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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.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
It's an interesting story, as it appears he had no desire to remain anonymous.
But what’s a bit harder to grasp is exactly why the media seem so reflexively deferential to the idea that "Anonymous" must be anonymous — especially when critical details revealed in a June 23 New York Times story indicated that his real identity is well-known to at least a few denizens of the Washington press corps.
But at issue here is not just the book’s content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA’s own admission, a Langley-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.
A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all — and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience.
"The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position," says Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School. "It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA.
n an interview after the Times story came out last week, Scheuer sounded none too pleased. "I suppose there might be a knucklehead out there somewhere who might take offense and do something, but anonymity isn’t something I asked for, and not for that reason; it makes me sound like I’m hiding behind something, and I personally dislike thinking that anyone thinks I’m a coward. When I did the first book, I said it would be a more effective book if I used my name. And they said no."
We report, you decide (unless, of course, I instruct you to do otherwise.)
UNLESS YOU'VE FOLLOWED THE SITUATION, AND HISTORY, CLOSELY FOR DECADES, Israel and the Palestinians is almost always more complicated than most people think.
I can't help wonder, however, if any of the more-Israeli-than-Israelis, only-very-right-wing-Israelis-are-real-Israelis, it's-all-only-about-anti-Semitism-and-Jew-hatred-but-my-hatred-of-Palestinians-is-different, bloggers will take this opportunity to denounce the Israeli Supreme Court as "anti-Israel," or, perhaps, Jew-hating, or, of course, liberal wimps out to give up Israeli security, or any of the other much-heard extremistly-simplified shibboleths, in which only one narrative is valid, that Israel-can-do-no-wrong, and Palestinians (or "palestinians") are a homogeneous mass of suicide-bomb-supporting killers?
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that one of the most contentious sections of Israel’s massive fence complex through the West Bank violates the human rights of thousands of Palestinian residents by separating them from their jobs and farmlands and making their daily lives miserable.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said it would reroute the disputed section.
"The route which the military commander established for the security fence which separates the local inhabitants from their agricultural lands injures the local inhabitants in a severe and acute way, while violating their rights under humanitarian international law," the court said in its 34-page ruling.
The court said that just over 18 miles of the planned route, which snakes around Palestinian villages northwest of Jerusalem, should be redrawn. The ruling described a part of the fence near the village of Beit Sourik as "a veritable chokehold, which will severely stifle daily life."
It's not a simple situation, and anyone who presents it as such doesn't have a clue.
Often a lot of emotion, though, which is less useful.
THE EXCELLENT PLANNING CONTINUES. Was anyone in the Administration ever a Boy Scout?
Senior Bush administration officials are considering moving hundreds of detainees from a facility in Cuba to prisons within the United States in response to Supreme Court rulings this week that granted military prisoners access to U.S. courts, officials said Tuesday.
As attorneys for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began preparing the first of hundreds of expected lawsuits demanding that the government justify the detentions, administration officials acknowledged that they were unprepared for a rebuke in two landmark Supreme Court decisions that rejected the military's treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism.
Now, after being handed the losses, the administration has been left to scramble to develop a strategy for granting hearings to detainees without having to cope with an unwieldy series of lawsuits throughout the nation.
"They didn't really have a specific plan for what to do, case by case, if we lost," a senior Department of Defense official said on condition of anonymity. "The Justice Department didn't have a plan. State didn't have a plan. This wasn't a unilateral mistake on Department of Defense's part. It's astounding to me that these cases have been pending for so long and nobody came up with a contingency plan."
To avoid ferrying prisoners and government lawyers to federal courts across the country, as might be required, Pentagon and Justice Department officials said they had discussed moving all detainees to a military prison in a conservative judicial district within the United States to enable the consolidation of all the proceedings in one court. They said possible locations could be Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., where there is an Army base with a military prison, or Charleston, S.C., home of the Charleston Naval Weapons Station, which houses the Navy brig.
Another option would be to allow prisoners to file for writs of habeas corpus — a demand for legal justification for their imprisonment — at a makeshift court at the base in Cuba. The Supreme Court left open the possibility of such an option.
Under a third proposal offered Justice Department officials and discussed at a high-level interagency meeting Tuesday, a senior administration official said, the administration would ask Congress to designate one federal court district to try the cases — most likely Washington, D.C., or the Eastern District of Virginia, whose jurisdiction includes the Pentagon.
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo challenged the view that legal and military planners had failed to adequately consider major setbacks by the high court.
"We obviously were prepared for any outcomes," Corallo said. "The Defense Department was already providing some amount of process to Guantanamo prisoners. The court said that is not enough. So now we have to figure exactly what type of process will satisfy their rulings."
But administration officials apparently guessed wrong on how the high court would rule.
An internal Justice Department memo reviewed Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times outlining communications plans in response to high court rulings on the issue listed two pages of talking points to be used "in case of win," and a page of talking points to be used "in case of win if some sort of process is required" — a partial victory. Yet, there was no category for action in the event of a broad defeat in the memo, titled "Supreme Court Decision Communications Plan."
Few lawyers inside or outside the government doubted that the high court would allow the government the right to detain combatants during wartime, as has been allowed in every major war for two centuries. That option was upheld.
But the memo wrongly predicted an outright win in the case Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, involving Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Louisiana-born man of Saudi descent captured in Afghanistan.
"The DOD/DOJ position on the detention of Hamdi will be decided in our favor as a clear-cut POW case," the memo said, although Hamdi was not held as a prisoner of war.
The memo predicted a 5-4 vote in favor of the government in Rasul vs. Bush and Al Odah vs. United States. Justices in that case, involving 16 Guantanamo detainees seized in Afghanistan and Pakistan, found in the reverse, voting 6 to 3 that military prisoners who are not U.S. citizens cannot be held without access to American courts.
Who can't applaud such fine powers of prediction and preparedness?
POWELL IN DARFUR. Kudos. Now let's hope something comes of it.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, warning that thousands of people are condemned to die in the strife-torn Darfur region even with an immediate influx of aid, met Tuesday night with Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, Sudan's president, to deliver the blunt message that the situation has become intolerable.
Powell, who is scheduled to visit the western region of Darfur on Wednesday to draw attention to the crisis, said he urged the Sudanese government to halt its sponsorship of marauding Arab militias that have killed thousands of black Africans and made more than a million people homeless.
Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, standing next to Powell, insisted that there was "no famine . . . no epidemic of diseases." But he acknowledged that "we still have to do more" because of the onset of the rainy season in Darfur. Sudanese officials have contended that foreign news media are exaggerating conditions in the region.
Powell came armed with satellite photos showing whole villages wiped out, and with statistics demonstrating that most camps that are housing more than 10,000 civilians lack sufficient food and water for nutrition.
U.S. officials have said the Bush administration would use punitive sanctions, such as a ban on travel to the United States or a freeze on assets in the United States, against leaders of the Arab militias, and possibly Sudanese officials, found to have been complicit in the attacks. Powell said that after meeting with victims, he would consult with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- who will also be in Sudan this week -- about the text of a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution that would sharply criticize Sudan's government for failing to halt the violence.
Interviews with two dozen women at camps, schools and health centers in two provincial capitals in Darfur yielded consistent reports that the Janjaweed were carrying out waves of attacks targeting African women. The victims and others said the rapes seemed to be a systematic campaign to humiliate the women, their husbands and fathers, and to weaken tribal ethnic lines. In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child's ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.
"The pattern is so clear because they are doing it in such a massive way and always saying the same thing," said an international aid worker who is involved in health care.
She showed a list of victims from Rokero, a town outside of Jebel Marra in central Darfur where 400 women said they were raped by the Janjaweed. "It's systematic," the aid worker said.
Nicholas Kristof has continued to be invaluable in pushing the story.
I wrote about Ms. Khattar in my last two columns, recounting how the Janjaweed Arab militia burned her village, murdered her parents and finally tracked her family down in the mountains. Ms. Khattar hid, but the Janjaweed caught her husband and his brothers, only 4, 6 and 8 years old, and killed them all.
That's where I found Ms. Khattar. She is part of a wave of 1.2 million people left homeless by the genocide in Darfur.
There is no childhood here. I saw a 4-year-old orphan girl, Nijah Ahmed, carrying her 13-month-old brother, Nibraz, on her back. Their parents and 15-year-old brother are missing in Sudan and presumed dead.
It's all the same story, over and over and over again.
