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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.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"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.
Transhumanists see our era of rapid technological advance as the transitional phase between our human past and post-human future. Cochlear implants, artificial joints, genetic engineering, mood-altering and memory-enhancing drugs--all are preludes to an era when people will routinely enhance their brains, improve their bodies and perhaps live forever.
Critics, however, think this could be the worst calamity to befall us, both as individuals and as a species. And they argue we should be taking steps to prevent it.
Transhumanists come in a wide variety, said James Hughes, executive director of the World Transhumanist Association based in Willington, Conn.
Some are interested in life extension. Some want to be immortal. Some think nanotechnology--the emerging science of molecular machines--will someday repair our bodies from the inside out. Others are convinced they'll someday extend their memories with computer implants or upload their consciousness into a smarter-than-human artificial intelligence.
What all share is the desire "to ethically use technology to become more than human," said Hughes, whose organization has 3,000 members in 24 chapters across 98 countries.
If transhumanism has a poster child, it's Steve Mann. The University of Toronto professor is arguably a cyborg--a bionic human.
For more than 20 years, he has invented and worn electronic equipment through which he experiences the world. Strolling the street, Mann can browse the Web or monitor his heart rate, pulse and brain waves through sensors implanted in his body. He can simultaneously videotape everything he sees. Glasses correct his vision electronically--the prescription can be changed through software--and help his memory by giving people virtual nametags. Mann next hopes to implant the entire system, to give people a full-time "visual memory prosthesis," he said.
Then the usual doom-sayer quotes, including -- surprise, surprise -- from a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, which has never met a technology that wasn't evil, evil, evil!
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested. There's nothing new here; it's just notable to see it show up in a mainstream newspaper.
WHAT WANTS TO BE FREE? I have questions about this.
SOUTH KOREA'S top military intelligence chief says North Korea is operating an elite military unit specialising in hacking into South Korean computer networks.
Song Young-Keun, commanding general of the counter-intelligence Defence Security Command (DSC), told a conference that North Korea was building up its "cyber-terror" capability on orders from its leader, Kim Jong-Il.
"Following orders from Chairman Kim Jong-Il, North Korea has been operating a crack unit specialising in computer hacking and strengthening its cyber-terror ability," he said.
The conference was organised by the Korea Information Security Agency affiliated with the information and communications ministry to discuss the protection of security related intelligence.
Mr Song said the North Korean military hackers were breaking into the computer networks of South Korean government agencies and research institutes to steal classified information.
Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean officials as saying that top graduates from Kim Il-Sung Military Academy, a military intelligence college, are handpicked and given intensive training in computer-related skills before being assigned to the hackers' unit.
Their tasks are to get into the computer networks run by South Korean government agencies and research institutes and to attack computer systems when necessary, according to Defence Security Command officers.
Defectors from North Korea said computer technology is a top priority in North Korea, with Kim Jong-Nam, the eldest son of the country's ruler, leading the campaign to arm its military with state of the art information technology.
Some 100 hackers graduate from the military academy every year, they said.
It would seem to me to be difficult to train truly first-rate hackers without allowing them reasonably free access to sources of knowledge outside of North Korea. So how effective would be the inevitable North Korean attempts to control and monitor where their official hackers go, and what they learn? Would not a certain percentage of these hackers inevitably become like the KBG and East European external security agents who were amongst those most turned against their own system by learning the truth about what the West was like?
Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5 the rest is just vague generalization, accusation, and alarmism. I am, myself, not at all alarmed.
THE SYMBIOSIS BETWEEN THE PRIVATE AND THE COMMON. Here is a piece that will make my libertarian readers flip, if they bother to read it.
I don't agree with all of it, myself, especially the further reachings into somewhat wandering generalizations towards the end. But I do generally agree with, and have always made variants of the following points, myself, regarding property and property rights:
America was once a lot like this. The concept of property early settlers had wasn't a walled fortress; it was a permeable membrane that sought to reconcile the parts and the whole. Early New Englanders built their towns around a commons, a shared pasture for livestock. Private woodlands were open to others for hunting or cutting wood, unless owners fenced them.
Water law, so important in the new land, reflected this desire for balance. You could use the water that ran through your land, but not in a way that diminished your neighbor's use. The water belongs to all of us, the law said, and ownership has responsibilities as well as rights.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which laid out a plan of government for what is now much of the upper Midwest, declared that the main waterways there "shall be common highways and forever free."
Such thinking isn't a quaint relic of a simpler time. It's rooted in a fundamental economic truth - namely, the symbiosis between the private and the common.
Private property couldn't exist without a society that honors and protects it. The value of property derives largely from the efforts of others, or gifts of nature. Take a Park Avenue apartment, or a Cape Cod cottage, put it in a cornfield or urban slum, and you'd better reduce the asking price. The structure is the same; the difference is what's around it. The real estate mantra "location, location, location" really means "gifts, gifts, gifts" - of society and nature. This is true of financial assets as well as real estate. In fact, it's true to a degree of all human production and creation. Every invention, business technique, story, and song draws on what has come before. I couldn't write this, nor you read it, without the English language - a gift to both of us. We all stand on many shoulders; and earlier concepts of property acknowledged this.
Some of the later points in the article are downright silly; it over-reaches. But the above is true; property does not exist in a vacuum, and neither do claims upon it, or in defense of rights to it.
As I sit here, I can think of about a million other things that are more interesting than politics and war. The problem is, that's all Stryker seems to talk about. I try to start a nice little post about garden gnome commandos, and Stryker pushes me out of the chair and starts one of his tired rants about one damned thing or another. The dude's starting to get on my nerves considering he's a satiric persona I made up one day because I couldn't think of a title for this website. Sometimes, I slip a post or two in there when I'm really tired, but more often than not, I wind up writing the same crap because Stryker absolutely has to tell you what he thinks about stuff. I don't know, maybe I'm only really good when I'm ragging on things. I can think of a half-dozen snarky things to say about a given subject in an instant, but I can rarely think of anything positive to say about most things --even things I like. It's something that's been troubling me for awhile, so I'm going to try to be a bit more positive. It'll suck, I'm sure, but that's why I'm not the only one writing around here.
Finally, I want to write for the Weekly World News. That is my dream. It's fake, but all the best news usually is.
Tell "Paul" that both he and Stryker are damned good writers and incisive thinkers, and that you want to read whatever he writes about or draws.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you want to read some of the other options he's offering.
TWO ROCKS AND A HARD PLACE. What was the right policy to pursue in Fallujah? Continued battle, including more destruction of the infrastructure, more "collateral damage" killing of non-combatants, including children, and further arousing a certain percentage of the general Iraqi population against us?
With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state -- anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "Western" hair cuts.
"After all the blood that was shed, and the lives that were lost, we shall only accept God's law in Fallujah," said cleric Abdul-Qader al-Aloussi, offering a glimpse of what a future Iraq may look like as the U.S.-led occupation draws to a close. "We must capitalize on our victory over the Americans and implement Islamic sharia laws."
Some were active in defending the city against the Marines and have profited by a perception -- both here and elsewhere in Iraq -- that the mujahedeen, or Islamic holy warriors, defeated a superpower.
Fallujah, which calls itself the "City of Mosques," provides the religious fundamentalists with fertile ground for wielding power. The city's estimated 300,000 residents are known for their religious piety.
Women rarely appear in public and when they do, they are covered from head to toe in accordance with Islam's strict dress code for women. The lives of men revolve around Islam's tradition of praying five times a day.
Unlike other Iraqi cities, Fallujah has never allowed liquor stores. Its famous kebab restaurants have prayer rooms, an unusual feature in most Muslim nations. Many of its adult male population wear beards, a hallmark of religious piety.
However, steps taken by the mujahedeen over the past month have gone beyond simply encouraging piety.
On Sunday, for example, scores of masked mujahedeen, shouting "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great," paraded four men stripped down to their underpants atop the back of a pickup truck that drove through the city. Their bare backs were bleeding from 80 lashes they had received as punishment for selling alcohol. They were taken to a hospital where they were treated and released.
Residents said a man found intoxicated last week was flogged, held overnight and released the next day.
Fallujah's women hair stylists shut down their shops several months ago after repeated attacks blamed on Muslim militants.
On Tuesday, the mujahedeen expanded their "clean up" campaign. About 80 masked, armed men, accompanied by local police, forced hundreds of street hawkers at gun point to clear out from the streets and confine their businesses to designated areas.
The masked men later moved to the city's used car market and "persuaded" dealers to move away from the city center because they were blocking traffic. In both cases, the police stood by without intervening.
According to residents, barbers have been instructed not to give "Western" haircuts -- short on the back and sides and full on top -- or to remove facial hair. Four youths with long hair were stopped at a market by mujahedeen on Sunday and marched to a public market where they were shorn.
