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Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
MAN OF ATTACK. In which we are mentioned in The New Yorker by Christopher Buckley:
Shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon on March 17, 2003, Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, presented his D.C. driver’s license to a Secret Service guard at the northwest gate of the White House. Woodward was well known to the guards, having visited 2,372 times in the previous two years to research his best-selling books.
The officer in the booth grinned and waved Woodward through without looking at his I.D. Like everyone else in Washington, he wanted to come off well in Woodward’s new book. “Mr. Woodward!” he said as Woodward passed through, his tape recorder setting off the metal detector. “Have you lost weight? Been working out? You look fabulous!”
“Why, go right in, Mr. Woodward,” the President’s secretary said cheerily, also wanting to be portrayed in a flattering light. Knowing of his visit, she had had her hair done that morning. She noted to herself that the President had now spent more time with Woodward than he had with all the members of his Cabinet combined. She was particularly impressed by this fact because she was so familiar with her boss’s distaste for what he called “those élite media A-holes.”
Although Woodward had been in the Oval Office almost three thousand times since the President took office, he always felt a tingling sensation in his amygdala, the almond-shaped mass of gray matter in each hemisphere of the brain which governs feelings of aggression. Thirty years earlier, he had caused a previous occupant of “the Oval” to evacuate it almost overnight and move to California, where he got a clot in his leg and nearly died. Woodward did not blame himself for the clot.
However, Woodward had recently published a favorable book about Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, a wretched country ruled by unambiguously odious bearded people who hated America even more than most foreigners do. As a result, Bush felt relaxed in Woodward’s presence. As was his custom, he had bestowed a nickname on him: Woodpecker.
Our importance, and recognition, grows every day.
Read The Rest depending upon whether you found this funny or tedious. Our editorial staff found the remainder hilarious, but what do we know?
ANGEL/BUFFY DOINGS. Interesting plot description, and set of characters, for Wednesday's Angel:
The Girl in Question
Concerned by a report that the Immortal is after Buffy, Angel and Spike head to Rome, where they discover what the Slayer has been up to---and with whom. Back in Los Angeles, Illyria confounds Wesley with her behavior when Fred's folks show up unexpectedly. Drusilla: Juliet Landau. Darla: Julie Benz. Andrew: Tom Lenk. Harmony: Mercedes McNab.
A shame I can barely make out the WB through the broadcast fuzz, but I'll eventually see it clearly.
Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro confirmed to fans on the movie Web site's official bulletin board that plans are in the works for a sequel and other projects based on the film. "Yes, we are talking about a second movie," del Toro wrote. "The [box-office] numbers make perfect sense, since we were a relatively 'inexpensive' movie at under $70 million, and we will make enough domestically."
ANTI-ISLAMIC BIAS. I'm inclined to be skeptical in regard to much about CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), and it doesn't seem as if the claims of incidents reported here have been verified, as opposed to simply reported. But these seem to be indisputable Bad Acts:
They included a cross-burning outside an Islamic school in College Park; the stabbing in Springfield of a woman wearing an Islamic head scarf; and the discovery by a Muslim employee in Reston of a note in his office reading "Tell the Mother [expletive] with the laundry on their head that today is laundry day."
For the third straight year, the tally included an incident of vandalism at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. On Nov. 11, anti-Islamic graffiti were found spray-painted on the center's 15-passenger van. Damage had been done to its buildings in 2002 and in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.
I'm also inclined to be pretty open-minded about claims of anti-Islamic bias in the past year, given how much we see exposed in the comments of so many blogs, particularly those with no policy about deleting that sort of hate and slander.
I wish more blogs would enforce such policies, or, at the very least, confront and admonish those commenters ASAP.
THE OED COMMENTS ON ITS QUEST FOR SCIENCE FICTION WORDS, as written by Jesse Sheidlower, who probably wouldn't remember me from my days on panix.chat.
Several years ago, the North American Editorial Unit began a test project that aimed to correct these problems by looking intensively at the vocabulary of a single subject: science fiction. Backed by a database that was constantly being updated, the project operated over the World Wide Web, delivering the latest status of our research to readers whenever they needed it. The result? Our coverage of science fiction vocabulary is vastly improved, with many terms traced back to extremely early print appearances, important entries brought to the attention of OED editors, and inaccurate definitions corrected.
Many science fiction terms, for example, are also terms in science — and in some cases their use in SF predates their use in scientific publications! Two examples are asteroid belt, which our project has brought back to 1931 in the pulp magazine Wonder Stories, and neutronium, dated to 1967 in the Second Edition of the OED, but dated to 1935 in OED3, with a further antedating of 1931 in the editorial pipeline.
The black sack the troops placed over his head was removed only briefly during the next nine days of interrogation, conducted by U.S. officials in civilian and military clothes, he said. He was forced to do knee bends until he collapsed, he recalled, and black marks still ring his wrists from the pinch of plastic handcuffs. Rest was made impossible by loudspeakers blaring, over and over, the Beastie Boys' rap anthem, "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."
The forced exercise was even harder for his 57-year-old father, a former army general who held a signed certificate from the U.S. occupation authority vouching for his "high level of cooperation and assistance" in the days after the war.
Now, yes, it's important to have perspective here. First, accounts are not gospel; one has to take them with salt. Second, yes, there's a need to question Iraqis and get militarily important information.
But it's also important to know what's going on.
Interviews with former Iraqi prisoners and human-rights advocates present a picture of the U.S. prison system here as a vast wartime effort to extract information from the enemy rather than to punish criminals. Former prisoners say lengthy interrogation sessions, employing sleep deprivation, severe isolation, fear, humiliation and physical duress, were regular features of their daily regimen and remain so for the estimated 2,500 to 7,000 people inside the jails.
U.S. officials have confirmed that two contractors with employees at Abu Ghraib are subjects of the investigation.
The second company is Titan Corp., based in San Diego, which employed translators at Abu Ghraib.
GITMO. The WashPo spent three months closely examining the Guantanamo Bay prison; this is the result.
Using news accounts and information from lawyers and Web sites, the newspaper also compiled the largest public list of detainee names, encompassing 370 out of the 745 or so men detained at the camp since January 2002.
WHEN MEDIA LANDSLIDES ATTACK, just give up and go with it.
Also, the TV Land cable network - owned not by NBC or its parent, General Electric, but by Viacom - will run an hourlong mock program during the "Friends" finale. During the faux show, sponsored by Hotels.com, six people seated in front of a TV set will periodically turn to the camera and say, "We're watching 'Friends' and so should you."
"I am totally sincere when I say we don't want people to miss the night the last 'Friends' is on," said Larry Jones, president for TV Land and a sibling Viacom network, Nick at Nite, in New York. "It's an opportunity to take advantage of something that's happening culturally and in television history." TV Land pulled a similar stunt during the "Seinfeld" finale on NBC in 1998, running on screen for an hour an image of the closed TV Land office doors.
Told the details of the TV Land tribute, Randy Falco, group president at the NBC Television Network division of NBC in New York, laughed heartily and said: "God bless 'em. We don't even own TV Land. It's a beautiful thing."
This fall, Champlain College in Vermont will launch an undergraduate degree program in electronic game design. The program, believed to be the first in the United States to focus exclusively on interactive game development, offers two different specializations: art and animation and game design, said Ann DeMarle, program director.
Art students will be trained in film and animation and will receive art instruction. DeMarle said game designers will study writing, plot development, psychology, characterization, and how to fully engage players so they stay involved. All students must fulfill liberal arts requirements such as English literature, history, and the social sciences. The college plans to offer a computer specialization within a year.
There are bunch of salary figures at the bottom of the article, and, unsurprisingly, they seem a tad inflated to me.
THAT USELESS ABSTRACT KNOWLEDGE. Hell, we don't need it, anyway.
The United States' share of its own industrial patents has fallen steadily over the decades and now stands at 52 percent.