Readers keep asking me what they can do about the genocide unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, or who they can write to. Im in the reporting business, not the lobbying business. But for those readers desperate for some ideas, here are some that have been passed on to me:
For readers who want to contribute financially, one of the main aid organizations active in Darfur itself is Doctors Without Borders. Its website is http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org . Another key group is the International Rescue Committee, which was building wells in one of the areas that I visited; its website is http://www.theirc.org .
After scolding Muslims for not doing more to help the people of Darfur, I got this email from Zeeshan in California:
I am a muslim and ashamed to see yet another instance of muslims committing genocide on other muslims. I am originally from Bangladesh, and we are familiar with religion being hijacked for political agendas - we were subject to a genocide in 1971 by the erstwhile ruling West Pakistanis. Darfur is being covered by a muslim charity that I donate to. Here's the link: http://www.irw.org/ or http://www.irw.org/sudan . I would appreciate posting this link as a proof that not all muslims are turning a blind eye towards such a heart-breaking tragedy.
That link is for Islamic Relief, a major charity. I didnt come across its people on my visits to the Chad/Sudan border, but its website shows it to be commendably active on the issue. There are lots of other Muslim charities the Islamic obligation to give zakat, or alms to the needy, has nurtured many aid groups and they do fine work in poor countries. I hope more become active in Darfur. They could play a particularly useful role because they would be more trusted by Sudan and might get better access, and they might also have more Arabic speakers on staff (most of the victims in Darfur speak a tribal language as their mother tongue, and then Arabic as a second language, making communication a big problem).
There's a lot more. Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Please do what you can to help; there's much you could do, and even a little could help a lot, be it a monetary donation, a letter or phone call to your Congressional representative (or duly elected representative if you are not a US citizen), a print-out or email to friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or a post anywhere.
Performance artist Laurie Anderson thought the phone call was a prank.
How would you like to be NASA's artist-in-residence?
The offer was legit: The space agency was bestowing a $20,000 commission on the 57-year-old Anderson to produce a piece of work completely at her creative freedom.
NASA began its art program in 1963 but never before had it tapped a resident artist, nor had it pushed the aesthetic envelope so boldly by choosing a performer whose large-scale theatrical productions blended "Star Trek" and Melville. Anderson is no Faith Hill.
The pixie-haired classically trained violinist has approached her assignment like a journalist, visiting the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, both in California.
The experience has been "overwhelming and wonderful at once," Anderson said recently in a telephone interview from her loft in New York.
The idea of an avant-garde electronic fiddler hanging out with rocket geeks at NASA's research centers may seem like an odd collaboration. At the Ames center in Silicon Valley, Anderson stood inside a virtual airport control tower to view scenes of Mars terrain, taking photos and recording notes in a small red notebook. The researchers' reaction to their visitor was mixed, according to a NASA newsletter. One confessed to being a huge fan; another doubted the partnership of art and science. "What's she going to do, write a poem?" the researcher asked.
In fact, Anderson's passions run parallel with the pocket-protector crowd. She has collaborated with the Interval Research Corp. in California to design a wireless musical instrument called the Talking Stick, which emits sound when touched.
Anderson said her affiliation with the space agency has sustained her spiritually, especially as the war in Iraq has dragged on and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has unfolded.
"Frankly, I find living in American culture at the moment really problematic," she said. "But then when I think of NASA, it's the one thing that feels future-oriented in a way that's inspiring. The greening of Mars or building a stairway to Mars, these are unbelievable aspirations."
Her voice ignites with wonder as she describes glimpsing the nebula for the first time, "like watching stars being born in outer space."
Unlike a painting that will hang in a boardroom, Anderson's creation for NASA will debut at the 2005 World Expo and show for six months. (A U.S. premiere of the film will come later.) Anderson has also been commissioned by the expo to compose music for a Japanese garden, and she hints that her NASA research is now seeding all her creative forces and is likely to yield more work besides the film.
"When I began to think about a Japanese rock garden, it was very much about time," the artist said. "You have a plum tree in blossom, repeating time in its briefest form. A blossom falls, that blossom falls on a rock, a stream flows through."
Her logic continues, breathlessly. "Here are these rovers up on Mars. You have robots up there looking for life, for water. Rovers are being trained to think like geologists, pick up a rock and crush it. One of the problems the JPL scientists are having is where the rock is and where the rover thinks the rock is. What is consciousness?"
Anderson doubts her desire to go up in space will be accommodated by NASA. Here on Earth, she lives with her paramour, Lou Reed, and her terrier, Lola Belle. The realities of life on the ground in a post-Sept. 11 America are ever present: Last year the performer was handcuffed and held in custody at the St. Louis airport for two hours when detectives mistook her customized musical equipment for a homemade bomb.
Anderson recently quit smoking. She figured that a nonsmoking astronaut would have a much greater chance of launching into space than one who puffs.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for a small amount of interesting detail on NASA's history with art, and more Anderson. I gotta say that I've always thought Anderson and Lou Reed have to be one of the world's more interesting couples.
EX-SOVIET REGIONS HAVE THE BESTEST RULERS. We see that over and over again. Are you familiar with Kalmykia?
Back in the days of the Silk Road caravans, this is what people might have called a mirage - a huge glass dome, surrounded by a California-style housing development, rising from the parched brown steppe.
That shimmering vision has been brought to life here in Elista, the capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, a monument to the power of ego over nature, not to mention common sense and even reason. Its name is Chess City.
Like a glassed-in Biosphere on Mars, the four-story dome encloses a cool, fresh world of carpets and comfort, of whispers and intense concentration, where the most brilliant minds of chess compete for diamond crowns.
For miles around - in fact for almost all the rest of Kalmykia - 300,000 people live in poverty on the barren plains, where tank trucks deliver drinking water and where dried sheep dung, hoarded through the summer, fuels stoves in winter.
Kalmykia, a remote region on the northwest coast of the Caspian Sea, has few natural resources. Its economy crumpled with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the withdrawal of its patrons and investors in Moscow.
What is left - both inside and outside Chess City - belongs to President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the republic's whimsical strongman and, in a forking move, the respected leader of the World Chess Federation, known as FIDE, for its acronym in French.
Sweet-faced and only 42 years old, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has been president of Kalmykia for 11 years and president of FIDE (pronounced FEE-day) for 9.
Among other things, several opposition leaders said in interviews, he has taken food from the mouths of Kalmykia's children by suspending family subsidies. When a chess Olympiad inaugurated the center in 1998, they said, people were told to lend their refrigerators, televisions and crockery temporarily to furnish its mostly empty houses.
It is impossible to know the sources or amounts of the money Mr. Ilyumzhinov has spent, said Menke Konyeyev, editor of a clandestinely printed opposition newspaper, Sovietskaya Kalmykia.
You can't beat the nostalgia value in that last sentence, can you?
Arguing against these critics are people like Florencio Campomanes of the Philippines, a past president of the chess federation, who calls them "yappers."
"Blah blah blah, blah blah blah," he said.
His logic was piquant. How could Mr. Ilyumzhinov have squeezed the cost of Chess City out of this little crumb of land populated by hungry and thirsty people? "There isn't that much money in the national budget."
The real source of the money? "He's a businessman!" Mr. Campomanes cried, and that seemed to put an end to that.
Mr. Ilyumzhinov's aides have also grown weary of reporters' questions about his claims that he has met extraterrestrial creatures, that he communicates with his constituents by telepathy and that he wants chess to become a world religion
None of this has anything to do with Mr. Ilyumzhinov's vision of a Kalmyk utopia.
That can actually be studied in miniature on a meticulous model inside the chess dome. We discover here that Chess City is to expand across the landscape to embrace opera and ballet theaters, museums, a conservatory, an art school, religious academies, a center of traditional medicine and a "complex for children's creativity."
Here, defying the surrounding desert, we see the vision of a water sport complex and boathouse, a skiing center complete with lifts, a safari center and an airfield and hangars for recreational aircraft.
On the weightier side, there are plans for government buildings, business centers and residences for any ambassadors who may be accredited to Kalmykia. An elaborate complex will stand ready for the Dalai Lama of Tibet if he should choose to visit.
This Kalmyk metropolis will signal its brotherhood with other great cities with an Arch of Triumph and a Red Square, as well as a Monument to Victims of Repression.