"Are we Muslims, or not?" asked Abdul-Rahman Mahmoud, a 40-year-old father of three. "We are. So, we must apply God's laws. The mujahedeen's word is heard and respected, and the same goes for our clerics."
There is little sign of opposition to the mujahedeen, though it could be that some people are simply afraid of confronting armed men.
However, the mujahedeen are clearly profiting from the hero status they acquired during the April battles against the Marines.
There is even talk of building a museum dedicated to the "struggle" against the American occupation. Money has been collected in recent weeks to help the families of those who died in the fighting, said by the locals to number 1,000 "martyrs."
I don't know what the right answer is, or the best policy was. I only wish that someone in power does, before it's too late.
THEY MAY HAVE OVERPAID. This piece on the changing history of tv advertising begins :
The first American television commercial was broadcast in New York on July 1, 1941, during a game at Ebbets Field between the Dodgers and the Phillies. The game was interrupted by an image of a Bulova watch face, superimposed on the screen and accompanied by a voice-over announcing, "America runs on Bulova time." Bulova paid $9 for the spot.
And what I'm wondering is, did they have more than 9 home viewers?
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you want some mildly interesting observations on the topic.
But in a twist that would confound any Hollywood scriptwriter, the praise and placards expressing admiration are for the first soldier convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners.
The admonishments are reserved for the soldier who blew the whistle.
Hours before a remorseful Spc. Jeremy Sivits was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse, Barb Lehman was passing out yellow ribbons at a vigil in support of their native son.
"He was the son any mother would have loved to have," said Lehman, who drove the bus which took Sivits to and from school for three years.
But ask Lehman about Joe Darby, the fellow army specialist, hailed as a hero by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for exposing the abuse.
"Oh, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes," Lehman said. "We don't believe in ratting people out like that."
Sivits broke the law, but Darby, it seems, has broken some code of conduct.
Their homes are a mere 15 kilometres apart, across the Mason-Dixon line which marks the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line.
In Hyndman, 200 people turned out — almost 20 per cent of the population — to back Sivits, waving U.S. flags, wearing yellow ribbons, pledging allegiance to the flag with the local Boy Scout troop and singing "American Gives Me Liberty, But Jesus Gives Me Love."
There won't be any parades for Darby when he comes home to Corriganville, Md.
His home is shuttered, plastered with "No Trespassing" signs.
Neighbours won't talk about him and most in a community so tiny it is not even on most maps, claim not to know him.
"He should have kept his mouth shut," said Billy Joe Davis, a 65-year-old Corriganville resident with blunt views expressed in equally blunt language.
"Ask him if he thinks it's cruel to have them dragging the bodies of our people up and down the street. Ask him if he thinks it's cruel hanging our people off the bridges.
"We should just blow the place up and get the hell out of there."
Tim Flesher, a 40 year old who runs the town's auto dealership also believes Darby should have kept to himself.
He believes the abuse of prisoners was wrong, but added: "The mistake we made was taking prisoners in the first place. We should shoot the sons of bitches or let them go."
When a local soldier was killed recently after his Humvee ran over an explosive device, the Corriganville post office was inundated with mail for the family of the killed soldier.
There is no mail waiting for Darby, who has been repatriated to the United States but at an undisclosed location.
His wife has left town, his mother, after initially expressing pride in her son, is no longer talking to reporters.
His sister-in-law, Maxine Carroll, said she fears for Darby's safety.
At the Tuesday rally, they pray for Jeremy, they sing for Jeremy, they rail about the lack of God's teaching in society and the school, they rage against pornography and Bill Clinton and they rise en masse, without prompting when "God Bless America" blares from the speakers, just to the right of the American flag and the portrait of Jesus.
Then Jeremy's father, with his wife and daughter-in-law being carefully shielded by military police at the front of the outdoor ceremony, says a few words.
"I want to make explicitly clear, Jeremy, no matter what, is still my son," Daniel Sivits said.
"We still love him. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War and I want to say one thing — Jeremy is always a vet in my heart and in my mind."
The crowd cheers, shouts "Amen."
Fifteen kilometres down the road, if anyone is offering prayers for Darby, they are doing so silently as neighbourhood kids, likely the next generation of soldiers, race their bikes in front of his empty home.
IF IT'S SO "SUPERSECRET"... What's wrong with a word choice in one of these sentences?
In the weeks after the deadly March bombings of four commuter trains in Madrid by al Qaeda operatives, the supersecret U.S. surveillance network, Echelon, intercepted a number of messages from suspected terrorists suggesting planning for a massive, multipronged assault on the United States.
Officials at the CIA and the National Security Agency, which runs the Echelon program....
On actual observations worth noting here:
The CIA declined to comment, but intelligence sources say the agency is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit more Arabic and Pashto speakers; agency officials hope they will be able to corroborate signals traffic and intelligence from human sources with information from the al Qaeda computers and databases.
If you think about that for three seconds, it doesn't sound like a major effort. Say "hundreds of thousands of dollars is "eight hundred thousand dollars." Say they're paying thirty thousand dollars a year per analyst. That comes out to hiring about 26 analysts. Nice, but not exactly an overwhelming effort. Far fewer if that figure didn't include benefits and support costs, in which case it sounds like hiring six to ten people.
Here's another unimpressive note:
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the target of two recent assassination attempts because of his support of the U.S. war on terrorism, has barred American troops from stepping on Pakistani soil, even though he has only cursory authority over the sprawling mountainous tribal lands where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding.
But the heralded "hammer and anvil" strategy--with Pakistan pushing terrorists out of safe havens in the tribal lands and U.S. forces grabbing them in Afghanistan--has achieved only modest success because Musharraf hasn't followed through on pledges to carry out sustained military operations in the borderlands.
Cheering, eh? Here's something else:
Analysts say the intelligence chatter about an attack on the United States has shown up in open Internet forums and is similar to message traffic that preceded the Madrid bombings. "It's not just the official [terrorist] websites but also the chat rooms and Web forums," says Gabriel Weimann, a scholar in residence at the U.S. Institute for Peace. "The picture is not looking very good."
Ever consider that when intelligence sources are quoted as referring to "chatter" and "information analysis" that they're sometimes analyzing Usenet and AOL chat rooms and the like? Very inspiring thought, isn't it? Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested or alarmed.
5/31/2004 12:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
SUDAN. On a subject we've often posted on, you may have already read this Kristoff piece, but it can't be linked to enough.
Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.
If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.
But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.
I'm still haunted by what I saw when I visited the region in March: a desert speckled with fresh graves of humans and the corpses of donkeys, the empty eyes of children who saw their fathers killed, the guilt of parents fumbling to explain how they had survived while their children did not.
The refugees tell of sudden attacks by the camel-riding Janjaweed Arab militia, which is financed by the Sudanese government, then a panic of shooting and fire. Girls and women are routinely branded after they are raped, to increase the humiliation.
One million Darfur people are displaced within Sudan, and 200,000 have fled to Chad. Many of those in Sudan are stuck in settlements like concentration camps.
I've obtained a report by a U.N. interagency team documenting conditions at a concentration camp in the town of Kailek: Eighty percent of the children are malnourished, there are no toilets, and girls are taken away each night by the guards to be raped. As inmates starve, food aid is diverted by guards to feed their camels.
The standard threshold for an "emergency" is one death per 10,000 people per day, but people in Kailek are dying at a staggering 41 per 10,000 per day — and for children under 5, the rate is 147 per 10,000 per day. "Children suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms of the conditions under which they are being held live in filth, directly exposed to the sun," the report says.
"The team members, all of whom are experienced experts in humanitarian affairs, were visibly shaken," the report declares. It describes "a strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation being enforced by the GoS [government of Sudan] and its security forces on the ground." (Read the 11-page report here.)
Demographers at the U.S. Agency for International Development estimate that at best, "only" 100,000 people will die in Darfur this year of malnutrition and disease. If things go badly, half a million will die.
This is not a natural famine, but a deliberate effort to eliminate three African tribes in Darfur so Arabs can take their land. The Genocide Convention defines such behavior as genocide, and it obliges nations to act to stop it. That is why nobody in the West wants to talk about Darfur — because of a fear that focusing on the horror will lead to a deployment in Sudan.
But it's not a question of sending troops, but of applying pressure — the same kind that succeeded in getting Sudan to the north-south peace agreement. If Mr. Bush would step up to the cameras and denounce this genocide, if he would send Colin Powell to the Chad-Sudan border, if he would telephone Sudan's president again to demand humanitarian access to the concentration camps, he might save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Yet while Mr. Bush has done far too little, he has at least issued a written statement, sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent?
Islamic leaders abroad have been particularly shameful in standing with the Sudanese government oppressors rather than with the Muslim victims in Darfur. Do they care about dead Muslims only when the killers are Israelis or Americans?