A more concrete decline can be seen in published research. Physical Review, a series of top physics journals, recently tracked a reversal in which American papers, in two decades, fell from the most to a minority. Last year the total was just 29 percent, down from 61 percent in 1983.
China, said Martin Blume, the journals' editor, has surged ahead by submitting more than 1,000 papers a year. "Other scientific publishers are seeing the same kind of thing," he added.
Another downturn centers on the Nobel Prizes, an icon of scientific excellence. Traditionally, the United States, powered by heavy federal investments in basic research, the kind that pursues fundamental questions of nature, dominated the awards.
But the American share, after peaking from the 1960's through the 1990's, has fallen in the 2000's to about half, 51 percent.
During the cold war, the government pumped more than $1 trillion into research, with a wealth of benefits including lasers, longer life expectancies, men on the Moon and the prestige of many Nobel Prizes.
Today, federal research budgets are still at record highs; this year more than $126 billion has been allocated to research.
But the edifice is less formidable than it seems, in part because of the nation's costly and unique military role. This year, financing for military research hit $66 billion, higher in fixed dollars than in the cold war and far higher than in any other country.
For all the spending, the United States began to experience a number of scientific declines in the 1990's, boom years for the nation's overall economy.
For instance, scientific papers by Americans peaked in 1992 and then fell roughly 10 percent, the National Science Foundation reports. Why? Many analysts point to rising foreign competition, as does the European Commission, which also monitors global science trends. In a study last year, the commission said Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990's as the world's largest producer of scientific literature.
On another front, the numbers of new doctorates in the sciences peaked in 1998 and then fell 5 percent the next year, a loss of more than 1,300 new scientists, according to the foundation.
In a report last month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the Bush administration, to live up to its pledge to halve the nation's budget deficit in the next five years, would cut research financing at 21 of 24 federal agencies — all those that do or finance science except those involved in space and national and domestic security.
Way to go, my country. To be sure, much, if not most, of this is a result of the tremendous growth in investment in research in other countries; that is only to be applauded. But lack of realization of the critical important of investment in basid -- not applied, basic -- research here is also woefully endemic.
Flashing, voyeurism, cottaging, grooming - they are just some of the sexual practices facing tightened laws coming into effect in England and Wales from this weekend.
In debating the new Sexual Offences Act politicians and civil servants wrestled with many tricky problems of the correct role of law in modern sexuality. Dogging, for instance, escaped an explicit ban. But necrophilia (sex with a corpse) has not, becoming an offence for the first time.
In the government's efforts to protect children from abuse, however, the law also forbids under-16s from engaging in any sexual activity - ranging from "touching" to full intercourse.
Sexual touching, the Act says, includes doing it "with any part of the body", "with anything else", and "through anything". Depending on one's definition, that could technically include snogging as well as the gamut of sexual activities that teenagers often get up to. The guidance notes from the government say it could include "where a person rubs up against someone's private parts through the person's clothes for sexual gratification".
The most unusual aspect of this new law, however, is that the authorities have no intention of enforcing it. Police officers will not be snooping through school children's curtains to see if they are getting up to no good rather than doing their homework.
The government has told the Crown Prosecution Service (which makes the decision as to whether cases presented to it by the police should go to court) that it should not normally prosecute the under-16s for having consensual sex, let alone for "sexual touching".
'It seems to say that sometimes the law means what it says and sometimes it doesn't'
Under the existing law, sex below the age of consent is illegal - but cases concerning children of similar ages only go to court in very unusual circumstances, such as where one of the participants has been exploited because of, for instance, learning difficulties. The new law does not seem to have clarified the position.
The Home Office says legalising consensual sexual activity between children "would damage a fundamental plank in our raft of child protection measures".
"We are not prepared to do this," says a spokesman. "We accept that genuinely mutually agreed, non-exploitative sexual activity between teenagers does take place and in many instances no harm comes from it.
"We are putting safeguards in place to ensure that these cases, which are not in the public interest, are not prosecuted - by amending guidance to the police and Crown Prosecution Service."
He added that young people under 16 would have the same rights to contraception and sexual health advice as at present.
But the move does not impress child rights campaigner Terri Dowty, of Action on Rights for Children. Laws should mean what they say, she says.
Police and prosecutors given advice on how to use new law
"It's astonishing that the government could consider legislation with the prior intent of issuing guidance to countermand it," she says. "I worry about the message it sends to young people - it seems to say that sometimes the law means what it says and sometimes it doesn't."
Professor Nicola Lacey of the London School of Economics is also unconvinced. "What the Home Office would say was that they wanted to use the criminal law for symbolic impact, to say that it's not a good thing for kids to be having sex.
"My counter-argument is that the criminal law is too dangerous a tool to be used for symbolic purposes.
"With this on the statute book, it will give police and prosecutors a lot of discretion. It could be used as a way of controlling kids who perhaps the police want to control for other reasons. Kids who perhaps are a nuisance or who belong to a group who attract the attention of the police in some way."
Terri Dowty also fears that private prosecutions could be brought by an aggrieved individual - perhaps an angry parent who didn't like their child's boyfriend or girlfriend.
Good to see that necrophilia is being cracked down upon, there being such a widespread outbreak of it these days. This whole approach makes plain the intent: have laws around not as a means of equal treatment and justice, but as a weapon of power to be used against those it is necessary to threaten, regardless of the actual circumstances.
An internal Army investigation has found a virtual collapse of the command structure in a prison outside Baghdad where American enlisted personnel are accused of committing acts of abuse and humiliation against Iraqi detainees.
A report on the investigation said midlevel military intelligence officers were allowed to skirt the normal chain of command to issue questionable orders to enlisted personnel from the reserve military police unit handling guard duty there.
The Army has already begun one investigation into the abuse allegations. Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, the incoming deputy commander of Army intelligence, is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison.
A second review was ordered Saturday by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, to assess the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners.
The report on General Taguba's investigation identified two military intelligence officers and two civilian contractors for the Army as key figures in the abuse cases at Abu Ghraib. In his internal report on his findings in the investigation, General Taguba said he suspected that the four were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and strongly recommended disciplinary action."
The Taguba report states that "military intelligence interrogators and other U.S. Government Agency interrogators actively requested that M.P. guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." It noted that one civilian interrogator, a contractor from a company called CACI International Inc., based in Arlington, Va., and attached to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, "clearly knew his instructions" to the military police equated to physical abuse.
The Taguba report's sharpest criticism was for officers in charge of the military police and military intelligence units in the prison.
"There is abundant evidence in the statements of numerous witnesses that soldiers throughout the 800th M.P. Brigade were not proficient" in basic skills needed to operate the prison, the report found.
A crucial problem, the report found, was the bad relationship between the commanders of the military police unit and the military intelligence officers. The report found that there "was clear friction and lack of effective communication" between Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the accused soldiers, and military intelligence officials operating in the prison.
The report said the "ambiguous command relationship" in the prison was made worse by orders that seemed to give military intelligence officials broad authority.
The orders from occupation commanders in Iraq effectively made a military intelligence officer, rather than a military police officer, responsible for the military police units, the report said. This arrangement was not supported by General Karpinski, the report added, and "is not doctrinally sound."
The report identifies Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th military intelligence brigade, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center and Liaison Officer to the 205th Military intelligence Brigade, Steven Stephanowicz, an Army contract employee from CACI, and John Israel, a contractor and civilian interpreter with CACI, as the people suspected of being "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."
The report concluded that Mr. Stephanowicz made a false statement to the investigation team regarding the "locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses." It recommended that he be dismissed.
Mr. Israel, the report found, "denied ever having seen interrogation processes in violation" of Army standards, "which is contrary to several witness statements." Colonel Pappas was recommended for a reprimand for, among other things, failing to supervise his soldiers properly, and failing to ensure that soldiers under his direct command knew, understood and followed the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war.
In addition, the report said, "there were also abuses committed by members of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center."
The six unnamed supervisors will each receive a general-officer memorandum of reprimand, a document that can effectively end an officer's career by making future promotion impossible. A seventh supervisor will receive a letter of admonishment, a lesser form of penalty.
