, at this very moment, is the true, correct, unassailable, authentic now, but for gosh sakes you thought the same thing 10 minutes ago and will think the same thing in 10 minutes.

The past is real, the future is real. "The whole thing is real," Greene says on the street corner.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for more pop physics stuff.

3/11/2004 04:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CHINA AND JAPAN HAVE ALWAYS TREATED KOREA AS THEIR POODLE, sometimes fighting each other for rights of primacy. A contemporary situation results in Chinese abuse of North Korean women.
She recounted how, with few provisions, she made her way to a safe house described by a friend in North Korea. Rather than offering her shelter, however, the owners of the house presented her to a middle-age Chinese farmer for inspection. He gave her the once-over, examining her face and slim body before going off into a corner to haggle over a price for her as a concubine. The woman, who had already suffered years of beatings by her husband, said she fled in panic, seeking refuge in the home of a nearby Chinese couple. They later sold her into a humiliating and violent life inside a hostess bar, where men pay to be entertained by women.

"I was helpless; I had no money, I didn't speak Chinese, and I had my daughter to support," said Young, who agreed to an interview in Seoul on condition that only her first name be used. "If you are a North Korean woman crossing the border, it's almost impossible to survive without being abused or sold. It happens to almost all of us, because they know we are vulnerable."

Running from harsh conditions under the totalitarian government in Pyongyang, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 North Korean refugees are now living illegally in China, roughly half of them women, according to missionary and other religious-oriented groups working in the area. While many North Korean men end up finding jobs as cheap laborers, South Korean government officials and human rights groups say the vast majority of the North Korean women are sold into temporary or long-term service as sexual slaves or suffer other kinds of sexual or physical abuse, often inside entertainment clubs.

While female refugees across the world remain at high risk of abuse or exploitation, the North Korean women are extraordinarily vulnerable, aid groups say. The Chinese government has refused to grant the North Koreans official status as refugees, largely based on Beijing's traditional ties to Pyongyang, as well as fears that such a designation would dramatically boost the already steady influx over the border.

Without organized refugee camps or access to assistance from such international bodies as the United Nations, the North Korean women have no safety net. Though the primary targets are single women or unaccompanied wives, even married female refugees traveling with their husbands are occasionally forced into sexual servitude -- either with or without their spouse's consent, aid groups and the refugees say.
Read The Rest Scale: 4.6 out of 5 for attention to be paid to this little known horror.

3/11/2004 03:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ROH, ROH, ROH YOUR BOAT. In the MMPRPG that is South Korean politics:
Roh's opponents -- who were thwarted Thursday as lawmakers loyal to Roh physically took over the speaker's podium at the National Assembly -- claimed to have secured more than the 181 votes needed to approve the first ever impeachment of a South Korean president. A Roh supporter, among hundreds in Seoul who demonstrated in favor of the president, set himself ablaze to protest the proceedings. They were ultimately suspended with opponents vowing to reconvene the 273-member National Assembly for a vote on Friday.
The longer-term upside is that it's a fine thing to see South Korea engaged in vigorous democratic politics, even considering the corruption, class war, and turmoil; not long ago in my lifetime, South Korea was an oppresive authoritarian dictatorship, busily engaged in mass shootings and repression of students and anyone else who objected. No matter the current problems, they're a vast improvement.

Read The Rest if you want a token of appraisment.

3/11/2004 02:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I PRAISE CONSERVATIVES NOW. William F. Buckley, profoundly Catholic, writes on Gibson's Passion:
The film depends, then, on the objectification of the victim as — Jesus of Nazareth; but even then, the story it tells is a gross elaboration of what the Bible yields.

Consider Matthew: "And when [Pilate] had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified." "Then they spat on Him and took the reed and struck Him on the head." Luke: "I will therefore chastise Him and release Him"-Luke records that the soldiers "mocked" him. And John: "So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him." "And they [the soldiers] struck him with their hands."