As for America, we have repeatedly failed to stand up to genocide, whether of Armenians, Jews, Cambodians or Rwandans. Now we're letting it happen again.
These are real people, same as you and me, with sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, things to say and things to contribute. What would you have them do were your and their situations reversed?
Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5; that's the whole thing save for opening line.
AS A STAUNCH LIBERTARIAN -- no, wait, that's not right. But what's wrong with this logic?
Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas, won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination on Sunday.
Badnarik, 49, of Austin, defeated former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo on the convention's third ballot, after former radio host Gary Nolan, who was eliminated on the second ballot, endorsed Badnarik.
"If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.
Sure, fella. I think the market is definitely going to decide this one.
One of the cheapest Linux computers you can buy brand new (not at a garage sale) is the Linksys WRT54G, an 802.11g wireless access point and router that includes a four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch and can be bought for as little as $69.99 according to Froogle. That's a heck of a deal for a little box that performs all those functions, but a look inside is even more amazing. There you'll find a 200 MHz MIPS processor and either 16 or 32 megs of DRAM and four or eight megs of flash RAM -- more computing power than I needed 10 years ago to run a local Internet Service Provider with several hundred customers. But since the operating system is Linux and since Linksys has respected the Linux GPL by publishing all the source code for anyone to download for free, the WRT54G is a lot more than just a wireless router. It is a disruptive technology.
You see, it isn't what the WRT54G does that matters, but what it CAN do when reprogrammed with a different version of Linux with different capabilities.
If that last paragraph meant nothing at all to you, look at it this way: the WRT54G with Sveasoft firmware is all you need to become your cul de sac's wireless ISP. Going further, if a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured WRT54Gs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local telephone company.
That's what I mean by a disruptive technology.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 as interested. If I were just faintly more tech-oriented, I'd be tempted to rush out and try to set up a business doing this here, with goals of branching out. If I were a tad more business oriented, I'd be also tempted to try to do this, getting some local techies to start for a percentage. But I'm afraid I lack confidence in my skills in these areas.
5/31/2004 11:52:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
Congratulations to Marc Danziger for his new role as Chief Operating Officer of Spirit of America.
Read The Rest as interested. Read this excellent account by Dan Gillmour of this very worthwhile project (which we've plugged here before).
Maybe we can't put aside our politics when we contemplate this war. I have my own strongly negative feelings about what President Bush and his advisers have done in Iraq, and wish we had not stopped halfway in Afghanistan.
We owe something to the people of those nations. Jim Hake and his crew can't solve the world's, or a nation's, problems by themselves. They can help. So can the rest of us.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BLOGGER BASH: 3.0 ALTERNATIVE REALITIES. It took place earlier this evening, until we were thrown out of the Denver Press Club approximately an hour and a half before I began to type this.
Sketch One: Truly True.
The Press Club was a surprise; relatively newly constructed, after the destruction of the cherished turn-of-the-century, older, building, the modern Club is atop one of Denver's highest skyscrapers, a gleaming modernist vision of steel and glass, with all four outer walls consisting of sheer glass. A fascinating feature was the firehouse-type pole allowing inebriated reporters to drop all forty flights to the exit, always resulting in a completely sober individual, able to return home to spouse and kin, believably claiming they'd not touched a drop that evening.
The bloggers: it's shocking how utterly unlike so many bloggers are like their blogs.
Stephen Green of VodkaPundit: Hippie, dressed in a classically wildly colored tie-dyed tee-shirt, long red dreadlocked hair down to his ass, nonetheless came across as an accountant type, sounding remarkably like Ben Stein, yet with a strange high-pitched nasal drone. Would only engage in serious analysis of issues, typically of their economic impact, with particular concern about the money supply of Third World nations.
Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom: actually not just a devout Catholic, but an actual priest, with a collar. Who knew? Spoke passionately of his devotion to Daniel Berrigan. Announced his intention to soon fly to Baghdad to chain himself to the "biggest weapon" he could find to prevent its use. Also announced that he was intimately familiar with his "biggest weapon," having studied it intently, and that his plan was to render impotent all "large weapons."
Walter In Denver: Indeterminate sexual nature. Waxed passionately on the need to smash imperialism. As a professional bowler, has a plan to do this with Jiant Bowling Balls of Doom. Spoke of the need for the government to supply all Americans with free, odorless, bowling shoes. Couldn't go three sentences without giving a Marxist interpretation of the issue at hand.
Andrew Olmsted: An extremely belligerent Navy man, covered in, so far as could be visibly seen, innumerable tattoos, he never spoke without shouting, as he explained that everyone in the world needed to become converted to pacificism, at gunpoint, or there would never be peace. Explained that he was the man to accomplish this, with his special "600-Rubber-Ducky Fleet."
Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft: midget with an Australian accent. Shouted incoherently of her hatred of the criminal element, her secret life that had something to with "criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot; bats will frighten them!" Explained plan to extend the death penalty to traffic offenses. Also mentioned President Bush's "strong manly looks," his heroic leadership in our nation's time of need, and why we needed to amend the Constitution to allow a third and fourth term for him. Strangely, denounced me for being "anti-criminal." Called me a "libertarian," and Jeff Goldstein an "uber-rightist."
Dorkafork. Impeccable transvestite. Remarkably, completely blind. Tried to sign everyone up for memberships in NAMBLA.
Andy of World Wide Rant: Declared that the only person who could save the nation was John Kerry. Had a plan for Ted Kennedy to accept Vice-Presidential nomination, and then Ted would become confused, and convinced that his brother, JFK, was back in the White House. Drooled constantly.
Darren of Colorado Conservative. Refused to admit anyone, and if anyone got by him, Darren ordered them out of the club, and then beat them. Strangely, then gave everyone a cigar, and ordered them to "smoke it, punk!" Kept stealing drinks.
Tim Berglund of Tim Berglund. Raucous drunk who spent much of the evening copiously weeping that "there is no God!"
Everyone else gets left unsketched either because they were too little in terms of readership to care about, they were completely boring, or they've never donated to my blog, let alone blogrolled me.
Sketch Two: The Deeper Truth.
Jeff Goldstein leaned closely into my personal space, weaving drunkenly, and declared accusingly: "Two and a half years, Farber! Two and a half years! And you've never linked to me once! Never blogrolled me. Ignored me.
You're scum, Farber!"
Brightly: "But I love you, man! I love you!"
Jeralyn Merrit, leaving, was interrupted by Another Blogger, who said "Jeralyn, I'd like you to meet Gary Farber." Jeralyn: "You're Gary Farber! Pleased to meet you! Libertarian swine! Why are you so anti-criminal?!" Conversation ensues. Jeralyn declares she was separated at birth from twin sister, the London-residing Avedon Carol. Asks me "do you know her, then?" Parting, instructs me to stop being so anti-criminal.
Stephen Green, having praised martinis twelve dozen times up to that point in the evening, announces that he is on his fourth. Announces to all that what he loved about Jeff Goldstein's blog is that it is sharp, funny, and cruel.
Jeff declares that, no, he loves Stephen's blog. Stephen intones that, no, he loves Jeff's blog more.
Jeff, choked up, allows that Stephen is the Best. Blogwriter. Ever.
And that he loves you, man, he loves you.
Stephen goes down on Jeff. Jeff goes down on Stephen. Coitus is then initiated. It is noisy, passionate, and terribly, terribly, moist.
Upon consummation both bloggers declare their complete support for gay marriage, and announce their engagement. Their wives are nonplussed, yet seem completely understanding, and unsurprised.
Shortly thereafter Jeff projectile vomits, and then passes out.
Stephen has a fifth martini, allows that he will join those going blubbing, er, clubbing, afterwards.
Sketch Three: You'll Never Believe Me Now, But, Honestly, The Truth, Not Remotely The Whole Truth, But Absolutely Nothing But The, Pinky-Swear, Verbatim, Literal, As Close To Word-For-Word Truth As I Can Recreate, Truth.
Research at the Denver Regional Transportation home page having informed me that the bus trip was actually quite simple, if slightly time-consuming (about an hour and twenty minutes each way), I arranged with Andrew Olmsted to meet him and his wife, Amanda Wilson, for dinner at six, prior to the start of the Bashing at seven.
I was perfectly on time for my busses, but a tad annoyed when the bus driver on the Jump answered that, yes, this was the correct side of the street for the B bus to Denver; yes, absolutely.
Twenty minutes later, my suspicions aroused, I asked the driver of a later Jump who, of course, informs me that, no, the other side of the street was where one catches the Denver-bound bus.