Outside the building, in the real-life sunshine of this pleasant afternoon, the chess dome is surrounded by a pristine, empty housing development where polished cars stand parked in front of vacant town houses and theoretical sidewalks.
Birds twitter in the hot breeze that blows in from the surrounding steppe.
Perfect white clouds hang motionless in a too-blue sky, adding to the impression that the visitor is standing at the center of another, large-as-life model, rather than in any actual place on earth.
Sam Raimi, director of Spider-Man 2, picked the train scene as one of the most challenging scenes to film. We wondered why Chicago and not New York. "Tricks of the trade. Chicago has a train above ground. The only place you have a train above ground in New York is, you have an area in Queens where it comes out and goes over and there's nothing around - there's tressels, right? Open. No buildings. So it wouldn't have made the most interesting situation, so we connected Chicago into New York and it was a 10-day, cold, and it worked great."
Somewhere in Germany is a baby Superman, born in Berlin with bulging arm and leg muscles. Not yet 5, he can hold seven-pound weights with arms extended, something many adults cannot do. He has muscles twice the size of other kids his age and half their body fat.
DNA testing showed why: The boy has a genetic mutation that boosts muscle growth.
The discovery, reported in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, represents the first documented human case of such a mutation.
Many scientists believe the find could eventually lead to drugs for treating people with muscular dystrophy and other muscle-destroying conditions. And athletes would almost surely want to get their hands on such a drug and use it like steroids to bulk up.
The boy’s mutant DNA segment was found to block production of a protein called myostatin that limits muscle growth. The news comes seven years after researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore created buff “mighty mice” by “turning off” the gene that directs cells to produce myostatin.
In the mother, one copy of the gene is mutated and the other is normal; the boy has two mutated copies. One almost definitely came from his father, but no information about him has been disclosed. The mutation is very rare in people.
Paging Professor X to the white courtesy phone....
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 if interested in the further science and its potential.
COMICS TO FILM. How to do it right. This is generally good advice, but I'd stress more than this piece does getting the characters right, and letting the plot and film grow organically out of the interaction of the characterizations so the drama is emotionally right and involving.
This is what the first Spider-Man did so successfully, and according to all reports, what the second has done an even better job with.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 as interested.
Incidentally, see this cover?
It gives me warm fuzzies of nostalgia, because this is the comic era of my childhood; I was five years old when this came out -- I remember reading it -- and had started reading the comics in the barbershop my father took me to (in terrible shape, they generally were, too, of course; one was lucky to find an intact cover, and never found a pristine issue), and then began years of first begging for an occasional one bought from me, until I started getting an allowance.
Alas, my comic collecting, as opposed to reading, days ended when comics were still $.12, after a classic story of coming home from summer camp to find that my stack, nearly as tall as I was then, had been thrown out by my father.
Several thousand dollars it would be worth now, that "trash."
Steven Kurtz's attorney called it a "colossal overreaction" and "complete circus" when hazmat-suited FBI agents from Quantico stormed the art history professor's home in Buffalo, N.Y., last month.
Kurtz had called 911 to summon help for his wife, who had stopped breathing, and rescue workers noticed vials and laboratory equipment in the couple's home. Kurtz explained that he used the materials in his art. Then federal agents swooped in, evicting Kurtz, quarantining his home and collecting bacteria cultures and books on chemical warfare.
Yesterday, after a seven-week grand jury investigation, federal prosecutors in Buffalo charged Kurtz with mail and wire fraud. Not bioterrorism, about which they had questioned Kurtz's colleagues at the State University of New York at Buffalo, but with fraudulently acquiring samples of difficult-to-obtain bacteria through the University of Pittsburgh.
An indictment released yesterday said Kurtz and Robert Ferrell, the head of the human genetics lab at Pitt, schemed to illegally procure two biological organisms for Kurtz to use in an art project. Prosecutors allege they defrauded the university and American Type Culture Collection, a biological supply company based here in Washington.
According to the indictment, Ferrell used his affiliation with the university to order samples of Serratia marcescens and Bacillus atrophaeus, which Kurtz wanted to use in a project for the Critical Art Ensemble, a group he founded with his wife, Hope, that is known for its protest and performance art. The artwork containing this bacteria was scheduled to be displayed in Massachusetts this month.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said yesterday from New York that the problem was not so much that Kurtz and Ferrell got the bacteria, but how they did so.
"Mr. Ferrell and Mr. Kurtz set about defrauding by misrepresenting themselves . . . using false and fraudulent pretenses, that the materials were going one place when they were actually going another," he said. "I continue to defend any artist's rights to this day."
"That's subterfuge," countered Kurtz's attorney, Paul J. Cambria, also speaking by phone from New York. "It clearly impacts on his art, impacts on his free speech rights. You need a criminal intent to commit a crime. These acts were innocent."
In the indictment, prosecutors cited correspondence in which Kurtz and Ferrell discussed obtaining the bacteria, including an e-mail from Dec. 19, 2003, in which Kurtz wrote: "Hi Bob, Well it looks like my bacteria is not as harmless as I previously thought. While not wildly dangerous, it is associated with pneumonia and urinary tract infections, and seems to be around other infections as well. Seems to be hardest on kids and people with compromised immune systems. Do you know what kind of strain we are getting, and how toxic it is?"
On Jan. 12, Kurtz e-mailed Ferrell again: "Hi Bob, I got the package you sent today. Many thanks."
Kurtz's supporters decried the federal investigation as an attempt to squash free speech by confiscating the makings of art. Hope Kurtz, it was determined, died of a heart attack. If convicted on the fraud charges, the men face up to 20 years in prison.
My answer to the question I posed is "no."
I'm close to absolutist on free speech, but all acts and actions can't, and shouldn't be, shoe-horned into "free speech." If I shoot you as my "performance art," that doesn't and shouldn't get me off.
I'm not at all clear that this incident should get the professor twenty years in jail; I tend to think not. But I also don't think illicitly obtaining and possessing dangerous bacteria is magically okay because it's for "art." (Six months in minimum security would probably be quite sufficient to make the point.)
I have a real problem with the way a lot of people turn labeling "art" into an act of magical exceptionalism.
In their New Jersey, some place called Midgetville is always just around the corner, and so is albino village, where the albinos are murderous. Everybody in the state has a story. Some guy claims he has Hitler's toilet seat.
Here is New Jersey, explained.
They visit a man who has 10,000 glass telegraph insulators mounted on telephone poles around his lawn like alien trees, and they stop by a gold-colored church shaped like a pyramid, known as the Temple of Hope and Knowledge, which is now up for sale. (A tattered sign recommends that worshipers attend "the service for one to beg for mercy and hope.") They go to a roadside Catholic shrine called Our Lady of the Highway, which is located in a triangular building smaller than a Taco Bell, next to a Sunoco station.
They stop for lunch at an empty roadside bar whose desolation they find appealing, and whose menu offers only one dessert item: "Jell-o Shots $1.00."
They hunt for a couple of roads they've heard about: Unexpected Road and No Name Road.
It is an old state, so it's had plenty of time to build weirdness. It is the nation's densest state, capable of cramming much weirdness into a small space. It has wilderness: dirt roads running through the Pine Barrens, and the Meadowlands, where the dead keep quiet. It has lonely warehouses off turnpike exits, and casinos in Atlantic City, where it is always daylight and old people carry their dreams in plastic cups. And, of course, it has that northern stretch that sits under a sulfurous cloud, and every time you drive through it, you look at your boyfriend like it's his fault, those beans he had for lunch.
Is there any less graceful word than Hackensack? (Or Mahwah? Or Ho-Ho-Kus? Or Peapack?)
You tease the state and it gives you the finger. You don't feel bad for it the way you feel bad for much-maligned West Virginia, because New Jersey can take care of itself. Notice how Jerseyans excise half of their state's name, as if one word is enough: Just "Jersey." (As Sceurman points out, New Yorkers, for all their attitude, never call their state "York.")
Sceurman has always had a love for things squalid and paranormal. On a date in the early '80s, en route to a hot dog stand, he diverted the car through a dump to explore. His date married him.
After a story about the newsletter in a local paper around 1993, Weird N.J. acquired a small fan base, who eagerly read Sceurman's thoughts on "The Glowing Grave of Montville," "Interesting Hikes in Industrial Waste" and "Mysterious Bigfoot Sightings in the Northwest Corner." Sceurman offered recommendations on unique bars (Mom's Place in Wallington: "The best shuffleboard") and published muddy photographs of things like the town of Sea Breeze, "The most desolate place in New Jersey."