What Gibson gave us in his Passion is the most prolonged human torture ever seen on the screen. It is without reason, and by no means necessarily derivative from the grand hypothesis that, after all, the crucifixion was without reason, as Pontius Pilate kept on observing. One sees for dozens of minutes soldiers apparently determined to flog to death the man the irresolute procurator had consented merely to "chastise."
But, what the hell, make up your own Scripture; that's not, like, blasphemous or anything. Or so I hear.

I have been known to regard as, and call, former Republican Representative of Georgia Bob Barr a "loon." Because at times he has been. But.

Bob Barr doesn’t like the idea of a constitutional amendment. As the author of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which made federal recognition of same-sex marriages illegal and said states had the right not to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, the former Georgia congressman is one of gay marriage's most outspoken opponents. But Barr sees a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as an affront to federalism and states' rights. He spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Jonathan Darman from Atlanta. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: You authored the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, but you’ve come out against an amendment to the constitution banning same-sex marriage. Why is that?

Bob Barr: Because I believe very strongly in federalism and that is that the federal government should not be stepping in and dictating social policy to the states. The Defense of Marriage Act was crafted very narrowly. Despite very strong pressure to make it a proactive piece of legislation, I crafted it very narrowly simply to define marriage for federal-law purposes and to make sure that states were protected to make up their own mind. And I continue to believe that that is the best policy.

President Bush apparently does not agree. He’s said that there should be a constitutional amendment on this issue because “even if the Defense of Marriage Act is upheld [by the Supreme Court], the law does not protect marriage within any state or city.” That sounds like he’s saying the federal government needs to amend the constitution so that no state or city can, at some point in the future, allow gay marriage, even within its own borders. Does that concern you?
It doesn’t concern me, but I don’t think it reflects my philosophy. My philosophy is that the people are the kind of protection that we need in this country, and for those in this country such as myself who are opposed to same-sex marriages, if we have failed to convince a majority of the population of that, to me, you don’t turn to the constitution and amend that sacred document simply to help buttress your argument.

Bob Barr has also spoken out frequently in recent years on doubtful and questionable aspects of the PATRIOT Act and other recent federal laws; he has often looked questionably at laws and decisions that lessen our constitutional rights; he is now a consultant to the watchdog of our constitutional rights, the American Civil Liberties Union.

He remains not just a staunch conservative -- and what is more conservative than guarding our Constitution? -- but an outspoken voice for conservative values, many of which I disagree with, such as those regarding homosexuality. Barr and I will continue to have many disagreements, but I applaud him, and I respect him, emphatically, for his principles, his adherence to constitutional values, and his work in defence of them.

Read The Rest Scale on both pieces: 2.5 out of 5 as interested.

3/11/2004 11:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ARAB KNESSET MEMBERS, THE FIRST KNESSET, AND PATHS. as well as allied topics are addressed by Jonathan Edelstein. Hey, I could have written this post, but my head is occupied with more important matters! (Seriously, although I have written considerably on this topic over the years, Jonathan arguably does a better job than I, and it's an excellent, excellent post, and, as always, so is the rest of his excellent blog.)

What it also brings to mind, when considering the contribution of Arab Israelis to the Israeli state, are those bloggers who, in their enthusiastic defense of Israel, and zeal in that task, and utterly understandable rage at anti-semitism and over the Jews killed in the intifada, over-step legitimate fear and anger and slide into referring to Palestinian as "these people," or ask why "these people deserve a state?," and otherwise speak of Palestinians, too often, as "these people."

As if "Palestinians" were a monolithic, homogeneous (and all hateful) mass.

Generally we look askance at those who make characterizations of a group of people as "these people" or "those people" and who assert that "they're all alike."

There's a good reason for that.

I wish all bloggers would consider that before venting their understandable anger, fear, and resistance to Jews being attacked. It's the Jewish thing to do.

Read Jonathan's post: 5 out of 5.

3/11/2004 03:04:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT, ARE YOU CRAZY? Psychologists and psychiatrists trying to make their field more scientific. Good. Very good.

Read The Rest as interested.