In Mr. Brock's new K Street offices on Friday morning, a team of nearly a half-dozen researchers, overseen by Katie Barge, who last worked for the opposition research arm of Senator John Edwards's presidential campaign, sat before a bank of computers and televisions in a room that was otherwise dark.
Some of the researchers wore headphones as they scanned episodes of cable news programs stored on digital recording devices, among them "Hannity & Colmes" on Fox News Channel, "Dennis Miller" on CNBC and "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC. Two researchers have been assigned to cover Mr. Limbaugh, whose program they will regularly transcribe.
I wonder if I should apply for a job? (ADDENDUM: Hmm, really.)
Read The Rest as interested. The site is off to a good start, with replies to Linda Chavez, Chris Wallce, Hannity & Colmes, and many others.
Seven American soldiers have received reprimands in connection with the investigation into abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison here, a senior American military official said today. It was the first disciplinary action taken against American personnel in connection with the widening prisoner-abuse scandal.
The seven soldiers punished in connection with the prison abuse scandal were senior noncommissioned officers or officers and were in supervisory positions, the senior American military official said. They are not accused of committing any abuse, he said.
"These are people who should have known but didn't," the official said. "They didn't know or actually participate." He added: "These people have the responsibility to set the standards for the organization."
Six of the soldiers received the most severe form of reprimand, and the seventh received a somewhat lighter class of reprimand, the official said. The reprimands were administrative in nature, rather than criminal, and the soldiers are permitted to enter an appeal process to contest the punishments.
Officials said on Sunday that the Army had opened two new investigations into reports of abuse. One is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison. A second review is assessing the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners.
Some military intelligence duties involving interrogations are also handled by members of federal agencies and by outside specialists under contract to the government, officials have said.
That next to last about the "reviews" is what's most important, so far. The last 'graph is an interestingly casual reference to the "civilians" involved.
WILSON AND NOVAK, not quite the same as Evans and Novak. The first chapter of Ambassador Wilson's book is here. A few excerpts:
Novak called the next morning, but I was out, and then so was he. We did not connect until the following day, July 10. He listened quietly as I repeated to him my friend's account of their conversation. I told him I couldn't imagine what had possessed him to blurt out to a complete stranger what he had thought he knew about my wife.
Novak apologized, and then asked if I would confirm what he had heard from a CIA source: that my wife worked at the Agency. I told him that I didn't answer questions about my wife. I told him that my story was not about my wife or even about me; it was about sixteen words in the State of the Union address.
I then read to him three sentences from a 1990 news story about the evacuation of Baghdad: "The chief American diplomat, Joe Wilson, shepherds his flock of some 800 known Americans like a village priest. At 4:30 Sunday morning, he was helping 55 wives and children of U.S. diplomats from Kuwait load themselves and their few remaining possessions on transport for the long haul on the desert to Jordan. He shows the stuff of heroism." The reporters who had written this, I pointed out, were Robert Novak and Rowland Evans. I suggested to Novak that he might want to check his files before writing about me. I also offered to send him all the articles I had written in the past year on policy toward Iraq so that he could educate himself on the positions I had taken. He would learn, if he took the time, that I was hardly antiwar, just anti-dumb war. Before I hung up, Novak apologized again for having spoken about Valerie to a complete stranger.
The next day Novak's column blowing Valerie Plame appeared.
While Novak has since downplayed the request of the CIA that he not publish her name, I wondered which part of 'NO' he didn't understand. Murray Waas, writing in the American Prospect, has a different take:
Two government officials have told the FBI that conservative columnist Robert Novak was asked specifically not to publish the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in his now-famous July 14 newspaper column. The two officials told investigators they warned Novak that by naming Plame he might potentially jeopardize her ability to engage in covert work, stymie ongoing intelligence operations, and jeopardize sensitive overseas sources.
SPEAKING OF ATROCITIES, sometimes things are simply morally complex. Such as Dresden. I'd previously considered blogging other reviews of Frederick Taylor's DRESDEN: Tuesday, February 13, 1945, but also didn't want to sound as if I were minimizing or justifying a terrible thing. Still, it's an important addition to history.
What emerges is a picture markedly different from conventional accounts. To begin with, though a great many innocent civilians perished in the firestorm, the city itself had hardly been a model of innocence. Rather, it was a Nazified redoubt; the bulk of its citizens passionately supported Hitler's war of aggression. Those who did not actively persecute the small Jewish community within their midst quietly stood by while it was physically eliminated.
Nor did Dresden, as some have suggested, produce nothing more harmful than cuckoo clocks and marzipan. Taylor carefully debunks what he calls the ''pervasive postwar myth'' that the city contributed little to the war. Dresden, as one Nazi document quoted here boasted, was ''one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich,'' manufacturing a range of crucial goods from optical gun sights to munitions.
Dresden was also, it turns out, important strategically, and became more so as the war progressed. Of particular significance were the city's railyards, a crucial way station for the shipment of men and materiel to the east, as well as for thousands of ''passengers'' on ''special trains'' bound for Auschwitz. Every single day in October 1944, Taylor writes, a ''total of 28 military trains, altogether carrying almost 20,000 officers and men, were in transit through Dresden.'' Indeed, it was the frenetic pace of German military transport through the city, Taylor points out, that partly prompted the decision of the Allies to place Dresden in their sights.
Coming so late in the war, was the bombing of Dresden gratuitous? Only with hindsight. It now seems obvious that by mid-February 1945 German capitulation was just months away. Things looked very different at the time. The Dresden attack took place in the immediate aftermath of Hitler's shock offensive in the Ardennes -- the Battle of the Bulge -- that in a few short weeks took the lives of some 19,000 American soldiers. Allied planners also feared that in addition to the V-1 and V-2 rockets still raining down on England, Hitler might surprise them with even more powerful wonder-weapons.
But his close analysis of the death toll puts the total at between 25,000 and 40,000; fearsome numbers, to be sure, but far below the 100,000 commonly cited.
Just days before the raid, the minuscule remainder of Dresden's Jews -- spared by virtue of their marriages to ''Aryans'' -- received their final deportation notice. On Feb. 16, they were to be shipped to Auschwitz. Among those Jews saved by Allied firebombs was the diarist of wartime Germany, Victor Klemperer, who survived along with his manuscript.
One can only think of General Sherman's "war is hell." Lines must be drawn, but none of it is less than terrible.
Before the World Trade Center attack, Javaid Iqbal was a Pakistani immigrant proud to be known as "the cable guy" to customers on Long Island, where he had lived for a decade and married an American. Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, had a weekend flea market stand at Aqueduct Raceway and a restaurant near Times Square where friendly police officers would joke, "Where's my shish kebab?"
But within weeks of Sept. 11, 2001, both had been picked up by federal agents in an anti-terror sweep. For 23 hours a day, they were locked in solitary confinement in the harsh maximum-security unit of a federal detention center in Brooklyn - the one cited by the Justice Department's inspector general last year for widespread physical abuse of its detainees.
The lawsuit charges that the men were repeatedly slammed into walls and dragged across the floor while shackled and manacled, kicked and punched until they bled, cursed as "terrorists" and "Muslim bastards," and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one during which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.
At that point, the papers charge, he was confined without blankets, mattress or toilet paper to a tiny cell kept lighted 24 hours a day, and was denied adequate medical care or communication with his public defender. He said his attempts to pray or sleep were disrupted by guards banging on his door.
"I was in life and I went to hell," Mr. Elmaghraby, 37, said in the interview. He spent almost a year in the special unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center, where the detention and treatment of hundreds of Muslim immigrants have since become the focus of concerns about the constitutionality of the Justice Department's counterterrorism offensive.
Hatred seemed to determine the rules on the unit in ways large and small, the men said. On cold days when it rained, Mr. Iqbal was left outside for hours without jacket or shoes. When he was returned to his cell drenched, officers turned on the air-conditioning, he said. At one point, the lawsuit said, Mr. Elmaghraby was mockingly displayed naked to a female staff member.