Their small office, located in a historic battery factory in downtown West Orange, features a painting of a three-eyed devil on velvet, a Nixon poster and an autographed photo from Butch Patrick, who played Eddie on "The Munsters." There are books with titles like "The Big Book of Freaks."
Sceurman says the office is ideally situated to pick up twin scents that seem to encapsulate the ethos of New Jersey.
"The wind's blowing west, it's the dump," he says, sounding pleased to be able to share this. "When it blows east, it's the Dunkin' Donuts."
The elderly are the most creative. An old man builds a pyramid of 200 bowling balls, and an old lady crafts lawn sculptures from thousands of milk jugs. One time she makes an Easter bunny; one time a 75-foot rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. She is thrilled to have visitors, even when she's not expecting them.
When you show up on your tour of South Jersey tourist destinations, she greets you enthusiastically, wearing only a towel.
She is Josephine Stapleton, 70, a bus driver who lives in Mays Landing, not far from Atlantic City. In front of her house: approximately 1,000 one-gallon milk jugs, painted and arranged into an American flag.
There are the wavers -- old men, mostly, who sit on lawns or at roadsides and greet passing cars. There's been Wavin' Willie and Wavin' Joe, Dave the Wave, the Birdman of the Pulaski Skyway, an Elvis impersonator named Ed, and some guy that Moran calls Do-It.
"This guy's a trip," Moran says. "He runs down the street jogging, and whenever he sees you, he throws up his arms and yells a big 'Do it!' "
There are the collectors: the guy who collects raisin boxes, and likes to dress like the Sun-Maid girl, and someone else who collects the ink fillers from pens. A feature called Cemetery Safari chronicles the state's most eccentric graves and monuments: a stone armchair, a life-size stone Mercedes-Benz.
And really, does it matter if the "Possessed Pole of Passaic Park," a street sign that supposedly rocks back and forth, is actually possessed? Isn't it enough that people pose for pictures with it?
Here is their website. (Warning: it starts with a short sound clip, which, of course, made me instantly close the page.)
In the never-ending search to capture the attention of consumers bombarded by commercials, billboards and a massive array of other advertisements, 20th Century Fox debuted an innovative new guerilla marketing tactic at E3 last week -- T-shirts embedded with video screens that played "I, Robot" trailers.
The two women who wore the video T-shirts as they walked around E3 drew crowds and TV news crews on hand to cover the gaming conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 20th Century Fox is the first studio -- or business of any kind -- to use the video T-shirt marketing tactic developed by San Francisco-based Brand Marketers.
The video T-shirts also were used to market "I, Robot" at Wired magazine's NextFest conference Friday in San Francisco. And during the Fourth of July weekend, 20th Century Fox plans to have several people in the video T-shirts walking around malls, movie theaters, beaches, festivals and other venues packed with people to promote the film in the top 10 markets. The film opens July 16.
The T-shirts -- embedded with 11-inch monitors and four stereo speakers and can play any type of media -- are part of a marketing service provided by Brand Marketers, which hires so-called "brand ambassadors" to wear them to designated events. The company does not sell the T-shirts separately.
Gotta notice they didn't mention how much these shirts weigh.
I'm sure that my wearing XL would come in handy; however, I will wait for the High-Definition version.
AMERICA: THE IDEAL AND THE REAL. Michael Ignatieff continues to be brilliantly correct and necessary reading.
It has been a charged and burdened time -- the D-Day commemorations, the death of a president, the daily carnage in Iraq, the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, a July 4 just over the horizon -- the sublime and the squalid, the decent and the desperate in American life so overlaid upon one another that it is hard to reconcile the high rhetoric of one moment with the terrible reality of the other. As Americans remembered the boys of Pointe du Hoc and the president who immortalized them, they had to read reports of government lawyers telling their superiors that ''the infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture.'' The discordance between the high sentiments heard at President Reagan's funeral and the lawyers' attempts to justify the unjustifiable left you unable to determine whether the rhetoric of the funeral was a moment of spiritual reaffirmation or just an exercise in organized amnesia. The memoranda from White House counsel, and from Department of Justice and Department of Defense lawyers, gave new meaning to Robert Lowell's phrase ''savage servility.'' Their argument that ''the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign'' rendered the United States' obligations under the Torture Convention ''inapplicable'' to interrogations conducted pursuant to his command left you wondering if they had ever heard of the Nuremberg tribunal.
In the memos that filled the pages of our newspapers, there was more than servility. There was also a terrible forgetting.
You will say: Remember the departed president. Don't stain his memory with painful associations. But this is just not possible. The clash between the rhetoric of American democracy and the reality of American life is eternal. Indeed, it is the very essence of the American story. Ask the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education how long they had to wait for ''separate but equal'' to be overthrown. Ask the teachers of segregated American public schools if the promise of Brown has been realized even today. America has never been equal to its rhetoric, and sometimes it can sustain belief in itself only by forgetting.
Only willed blindness could maintain the magic moments of presidential mourning. At the funeral service in the National Cathedral, former Senator John C. Danforth evoked the Puritan vision of John Winthrop: ''The eyes of the world would be on America because God had given us a special commission, so it was our duty to shine forth.'' The eyes of the world these past months would not have been on Winthrop's city upon a hill, but instead on a hooded figure standing on a box in a prison cell.
To deflect their own accountability, American leaders confidently proclaim that the guilty ones are just a few rotten apples in an otherwise sweet American bushel basket. We are told that the abusers do not represent America. The reality, as always, is more painful. Go out and ask Americans what they think about Abu Ghraib. An ABC News/Washington Post poll recently found that 46 percent of Americans believed that physical abuse short of torture is sometimes acceptable, while 35 percent thought that outright torture is acceptable in some cases.
Again, you will say: Let's not exaggerate. Let's not lose our nerve here. But no other democracy is so exposed by these painful moral juxtapositions, because no other nation has made a civil religion of its self-belief. The abolition of cruel and unusual punishment was a founding premise of that civil religion. This was how the fledgling republic distinguished itself from the cruel tyrannies of Europe. From this sense of exceptionalism grew an exceptional sense of mission. President Reagan's funeral was a high Mass of rededication to that eternal mission. The question is whether these reaffirmations still inspire Americans to be better than they actually are, or whether the nation's rhetoric has degenerated into a ritual concealment of what the country has actually become.
Theodore Sorensen, who as a young man wrote President Kennedy's best speeches, gave a commencement speech of his own recently that was not so much an address as a cry of anguish. He remembered a time when you could go overseas and walk down avenues named after Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Hardly anyone is naming streets after Americans in the cities of the world these days. "What has happened to our country?" Sorensen exclaimed. "We have been in wars before, without resorting to sexual humiliation as torture, without blocking the Red Cross, without insulting and deceiving our allies and the U.N., without betraying our traditional values, without imitating our adversaries, without blackening our name around the world."
Sorensen's anguish was genuine, but it was forgetful. He forgot Vietnam, the stain that formed on his martyred president's watch and went on to blight American prestige and power for decades. Iraq is not Vietnam, but still it is salutary to remember Vietnam and to recall that America does not always prevail in the end. It is time to admit that America's story includes defeat and failure. For if the country needs anything as it faces up to Iraq, it is to put away the messianic and missionary oratory of presidential funerals and learn some humility while there is still time.
At Abu Ghraib, America paid the price for American exceptionalism, the idea that America is too noble, too special, too great to actually obey international treaties like the Torture Convention or international bodies like the Red Cross. Enthralled by narcissism and deluded by servility, American lawyers forgot their own Constitution and its peremptory prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Any American administration, especially this one, needs to learn that in paying "decent respect to the opinions of mankind" -- Jefferson's phrase -- America also pays respect to its better self.
Abu Ghraib and the other catastrophes of occupation have cost America the Iraqi hearts and minds its soldiers had patiently won over since victory. To say this is to say that America has lost the power to shape Iraq for the better. Accepting this will not be easy. America has as much trouble admitting its capacity for evil as for recognizing the limits of its capacity to do good.
This does not mean Iraq has been lost, as Vietnam was lost before it. The new interim government is struggling to convince Iraqis that it serves them, rather than the Americans. As the Iraqi government acquires legitimacy, the hateful resistance -- which has killed many more Iraqis than Americans -- will lose its standing. If the interim government, together with the United Nations mission, can guide the country toward a constitutional convention in 2005 and free elections by 2006, Iraq will become what Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani says it should be: a country ruled by the will of the people.