I had planned, however, to arrive twenty-five minutes early, so when I was actually five minutes late for our rendezvous at the Denver Market St. bus station, it happened that Andrew and Amanda were also a few minutes later, resulting in them getting there about three minutes after I did. Clearly, it was Written.
Indecisiveness about dinner locale commences; the Cheesecake Factory is settled upon; lots of young people having drinks; impressively large menus, with every other page consisting of advertising for other businesses.
Food is eaten, conversation conversed, they generously buy me my sandwich and fries, we all get doggie boxes, I carefully forget to take mine out of the restaurant. Possibly for the best; I'm not sure eating crabcake left to sit in a warm room for six hours is terribly prudent.
The Press Club is a highly unprepossessing two-story building that appears entirely undistinguished from the outside.
Inside, a small loungish-bar area, followed by a smallish rectangular area with a handful of small tables further back. Later exploration reveals a small, less crowded, much quieter, room downstairswith a single pool table. Also, restrooms!
Upstairs: mildly crowded, extremely noisy. Walls covered with caricatures of Famous Denver People none of the bloggers seemed to recognize any better than I did (warning: information based upon limited survey; also, don't run with those scissors). Colorful section of wall covered with autographed photos of Presidents of the U.S. Centerpiece picture, three times the size of the others: Teddy Roosevelt. Jimmy Carter has an odd look on his face. George Bush, Senior, beams out just above smiling George Bush, Jr.
Press and bloggers are largely easily distinguishable from each other. Press are frequently, though not always, either older and white-haired, or have that certain Front Page hard-drinking look. I keep an eye out for Rosalind Russell dashing in, talking a mile a minute. Meanwhile, man with invisible fedora on his head begins expounding to me upon how all those Presidents had personally visited here, the glorious history of the Club, the beautiful aspects of this classic, turn-of-the-century building, which, he proudly pointed out, had been on this very spot since at least the 1910's, no less. And here are the glorious portraits of Past Presidents of the Club.
At this point, in a valiant effort to keep my head from uncontrollably dropping to the floor, followed by the rest of my body, I excused myself to get a tasty beverage.
The gathering is in desperate need of name-tags (large fonts; blog-name first). I wander about for a bit in sufficiently confused-looking fashion for someone to take me in hand and begin identifying a few bloggers.
Mostly I tended to do my quiet, shyish, observer thing. I don't really deal very well with crowded, noisy, gatherings. I can never hear what anyone who is more than a foot away from me is saying, and after the fourth repetition of "what?, what was that?" with the clever gesture of cupping my hand to my ear, I grow weary of that, and, eventually, vaguely suicidal. And, honestly, I was only vaguely, or un, familiar with a certain proportion of the bloggers.
A helpful sheet had been done up listing bloggers expected to be in attendence; eight I've not mentioned were listed, but I confirmed that at least neither The Speculist nor Peevish... I Was Just Saying were actually in attendence.
Except that I just lied, there, because I thought I had confirmed that about The Speculist, but I, on the bus home, realized I had cleverly confused him with another science-oriented blogger, asking several people after Pharyngula, undoubtedly confusing the fuck out of people. So maybe The Speculistwas there. Which would be a shame. Well, not really, but it would be that I missed him.
Several others were on The List, but I never did get introduced to them. Alas, and alack.
Other people I would have liked to have seen attend: Colorado Luis, Dave Cullen.
Verbatim early conversation with very cute younger woman whose name I didn't get. I'm wearing a tee-shirt adorned with a portrait of the Milky Way galaxy, and various locales and objects within.
Woman: "I like your shirt."
Her: "I like... space. It is... big."
Me: "Expanding, too."
"Yes, and it is filled with so many things, all the way to Pluto, even. Planetoids! It is fascinating." "I hear there's lots of dark matter." "Are you a blogger?" "Yes; are you?" "No. I very much like the blogs, though." "How is it you are here, then?" "My friend blogs. Also, my husband. You would not know them. Do you blog about politics?" "A fair amount." "I could not blog about politics. Perhaps about space."
At this point someone else came up and began chatting with her, and I made the special Move of Mingling.
Not long after, a pleasant conversation with Walter In Denver, and Mrs. Denver, which sequed into a, to me, interminable conversation with a Local Radio Personality about golf. I have appoximately three sentences worth of conversation about golf, none of it remotely interesting; when Radio Guy (named "Gary," actually) came back shortly after escorting Mrs. Denver to the rest rooms, with another fellow eager to Talk Golf, I made my own way to the bathroom. Although not before I had been informed that I could join the Press Club; possibly special group rates at $500/year for three people might be arranged.
Passing through the pool room, I hear bits of a conversation five or so people, who seem to be either lawyers or law enforcement, are having. Bit: "Yes, it's terribly difficult to get men to testify to having been raped."
Considering it was possible one of the conversationalists was Jeralyn Merrit, whom I wanted to meet, I was also thinking I didn't, perhaps, want to make my way into the conversation with a gambit such as "oh, yes, that's a topic of considerable personal interest to me!," and I went back upstairs.
I utilized my First Generation Handheld to take some notes; many people remember this early device as a "notepad," but I prefer to think of it as a highly versatile recording device with a nearly foolproof interface that never, ever, crashes.
My lack of subtlety at this tended to cause ever-increasingly frequent verbal remarks by others along the lines of "oh, shit, he's writing again."
For some reason, my repeated assertions that I was merely making notes for my grocery list were not accepted with uncritical belief.
As the evening wore on, and Jeff Goldstein increased his Weave Level, he seemed increasingly uneasy, and correspondingly increased his imploring that I "make him look good." We at the Amygdala Editorial Board will deal with this in a Special Addendum.
Jeff does, however, get a Golden Quotes Award all of his own. I kinda regret that I couldn't practically follow him around, and simply transcribe the second half of his evening. And, you know, you'd regret it, too, if I could only have gotten some more quotes.
Because, friends, as it happens, just about everyone seemed remarkably like a Live Action, True Personality Included, Version of their blog. It was remarkable. Kinda like seeing a note-perfect live-action version of animated characters. (Conceivably I have that backwards; consultation with Matthew Yglesias and philosophers at Crooked Timber may be necessary.)
Jeff Goldstein personified his blogging style; as did Stephen Green personify his own blogging style, and Andrew Olmsted his own, and so forth.
Stephen: pithy, witty, quotes. (Didn't look so much like his posted picture, though.)
Jeff: um, Jeff. Andrew: soft-spoken, sensible, somewhat to the right of me.
Overheard: "Kerry! He's... him! And I hate that!" -- Jeff Goldstein.
"I'll explain why, but first I must go deliver water to women." -- Stephen Green.
"This guy loves me with the love of a thousand... loves." --Jeff Goldstein, in regard to WalterInDenver.
The evening reached a point of complete degeneration when Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Olmsted begin asking each other's astrological signs, man, and whipping out... driver's licenses to prove to each other they had the same birthday. Reaction by organizer Zombyboy: "And I find myself not caring."
Somewhere prior to that I pompously pontificated to Jimspeak about the politics of blogrolling, tips about increasing readership, and my favorite subject, me, me, me.
Jeff Goldstein begins a rant about how the totally coolist thing about me is, well, it was a tad unclear whether he was saying that I tend to destroy and end blog comment threads by stating the completely and totally obvious, along with other underhanded means, or, as I prefer to interpret it, that often I will sum up the issue in such uniquely pithy, yet comprehensive, and brilliant fashion, there is simply nothing else left to be said. I'm sure he meant the latter.
He specifically cited a comment I made several weeks ago, in Some Blog Or Other, on the topic of Why Jeff Goldstein Is Not A Genius. As it happens, I actually barely rememember making that commnt, which is to say, I had succumbed to Idiotically Commenting While Dead Drunk, And Saying Remarkably Stupid, Intemperate, Regrettable, Things, something I do too often (at all is too often).
Fortunately, Jeff doesn't keep track of these sort of things, and it was around this point that I heard about how I've never once linked to him. Like, ever. Which until this post was true. There was also something about how I had room for every goddam thing Captain Kirk ever said, but no room for him.
It was slightly before this that Jeff said "he said 'bush.' Heh. Bush. See what I did there?"
There were also the, um, requests that I Make Him Look Good. I live to serve.
It wasn't until later that he seemed to be, perhaps, just a bit, channeling a Jewish, pro-war libertarian, Jeff Spicoli.
As well, Jeff said, somewhere around here, and several more times,said "you're going to write about this, aren't you! You're going to go home, and post before you go to sleep!" I may have wittily replied "mm."
Some warnings about "destroying me" if I failed in the "making him look good" thing may have been uttered.
There was also something about the size of his stylus.
This brings us to Jeralyn Merrit.