When the inspector general's investigators interviewed corrections officers, all but one or two denied that any detainees were abused. But according to a supplemental report issued in December, investigators later recovered videotapes that showed some of the same officers engaging in abuse.
Ms. Billingsley, the Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, said it had taken no disciplinary action while it waited for a decision about prosecution to be made by the Department of Justice's civil rights division and the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "We were recently advised of the decision not to prosecute," she said.
ON its surface, ''The Jane Austen Book Club'' is a tidy number, a perfectly cut and polished little gem with just enough facets. But that's not the half of it. This exquisite novel is bigger and more ambitious than it appears. It's that rare book that reminds us what reading is all about.
In her portrait of a California reading group, Karen Joy Fowler turns a mirror on the gawking, voyeuristic presence that lurks in every story: the reader. What results is Fowler's shrewdest, funniest fiction yet, a novel about how we engage with a novel. You don't have to be a student of Jane Austen to enjoy it, either. At the end are plot synopses of all six Austen novels for the benefit of the forgetful, the uninitiated or the nostalgic.
Each of these members has ''a private Austen'' and sees the books through different eyes. Fowler is hilarious in revealing the proprietary attitudes some of them assume. Eyebrows are raised, for instance, when one character dares refer to the deity as Jane: ''That was more intimate, surely, than Miss Austen would wish. None of the rest of us called her Jane, even though we were older and had been reading her years longer.''
At first, the other women are stiff-necked about Grigg. Why did Jocelyn include him? He's not only a male and a newbie to Austen but he also has the bad taste to bring to the meetings an omnibus edition of the novels -- brand-new, no less, suggesting that ''Austen was merely a recent whim.'' As if that weren't enough, Grigg is (gasp!) a science fiction fan. (This is a sly joke, if a bit insidey, since Fowler is a science fiction writer herself. In addition to her novels, ''Sister Noon,'' ''The Sweetheart Season'' and the fantastical ''Sarah Canary,'' she has published two collections of stories, many of them combining science fiction, fantasy and satire.)
In fact, as Grigg reveals during a discussion of ''Northanger Abbey,'' he met Jocelyn at a science fiction convention the year before. ''I was at the Hound Roundup,'' the dog-loving Jocelyn quickly reassures the others. ''Same hotel.'' Fowler's flashback describing that weekend is one of the funniest diversions in the book. At one point, Jocelyn and a stranger fall into conversation at the hotel bar, not realizing they've just come from different seminars. He thinks she's a science fiction fan, she thinks he's a breeder of bassets, and they converse at cross-purposes in a scene worthy of Preston Sturges.
This is a surprising novel, and there isn't a boring line in it.
[...] Lovers of Austen will relish this book, but I envy any reader who comes to it unfamiliar with her. There's no better letter of introduction. The questions Fowler raises are endlessly fascinating. Is Austen all about love and courtship? Or money and class? Is she about second chances? Having it all or settling for less? And what of the characters who don't have happy endings? For that matter, what is a happy ending? ''What if you had a happy ending and didn't notice?'' Sylvia wonders.
Inevitably, reading groups will pounce on this novel. (There are even ''questions for discussion'' at the end, though some of them are more than a little tongue-in-cheek.) Talk about parallel universes -- just imagine a book club discussing a book about a book club discussing a book.
Generally speaking, a writer would kill to get a review like this; to top it off the Times give it a prominent spot with this link to audio of Fowler reading. I look forward to catching up to this novel sometime.
METHODICAL. This plays well into national stereotypes, doesn't it?
BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government's plans to levy fines on companies that fail to hire trainees will also be applied to legal German brothels, Der Spiegel news magazine reported Sunday.
Brothels failing to employ a certain number of apprentices will not be exempted from the financial penalties that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government wants to introduce on all companies later this year, the magazine said.
The legislation drafted by the Social Democrats and their Greens coalition partners will fine companies that do not have one apprentice for every 15 workers.
Several members of the Greens party tried to allow an exemption for prostitutes but the Education Ministry responsible for the legislation blocked that, arguing it "would cause considerable difficulties," Der Spiegel said.
Not least being a steady supply of trained hookers, I suppose.
SHECKLEY OR DICK? I was trying to decide from which writer's work these came.
The orange construction cones and barrels that litter Nebraska's highways may be going high-tech.
A University of Nebraska professor has developed robotic cones and barrels that can move out of the way, or into place, from computer commands made miles away.
They can even be programmed to move on their own at any particular part of the day, said Shane Farritor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Nebraska.
For example, if workers arrived at 6 a.m., the cones could move from the shoulder to block off the lane at that time, then return to the side of the highway at the end of the day.
The robots could come in handy following a slow-moving maintenance operation, like painting a stripe on a road or moving asphalt, where now the barrels have to be picked up and moved as the operation proceeds, Farritor said.
"That way you don't have to block off a 10-mile strip," he said.
But for them to be out of Phil Dick, or really, either author, they definitely need to be talking. Preferably in an irritating way. And paranoid.
NEXT, THE TEDDY-BEAR HOLOCAUST. It's hard to do good public relations for mass slaughter of fuzzy-wuzzy ultra-cute anthropomorphic little creatures everyone loves.
A koala population explosion on an Australian island has prompted calls for 20,000 of the furry, native marsupials to be shot to stop them destroying their island habitat and end a koala famine.
Some 30,000 koalas on Kangaroo Island, off the coast of the state of South Australia,re stripping the island of its native gum trees, destroying the ecosystem and causing a koala famine, say environmentalists and national parks officials.
Starve them, shoot them, neither way looks like Mr. Nice Guy.
I suspect no one will consider shipping them to Sudan to be eaten; no one makes the hard choices these days....
The story of the Likud disengagement referendum is that of the proverbial golem from Jewish tales, which attacks its own creator: for the first time in a long history of interaction, a genuine breach has developed between Ariel Sharon and the Jewish settlers in the territories.
I just wanted to quote that. But this worth mentioning as well:
This is a fracture that cannot be mended. The cursing and shoving of the PM's son, MK Omri Sharon, en route to the Likud voting station in Jerusalem pushed the prime minister to the brink. Whatever relations obtained between Sharon and Likud's right flank are no more.
A question following the results is how does Netanyahu come out of this? Stronger or weaker? Obviously he is stronger amongst the hard-right, though not at all as much as he would be if he hadn't granted lip-service support for the withdrawal.
Sharon aides on Sunday pointed accusing fingers at Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who refused to publicly help drum up support for Sharon's disengagement proposal. The prime minister's close associates accused Netanyahu of disloyalty, and Likud officials say the "cold war" between Sharon and Netanyahu has been reignited.
Quoting political sources, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Sharon was considering whether to fire Netanyahu after the defeat of his plan.
"One of the views is to fire Netanyahu. He [Sharon] is furious with Netanyahu, but he doesn't do things out of rage, and this might cause a rebellion in Likud," said one source. Others also said Sharon was mulling a reshuffle.
"I don't believe anything will happen, and everyone will keep their current jobs," said Uri Ginosar, a spokesman for Netanyahu, in response to the reports.
Netanyahu continues as the unspoken heir to the expansionist throne, but I don't think he's helped himself in the long run in Israel in general.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Leadership faction and Moshe Feiglin want to capture Likud away from Sharon.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for the first two, 3 out of 5 for the last.
OIL FOR BRIBES. I've not been posting on the "Oil-For-Food" scandals because so many other blogs were doing a good job on it. I'll largely continue that policy, but I shouldn't neglect to pay some little attention here.
Kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime on contracts signed under the United Nations' oil-for-food programme were far higher than the 10 per cent rake-off previously assumed to be the norm.
In one of the many deals funded by UN-supervised oil exports from Iraq, a delivery of cameras and audiovisual equipment for the culture ministry - sent as "humanitarian" items, under a loophole - was valued at 100 per cent above its true cost.