The modish cynics who take failure in Iraq for granted underestimate the people of Iraq. The country is not a failed state, the United Nations adviser Lakhdar Brahimi reminds us, but a powerful nation with a trained middle class and huge potential oil wealth. Even the disasters of the past year have taught all Iraqis a harrowing lesson in the necessity of prudence and restraint. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds now have objective reasons, even if they distrust one another, to avoid the descent into civil war -- and there now exists at least a path to elections that may lure the gunmen into politics.
Iraqis may not have full sovereignty yet, but America needs to understand that Iraqis, not Americans, are already sovereign over events there. America would be a better nation-builder if it acknowledged this, but its history does not encourage humility.
Ordinary American ignorance was compounded by the administration's arrogance. Gen. George C. Marshall began planning the postwar occupation of Germany two years before D-Day. This administration was fumbling for a plan two months before the invasion. Who can read Bob Woodward's ''Plan of Attack'' and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?
Someone like me who supported the war on human rights grounds has nowhere to hide: we didn't suppose the administration was particularly nice, but we did assume it would be competent. There isn't much excuse for its incompetence, but equally, there isn't much excuse for our naivete either.
Still, the United States did one thing well in Iraq, and nobody else could have done it -- it overthrew a dictator. Everything else was badly done, and some of what was done -- Abu Ghraib -- was a moral disgrace and a strategic catastrophe.
The United States has only one remaining task in Iraq: to prevent civil war and the dismemberment of the country.
The promise -- of eventual peace and order -- needs to be kept.
The signal illusion from which America has to awake in Iraq and everywhere else is that it serves God's providence or (for those with more secular beliefs) that it is the engine of history. In Iraq, America is not the maker of history but its plaything. In the region at large, America is not the hegemon but the hesitant shaper of forces it barely understands. In the Middle East, it stands by, apparently helpless, as Israelis create more facts on the ground and Palestinians create more suicide bombers. All this shows that the world does not exist to be molded to American wishes. It is good that the United States has wanted to be better than it is. It is good that the death of a president gave it a week to revive its belief in itself. But it cannot continue to bear this burden of destiny. For believing that it is Providence's chosen instrument makes the country overestimate its power; it encourages it to lie to itself about its mistakes; and it makes it harder to live with the painful truth that history does not always -- or even very often -- obey the magnificent but dangerous illusions of American will.
MODERATOR: Should the people of the world look at the United States, Governor, and say, should they fear us, should they welcome our involvement, should they see us as a friend, everybody in the world? How would you project us around the world, as president?
BUSH: Well, I think they ought to look at us as a country that understands freedom where it doesn't matter who you are or how you're raised or where you're from, that you can succeed. I don't think they'll look at us with envy. It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And it's -- our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we have to be humble. And yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. So I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation and if we're an arrogant nation they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation they'll respect us.
FIVE LESSONS FROM PAUL BERMAN. As usual, must-read; as usual, stuff to piss everyone off.
The anti-war left will hate his scoldingly pointing out the moral and practical flaws in the approach of so many to the issue of relieving a people trapped under a hideous oppression; the pro-war right will be outraged as his scorching denunciation of the Bush Administration's botched execution. Go see, please.
We have learned a lesson about social conscience in the modern age--and this, too, is hardly new. In the twentieth century, crimes on the hugest scale took place in the open, yet somehow, through the alchemies of political ideology, the crimes were rendered invisible and thus were allowed to continue unimpeded. This has been Iraq's experience precisely. Saddam launched his slaughters 25 years ago, and, in the Western countries, everyone knew, yet most people managed not to see, and no one ever succeeded in organizing a truly mass protest.
A truly large and powerful protest movement took to the streets all over the Western world only in February 2003--and this was not to denounce the terrible dictatorship, but to prevent an invasion from overthrowing the terrible dictatorship.
We have learned that there are many paths to hell, and one of those paths is called the "National Security Strategy" of 2002. This is the White House document that affirmed U.S. hegemony over everyone else as the national goal and preemptive war as the policy--two ideas that were guaranteed to strike terror in half the world. The statement affirmed, "For most of the 20th century, the world was divided by a great struggle over ideas: destructive totalitarian visions versus freedom and equality. That great struggle is over"--which, in regard to the Muslim world, is simply not the case.
Yet, this most wrongheaded of national security strategies expressed the mentality that governed the invasion--the hubris and the indifference toward waging a battle of ideas.
I tried to persuade people that severe oppression justifies intervention, no matter what other explanations Bush may have offered; that Baathism and radical Islam are extremist movements with a visible link to European fascism and have worked together to achieve their shared ideal, the human bomb; that a great struggle over totalitarian ideas is precisely the issue in Iraq; that Muslim liberals do exist in both Iraq and Afghanistan (though I am willing to be tolerantly flexible about the definition of liberalism, under the circumstances), and merit our support; that liberalism's gain will be terrorism's loss; and that every country in the liberal democratic world has a role to play, even if certain passages in the damnable National Security Strategy might suggest otherwise.
The people I have encountered around the world who root for liberal victories in Iraq tend to be the very people who dragged their various countries into the Kosovo war. The White House might pause to reflect that reconstructing the alliance of 1999 ought to be a lot easier to do than reconstructing the alliances that defeated fascism in 1945 or formed to combat communism in 1949. But Bush is not going to sing the virtues of the Kosovo war--or has he changed his mind about this, too?
To be honest, I have come to notice a weak point in arguments like mine. The weak point rests on a perhaps too-easy assumption that I have tended to make ever since the Kosovo war. This is the assumption that, regardless of a given president's views, the U.S. military can be counted on to be disciplined, professional, and reasonably skillful at the tasks of modern war. The U.S. military and its allies did seem to be pretty effective in Kosovo--even if the Air Force accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy. They seem to have done well enough in Afghanistan, too--though, maybe in Afghanistan, the other shoe has yet to drop. But the news from Iraq makes me wonder if President Bush's armed forces are the same armed forces that used to operate so skillfully under (the slitted eyes of tough-guy readers widen in horror) President Clinton. Military professionals can't outperform their commanders back in Washington, I suppose.
We have learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald's axiom--about intelligence as the ability to hold in mind two contradictory thoughts at the same time--has a corollary in the field of emotion. Sometimes you also have to hold in your heart two contradictory emotions. This is difficult. To understand Saddam Hussein and the history of modern Iraq, you have to feel anger--or else you have understood nothing.
But what if, in addition to feeling anger at Saddam (and at Sadr in his shroud, and at Mussab Al Zarqawi with his knife, and at Saddam's army, which was organizing suicide terrorists even before the invasion), you have also come to feel more than a little anger at George W. Bush? What if you gaze at events in Iraq and say to yourself: Things did not have to be this way. We could have presented a human rights case to the world, instead of trying to deceive people about weapons and conspiracies--and we would have ended up with more allies, or, at least, with allies who understood the mission.
We could have applied the lessons of Kosovo, which would have meant dispatching a suitable number of soldiers. We could have protected the government buildings and the National Museum, and we could have co-opted Saddam's army--further lessons from Kosovo. We could have believed Saddam when he threatened to wage a guerrilla war in Baghdad. We could have prepared in advance to broadcast TV shows that Iraqis wanted to watch. We could have observed the Geneva Conventions. (What humiliation in having to write such a sentence!) We could have--but I will stop, in order to ask: What if, in mulling these thoughts, you find that angry emotions toward George W. Bush are seeping upward from your own patriotic gut?
Here is the challenge: to rage at Saddam and other enemies, and, at the same time, to rage in a somewhat different register at Bush, and to keep those two responses in proper proportion to one another. That can be a difficult thing to do, requiring emotional balance, maturity, and analytic clarity--a huge effort.
Yet, worth making.
Oh, I know it will be a rare person who doesn't find something to be irritated at, if not outraged with, in this article. I definitely don't agree with it all, myself; there are some weak points in some of Berman's arguments.
But overall, I think he gets far more right than wrong. A key point that applies to me, as to many many others, is how much we underestimated the Bush Administration's ability to muck up the "post-war" reconstruction. I put that in quotes, because, of course, the war never ended. We never put enough troops in to properly end it, the administration paid no attention to the professionals in the government who did do post-war planning, and as a result, we got what we got, which is mass hatred for an occupation in which Iraqis kept suffering and dying.