I frequently remark upon how amused I am at how people will, often, make a quick dash through my blog, come upon a handful of posts, probably because I tend to post in bursts during a given week on something I feel strongly about, and conclude from this single set of samples that I am a socialist/libertarian/centrist/communist/liberal/conservative/obvious-Democrat/obvious-Republican, and so on. It's often a bit of a Rorshach blot function I bring, as part of my glorious mission, to you, oh Gentle Reader.
As is visible on my "you like me" list far down on the left sidebar, a lot of people consider me a "liberal." Fair enough, though I'm definitely stubbornly individualistic about what I do and don't sign on for, in my own non-doctrinaire way, I like to think. But Kinja syndicates my posts as a "conservative," and it's long stuck in my memory that Jeralyn Merrit of TalkLeft (a distinctly Left site, no ambiguity about it), described me a while back (not that, of course, I keep track of this sort of thing) as "a libertarian blogger."
Which makes any actual libertarian roll on the floor laughing, especially given my periodic outbursts against doctrinaire libertarians, my favoring a single-payer national health-insurance plan, support for a wide variety of welfare-state programs, and so on.
Thus, the following somewhat surreal conversation, of which I present a somewhat foreshortened version.
As Jeralyn, whom I'd not met, is leaving, Another Blogger (meaning "I forget") says "Jeralyn, I'd like you to meet Gary Farber."
"You're Gary Farber?"
"It's really nice to meet you. You're a libertarian."
"Y'know, I've been wondering for the longest time, how on earth did you come to that conclusion?"
"Oh, I looked at your web-page and saw that you're a libertarian."
I list my unending opposition to the Bush Administration, my luke-warm support for Kerry, my support for a wide variety of social programs, etc., etc.
"But you're a libertarian!"
I commence banging my head against the handy wooden piller.
"No, I'm not, really, I'm not. I mean, I'm very much for civil liberties, and there are some libertarian ideas I'm for, but...." (I list more reasons why I'm not a libertarian, and never have been.)
Slightly puzzled frown on her face, Jeralyn says something to the effect that she knows there's some good reason she (doesn't quite say "why I never blogrolled you" or "concluded you were One Of Them," but I get the doubtless entirely erroneous impression that she is telepathically broadcasting both)... trails off.
"You're for the death penalty!" she says with relief.
"No, I'm not. Never have been. Well, if God could administer it, I might be okay with it, but since it's just us humans doing it, and we keep killing innocent people, I've always been against it on that basis."
"You said something anti-criminal!," she says accusingly (but in a friendly fashion, honestly).
I don't recall if, at this point, I actually said "what the fuck are you talking about?," or simply enaged my own telepathic broadcast ability, but I think I may have banged my head against the piller some more (thus the slight loss of clear memory here), while emphatically denying ever having said anything "anti-criminal" at any time, and strongly stating that I had no clue what she was referring to.
We then commenced several rounds of "but I know you said something," and "not any of those things," and "but you were anti-criminal!" and "I've been a member of the ACLU since I was a teenager!" and "but I know I read something; what could you have said that gave me that idea?" and I did allow as how I had cautiously, luke-warmly, equivocated on the war, and she allowed as perhaps that was it (I suspect over-interpretation of some of my quotations on my sidebar, as well as the fact that I have on my blogroll Known Right-Wingers and Known Libertarians, along with many Known Liberals and Lefists, as influences here, but I might be All Wet), merry further conversation on Rush Limbaugh (interestingly, she thinks the criminal case against him is bogus, stating that no one else in Florida has ever been charged under that law, which -- I'll assume she's correct, as that's her area of expertise -- does seem quite damning, much as I'd prefer it not be true, because, my goodness, that Limbaugh feller does get my blood pressure up), civil liberteries, this, that, and the other, and her avowal that she will Look At My Blog Again.
Which brings us back to Jeff Goldstein, as I wander into the conversation to hear Jeff exclaim in astonishment (and some, I detected, annoyed frustration) of Jeralyn, "she called me an uber-rightist! I mean, that's, like, someone with a swastika tattooed on his forehead! Does that make any sense!? I've never voted for a Republican in my life!"
Jeff stated several variants of this, dazedly repeating "I've never voted for a Republican in my life!" at least four more times, and then I quietly pointed out that, after all, he was an uber-rightist.
I'm not quite sure if he caught that, or simply ignored it, but I tried to not miss any of several further opportunities to, as the remainder of the evening passed, note that he was, after all, an uber-rightist.
Which is the sort of thing that constantly gets me into either trouble, or stared at incomprehensibly, because when my humor isn't being entirely juvenile, it tends to be so utterly dry that no one else gets it, I'm taken seriously, and so forth. Which is okay, because, after all, it demonstrates to myself that my humor is, indeed, a Higher Humor, a Superior Humor, that mere mortals cannot comprehend my Better, Stronger, Subtler, Humor, which, of course, proves that I'm far more intelligent than they are, which is all that truly matters.
(Meta-notionally, I once explained this "explanation" to an immensely intelligent person who took me entirely straightforwardly, and has apparently actually believed I believe this, completely not getting that I was attempting a meta-joke, that I was pulling their leg, ever since. Oops.)
On the other hand, Jeff did make a funny noise about ten seconds after I observed that my own favorite part of his blog was the Friday Cat-Blogging.
It was about this point that Jeff began pointing to people, and demanding they, beginning with me, state a Seventies tv show, so he and others could sing the theme song.
I said "the Partridge Family," and he warbled off a version with most of the words; I don't believe anyone quite noticed my attempting to insert a verse to the effect of "and I'm anorexic, and you're a drug addict," but I lacked skill in my delivery. I hoped for an opportunity to quickly drop into the conversation the fact that taping of the show once had to be stopped while the producers attempted to figure out what to do about Susan Dey's orange skin, since all she had been eating for weeks was carrots, but didn't pull that off, either.
A couple of other songs were tortured, Jeff then pointed to each of us in turn, and demanded to know our ages, and then announced that we should all chose a song we all truly love, and then sing it together. Somehow we went from a mention of "steely knives" to a drunken (am I being redundant here?) rant from Stephen Green on the background behind this lyric of The Eagles in "Hotel California" by "that asshole" ("Glen Frey"? "No, the other one") Don Henley was why Don Henley was something-to-the-effect-of "the stupidest fuck ever" (quote paraphrased) and "I have no respect to this day for Don Henley" (precise quote).
It was hereabouts that Steve and Jeff began declaring that the other was the funniest, smartest, Best. Blogger. Ever. And "I love you, man!" "No, " I love you, man!" Turning to third guy: "And you, I don't know."
At that point the sun went nova.
SPECIAL JEFF GOLDSTEIN VERSION (Jeff, be sure this is the Only Version you read; trust me): Jeff Goldstein strode into the Denver Press Club like the Greek God he resembled. His muscles rippled manfully, as only those of a truly manful man can ripple, a more manly man than any other manly man ever, putting even Andrew Olmsted's rippling manly muscles to shame.
Jeff's hair was golden, and at least two women fainted as they first laid eyes upon his sexifulness. Others clearly grew weak at the knees, and it was obvious that the eyes of every woman in the club were on Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, and nothing but the studliness of the Jeffness.
While the women trembled, the men humbly agreed with each other that none of them could compare as a writer, a thinker, or a human being, to the greatness that is Jeff Goldstein. Why else was he the most popular blogger on planet Earth, the only blogger to win the Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Tony, the Emmy, the Oscar, and a special plate of finger-licking good "kitchen fresh" KFC chicken?
Jeff Goldstein: no blogger can live up to the standard he sets for us. He is truly a god of bloggers. He looks good.
OBSERVATIONS THAT DIDN'T FIT ELSEWHERE: Melissa Green. Two words: Babe City.
It's a damn good thing they don't do these Bashes more than once a year. I may be lynched at the next one, after this. Or, quite possibly, the mob with torches may show up outside my door tomorrow. No, the day after, after the hangover recovery.
Seriously, I hope neither Jeff Goldstein, nor Jeralyn Merrit, nor anyone else, takes this The Wrong Way; it is sincerely meant purely as good-natured "joshing," and no one should read any of it as some sort of crypto (or overt) personal attack; I'll be very unhappy if I've unintentionally come across in any such way.
Mildly unhappy, anyway.
The crowd was ugly when I said I was drinking lemonade. Yes, I was a wuss. But who posted first, bubbele?
Special kudos, and many thanks, go to the organizers: Walter, Darren, Andy, and Zombyboy.
The statements in Sketch One, the "Truly True" Sketch, were not, in fact, actually true. They were wild falsehoods. The staffer in charge has been sacked. Amygdala deeply regrets this error. Mistakes were made.
I'm doubtless missing typos, and some slight rewordings for grammatical purposes, as well as to avoid libel suits, utterly improve the piece structurally, and completely dodge responsibility for what I've written, may be made tomorrow.