According to new documents recovered in Baghdad, multi-million pound deals with the public works ministry for sanitation and water filtration equipment were often marked up by as much as 30 per cent.
Some went straight into the bank accounts of Saddam, his family and supporters, in addition to officials who negotiated the deals. The Iraqi dictator, however, is also alleged to have paid millions of pounds in cash and oil trading vouchers to foreign companies and individuals from the kickbacks.
According to a Western official with access to the contracts, staff from the Coalition Provisional Authority who have been poring over more than 2,500 outstanding contracts worth almost £5.9 billion since the UN left Iraq last year, are shocked by the rake-offs.
Now, its latest discovery means that the total lost to kickbacks and surcharges could far exceed the American Congressional estimate of £2.6 billion. Oil smuggling is believed to have lined the coffers of Saddam's regime with a further £3.4 billion.
CPA staff believe that some border inspectors working for the Swiss company Cotecna at Iraqi frontier posts were bribed to turn a blind eye to discrepancies between goods that were contracted and what was delivered.
The inflated contracts were apparently not noticed or ignored at the UN in New York, even though strict checks were supposed to ensure that Iraq did not receive goods banned under economic sanctions.
Last week, a US Congressional investigator testified that UN auditors had refused to release 55 internal audits covering seven years of the oil-for-food programme to the General Accounting Office, the federal body carrying out one of the investigations into the scandal.
Joseph Christoff, a GAO official, said that the audits were shown routinely only to Benon Sevan, the UN Under Secretary General who ran the programme whose name was on a list of 270 companies and individuals who allegedly received vouchers. Mr Sevan has denied wrongdoing.
Sevan, of course, is considered to be the highest-ranking UN official personally guilty of taking bribes and being corrupt; he is now more or less in hiding, and is officially retiring. See more background here and here.
The United Nations has threatened to fire two officials who wrote an expose of sleaze and corruption during its peacekeeping missions of the 1990s.
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, is understood to have favoured an attempt to block publication of the memoir, Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures, a True Story from Hell on Earth, due to be published next month.
Still reeling from the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, officials in the upper echelons of the UN are alarmed by the promised revelations of wild sex parties, petty corruption, and drug use - diversions that helped the peacekeepers to cope with alternating states of terror and boredom.
Under UN staff rules, writers have to submit manuscripts for scrutiny. Authors can be disciplined if their work is not approved but they insist on publication.
Last week, a UN spokesman admitted that the book had been judged not to be within the interests of the organisation. "We can't stop them publishing, but the rule means that the two who still work for us can be disciplined and dismissed," he said.
The co-authors, who met in Cambodia in 1993 and later worked in Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia and Somalia, claim that petty corruption over expense accounts and living allowances was rife.
Ahmad Chalabi, the longtime Pentagon favorite to become leader of a free Iraq, has never made a secret of his close ties to Iran. Before the U.S. invasion of Baghdad, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress maintained a $36,000-a-month branch office in Tehran—funded by U.S. taxpayers. INC representatives, including Chalabi himself, paid regular visits to the Iranian capital. Since the war, Chalabi's contacts with Iran may have intensified: a Chalabi aide says that since December, he has met with most of Iran's top leaders, including supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his top national-security aide, Hassan Rowhani. "Iran is Iraq's neighbor, and it is in Iraq's interest to have a good relationship with Iran," Chalabi's aide says.
But U.S. intelligence agencies have recently raised concerns that Chalabi has become too close to Iran's theocratic rulers. NEWSWEEK has learned that top Bush administration officials have been briefed on intelligence indicating that Chalabi and some of his top aides have supplied Iran with "sensitive" information on the American occupation in Iraq. U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations. According to one U.S. government source, some of the information Chalabi turned over to Iran could "get people killed." (A Chalabi aide calls the allegations "absolutely false.")
Why would Chalabi risk his cozy ties to Washington by cuddling up to Iran's fundamentalist rulers? Administration officials say Chalabi may be working both sides in an effort to solidify his own power and block the advancement of rival Iraqis. A U.S. official familiar with information presented to policymakers said that White House advisers were concerned that Chalabi was "playing footsie" with the Iranians. Yet Chalabi still has loyal defenders among some neoconservatives in the Pentagon. They say Chalabi has provided information that saved American lives. "Rushing to judgment and cutting off this relationship could have unintended consequences," says one Pentagon official, who did not respond to questions about Chalabi's dealings with Tehran. Each month the Pentagon still pays his group a $340,000 stipend, drawn from secret intelligence funds, for "information collection."
Still, the State Department and the CIA are using the intelligence about his Iran ties to persuade the president to cut him loose once and for all. Officials say that even some of Chalabi's old allies in Washington now see him as a liability. If Chalabi's support in the administration was once an iceberg, says one Bush aide, "it's now an ice cube."
Aren't we glad the Pentagon adopted him? Look how well all our dealings with Chalabi have turned out! Every single one.
The company, ABB Lummus, a Houston-based subsidiary of ABB, the Swedish-Swiss engineering and oil services giant, gave its employees the choice of either staying with beefed-up security or leaving the kingdom. All the employees chose to leave within days, said Bjorn Edlund, the spokesman for the company at its corporate headquarters in Zurich, noting that several hundred other foreign employees working on ABB projects elsewhere in Saudi Arabia would remain.
Mr. Edlund said about 100 employees and dependents - mostly Americans, Britons or Australians, as well as some Filipinos and Indians - would leave. Work on the project to revamp an oil refinery run jointly by the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation and ExxonMobil would have to be suspended, he said.
Two ABB employees remained hospitalized, a Canadian engineer shot in the neck and an American with light wounds, said company officials in Yanbu, 190 miles north of Jidda on the Red Sea coast. At least one Saudi security officer and five foreign engineers were killed, and up to 33 people were wounded as the gunmen shot their way through the city before being gunned down themselves, Saudi news reports said.
This is, it must be noted, a distinct strategic success for al Qaeda; if they get enough American/foreign engineers and other such critical personnel to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, it's possible that oil production may start to fail.
In killing two Americans, two Britons and an Australian, the gunmen singled out senior employees, including the project manager, the construction manager, the engineering manager and the overall administrator. One of them, Steve LaGuardia, a 62-year-old American engineer, was tied behind a car and dragged, a company official said.
The gunmen roared into the parking lot of Ibn Hayyan Secondary Boys School early Saturday, firing their guns in the air and yelling to the students that they should abandon their studies to go fight against the Americans in Falluja, Iraq, The Associated Press reported.
As students and teachers scattered in horror, the report said, the gunmen pointed to the blood-soaked and battered body of the American engineer and said, "This is the president of America."
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, a top operative with Al Qaeda in the kingdom, had said in one of his recently recorded statements that all foreigners should be expelled from Islam's holy land, their bodies dragged along Saudi streets.
"God willing, the day will come when bodies of Americans and Jews will be dragged, humiliated and trampled in the Arabian Peninsula, and with them their tyrants and allies," one statement said.
Americans, Jews, all evil, all equally powerful -- or, rather, the Jews control America, of course. What does our good old ally say?
Crown Prince Abdullah, who effectively runs the country, said the government would pursue the terrorists even if it took 20 to 30 years to get them all. Speaking to a group of intellectuals late Saturday, he blamed outside influences, specifically Israel, for the terrorism plaguing the country, according to a report carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
"It became clear for us and I say it, not 100 percent but 95 percent, that Zionists' hands are behind what is going now," the crown prince said. "Unfortunately, they deceived some of our sons. The devil made them daring and they are supports of the devil and colonialism."
Found out again! And this is Abdullah speaking, the great Saudi Arabian leader, and proposer of peace plans.
Tali Hatuel, 34 -- who was eight months pregnant -- and her four daughters, ages two to 11, were driving into Israel when gunmen fired on their white Citroen station wagon near the Kissufim crossing.