I counted on the fact that we have an extremely professional and competent military, and people who know how to plan reconstruction; I stupidly never imagined that the political leadership would let their ideology and prejudices allow themselves (compel themselves?) to constantly interfere with our professionals.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY REAGAN POSTS. Of course, I didn't actually make any when he died; it was so trendy, y'know?
Instead, this; Edmund Morris, Reagan's official biographer, looks back after his death.
There's far too much to quote, all relevant to understanding the man.
Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5; you may not like it, but there's no one who knows the man better. (I hope someone someday will enter Morris' file cards in a relational database; who knows what such an examination might turn up? -- and if nothing else, it would make the information actually useful to others, without putting Morris' brain in a jar, which you can borrow, one at a time.)
Dressed in blue jeans and a white button-down, Brannon Braga told fans Tuesday night that the original idea for STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT was “the Borg and the Bubonic plague” in medieval times. Drones of the roundtable didn’t pan out, however, when “Patrick Stewart didn’t want to wear tights,” Braga joked while introducing the film to fans and movie aficionados [...]
“The movie has a nice sweep to it and it feels like an epic Borg battle. But, in fact, creating an individual drone was very expensive. And we could only afford eight Borg, So really though it looks like there are a lot of Borg running around, there are only eight dudes! The rest are dummies that our makeup artist Michael Westmore created.
“My feeling was if you get caught by the Borg you deserved to be caught because they’re like the Mummy,” Braga joked. “They don’t have weapons; they just sort of swing their arms at you, how threatening can they be? But to [Jonathan’s] credit he did a great job with them.”
One of the many problems of the Borg, indeed. Not to mention that it's hardly a "perfect" design to have lots of wires and tubing and what-not hanging out of you; it may look "dramatic," but it's also quite idiotic and unbelievable, along with the shuffle-walk. Which isn't to say that ST:FC isn't arguably the best ST film ever done, and certainly one of the two best.
There's more interesting stuff -- if you're interested in ST -- in the article; if you are, Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.
Elsewhere in Trekkie news (you don't like the word?; find something important to care about):
Longtime Star Trek executive producer Rick Berman has confirmed that he is in the early stages of planning another Star Trek feature film, though he refused to confirm that it was a prequel to any given series, nor to say whether there were other films under consideration
"I can understand why Ain't It Cool News would get information about it being a prequel trilogy," said Berman. "That's not quite correct, although I can understand how someone might misinterpret the information to be that."
Berman told Dreamwatch that he was "very much involved" in developing the proposal. "There is a film concept that is in discussion," he noted. "It's in the very early stages of development, so it's really too early to talk about."
In the second film, James T. Kirk learns that Jonathan Archer is his father.
In our last Trekkie bit for the moment (I mean, you already know that the Republican candidate for the Illinois Senate seat, Jack Ryan, was tossed out of the race due to his Borgish relationship with Seven of Nine, right?), man-about-town J. Michael Straczynski (hey, I can still spell it from memory!) was, well, let's read:
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski claimed that he recently worked on the development of a new Star Trek series.
Cinescape has reprinted the news from a post at JMS News, in which Straczynski said that he and Dark Skies creator Bryce Zabel had written a treatment earlier this year for a new television series for Paramount. Straczynski stated that the new installment of the franchise would restore Star Trek "in a big way", adding, "I actually think it could be a hell of a show. Whether that ever goes anywhere with Paramount, who knows?"
Though there have been rumours that Paramount had entertained outside pitches for new Star Trek shows from everyone from William Shatner to a group of horror film producers, this is the first time another major television science fiction team has claimed to be working on a project independent of Rick Berman, who has been an executive producer of Star Trek for nearly two decades.
Berman's current production partner Brannon Braga has stated in interviews that he will not be the show-runner for Star Trek: Enterprise next season, with new writer Manny Coto likely to take over those duties, according to several actors on the show. Straczynski praised Coto and offered veiled criticism of Berman and Braga at the same time, saying, "Left to his own devices, I think he could be a big help over there without the other powers that be impeding the process."
The Great Link has previously reported Straczynski's claims that he was invited to become an executive producer on Enterprise, but declined the position.
This was based upon this, originally from my old stomping grounds -- which is say, where JMS and I butted heads on several occasions -- Usenet.
No, just to clarify, though I got a call last year about coming onto Enterprise, offering an EP position, and declined, the series I mentioned has nothing to do with any current series, it's a new show. As for Manny, he's a good writer, and left to his own devices, I think he could be a big help over there without the other powers that be impeding the process.
Amusingly enough, on the Trek front, Bryce Zabel (the creator of Dark Skies) and I got together and wrote a treatment earlier this year that specified how to save ST and develop a series that would restore the series in a big way. I actually think it could be a hell of a show. Whether that ever goes anywhere with Paramount, who knows?
Unlikely. Robert Wolfe had an interesting concept, which he later reworked into a promising series, Andromeda, which turned into complete garbage after he was fired -- but since that has nothing to do with Paramount, I'll let that lie for now. (Except to note that the opening they changed to some years ago, clearly at the behest, if not the direct writing, of Kevin Sorbo, is absolutely the lamest voiceover for a tv series I've ever seen in my life. A shame they gave up trying to have stories that made any sense; you can do great action popcorn without being moronic, but clearly Sorbo can't tell the difference, and won't let anyone else care.)
However, while I have great respect for JMS as a producer, and great respect for various aspects of his writing, including his characterization, and ability to creatively use derivative ideas (I actually mean that as a compliment -- mostly), and enough opinion about him and his work that it would take a mildly lengthy essay to write -- and since I already wrote that essay more than a few times, in essence, back in the Old Days on Usenet, and you can find such by creative use of Google Groups if you're fascinate, I'll simply note that while I have much good to say about JMS, this -- taking grief at the loss of Richard Biggs into account -- is a typical example of the sort of irresponsible comment that could make him a jerk at times (which is not a great insult; I'm a jerk at times; most people are):
Be a real shame if somebody hacked their site....
It's understandable to be angry when a crap "news" site such as "Ain't It Cool" does crap reporting, and it's particularly understandable when it involves the death of your friend. I'd be furious, as well, under similar circumstances.
I hope, however, that I would manage to avoid using my platform as someone whose words are followed practically like a god by tens of thousands of people, many of whom are computer techies, to avoid making the above sort of post.
I might not, because I can be a jerk, as I said, at times, too.
But I'd sure be embarassed later.
And I'd post as quickly as I could, after I calmed down, a followup asking with the greatest of emphasis that people not act on what I said.
Weeks later... well, how responsible do you think that is?
The June 20 issue of TV Guide reported that voice actress Giselle Loren will take over Sarah Michelle Gellar's starring role in a proposed animated Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, for which a pilot is being produced. Sources told the magazine that Gellar chose not to reprise her role, leading creator Joss Whedon to recruit Loren, who previously voiced the character in the video game Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its sequel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds.
Other Buffy regulars—including Alyson Hannigan (Willow), Nicholas Brendon (Xander) and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles)—will voice their characters in the pilot, the magazine reported. The pilot will be screened for potential distributors next month, TV Guide reported.
Let us hope it is picked up. (I've really picked up a fairly clear notion, from endless bits and pieces in the past couple of years, that a considerable amount of friction developed in later years between Gellar and Whedon; for all that I think Gellar did a wonderful job as an actor, it's Whedon whose work I'm vastly more interested in, and therefore am inclined to be sympathetic to; I still haven't the faintest interest in seeing any of Gellar's movies beyond the one I have.) Lo:
The final episode of The WB's Angel has aired, but series co-creator Joss Whedon told Zap1it that the show's finale doesn't mark the end of the "Buffyverse," referring to the universe created in Angel's predecessor series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon told the site that he's talking with Dark Horse Comics about reviving the Buffy comic-book series and making that a place where the two shows' mythology lives on.
Whedon added that he's also had a few discussions about an Angel TV movie or another spinoff, which he says he'd do only if a cogent idea comes to him and he can assemble enough of the cast and crew to execute it properly, the site reported. "I'd rather stop now than do anything by halves," he told the site. But, he added, "I just don't believe that the Buffyverse is dead."