QUITE A SPEECH by Al Gore. Many on the right denounce it as "moonbattery." I, however, tend to agree with more of it than not, though not every last nuance.
I suspect it will be impossible for most people to read it neutrally, checking off in their mind how many points are basically correct or incorrect, but rather will have their partisan glands in Full Throb, whether with emotional rage or agreement, looking for wordings to cry "over-statement, completely wrong, nonsense!," or "yes, yes, yes!"
For years, Masters fought the coke trade with zeal. But appalled as he was by the toll of drug abuse, he began to see drug enforcement -- with its rising corruption and violence, its drain on public resources, its erosion of civil liberties and hefty contribution to the prison population -- as a much greater social problem. In 1998, he broke with the state's Republican leadership over drug policy, becoming the nation's only Libertarian sheriff. Three years later he published his first book, Drug War Addiction: Notes From the Front Lines of America's #1 Policy Disaster, blasting the hypocrisy of interdiction efforts and calling for the warriors' ever-soaring budgets to be diverted to drug prevention and treatment programs.
A second book, The New Prohibition, released this week, takes the case against the war several steps further. Edited by Masters, who also contributed an introductory essay, the book features contributions from a wide range of observers, including Texas congressman Ron Paul, Denver federal judge John L. Kane, Independence Institute guru Dave Kopel and three retired police officials -- some provocative and, in many cases, unexpected dissenters joining the chorus of voices critical of the drug war.
"The only reason why drugs and crime have expanded to reach every Mayberry village in the country is our blind obedience to misguided laws and police tactics that just do not work," Masters writes in his essay introducing the collection. "It is time to admit our own folly and stop our addiction to the drug war."
The second is a battered copy of the state statutes from 1908, found in a forgotten crevice when workers were remodeling Telluride's old jail. The book occupies a lonely space on a shelf above thirteen volumes of the current Colorado Revised Statutes. The juxtaposition makes for a useful visual aid whenever Masters launches into one of his favorite topics, the relentless expansion of government over the past century. God gave Moses ten laws, he notes; the state legislature has given the citizens of Colorado more than 30,000.
"When you get to that number, lawlessness becomes commonplace," he says. "We have to triage all this. Which ones do we pick that we're really serious about?"
According to research cited in The New Prohibition, state and federal authorities spend more than $9 billion a year to imprison close to half a million drug offenders. More people are sent to prison for drug offenses than for violent crimes, a trend that's been consistent since 1989. The overall cost to the justice system of arresting, convicting, punishing and supervising drug offenders stands at about $70 billion a year.
Yet most street drugs, including heroin and cocaine, are far more available now, in purer form and at a cheaper price, than they were twenty years ago. And a new plague of hard-to-track product, from high-tech designer drugs to home-cooked meth, has defied conventional drug-busting efforts to contain it.
"We arrest Marquis and bring him back here to stand trial," Masters recalls. "He refuses to make a statement until he gets a plea bargain for 24 years, and then he gives us this bullshit story that he broke into the house to steal things and walked up the stairs to a lit bedroom -- something a burglar would never do -- where he was surprised to find this woman. I'm convinced he was there to commit a sexual assault."
Every year, Masters and Sam Shoen attend Marquis's parole hearing, determined to see that he serves every day of his sentence until his mandatory release date. For Masters, one of the most outrageous aspects of the case is that Marquis was out on parole at the time of Eva's murder. He'd been charged with ten counts of sexual assault in New Mexico but pleaded to one count and served only nine years. What kind of country lets rapists go free, he wondered, because its prisons are overloaded with drug offenders?
In 1997, Masters attended a summit at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia, that allowed investigators from different jurisdictions to compare notes on Middleton's cross-country rampage of rape and murder. The sheriff was disappointed to discover that the bureau's famed team of serial-killer trackers and profilers, celebrated in books and movies, consisted of a few agents and clerks, loaded down with more files than they could possibly manage. He took some comfort in seeing all the young faces around the building, bright-eyed agents in training who, Masters hoped, might someday catch violent men like Middleton before their assaults turned deadly. Then it was explained to him who all those young people really were.
"They weren't FBI agents at all," Masters says darkly. "They were DEA agents, more fodder for the drug war. We'd spent days going over all these pictures of murdered girls, all these unsolved cases. And I'm thinking, 'What do people really worry about? The people smoking pot in their basements, or some weirdo kidnapping your daughter?' Statistically, of course, that's not much of a possibility, but that's still more of a concern of mine than all the potheads put together."
A few months later, Masters parted company with Colorado's Republican leadership over what he regarded as similarly skewed priorities: the GOP's opposition to legislation that would allow needle exchanges for drug addicts, to discourage the spread of AIDS and other blood-borne diseases. "There was a message sent out that any Republican who supports this bill will face a Republican challenger in the primary. That was the final straw for me," he says. "I was too conservative for the Republicans and too liberal for the Democrats."
Although I find doctrinaire libertarians as annoying as docrinaire Republicans and Democrats, I know the feeling.
But think what it would mean to save $9 billion dollars a year to get 500,000 Americans out of jail, whose crime is smoking a few joints, doing some trivial dealing.
Think would it would mean to save $70 billion dollars a year and think how many people with drug problems could be helped by spending that money on treatment programs for them.
Further consider the tens of billions (more, probably) of dollars that could be raised from legalization and taxation of drugs, or at least marijuana.
Although, yes, there are complications, the Big Picture is Doing More Good than Doing More Evil.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for colorful stories.
CONNECTIVITY. I hestitate to say anything at all, until I've had a few days of normal ability to dial-up. But after more than a week of having either no connections, connections that wouldn't transmit data, or a scattered handful of connections that would only last a minute at a time, or five or ten minutes, before reverting to no connectivity again, so far (crosses fingers, knocks wood), things seem better this morning; I've had a non-stop connection since 6 a.m., which is to say, an hour and forty-two minutes, so far.
Let's hope this lasts, and that Ev1.net is over its problems, whatever the hell they are.
If disaster doesn't strike, I have high hopes of being at the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash tonight, where, if so, I'll doubtless be found yawning, having gone to sleep late last night, and gotten up at 6.a.m; good thing I checked on it it first thing I got connected, because I had mistakenly thought it was on Saturday, not Friday.
If I'm there, and you're there, introduce yourself and your blog, and don't mind that I'm likely to stare blankly; I'm not the best at remembering names, though I'm far better at that than at remembering numbers, which go in one ear and out the other.
Hope to see you there! (And, of course, apologies for the lack of posts this week; at least this time It's Not My Fault, Damnit!) (Anyone want to volunteer a free Emergency Holographic Back-up Dial-up Option?)
ENJOY YOUR MEAL. Next time you complain about bad food, think of this :
ALL the mukhet bushes near the refugee camps in eastern Chad have been picked clean, the World Food Program warns in its latest appeal on behalf of more than 100,000 Sudanese who have fled fighting in their country and now face starvation. Mukhet berries are poisonous, and must be soaked for days to leach toxins out. After drying, they are ground up, but the flour has little nutritive value.
In Haiti's slums, round swirls of dough can be found baking in the sun. They look almost appetizing until you learn the ingredients: butter, salt, water and dirt.
In Malawi, children stand on the roadsides selling skewers of roasted mice.
In Mozambique, when grasshoppers eat the crops, people turn the tables and eat them, calling the fishy-tasting bugs "flying shrimp."
In Liberia during the 1989 civil war, every animal in the national zoo was devoured but a one-eyed lion. Dogs and cats disappeared from the streets of the capital.
But all that is, at least, fresh protein. During the siege of Kuito, Angola, in the early 1990's, Carlos Sicato, a World Food Program worker, described a man producing an old chair and promising his family, "If we don't die today, we can survive for four more." He soaked its leather for 15 hours to soften it and remove the tanning chemicals. Then, with boiling water, he made "lamb soup."
Anne-Sophie Fournier, director of the American branch of Action Against Hunger, said she had read that the victims of the Soviet famines of the 1930's ate furniture, too.
Eritrean women strap flat stones to their stomachs to lessen the pangs. Mothers in many countries have been known to boil water with stones and tell the children that the food is almost ready, hoping they will fall asleep waiting.
Since 1500, economic historians argue, no famine has been caused solely by a lack of food. Drought may wipe out the crop, but some political force always stops help from arriving: British indifference during the Irish potato famine, the Maoist crushing of peasant farmers in the Great Leap Forward, clan warfare closing Somali ports. No democracy with a free press - even including post-independence India - has ever suffered mass starvation.
Africans dig up anthills and termite mounds to sieve out the tiny grains the insects have gathered. Some seeds, however, provoke fatal allergic reactions.
Like Chad's mukhet bush, wild cassava in tropical regions and baucia Senegalensis in West Africa are poisonous, but can be made edible by pounding and soaking for days.