The car spun off the road and the attackers charged it, shooting the five inside at close range, Israeli police said. The wagon was riddled with bullets, its windows blown away and carpet splattered with blood. A bumper sticker on the car read: "Uprooting the settlements -- a victory for terror.''
Soldiers killed the attackers in a gunbattle at the scene. Two soldiers were wounded, the army said.
The family lived in Katif -- one of 21 communities housing 7,500 Jews living amid the 1.3 million Palestinians in the narrow, 25-mile-long seaside strip.
The militant Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group, claimed responsibility for what it called the "heroic'' attack. They said it was retaliation for Israel's recent assassinations of Hamas founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Some media reports said the attackers, Ibrahim Mohammad Hammad, 22, and Faisal Abu Naqira, 26, were dressed as shepherds. The Islamic Jihad group planned a march Sunday evening celebrating the attack.
"The blood of the holy warriors will be united to become bombs of death and fear in the hearts of the enemy,'' read a statement on the Web site of the Popular Resistance Committee.
What heroism it is, indeed, to shoot to death a pregnant woman and her four daughters. Let's hold a march to celebrate.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for the first, 3 out of 5 for the second if you want some followup on the failure Sharon's withdrawal plan in the Likud vote. This is worth noting.
Likud members make up only 4 percent of the Israeli electorate, and the low turnout -- less than 50 percent -- among even that fraction of voters could give Sharon wiggle room to ignore the referendum's results.
Thinking the worst is not defeatist. It is the best way to avoid defeat. Nor is it defeatist to concede that terror can never be entirely vanquished. Terrorists will continue to threaten democratic politics wherever oppressed or marginalized groups believe their cause justifies violence. But we can certainly deny them victory. We can continue to live without fear inside free institutions. To do so, however, we need to change the way we think, to step outside the confines of our cozy conservative and liberal boxes.
Civil liberties are not a set of pesky side constraints, pettifogging legalisms tying democracy's hands behind its back. Ask what the American way of life is, and soon we are talking about trial by jury, a free press, habeas corpus and democratic institutions. Soon we are talking about that freedom and that confident sense of an entitlement to happiness that the Europeans find so strange in this country. Civil liberties are what America is.
Civil liberties may define us, but we have a bad record of jettisoning them when we get scared. We have the A.C.L.U. today because patriotic liberals after World War I were ashamed that the Russian Revolution of 1917 had terrified us into the Red Scare, the Palmer Raids and the needless roundup, arrest and deportation of mostly Eastern European immigrants, whose worst offense was that they had socialist, anarchist or communist illusions. We learned from the Red Scare that we need a civil liberties lobby because frightened majorities do reprehensible things. Between 1917 and 1920, we did ourselves plenty of harm. A congressman, Victor Berger, was denied his seat in the House after being convicted of espionage for writing an antiwar article, and a presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for delivering an antiwar speech. Aliens were harassed and deported. Legal strikes were smashed, and trade-union leaders were jailed. Indeed, by comparison with the Red Scare or later shameful episodes like Roosevelt's detention of Japanese during World War II, there have been no mass detention camps in the United States since Sept. 11 and no imprisonments for dissent. Not yet anyway.
Even so, after 9/11 we were frightened, and Congress and the government weren't always thinking straight. After the attack, it may have made sense to detain more than 700 aliens on one immigration pretext or another until we could figure out whether there were other sleeper cells at work. But it made a lot less sense to hold them for months (80 days on average) and to deny them lawyers and public due process before we tossed most of them out of the country. It was shameful, as a Justice Department report found, that many Arab and Muslim detainees were abused and harassed in confinement. Civil libertarians like Prof. David Cole of Georgetown nobly stood up and denounced such detainments as the abuses that they were.
But being absolutely right on this issue doesn't make a civil liberties position right on every other issue.
Thus far, it has not been Congress but the bipartisan commission on 9/11 whose public hearings have focused national debate on civil liberties. It was not Congress that uncovered evidence that the United States has been handing terrorist suspects over to foreign governments like Morocco, Egypt and Jordan for possible torture but diligent reporters like Barton Gellman and Dana Priest of The Washington Post.
Only if our institutions work properly -- if Congress reviews legislation in detail and tosses out measures that jeopardize liberty at no gain to security, if the courts keep executive power under constitutional control and if the press refuses to allow itself to become ''embedded'' with the government -- can the moral and constitutional hazards of lesser evils be managed.
urrently, terrorism suspects in the United States can be detained as enemy combatants, held as material witnesses or detained for immigration violations. We do not even know how many suspects are being held under these categories. If we were to add up all the suspects, citizens and noncitizens held in U.S. institutions, together with those in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and U.S. brigs and stockades in between, the number might run into the thousands. No one knows how many detainees there are, and that is the crux of the problem: the United States may be operating a global archipelago of detention beyond the law and ken of its citizens. Clearly, there need to be rules to govern detention, and the key rule -- one that defines democracy itself -- is that no one, citizen or otherwise, should be held without access to public review of his detention by independent judicial authorities. Where they are held, whether offshore or at home, should be immaterial. If they are detained by Americans, they are America's responsibility, and basic due process standards should apply.
The abuse we need to talk about is torture. Torture, our founding fathers said, was the vice of tyrannies and its absolute exclusion the mark of free government. At the same time, keeping torture, or at least what used to be called ''the third degree,'' from creeping back into our police squad rooms at home has required constant vigilance by D.A.'s and honest cops. Now it may be creeping into our war on terror. There is some evidence that the United States has handed key suspects over to Middle Eastern governments for torture. In the metal containers stacked up behind rings of razor wire on Bagram air base in Afghanistan, beatings are reportedly routine, and at least two suspects have died during secret interrogations. It is possible that similar physical methods have been used against detainees from the Hussein regime at Baghdad airport.
It ought to be the rule that no detainee of the United States should be permanently deprived of access to counsel and judicial process, whether it be civilian federal court or military tribunal. Torture will thrive wherever detainees are held in secret. Conduct disgracing the United States is inevitable if suspects are detained beyond the reach of the law.
The facts may not be as clear before the event as they are likely to be afterward, but voters must be told what we need to know, before government commits to war in our name. Over Iraq, our name was taken in vain.
We need national and international rules to control such wars. This may require both Congressional legislation and United Nations resolutions. Pre-emptive war can be justified only when the danger that must be pre-empted is imminent, when peaceful means of averting the danger have been tried and have failed and when democratic institutions ratify the decision to do so. If these are the minimum tests pre-emptive war has to meet, the Iraq war failed to meet all three.
The real moral hazard in a war on terror emerges precisely here, in the fact that no moral contract, no expectation of reciprocity, binds us to our enemy. Indeed, the whole logic of terrorism is to exploit the rules, to turn them to their own advantage. If we hesitate to strike a mosque because the rules of war designate it as a protected place, then the smart thing for a terrorist to do is to store weapons and suicide belts there. If our forces start from the presumption that civilian women should be treated as noncombatants, then terrorists will train women to be suicide bombers. If all existing codes of warriors' honor forbid the desecration of bodies, then it is not just mindless brutality but actually a sound terrorist tactic to drag contractors from a car in Falluja, set them alight and display their severed and burned limbs from a bridge. Such provocations are intended to drag us down to their level.
This is the deepest reason why it is difficult to maintain self-control, let alone democratic control, in a war on terror. We are constantly being tempted to descend to the logic of terror itself. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, but unsaintly men and women, seeing their loved ones maimed and butchered, may begin to believe vengeance is theirs by right.
The siren song in any war on terror is ''let slip the dogs of war.'' Let them hunt. Let them kill. Already, we have dogs salivating at the prospect. A liberal society cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us, but we had better make sure the meat-eaters hunt only on our orders.
Taunting us until we let the dogs slip is any canny terrorist's best hope of success. The Algerian terrorists who fought the French colonial occupation in the 1950's had no hope of defeating the armies of France in pitched battle. Their only chance of victory lay in provoking the French into a downward spiral of reprisals, indiscriminate killings and torture so that the Algerian masses would rise in hatred and the French metropolitan population would throw up its hands in disgust. The tactic worked. Terror won in Algeria because France lost its nerve and lost its control of counterterror.