About 325 scholars and others gathered in Nashville, Tenn., last week for an academic conference examining the cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff series, Angel, the Associated Press reported. "Buffyologists" from as far away as Singapore presented 190 papers on topics ranging from "Slayer slang" to "postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption" to "Buffy and the new American Buddhism," the AP reported.
There was even a self-conscious talk by David Lavery, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University, on Buffy studies "as an academic cult."
Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox, a professor at Gordon College in Georgia, co-hosted the conference and are known as the "father and mother" of Buffy studies, the AP reported. Wilcox, who wrote her doctoral thesis at Duke University about Charles Dickens, compared the show's depth and texture to his 19th-century serial novels. "I think it's a great work of art," she told the wire service.
Relatively neglected from 1923 to 1939, the army during the war had undergone a rapid expansion and a considerable modernization subsequently with the aid of US advisers. Many officers feared that the Democratic Peak (DP) threatened the principles of the secular, progressive Kemalist state. Some younger officers saw the army as the direct instrument of unity and reform. On May 3, 1960, the commander of the land forces, General Cemal Gursel, demanded political reforms and resigned when they were refused. On May 27 the army acted; an almost bloodless coup was carried out by officers and cadets from the Istanbul and Ankara War colleges. The leaders established a 38-man "National Unity Committee" with Gursel as chairman. The Democrat Party leaders were imprisoned. Most of the senior officers wanted to withdraw the army from politics as soon as possible and in November 1960 the decision was taken. The main work of the National Unity Committee was to destroy the DP and to prepare a new constitution. The DP was abolished and many Democrats were brought to trial on charges of corruption, unconstitutional rule and high treason. Three former ministers, including Menderes, were executed; 12 others, including Bayar, had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The new constitution was completed and approved by 61% of the votes at a referendum. The first elections were held in October 1961. The army then withdrew from direct political involvement.
The military coup of 1980
In 1980 the military, which had watched the growing violence and the government's ineffectiveness with alarm, intervened, precipitating a bloodless coup on September 12. A National Security Council composed of the military high command took over governmental duties, naming General Kenan Evren head of state, quickly dissolved the Assembly, political parties and the trade unions. The constitution was suspended and martial law imposed.
The east and southeast of Turkey saw years of civil war in the 1980s and 1990s between Turkish forces and those of the secessionist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in which over 30,000 people died. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was detained in 1999 and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment three years later, but only after parliament had scrapped the death penalty.
Turkey's powerful military - which sees itself as the guardian of the secular system - has a long tradition of involvement in the country's politics. It was behind the removal of the country's first Islamist government in 1997.
Turkey has applied for European Union membership, but the December 2002 EU summit in Copenhagen told Ankara it would have to wait until at least the end of 2004 before negotiations could start and that more progress would have to be made with human rights reforms.
Bush went on to praise Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation that became a secular state in 1924, as "a great and stable democracy, and America shares your hope that other nations will take this path."
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for boilerplate post-NATO report.
I suggest that President Bush invite to the White House a real expert, Magboula Muhammad Khattar, a 24-year-old widow huddled under a tree here.
The world has acquiesced shamefully in the Darfur genocide, perhaps because 320,000 deaths this year (a best-case projection from the U.S. Agency for International Development) seems like one more boring statistic. So listen to Ms. Khattar's story, multiply it by hundreds of thousands, and let's see if we still want to look the other way.
Just a few months ago, Ms. Khattar had a great life. Her sweet personality and lovely appearance earned a hefty bride price of 40 cattle when she was married four years ago to Ali Daoud, a prosperous farmer. The family owned 300 cattle and 50 camels, making them among the wealthiest in their village, Ab-Layha in western Sudan. Ms. Khattar promptly bore two children, the youngest born late last year.
About the same time, though, the Sudanese government resolved to crush a rebellion in Darfur, a region the size of France in western Sudan. Sudan armed and paid a militia of Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, and authorized them to slaughter and drive out members of the Zaghawa, Masalit and Fur tribes.
On March 12, Ms. Khattar was performing her predawn Muslim prayers about 4 a.m. when a Sudanese government Antonov aircraft started dropping bombs on Ab-Layha, which is made up of Zaghawa tribespeople. Moments later, more than 1,000 Janjaweed attackers rode into the village on horses and camels, backed by Sudanese government troops in trucks.
"The Janjaweed shouted: `We will not allow blacks here. We will not let Zaghawa here. This land is only for Arabs,' " Ms. Khattar recalled.
Ms. Khattar grabbed her children, and, as shots and flames raged around her, raced for a nearby forest. But her father and mother tried to protect their animals — they were yelling, "Don't take our livestock." They were both shot dead.
The attack was part of a deliberate strategy to ensure that the village would be forever uninhabitable, that the Zaghawa could never live there again. The Janjaweed poisoned wells by stuffing them with the corpses of people and donkeys. They also blew up a dam that supplied water to the farms, destroyed seven hand pumps in the village and burned all the homes and even the village school, the clinic and the mosque.
In separate interviews, I talked to more than a dozen other survivors from Ab-Layha, and they all confirm Ms. Khattar's story. By most accounts, about 100 people were massacred that day in Ab-Layha, and a particular effort was made to exterminate all men and boys, even the very young. Women and girls were sometimes allowed to flee, but the prettiest were kidnapped.
Most of those raped don't want to talk about it. But Zahra Abdel Karim, a 30-year-old woman, told me how in the same attack on Ab-Layha, the Janjaweed shot to death her husband, Adam, and 7-year-old son, Rahshid, as well as three of her brothers. Then they grabbed her 4-year-old son, Rasheed, from her arms and cut his throat.
The Janjaweed took her and her two sisters away on horses and gang-raped them, she said. The troops shot one sister, Kuttuma, and cut the throat of the other, Fatima, and they discussed how to mutilate her. (Sexual humiliation has been part of the Sudanese strategy to drive out the African tribespeople. The Janjaweed routinely add to the stigma by branding or scarring the women they rape.)
"One Janjaweed said: `You belong to me. You are a slave to the Arabs, and this is the sign of a slave,' " she recalled. He slashed her leg with a sword before letting her hobble away, stark naked. Other villagers confirmed that they had found her naked and bleeding, and she showed me the scar on her leg.
By comparison, Ms. Khattar was one of the lucky ones. She lost her parents, her home and all her belongings, but her husband and children were alive, and she had not been raped. Unfortunately, her luck would soon run out.
I'll tell you more of her story on Saturday, because if she and her people aren't victims of genocide, then the word has no meaning.
Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.
Remember, you can donate to Oxfam here, specifically targeting Darfur and Sudan if you wish. You can also print this out, and e-mail it, to friends, neighbors, relatives, anyone, and ask everyone to write and call their congressional (or parliamentary) representatives, and say that attention must be paid. Now. Let "never again" mean something.
After watching Dawn of the Dead, I am left to wonder about one thing: If we were to suffer an apocalypse where most of the living became flesh-eating zombies, how long, assuming I survived, would I continue to receive hydroelectricity from my power company? Is it a mean-time-before-failure situation, or would the system automatically shut itself down after a few days? (I am assuming that most of the people who were supposed to be maintaining things at my hydro company would be out looking for brains, and that the surviving hydro employees would be busy digging shelters, etc.) Also, what's the outlook like for people whose chunk of the power grid is supplied by coal, nuclear, and other types of energy? Just wondering how many solar panels I should be putting on my roof! —Jason, Vancouver, BC, Canada
SDSTAFF Una replies:
Believe it or not, this is a question I've been asked before. Many people wonder how key parts of civilized society might continue after a post-apocalyptic Dawn of the Dead / Night of the Comet / Omega Man / Teletubbies Go to Paris scenario. Your question has two possible answers depending on which scenario of zombie conquest you envision.
In Dawn of the Dead, the zombification process doesn't happen all at once. We can imagine a gradual scenario in which the infrastructure systems controllers plan ahead for shortages of personnel and try to keep the power going as long as possible. Alternatively, zombification could happen fairly quickly – say, over a few hours. I'll address the second, more dire scenario in detail first, then the first, slightly less alarming one briefly.
How long the power supply would last in the most critical zombie situation depends on two key factors – first, how long a given power plant can operate without human intervention, and second, how long before enough power plants fail to bring down the entire transmission grid. I'll ignore the side issues of whether the zombies would want to try to run the power plant themselves, or if they would be a union or non-union shop.