3/11/2004 12:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EVERYONE'S A DRAMA CRITIC. The Archbishop of Canterbury reviews the play of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials at the National Theatre in Britain, and likes it very much.
In the interval of the second part of His Dark Materials, I found myself surrounded by a lively school party from Essex wanting to know what I thought of it so far. Was I shocked? No. But wasn't it about killing God? Yes - but which God is it who gets killed?


I read the books and the plays as a sort of thought experiment: this is, after all, an alternative world, or set of worlds. What would the Church look like, what would it inevitably be, if it believed only in a God who could be rendered powerless and killed, and needed unceasing protection?


Overall, the stage version is a near-miraculous triumph. It may well end up with Brook's Midsummer Night's Dream or Nicholas Nickleby as one of those theatrical experiences that justifies the whole enterprise of live theatre in our day.

This Archbishop bloke seems to be a bit of a thinker, actually.

Read The Rest as interested.

3/11/2004 12:41:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR BIONIC BRAIN: another step towards it.

Blogging is, so far as I'm concerned, an earlier stop on the path.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

3/11/2004 12:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Kerry, the Democratic nomination well in hand, is moving to engage Bush, and the president is returning the favor.
I guess President Bush has changed his opinion on the anti-gay marriage amendment.

3/10/2004 11:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT HAPPENED ON EASTER ISLAND with the statutes, the people, and everything else. A very straight-forward account.
The most frequent bones, accounting for more than one third of the total, belong to the largest animal available to Easter Islanders: the common dolphin, weighing up to 165 pounds. That's astonishing: nowhere else in Polynesia do dolphins account for even as much as one percent of the bones in middens. The dolphin generally lives out to sea, hence it could not have been hunted by line-fishing or spear-fishing from shore. Instead, it must have been harpooned far off shore, in big seaworthy canoes built from the now-extinct tall trees. Fish bones and shellfish occur in the middens but in only modest quantities, because Easter's rugged coastline and the steep drop-off of the ocean bottom provide few places to catch fish or shellfish in shallow water. To compensate, there were those abundant sea birds plus the land birds.

Comparison of early garbage deposits with late prehistoric ones or with conditions on modern Easter Island reveals big changes in those initially bountiful food sources. Porpoises, and open-ocean fish like tuna, virtually disappeared from the islanders' diet. The fish that continued to be caught were mainly inshore species. Land birds disappeared completely from the diet, for the simple reason that every species became extinct from some combination of overhunting, deforestation, and predation by rats introduced accidentally as stowaways in the colonists' canoes. This was the worst catastrophe to befall Pacific island birds, surpassing even the record on New Zealand and Hawaii, where, to be sure, the moas and most flightless geese became extinct, but many other species managed to survive. No Pacific island other than Easter ended up without any native land birds. Of the twenty-five or more formerly breeding sea bird populations, overharvesting and rat predation brought the result that only one now breeds on Easter itself. Even shellfish were overexploited, so that shell sizes in the middens decreased with time because of preferential overharvesting of larger individuals.

The giant palm and all the other now-extinct trees disappeared for half a dozen reasons that we can document or infer. Identified tree charcoal fragments from ovens prove directly that trees were being burned for firewood. Trees were being cleared for gardens, because most of Easter's land surface ended up being used to grow crops. From the early midden abundance of bones of open-ocean porpoises and tuna, we infer that big trees were being felled to make seaworthy canoes; the frail, leaky little watercraft seen by early European visitors would not have served for harpooning platforms or venturing far out to sea. Trees furnished the timber and rope not only for transporting and erecting statues, but undoubtedly for a multitude of other purposes. The introduced rats "used" the palm tree and doubtless other trees for their own purposes: every Easter palm nut that has been recovered shows tooth marks from rats gnawing on it and would have been incapable of germinating. From several types of archaeological evidence, we deduce that the clearing of forests began soon after human arrival, reached its peak around 1400, and was virtually complete by dates that varied locally between the early 1400s and the 1600s.

The overall picture for Easter is the most extreme example of forest destruction in the Pacific, and among the most extreme in the world: the whole forest gone, and all of its tree species extinct. Immediate consequences for the islanders were losses of raw materials, losses of wild-caught foods, and decreased crop yields.