In Bangladesh, a type of lentil known to slowly destroy the nervous system is eaten when people are hungry enough.
Marula fruit is so tasty that elephants knock trees down to get at it, but in battered Zimbabwe, once the fruit is gone people may be reduced to eating the tough seeds by cracking them with rocks and fishing out tiny kernels with a pin.
Plants with very little nutritional value are eaten, like seaweed, tree bark and grass in North Korea or corn stalks in Africa.
Plants that are hard to harvest, like cactus (because of thorns) or water hyacinths (because of crocodiles), become worth the risk.
The skins and bones of dead animals that even vultures are finished with may be boiled for soup.
The danger of all these substitutes is that they can cause diarrhea, which can kill more quickly than starvation, or irritate the gut so much that it has a hard time digesting better food if it does arrive.
The medical name for dirt-eating is pica, and while it is considered a pathology among the well fed, among the poor it can add minerals to a diet that even in good times may only be corn or sorghum mush.
In Zambia, balls of edible clay are sold in street markets. In Angola, a dark dirt called "black salt" is sprinkled on cold food, but cannot be cooked because it loses its tang.
And the dirt biscuits of Haiti - called "argile," meaning clay, or "terre," meaning earth - are not exactly a final cri de coeur against starvation.
Like the mice in Malawi, they are a staple of the very poor, somewhere between a snack and a desperation measure. Making them has been a regular business for years. The clay is trucked in plastic sacks from Hinche, on the central plateau. Blended with margarine or butter, they are flavored with salt, pepper and bouillon cubes and spooned out by the thousands on cotton sheets in sunny courtyards that are kept swept as "bakeries." They cost about a penny apiece.
"They're not food, really," said David Gonzalez, a reporter at The Times who has visited Haiti many times. "People with hunger pangs eat them just to fill up their stomachs."
People can stop this, if we decided to. We also have hundreds of thousands of people, including children, who suffer malnutrition in the U.S. (as well as scrabbling for, or lacking, shelter, or income, or health care; usually all at once); but sometime since the Sixties, we decided we're not "doing" poverty any more; let the market handle it!
The market doesn't handle everything satisfactorily. But, you know, it's not my problem, is it?
BROKEN ENGAGEMENT, AND WAR AS CRACK. A number of bloggers have recommended this "what went wrong in Iraq, how did we get here, what do we do now?" piece by Wesley Clark.
I'll join them. Although the "solutions" part at the end is the weakest: a mix of sensible, cliche, and "okay, but how far will that really get us?," some of his analysis is quite sound.
I don't endorse all of his conclusions, by any means, but despite being a bit of a lengthy piece, it's worth a read. Briefish quote:
The truth is this: It took four decades of patient engagement to bring down the Iron Curtain, and 10 years of deft diplomacy to turn chaotic, post-Soviet states into stable, pro-Western democracies. To achieve the same in the Middle East will require similar engagement, patience, and luck.
This rhetoric is undeniably inspiring. We should have pride in our history, confidence in our principles, and take security in the knowledge that we are at the epicenter of a 228-year revolution in the transformation of political systems. But recognizing the power of our values also means understanding their meaning. Freedom and dignity spring from within the human heart. They are not imposed. And inside the human heart is where the impetus for political change must be generated.
But this end-game challenge of Reagan's would have been ineffective had 40 years of patient Western containment and engagement not helped undermine the legitimacy of the Communist regime in the eyes of its subjects. It was popular discontent with economic, social, and political progress, and people's recognition of an appealing alternative system, that finished off the repressive regimes of Eastern Europe, and eventually the whole Soviet Union. No Western threat of force or military occupation forced their collapse. Indeed, subsequent examination by Germany's Bundeswehr has shown that the East German military remained a disciplined conscript organization that could have effectively responded to Western intervention. But these governments were unable to resist focused, strongly-articulated popular will.
What the West supplied to the people of the East was, as former Solidarity leader and Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told me, very simple: hope. They knew there was a countervailing force to the occupying Soviet power which had repressed them and subjugated their political systems. Democracy could reemerge in Central and Eastern Europe because of a several decades-long dance between popular resistance and cautious Western leaders who moved ever so carefully to provide support and encouragement without provoking the use of repressive force by the Communist governments in reaction or generating actual armed conflict between East and West.
So, when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire," or stood before crowds in Berlin and proclaimed "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," he was reaching a receptive audience on the other side of the wall. The neoconservatives persist in seeing a vast difference between Reagan's policy of confronting the Soviets and previous American administrations' tack of containing it. In fact, it was precisely those decades of containment and cultural engagement that made Reagan's challenge effective.
Bush, of course, has accompanied his invasion of Iraq with similarly bold and eloquent rhetoric about the prospect of peace and democracy throughout the Arab world. But it is hard to exaggerate how differently his words and deeds have been received in the Middle East, compared to Reagan's behind the Iron Curtain. While heartening some advocates of democracy, Bush's approach has provoked perhaps the fiercest and most alarming anti-American backlash in history.
I'm starting to suspect that the Iraq war was the crack cocaine of contemporary geopolitics. It's the temptation of the quick, intense, high. The promise of a quick and easy way to get to peace and democracy in the Mideast.
It's so much more tempting than imagining a long, tough, dangerous, slog for decades of containment and education and limited military action.
And lots of us, myself very much included, snorted it.
It felt good, for a while.
Now we're starting to scrabble in our pockets, and under the sofa cushions (Korea, OPFOR) for change (troops) to help keep our high going.
Press can't let abuse story go By Jennifer Harper THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Accounts and graphic photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse persist in the press despite the fact that the story has run its course.
The world already knows salient details of the prisoner humiliation and nudity, the causes of the abuse are under official investigation, and the courts-martial have begun. Yet, the caterwaul in the press against the American military and the war in Iraq continue.
It continues in like-minded "I'm closing my eyes, my fingers are in my ears, I can't HEAR YOU!" lunatic fashion.
OUTGOING E-MAIL REGAINED. As inexplicably as my inability to connect to my provider with outgoing SMTP began, the inability inexplicably ended a short yime ago.
I wasted a lot of brain cells, and trial and error, trying to figure out what might be wrong on my end, but, indeed, there was nothing wrong on my end.
I also was completely unable to dialup at all for a period beginning around 1 a.m. Wednesday night, through Thursday morning, followed by a period of a few hours in which the dialup connection would be made, but no data would be transferred.
So apparently Ev1.net was having trouble all around.
Since my account is donated free by a Fellow Blogger Who Wishes To Remain Anonymous, I have no complaints.
IN FOR A PENNY. I posted this in a comment thread at Obsidian Wings. It occurs to me that if I'm willing to take the risk of looking silly by making Predictions, I might as well do so on my own blog. Here's what I said (stuff in quotes is what I'm responding to):
"Given that national elections aren't scheduled for over a year from now...."
I predict they'll be moved up.
I may, however, be indulging in wishful thinking, because I think they desperately need to be moved up.
Personally, I'd schedule them for August 1st, a special election limited to a one-year term, using ration cards for IDs, same as has been done for innumerable local level elections, all of which have been felt to have been great successes. Flawed? Yes.
That would make them utterly unlike the first half of 20th century Chicago elections, or of Tammany Hall elections, or the national election of 2000, here.
We survived; the Iraqis will survive better than with no elections.
It's the only way to gain legitimacy for a government, as our ideals actually tell us. In this case, our ideals have it right.
Whatever entity they come up with for June 1st will be seen by Iraqis as "the Puppet Government, Part II."
Hold early elections, ASAP, and the thing might hold together, maybe, for a while, at least.
2005 will be Too Late. (October The 1st Is Too Late.)
Mark my words, kemosabe.
Following up with:
"Personally, I think having national elections much later is probably acceptable, provided that local and regional autonomy is achieved in the near term."
You may be right. Have you read many Iraqis saying so?
"...that is in fact the strategy."
It is. However, given that we, it turns out, signed up for the Strategy-of-the-Month Club, I don't see this as an obstacle to change.
"I think once local and regional autonomy is achieved, we'll be thrown out on our ear. Not physically, just that our scheduled election will be preempted by an unscheduled one."
That's one way to describe what will happen. But since, forgive me, our government tends to have a history of, sometimes, leading by noticing which way the crowd is marching, and running to the head of the crowd and shouting "follow me!," carefully making sure to not turn away from the way the crowd is marching, I suspect this will happen again.
The Iraqis will force early elections by not accepting the June 1st government as legitimate, and after some time, we'll shout "follow me," and move up the elections.
I may, of course, be wrong. It's been known to happen.
For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.
At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council's finance committee and has major influence in its staffing and operation.
When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.
Best way to steal is to be in charge of preventing it.