Now, let's address a scenario where the zombification process is gradual. If the operators and utilities had sufficient advance warning they could take measures to keep the power going for a while. The first thing would be to isolate key portions of the grid, reducing the interties and connections, and then cease power delivery altogether to areas of highest zombie density. After all, it's not like the zombies need light to read or electricity to play Everquest.
This is excellent anti-zombification thinking! I am greatly comforted.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for Real Answers. I still have many unanswered zombie worries and questions, however. To start: are there any zombie blogs? Next: zombie sex; is it as bad as they say?
THE PALACE. Remember how back in WWII, the victors would always take over the largest chateau or grand estate as their HQ? You've seen it in the old movies, of course. It's a grand tradition to carry on.
At a desert retreat where Saddam Hussein's cronies hunted gazelles and entertained mistresses, the American military is building one of its largest overseas bases since the Vietnam War, a rambling, dusty mix of tents, trailers and villas where sandbags rival chandeliers as the second-most notable architectural feature.
That is because at the renamed Camp Victory, the signature design element is the marble column, many with a swirling stone pattern in sandy hues nearly matching those of desert combat fatigues.
The largest palace, called Qasr al Fao, sits in the middle of a man-made lake stocked with carp and catfish, and is the new headquarters for senior military commanders in Iraq.
A third-story palace wall was hit by an American JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) bomb in the war, but the damaged section has been rebuilt to hold a classified planning room that is so overly air-conditioned that it is known as the Meat Locker.
Twenty-four hours a day, officers and staff members climb and descend spiral staircases that recall headquarters from past wars, a simpler era when logistics were more important than information operations. Eisenhower or Patton can be imagined striding these polished floors, but they would hardly recognize the technology that has been injected throughout the palace.
A Joint Operations Center was imported and fills a wing of the grand palace, as advanced as anything at the Pentagon. More than 150 computers linked to outposts across Iraq feed three theater-size screens with details of combat actions, convoy movements and the weather. The screens can suck down satellite news channels or real-time video feeds from Predator surveillance drones.
Black Hawk helicopters own the sky here, but wildlife asserts itself. A 50-foot-high, honeycomb-shaped tower is home to thousands of bats cultivated during the Hussein era to control mosquitoes. Soldiers know which causeways across the lake and lagoons to avoid at dusk, because a battle rages every evening as bats fly at chest level to scoop up mosquitoes.
First Cavalry soldiers routinely spot gazelles, and more than a few troops say an aging lioness prowls the several-thousand-acre camp. But others say that is just an urban legend translated into desert lore.
The main palace was built in honor of Iraqi troops who liberated Al Fao in far southeast Basra Province during the Iran-Iraq war. Arabic script winds across its walls and reads, "Victory and glory to the warriors who freed the city from the enemy, the Persians."
But American military engineers say the palace is a fitting metaphor for the Hussein government: beneath its impressive veneer of gilded opulence, the palace itself has a weak foundation and was poorly designed.
The walls are so fragile that electricians feared drilling through to install phone and power lines, so the palace is filled with modern office cubicles to hide internal wires and cables.
From a bygone era, an ornate wooden throne in the lobby is a required photo stop for all troops passing through the palace-headquarters.
"It's like a movie set," is a common comment.
Not long after the desert sun drooped below the horizon one evening, the sound of bagpipes soared over the lake, an impromptu serenade by a senior British officer, Maj. Gen. Andrew Graham, relaxing after a long day on duty.
Seconds after the last, plaintive notes vanished into a sky brightened by a full moon, the quiet was refilled with the evening call to prayers from a neighborhood mosque near the guarded outer walls of Camp Victory.
Fade: bagpipes from the palace. Queue: the moon over the mosque. The movie set was complete.
There are perfectly defensible reasons for all this, of course. But was the conclusion reached that Iraqis would be more impressed with our power, reach, and authority, by such a choice, more than they would hold any resentment towards us for making a choice, in this specific regard, no different than Saddam would have?
Seriously, is this a "hearts and minds" plus, or minus?
RUNNING THE BURNING MAN. Nice little story on details of organizing this massive, unique, event.
What happens when a band of naked, fire-worshipping anarchists attract a massive following? Well, they become a city -- a city with infrastructure, departments, city services, subdivided blocks and, yes, even that apogee of municipal control: zoning.
Like that of developments in many cities, the urban planning of Black Rock City came as a response to tragedy. "In 1996, we lost control of the crowds -- we had loss of life due to traffic accidents," explained Perez to a crowd of urban-planning aficionados and Burning Man fans at a recent lunchtime forum at San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a nonprofit think tank.
Traffic accidents revealed the need for more carefully designed space with more municipal controls -- including a city grid. Roads, it turned out, are not an autocratic convention designed to kill the spirit of the people, but a necessary element for harmonious cohabitation.
To cut down on noise, traffic and dust, the city prohibits people from driving the vehicles they arrived in once they have set up camp. "It's against the spirit of Burning Man to be insulated in your car with the AC on," Perez said. Instead, he added, denizens bring along bizarre bikes, motorized armchairs, golf carts and other mutant vehicles to help them get around. The result is a truly lively and friendly street life. "It's the most bike-friendly city in America," Perez declared.
As the festival has become known as the best weeklong party on Planet Earth, however, Black Rock City has faced the age-old community question: How do you attract the right sort of people?
THE WELFARE QUEEN SPEAKS. Darleen Druyun is talking. It's likely so is Michael M. Sears. Who are they? See here, here, and here, for starters, or just read for context.
Darleen A. Druyun, a former top Air Force official who later joined, and was fired, from Boeing, is meeting with federal prosecutors to tell them all she knows about possible misconduct at the company, the nation's second-largest military contractor behind Lockheed.
Once one of the toughest negotiators at the Pentagon, with a reputation so fierce she was nicknamed the Dragon Lady, Ms. Druyun had held sway for years over billions of dollars in contracts for fighter jets, cargo planes and other hardware. But after leaving the Air Force in 2002 to work at Boeing, she was found to have illegally negotiated her Boeing job contract while still working at the Pentagon.
Now, disgraced and facing up to five years in jail, Ms. Druyun is cooperating with a number of investigations in order to win a reduced sentence. Already, one former Boeing executive, Michael M. Sears, once its chief financial officer, has been identified in court as having conspired with Ms. Druyun in her job negotiations, and many are wondering how much further Ms. Druyun's finger pointing will go.
Mr. Sears was fired by Boeing late last year, along with Ms. Druyun, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in April.
"She knows where the bodies are buried," said Eric Miller, senior defense investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington nonprofit group that studies military procurement issues. "Federal investigators are very interested in what she has to say. She supervised virtually every procurement contract and she would have knowledge of any wrongdoing."
Mr. Sears has not been charged with a crime. But legal observers close to the case say that Mr. Sears probably has little choice but to cooperate with prosecutors to avoid going to prison. Lawyers for Mr. Sears did not respond to telephone calls for comment.
In addition, Congressional investigators are poised to begin a broader inquiry into the "revolving door" between the Pentagon and its contractors, including Boeing. In Ms. Druyun's case, the relationship was so cozy that she appeared to act almost as a Boeing agent inside the Air Force, passing along proprietary data from Airbus, which was bidding against Boeing for a $20 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers.
She also helped arrange for Boeing to hire her daughter, and later sold her Northern Virginia home for a quick profit to a Boeing lawyer working on the tanker deal.
Congressional investigators are also looking into whether the Air Force tailored the bidding specifications, called the Operational Requirements Document, for the tanker jet contract to benefit Boeing at the expense of the pilots who would fly the jets. Investigators are looking into whether other Air Force officials besides Ms. Druyun may have committed crimes, and whether Boeing violated federal procurement laws.
"Everyone is trying to find out how high any misconduct may have reached," said Pablo Carrillo, a staff member of the Senate Commerce Committee, whose chairman, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, has led the charge against Boeing.
Ronald Reagan got a lot of mileage by making up stories about thefts of public funds by "welfare queens" and stating or implying that this had a significant effect upon the welfare system and budget, playing to people's prejudices (and racism, despite the fact that the majority of people on welfare, then and now, were/are "white").
How much more outrageous is it that billions of tax-payer dollars are stolen by corporate thieves and government employees who are supported by Congressional cronies who take bribes, er, campaign contributions, as pay-offs?
Not to mention such minor details as that this does more harm to national defense, by taking money away from necessary spending, than any foreign enemy.