Raw materials lost or else available only in greatly decreased amounts consisted of everything made from native plants and birds, including wood, rope, bark to manufacture bark cloth, and feathers. Lack of large timber and rope brought an end to the transport and erection of statues, stopped the construction of seagoing canoes, and left people without wood for fires to keep themselves warm during Easter's winter nights of wind and driving rain at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, after 1650 the islanders were reduced to burning herbs, grasses, and crop wastes for fuel. There would have been fierce competition for the remaining woody shrubs, among people trying to obtain thatching and small pieces of wood for houses, implements, and bark cloth.

Most sources of wild food were lost. Without seagoing canoes, the bones of porpoises, tuna, and pelagic fish vanished from middens by 1500. The numbers of fishhooks and fish bones in general also declined, leaving mainly just fish species that could be caught in shallow water or from the shore. Land birds and wild fruits vanished from the list, sea birds were reduced to relict populations, and the shellfish consumed became fewer and smaller. The only wild food source whose availability remained unchanged was rats.

In addition to those drastic decreases in wild food sources, crop yields also decreased, for several reasons. Deforestation led locally to soil erosion by rain and wind, as shown by huge increases in the quantities of soil-derived metal ions carried into Flenley's swamp sediment cores. Other damages to soil that resulted from deforestation and caused lower crop yields included desiccation, nutrient leaching, and reduced rainfall. Farmers found themselves without most of the wild plant leaves, fruit, and twigs that they had been using as compost.

Those were the immediate consequences of deforestation and other human environmental impacts. The further consequences were starvation, a population crash, and a descent into cannibalism.


Oral traditions of the islanders are obsessed with cannibalism; the most inflammatory taunt that could be snarled at an enemy was "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth."

Myself, I blame environmentalists. They're wacky, you know.

Gotta remember that last quote, though.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 if interested. The sociology of the islanders, the effect upon their politics, the military results, and their own destruction of their own clan-status-proving statutes, is actually what I find far and away most interesting.

3/10/2004 11:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHERE'S WALDO? I find two things of particular interest in this layout of the West Wing.

One is the Vice-President's office, #8. While it's hardly surprising in this White House, I'm curious to confirm whether this is, indeed, the first time the Veep has had a first-floor West Wing office; Al Gore didn't, did he?

Two is this:

West Wing Basement
* Melissa Bennett, Special Assistant to the President for Appointments and Scheduling
* Brett Kavanaugh, Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary
* Karin Torgerson, Special Assistant to the President and Associate Staff Secretary
* Eric Draper, Director of Photography
* Paul Morse, Deputy Director of Photography
* Gen. John Gordon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
* Dr. Richard Falkenrath, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
* Brian Montgomery, Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary
* Colleen Litkenhaus, Special Assistant to the President for Management and Administration
That the President who is running almost on the single-issue of homeland-protection/national security (and tax cuts!) keeps the Homeland Security advisors down in the basement, along with the equally important White House Photography crew.

But I'm sure the Homeland Security folks have clout at least equal to the photographers, so this indication of their White House status shouldn't make anyone feel unsafe.

View The Rest, you voyeurs.

3/10/2004 11:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MORE LIGHT. A few details on Masons. Read The Rest as interested, and don't accidentally shoot anyone.

3/10/2004 08:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE ESCAPIST by Michael Chabon. I look forward to seeing some comics-blogging on this.

Read The Rest as interested in Chabon, comics, or literature.

3/10/2004 08:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TASK FORCE 121, much discussed, gets more publicity here.
Task Force 121, which also helped to capture Saddam Hussein under McRaven's command, represents something brand-new in warfare, a pure hybrid of civilian intelligence and military striking power. It is the most ambitious melding yet of CIA assets, Special Forces (mainly the Army's Delta Force) and the Air Force. Formed late last year as part of Joint Special Operations Command—the secret "black ops" under Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who until recently was deputy operations director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—it is designed to produce a lightning-fast reaction should intel locate bin Laden or any other "high-value targets" anywhere for a few hours. It's a work in progress: CIA Director George Tenet meets frequently with Gen. John Abizaid, the head of Central Command, to nurture the marriage.