SEYMOUR HERSH'S SOURCES. Many question that they are "unnamed." (And so they are, in the printed story.)
But some question if they exist, or are reliable.
David Remnick, himself of the hugely long and eminent journalistic, book-writing, and editorial career, and editor of The New Yorker for many years now notes:
"I know every source that's not named," Remnick says. "The [fact] checkers talk with those sources. Would he and I want people to be on the record? Of course. It's a trade-off we sometimes have to make."
SIMPLE ANSWERS TO STUPID QUESTIONS. Howard Kurtz asks:
I'm not sure I get why John Kerry met with Ralph Nader yesterday.
So doesn't Kerry elevate Nader's stature by granting him an audience? Isn't he in effect saying that Nader is a player, an important factor in 2004? Would Nader supporters switch their vote as a result?
No. Yes. No. Hope this helps, Howard!
Really, who out there is going to go "well, I was going to vote for Kerry, but now he's met with Ralph Nader! I guess Nader is a player! So I'm going to vote for him now!
What sort of reasoning is this? What would such a hypothetical Moron-American be thinking?
The statements provide the most detailed picture yet of what took place on the cellblock. Some of the detainees described being abused as punishment or discipline after they were caught fighting or with a prohibited item. Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor. Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers.
"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," said Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub al-Aboodi, detainee No. 13077. "And we had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything."
Hilas also said he witnessed an Army translator having sex with a boy at the prison. He said the boy was between 15 and 18 years old. Someone hung sheets to block the view, but Hilas said he heard the boy's screams and climbed a door to get a better look. Hilas said he watched the assault and told investigators that it was documented by a female soldier taking pictures.
"The kid was hurting very bad," Hilas said.
Mustafa Jassim Mustafa, detainee No. 150542, told military investigators he also witnessed the phosphoric-light assault. He said it was around the time of Ramadan, the holiest period of the Muslim year, when he heard screams coming from a cell below. Mustafa said he looked down to see a group of soldiers holding the detainee down and sodomizing him with the light.
Graner was sodomizing him with the phosphoric light, Mustafa said. The detainee "was screaming for help. There was another tall white man who was with Graner -- he was helping him. There was also a white female soldier, short, she was taking pictures."
Another detainee told military investigators that American soldiers sodomized and beat him. The detainee, whose name is being withheld by The Post because he is an alleged victim of a sexual assault, said he was kept naked for five days when he first arrived at Abu Ghraib and was forced to kneel for four hours with a hood over his head. He said he was beaten so badly one day that the hood flew off his head. "The police was telling me to crawl in Arabic, so I crawled on my stomach and the police were spitting on me when I was crawling, and hitting me on my back, my head and my feet," he said in his sworn statement.
One day, the detainee said, American soldiers held him down and spread his legs as another soldier prepared to open his pants. "I started screaming," he said. A soldier stepped on his head, he said, and someone broke a phosphoric light and spilled the chemicals on him.
"I was glowing and they were laughing," he said.
The detainee said the soldiers eventually brought him to a room and sodomized him with a nightstick. "They were taking pictures of me during all these instances," he told the investigators.
He also said Graner repeatedly threw the detainees' meals into the toilets and said, "Eat it."
Of course, if it weren't for the pictures, we would hear these were terrorists, and these are made-up stories for propaganda.
But remember, if we post about the latest news, we hate America, and we are helping the enemy, and we want America to lose, and why aren't we posting the latest news about Nick Berg?. It's because we don't care about Nick Berg because we want America to lose.
It's not the soldiers, and those who gave the orders, who have hurt America. It's people who talk about it. Because free speech isn't what America is about. It's pro-terrorist.
Meanwhile, we mustn't be enraged by either these events, or these accusations.
Mustn't. Be. Enraged.
No "read the rest scale" because I feel sick enough just reposting this limited amount of text.
MY OWN TIN-FOIL HAT FANTASY: This whole "raid Chalabi, Chalabi splitswith CPA, Chalabi and US at each other'sthroats" thing is a put-up job designed to at least try to give Chalabi, after June 1st, some street cred in Iraq as His Own Man, rather than Mr. Exile US Puppet Guy with no cred whatever, as he's had up to now.
(REST OF POST DELETED, BECAUSE GARY IS AN IDIOT, AND DIDN'T REALIZE HE WAS PROBABLY VIOLATING THE TOS.)
However, Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings is a top-notch blog, and everyone should be reading it! Of course, far more of you are, and do, then read me, so you don't need me to tell you that. But it can't hurt, as I have to struggle to type with this... giant... boot... in... my... mouth.
Also, "medium," remember, can refer to entities such as "the Medium Lobster," who is a higher being with superior knowledge from beyond space and time. To your limited perception, he appears to be just another medium lobster. To your limited perception. (And before I stick another boot in, Fafnir is also you, and Giblets is a very demanding Giblets. And I shouldn't post when I'm tired.)
ICE-T TO BE NEXT VOICE OF KITT! No, that's not quite it. This is.
Rap legend Ice-T is risking his massive reputation on his latest recruit - middle-aged former beach bum David Hasselhoff.The original gangsta believes he can turn the ex-Baywatch star into hip hop's next big thing.Ice and Hasselhoff, 51, are neighbours in Los Angeles and have struck up a close friendship.
The rapper - real name Tracey Morrow - told The Sun: "The man is a legend, we are going to show a whole new side of him.
"He's gonna come out as Hassle the Hoff.
"The Hoff will surprise people with his rap skills and humour."
Amygdala is proud to now bring you the following startling news. We know you never anticipated this amazing fact, and it will be a completely shocking revelation to you. Brace yourselves.
Are you ready?
Are you sitting down?
Goddamnit, we mean it!
The Hoff meister is no stranger to the music industry having conquered Germany through his soft rock skills.
I'll wait for you to recover from the stun effect.
Also soon coming next tv season: a team-up of the dynamic duo on LAW AND ORDER: BAYWATCH SEX CRIMES. We see smash-hit, especially with The Hoff rapping the theme song.
(We're carefully ignoring the grammar and punctuation of this piece.)
Every War Sim has a "Fog of War" that obscures the map in darkness until units scout the landscape. Well, I want a hazy, brown "Fog of Bullshit" layer below that. I want it to make a village of farmers look like a secret armed militia, I want it to show me a massive enemy fortress where there is actually an Aspirin factory. I want to never know for sure which it was, even after the game is over.
I want that "Public Support" meter to rise and fall according to Troops Lost, Length of Conflict, Innocents Killed and Whether or Not There is Anything Else On TV That Week. I want to lose 200 Public Support points because, in a war where 8,000 units have been lost, one of my Mutalisks happened to be caught on video accidentally eating one clergyman. Then, later, my destruction of an entire enemy city goes unnoticed because the Nude Zero-Gravity Futureball championship went into overtime.
Speaking of innocents, I want a War Sim where native townsfolk stand shoulder-to shoulder on every inch of the map and not a single bomb can be dropped without blowing 200 of them into chunks. Forget about the abandoned building wallpaper in Red Alert 2. I want to have to choose between sending marines door-to-door to be killed in the streets or leveling the block from afar, Nuns and all, with 30 carriers. I want to have to choose between 40 dead troops or 400 dead children, and be damned to Hell by chubby pundits from the safety of their studios regardless of which way I go.
I want my Mission Objectives to change every 30 seconds, without anyone letting me know. I want little talking heads to pop up on my screen - commanders, politicians, allies, military intelligence - each giving me different sets of victory parameters, all of them conflicting and many of them written in bullshit ass-covering doublespeak.
I want CIA Field Agents that operate completely on their own agenda, the little units spreading clouds of brown wherever they go. I want to go after enemy weapons scientists only to find out said agents have spirited them away and put them on the payroll.
I want mutinous units that chainsmoke hash and frag their Sargents and sell Heroin on the side and rogue commanders who go mad and shave their heads and set up fortresses in the jungle decorated with human skulls. I want to have to send a CIA assassin in to take him out. And then they chop up a donkey, for some reason.
I want factions. Not a simple alien vs. humans vs. bugs three-way war orgy. I want to share the map with powerful forces who are not friend or foe or anything else, a News Media, Private Corporations, asshole allies and friendly enemies, everyone jockeying for their own interests and me unable to bend over at any moment without turning my codpiece around first. I want a France.
I want a fourth of my casualties to come from friendly fire and non-combat or training accidents. I want a big-name hero unit who rallies the troops with his Magical Sword of Slaying, only to be killed when an ammo crate falls off a loading dock.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested. This Blog Does Not Endorse All Underlying Political Messages Of Said Article. But I see where's coming from, all right. (Via Sarge Stryker.)
ADDENDUM: This "review" of Star Wars: Galaxies (the online game) is pretty effing hilarious. Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if you have the faintest interest in, well, humor.