In Iraq, we had better remember the French lesson: we cannot hope to win a war of occupation with harshness alone. We need a political strategy that undermines the terrorist claim that they are fighting a just war against military occupation. We need to turn the place back to Iraqis quickly or we will just have created another losing front in the war on terror.
On all fronts, keeping a war on terror under democratic scrutiny is critical to its operational success. A lesser-evil approach permits preventive detention, where subject to judicial review; coercive interrogation, where subject to executive control; pre-emptive strikes and assassination, where these serve publicly defensible strategic goals. But everything has to be subject to critical review by a free people: free debate, public discussion, Congressional review, in camera if need be, judicial review as a last resort. The war needs to be less secretive, not more. We need to know more about it, not less, even if what we learn is hard. If it comes to it, we need to know, every time we fly, that in case of a hijacking, the president has authorized our pilots to shoot us down if a crash risks killing still more people. In a war on terror, painful truth is far better than lies and illusions.
Above all, we need to keep faith with freedom. When terrorists strike against constitutional democracies, one of their intentions is to persuade electorates and elites that the strengths of these societies -- public debate, mutual trust, open borders and constitutional restraints on executive power- are weaknesses. When strengths are seen as weaknesses, it is easy to abandon them. If this is the logic of terror, then democratic societies must find a way to renew their belief that their apparent vulnerabilities are actually a form of strength. This does not require anything new or special. It simply means that those who have charge of democratic institutions need to do their jobs. We want C.I.A. men and women who understand that the dogs of war are needed, but that they need to be on a leash. We want judges who understand that national security is not a carte blanche for the abrogation of individual rights; a free press that keeps asking, Where are the detainees and what are you doing with them? We want a Congress that will not allow national security to prevent it from subjecting executive power to adversarial review. This, after all, is only what our Constitution intends. Our institutions were designed to regulate evil means and control potentially evil people.
The chief ethical challenge of a war on terror is relatively simple -- to discharge duties to those who have violated their duties to us. Even terrorists, unfortunately, have human rights. We have to respect these because we are fighting a war whose essential prize is preserving the identity of democratic society and preventing it from becoming what terrorists believe it to be. Terrorists seek to provoke us into stripping off the mask of law in order to reveal the black heart of coercion that they believe lurks behind our promises of freedom. We have to show ourselves and the populations whose loyalties we seek that the rule of law is not a mask or an illusion. It is our true nature.
The commander of the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been transferred to Iraq to oversee the treatment of 8,000 detainees as part of an investigation into alleged sexual and physical abuse at a U.S. Army-run prison outside Baghdad, officials said Thursday.
The officials also disclosed that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has ordered administrative penalties against seven unnamed officers who supervised the Army Reserve military police unit that was responsible for the Abu Ghraib detention facility in November, when Iraqi prisoners allegedly were subjected to beatings and sexually degrading acts by American soldiers.
[On Friday, President Bush condemned the apparent mistreatment of the prisoners, saying, "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit," the Associated Press reported. "I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," Bush added later.]
Criminal charges were filed in March against six members of the unit, the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cumberland, Md. The charges included conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another, the military's term for sexual abuse.
Three of the suspects have been recommended for court-martial. The other three face preliminary hearings in May and June to determine whether a court-martial is warranted.
An Army spokesman said charges are likely to be filed against a seventh soldier, and three more soldiers are still under investigation and could face criminal charges.
According to sealed charging papers that were provided to The Washington Post, soldiers forced prisoners to lie in "a pyramid of naked detainees" and jumped on their prone bodies, while other detainees were ordered to strip and perform or simulate sex acts. In one case, a hooded man allegedly was made to stand on a box of MREs, or meals ready to eat, and told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off. In another example, the papers allege, a soldier unzipped a body bag and took snapshots of a detainee's frozen corpse inside.
Several times, soldiers were photographed and videotaped posing in front of humiliated inmates, according to the charges. One gave a thumbs-up sign in front of the human pyramid.
The documents add to growing accusations of improper prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib, which was Iraq's largest and most notorious prison during the rule of ousted president Saddam Hussein. In addition to the military's announcement in March that soldiers had been charged, details of the abuses and photographs from inside the prison were broadcast Wednesday night by CBS's "60 Minutes II."
On Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed that the images were authentic and said they had taken several steps to stop the mistreatment of prisoners.
This month, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller took over the U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq as deputy commander for detainee operations, reporting directly to Sanchez. Miller had previously overseen the detention facility at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which holds hundreds of detainees from about 40 countries, many of them from the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
In addition, Sanchez has ordered new training on the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and on the military's rules of engagement. He also has ordered the creation of a team of officers that would retrain prison guards on conditions of confinement, "with emphasis on treating detainees with dignity and respect," said the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.
"New leadership at the confinement facility is clearly aware of the need to heighten their vigilance to prevent any possible mistreatment of Iraqi detainees," Kimmitt said.
The military would not disclose the administrative penalties that Sanchez has recommended against the seven supervising officers, who can contest the orders. The possible penalties range from an oral admonishment to a formal memorandum of reprimand that could effectively end an officer's career.
A senior U.S. official said Thursday that Sanchez was surprised by the severity of the abuses and the apparent lack of response by the military police unit's officers.
"One of the things General Sanchez was concerned about was the fact that this was more than one bad apple, one bad incident," an aide to Sanchez said on condition of anonymity, because of the continuing investigation. "Why wasn't the chain of command involved? Why wasn't the chain of command aware?"
In January, after a soldier tipped off investigators about abuses at Abu Ghraib, Sanchez suspended 17 soldiers from their duties and ordered separate criminal and administrative investigations.
The highest-ranking officer to be suspended was Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, based in Uniondale, N.Y., to which the 372nd Military Police Company was temporarily attached. Karpinski was responsible for all U.S. military detention facilities inside Iraq.
An administrative review conducted by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found April 4 that officers in both the company and the larger brigade neglected to properly supervise the work of the prison guards.
A separate review, which grew out of the criminal probe, will examine interrogation practices in the prison, officials said. A new unit, the 16th Military Police Brigade, has taken over responsibility for Abu Ghraib.
IT WAS UPLIFTING. Join me in a chorus of "it's a surreal world, after all!"
How much weight does a bearded mullah carry in a freewheeling liberal society like Norway's?
The country's well-known Muslim comic, Shabana Rehman, decided to find out Tuesday when she lifted the founder of Iraq's Ansar al-Islam terrorist group off the ground before a startled audience.
[...] The cleric, known as Mullah Krekar, did not find the stunt funny. He went up smiling but was sputtering with rage by the time Ms. Rehman set him back down.
"I do not have the right to carry her like that and she has no right to carry or touch me," he exclaimed into his microphone. He vowed to sue and demanded that photographs of the stunt be destroyed.
Tuesday's incident took place at an Oslo nightclub called Smuget where Mullah Krekar was appearing to promote his new memoir, "In My Own Words." The mullah has won over many critics in Norway with his jovial, friendly manner. At the nightclub on Tuesday, he took part in a panel discussion after which Ms. Rehman, known for her parodies of conservative Islamic teachings, asked Mullah Krekar if he would submit to a "fundamentalist test." The mullah agreed but was taken by surprise when the comic suddenly lifted him in the air.
Ms. Rehman has lifted men in performances before, including several prominent Norwegians. Some found it funny; some were embarrassed.
Mullah Krekar's lawyer, Brynjar Meling, said the cleric planned to file a complaint with the police. On Thursday, his brother said the mullah would not press charges if Ms. Rehman apologized.
Of course, Mullah Krekar is a jovial guy. Who wouldn't be won over?
Read The Rest as interested; check the latter link for some perspective not far from his.