While the elusive terror chieftain hides in mountain caves and scurries along mule trails, Task Force 121 "bytes" away at him and his chief deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, with the best the Information Age has to offer. Using powerful software called Analyst's Notebook, which helps to piece together data on criminal and terror networks—Special Forces command just ordered up more copies—military and intelligence officials are increasingly confident they are narrowing bin Laden's whereabouts.


Ghul also yielded intel on bin Laden's position. Key to the search is "accumulated humint," or human intelligence, says one insider. Other officials tell NEWSWEEK that an increasing number of "data points"—reports of sightings—have created an ever-clearer picture of bin Laden's area of operation as he appears to shuttle between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now they've focused that picture to the point where they have been able to send in Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to search for him.

I've posted a lot about 121, and had a post about Analyst's Notebook, before.

It's these sort of consistent reports for months that make me wonder why people keep asserting that bin Laden is dead based on nothing more than, so far as I've yet seen cited, wishful thinking.

I've left out the lede and following stuff on how Rear Admiral William H. McRaven, chews through steel bars, can beat up the Hulk, and does particle physics in his spare time -- or something close -- but there's other interesting stuff here if you're interested in covert stuff (it's so covert, you can read about it here). SOCOM: it's not just a video game!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 on that basis.

3/10/2004 08:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HORMONES, BABY. Here's a five-Claude shocker.
PHILADELPHIA, March 9 — Among teenagers who pledged not to have sex before marriage, a majority did not live up to their vows, according to a national study reported here on Tuesday. The teenagers also developed sexually transmitted diseases at about the same rate as adolescents who had not made such pledges.

But a pledge to refrain from premarital sex, the researchers found, did tend to delay the start of sexual intercourse by 18 months.


Of the 12,000 teenagers included in the federal study, 88 percent of those who pledged chastity reported having had sexual intercourse before they married, Dr. Bearman said at a scientific meeting in Philadelphia on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

The researchers tested the participants for three common sexually transmitted infections — chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis — and found that the rates were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not.

Yet the teenagers who had taken pledges were less likely to know they had an infection, raising the risk of their transmitting it to other people, said Dr. Bearman and Hannah Brückner of Yale University, the other author of the report.

Isn't that useful?

Read The Rest as interested.

3/10/2004 08:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT A KOO-KOO-CHA-CHO, looney-tune, wacka-wacka-ca--ching, bugfuck, dingbat, nimrod John Pilger is.

3/10/2004 08:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YIPES! I think this qualifies as a holy shit.
McCain said he would consider the unorthodox step of running for vice president on the Democratic ticket — in the unlikely event he received such an offer from the presidential candidate.

"John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years," McCain said Wednesday when pressed to squelch speculation about a Kerry-McCain ticket. "Obviously I would entertain it."

But McCain emphasized how unlikely the whole idea was.

"It's impossible to imagine the Democratic Party seeking a pro-life, free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk," the Arizona senator told ABC's "Good Morning America" during an interview about illegal steroid use. "They'd have to be taking some steroids, I think, in order to let that happen.


Unlike some other Republican senators, he hasn't railed against Kerry, a fellow Vietnam veteran. McCain called the Kerry-Bush contest "the nastiest campaign so far that we have seen" and said he preferred campaigning for candidates instead of against their opponents.

I'd give so much to see this happen. I'm a "free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk" more-or-less-Democrat, and since the President doesn't have the power to repeal Roe. V. Wade, and I wouldn't expect President McCain (assuming President Kerry dropped dead of a cold somewhere next February) to apply a litmus test to SCOTUS appointments -- certainly not more than President Bush would, at worst -- I'd be thrilled to see this team rocket to victory.

And already the crazed attacks have begun.

What disease of the mind is it that causes people to regard only the most extreme version of something as the only "authentic" version?

3/10/2004 07:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ON THE RECORD. Journey back with me, friends, to two years ago this week.
NEW YORKS OF THE MIND: Justin Slotman points out, with little comment, via Amy Wellborn, the Richard Roeper piece on the curious phenomenon of people leaving tributes to the dead at the "New York-New York" casino in Las Vegas.
For six months now, tourists have been leaving candles and shirts and greeting cards and flowers on the "shores" of New York-New York's ersatz harbor.

To me, this makes about as much sense as picketing the Aladdin because of its Middle Eastern theme.

My reaction is more mixed than Roeper's. It certainly strikes one as odd on first glance, and my immediate reaction, like Roeper's, is to feel that it is as faux a response as the model "city" is.

But, really, I doubt anyone made a trip from their home town to go to the casino just to pay homage to the victims of September 11th; rather, surely they happen to be in Las Vegas, and while there, they visit that casino, and can't help but think of the true New York.

And that's perfectly normal, and as real a reaction as any. So, while there, on that spot, why not make a gesture towards the tragedy? Nothing wrong, or even odd, about that, in my book.

Where I agree thoroughly with Roeper is in regard to the commercialization of responding to September 11th, as I've said before; I reject the sale of commercial objects of "tribute" to the victims.

I don't feel that buying a tee-shirt, or a cap, or a sticker, or a flag, or any other "commemorating" object is a meaningful response, and I do feel, strongly, that it in fact is a deeply cheapening response to the horror. And though I'm for capitalism, I don't think anyone should be making any sort of profit whatsoever in producing such items, and, as I've said before, I think they should be outright condemned and boycotted, and I wish this sentiment were more widespread.

Blood money is blood money, and it sickens me that people can persuade themselves that it's moral to profit from the deaths of others, just as it sickens me to see people profiteer over claiming an association of their product with patriotism.

Anyone who wants to tell me that my feelings that no one -- not car salesmen, tchochke sellers, or politicians -- should exploit the images -- mark my words, images, not issues -- of September 11th is a "manufactured" or "false" or "partisan" opinion is incorrect.

Here is what I said (typos corrected) in comments to Andrew Olmsted:

"... but none of us has the right to claim it as only ours."

That's the objection to Republicans using the day as a political issue.

I'm slightly of mixed-mind on the subject, actually. On the one hand, there's a valid point to be made that there are crucial policy issues revolving around September 11th (duh!), and that, of course, it's inevitable that some of the issues become political issues. I think that's inarguable and legitimate.

On the other hand, Bush initially took the (wise, and also politically astute) position that September 11th should be one of those issues that the parties don't use as a political football, that it was akin to the notion occasionally adhered to in American political history of certain politics stopping at the water's edge, that there are some things both parties can agree upon and choose to treat in a non-partisan way.

He and his party pretty quickly dropped that stance, and began milking the hell out of images and references to September 11th in fund-raising and other political support-raising.

I think it's utterly legitimate for he and his mates (and anyone else) to argue in a political way the virtues and faults of any policy issues related to September 11th.

What I feel pretty disgusted by -- and as best as I can tell, not, in this case, because I'm so negative about Bush or inclined to favor Democrats in many issues, though I agree I'm quite biased -- is the use of September 11th imagery in advertisements, be they political or for non-political tchochkes, or to sell cars or anything else. This applies to Democrats using images of the towers crashing down, or to real estate developers, or whomever.

That seems reasonable to me, but I'm open to having any blind spots on my part pointed out.
"Out of curiosity, Gary, would you object to the Democrats using the September 11 attacks as a political issue?"

As I tried to explain -- I feel precisely the same about how the Republicans, Democrats, or car salesmen choose to use September 11th.

I think it's completely legitimate for Bush and Kerry to run ads saying their post-9/11 policies are better, safer, wiser, will build strong children twelve ways, and has special brightening.

I don't want them to use pictures of the WTC or Pentagon, because I think that's different from discussing policy. Policy is legit, and self-touting is legit, and tearing down the other guy is legit. Using pictures of dead people to sell your policies is, in my book -- and I recognize this is a personal position, not some sort of Objective Law -- not legitimate. Whover does it, including the Democrats.