Sahhaf, now a broadcast correspondent in Abu Dhabi, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He was interviewed when the U.S. military took control if Iraq but was not held. "He wasn't wanted for anything. Unfortunately, being a bad spokesman is not a crime," a U.S. official said.
Despite what both sides agreed was the polite, even friendly tone of the meeting, the commissioners were treated as outsiders by the White House. They were seen being searched by hand for weapons before they stepped into the Oval Office, a requirement for all visitors to the White House apart from many foreign leaders.
Reports have it that no one actually lunged at the President, though alarm rippled through the room when he reached for a pretzel.
For reasons beyond me, the following story is on the same page:
Mr. Bremer, who in 1999 was chairman of a national commission on terrorism, gave a speech on Feb. 26, 2001, in which he said the "general terrorist threat" was increasing. "The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism," Mr. Bremer said in remarks to the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.
"What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, `Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' "
"That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit."
Damn him for politicizing this.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 on the visit of the Commission for a show of non-partisanship.
The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.
In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said that between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism. Since 1994 it has collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations.
In contrast, OFAC opened 10,683 enforcement investigations since 1990 for possible violations of the long-standing economic embargo against Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s regime, and collected more than $8 million in fines since 1994, mostly from people who sent money to, did business with or traveled to Cuba without permission.
The figures, included in a lengthy letter OFAC sent to Congress late last year and provided to The Associated Press this week, prompted Republicans and Democrats alike to question whether OFAC has failed to adjust from the Cold War to the war on terrorism.
Sen. Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, requested the figures, which showed that at the end of 2003, OFAC had 21 full-time agents working Cuba violations and just four full-time workers hunting bin Laden's and Saddam's riches.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the tax-writing Senate panel, agreed.
"OFAC obviously needs to enforce the law with regard to U.S. policy on Cuba, but the United States is at war against terrorism, and al-Qaida is the biggest threat to our national security," Grassley said. "Cutting off the blood money that has financed Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden must be a priority when it comes to resources."
Last Christmas, Grassley and Baucus accused the agency of failing on at least two occasions to freeze the money of people identified by U.S. allies as terrorist financiers.
Richard Newcomb, the career official who has run OFAC for years under both Republican and Democratic presidents, was the subject of an internal investigation in the mid-1990s that concluded he improperly met outside the office with representatives of companies under investigation by his agency and took uncoordinated enforcement actions that potentially compromised criminal investigations.
FRANCE STRUGGLES WITH ITS ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS. One is reminded of the famous story of British General Charles Napier, who upon abolishing the practice of certain Indians of burning women upon the death of their husband, was told that it was their custom. He famously replied: "My nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national custom."
The cleric, Abdelkader Bouziane, was the fifth cleric expelled from France this year on charges of spreading a dangerously divisive brand of radical Islam. The country has kicked out dozens since 2001.
"The government cannot tolerate the public statement of views that are contrary to human rights, attack the dignity of women and call for hate or violence," the country's new interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, said recently.
Mr. Bouziane, 52, won an appeal that would allow him to return from his native Algeria to France, despite the Interior Ministry's presentation to the court of evidence that Mr. Bouziane has links to groups that support terrorism.
[On Thursday, President Jacques Chirac, who has been criticized by moderate Muslims for his handling of the case, vowed to take further legal action if Mr. Bouziane returns from Algeria. "If we have to change our law to avoid repeating this kind of case, which is unacceptable for us, we will change the law so we can expel people who say such things," he said at a news conference.]
Part of the problem is a dearth of domestically trained clerics to lead congregations of European-born Muslims. As a result, mosques like that in Vénissieux often have to rely on imported imams or self-proclaimed clerics who espouse fundamentalist beliefs that grate against Europe's more tolerant societies.
"The problem is that we have 1,500 imams, but the great majority of them don't have any knowledge of the land," said Azzedine Gaci, who heads the Muslim Council in the Rhône-Alps region.
Only about 10 percent of the imams preaching in France's mosques and prayer rooms are citizens, and half do not speak French, according to the Interior Ministry.
Mr. de Villepin said last week that France would have to help Muslims to train moderate prayer leaders here to encourage the emergence of a tolerant "French Islam." The country's government-sponsored Muslim Council is working on a training program but says it needs state aid. Any government move to support such a program, however, faces huge obstacles because of France's strict laws barring the state from meddling in religion.
France has tried to regulate its five million Muslims by creating a national advisory body to address issues like the training of clerics and to act as the Muslim representative in dealing with the government. But the country's most extreme fundamentalists have refused to take part.
"People like Mr. Bouziane live in another world," said Mr. Gaci, who is part of a broader trend of young, politically active second-generation Muslims here who are struggling to establish a united front to give Europe's Muslims a stronger voice and indisputable power. He worries that the scattered but spreading fundamentalist movement is hurting that effort.
The Interior Ministry issued an expulsion order in February, but did not immediately execute it. Then, in early April, a local publication, Lyon Mag, published an interview with Mr. Bouziane in which he spoke about his support for the Koran's teaching that adulterous women should be stoned and that it was a man's right to strike his wife if she was unfaithful.
"He shouldn't hit her in the face, but aim lower, the legs or stomach," he said in the interview, adding that a man can hit hard to instill fear in his wife.
In the housing projects near Mr. Bouziane's mosque, a young man with a closely cropped beard said he thought that the cleric had done nothing wrong. "If my wife cheats on me, I have the right to correct her," he said, "and not just with a slap on the bottom, but with a gunshot."
There are distinct limits to my cultural relativism, as well. Is that bad? It's my culture that gives me those limits. If you believe in cultural relativism, you have to grant me mine. It's my generalnapierism.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you want to read the other half of the article, including the parts about terroism and jihad I left out.
THE COME-BACK KID? In case you hadn't heard, by the way, Ariel Sharon, and the plan to withdraw from Gaza, is in trouble.
The country's two largest newspapers, Yediot Aharonot and Maariv, each released polls on Thursday that showed Mr. Sharon's plan in trouble among Likud members.
In Yediot Aharonot, 47 percent of Likud voters said they opposed the plan, and 39 percent said they would support it, with 14 percent undecided. In Maariv, 45 percent were against and 42 percent in favor, with 13 percent undecide. Both polls had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
Meanwhile, a poll by the Israeli radio found 51 percent of Likud voters planning to reject the Gaza withdrawal, and 43 percent to support it. No margin of error was given.
Opinion surveys polling a cross-section of citizens have indicated that a strong majority of Israelis favor a Gaza pullout.
This is without even getting into Sharon's indictment problems.
It's more than unusual for me to root for Sharon, but as I entirely favor the Gaza withdrawal as necessary, in this case I can but wish that he'll somehow manage to rally support for it in his Sunday Likud referendum.
ISRAEL, LAND OF THE FUTURE. Whaddya we got here? Let's see.
3-D email. Batteries a standard printer can print. A way to print electrical circuits onto any surface.
The Israeli startup Objet Geometries, however, has succeeded in breaking this limit by developing a process and a product that make it possible to send three-dimensional polymer models via e-mail.
Objet's rapid prototype (RP) system sprays layers of photopolymer onto a build tray just as an inkjet printer sprays ink onto a sheet of paper. Each layer of a model is dried and cured with a built-in UV light, and more layers are added until the model is complete.
Power Paper has developed batteries that can be printed directly on any surface, at minimal cost, using standard printing equipment. The batteries are thin, flexible microelectronic stickers that have low-currency batteries integrated within.
The batteries are used in electronic clothing that are supplied with thin, flexible energy sources, semi-permanent tattoo stickers, electronic tags, and energy sources for toys. In the future, this technology will be able to change the way hearing accessories and tiny robots are used.
Using a process similar to that of home inkjet printers, NanoPowders has developed a way to print electrical circuits onto any surface. When this technology reaches the market, it will make it possible for each of us to design and print electrical circuits, rather than being dependent on the giant chip plants operated by the big companies.
Printers: a step on the way towards transporters and replicators.