So, no, I don't want to see those pictures in a Democratic ad. Stress, pictures. (Or voice recordings.)
As a tangential, separable, point, I don't think it's helpful to political debate to emotionalize it in the intensified way that use of pictures or recordings of mass death powerfully does. That's not my reason for objecting, but it's a secondary benefit. I think it's obvious that getting further outraged, angered, horrified, whatever, by the issue doesn't make a policy discussion more, or less, correct on either side.
Sorry for the repetitions, but I'm taking the lazy way out. Anyway, I have spoken. Because I get ticked off when I read that no one can legitimately object to politicizing the imagery of dead people, that it's all "phony" and "partisan" and "manufactured." I'm such a phony I staged my opinion two years ago.

No. Don't do it, and you won't be accused of doing it. And don't confuse politicizing imagery with legimate debate on policy. Follow those rules and debate will be saner and fairer.

That'll happen any day now, of course.

3/10/2004 06:44:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MONEY WANTS TO BE FREE. There will be those who say that this means that McCain-Feingold was meaningless and pointless.

But at least in this regard, they'd be flat wrong. Because the primary ill of money in politics (which is otherwise, obviously, inextricable) is quid-pro-quo or its cousin, "I'll do you a favor, knowing you've contributed big to me."

Use of 527s in this manner cuts that down significantly. It won't make all fund-raising invisible; far from it. But it does make the verifiability, in many, though not all, cases murkier, and that lessens the corrupting effect of the inevitable money.

It seems to me. Today.

And people are still free to give money to get their political message out, lessening (though not eliminating) the objection of those who feel that the right to give money is the right to be free (er, a First Amendment violation).

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for political junkies.

3/10/2004 01:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The entire history of the web, and doubtless the human race, has led up to this moment.

3/10/2004 01:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE DRAMA CRITICISM OF MICHAEL PORTILLO. I'm late to the party, I only just noticed. If you're not British, and need an explanation of who Portillo is, oh, go use Google; do I have to do all your work for you? I think not!

Michael Portillo reviews Alyson Hannigan. There's a line I never thought I'd write.

An eerie silence of anticipation falls over the theatre. There's no throat-clearing, no sweet wrappers, I swear people have stopped breathing. It's bizarre. The audience is frozen in suspense, waiting for how Alyson Hannigan will fake her orgasm. It's the moment everyone remembers from the movie When Harry Met Sally. She's going to show Harry that a woman making love is perfectly capable of play-acting to protect the frail male ego, and she makes her point by producing a wholly synthetic full-blown crescendo in a crowded cafe. That done, she smiles sweetly and returns to her food.

For the record, Hannigan (star of the movie American Wedding and sidekick to Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays the scene with all the gusto of Meg Ryan's memorable screen performance. She's just as funny. Maybe we laugh even more because of all that pent-up breath longing for release (the audience's, I mean).


Hannigan's goofy naivety fits the role splendidly. She's beautiful to watch, graceful and light around the stage, her trajectory traced by the sheen of her long red hair. Her clothes, which scene by scene transport us from 1987 to 2000, are superb. Perry is at least as good. It's not easy on stage to carry the part with hilarious facial expressions as Billy Crystal did on screen. But Perry is a fine comedian and commands the stage confidently. They look great together: she petite, he tall and strong. The audience wants things to work out for this attractive couple. In the bedroom scene, Perry gets his kit off (to gasps from the theatre), and that will do the audience figures no harm.

And in the "small world" department, what was a film Perry co-starred in? Yes, that's right, the quite mediocre film of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

This is hidden in the pay archive, which is a shame; it's Portillo on David Hare's anti-train-privatization play, which makes the combination of reviewer and reviewed just Too Strange. The first lines:

Before the curtain went up on David Hare's play about Britain's railways, a chatty lady in the next seat said to me, more playfully than aggressively: "You're brave coming here. Your government butchered the railways."
Read The Rest as interested.

3/10/2004 04:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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