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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.
BAD ME. I had a really awful day on Wednesday, and I ended up, well, drinking too much that night, and I made some highly dumb and jerk-headed comments on a few blogs; I mention this by way of apologizing to those who read them: sorry about that. I really should know better than to drink and drive on the information superhighway (man, there's a phrase you don't hear much, any more, eh?)
7/08/2005 10:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. Aside from the fact that it's 8:28 p.m. and brightly light outside, I could have sworn I just saw a Battlestar Galactica commercial flash by on NBC while I was otherwise listening to music and reading online, as usual.
THE PUSHY SUCK-UP. Despite still being a fanatic Watergate buff, as I became as the events unfolded in real time, as the news and politics junkie the Vietnam War and domestic events had already made me by the age of 12 or so in 1971, I've only blogged a handful of recent Mark Felt articles, since I've thought only a handful were really compelling (and, besides, yes, I've been very sporadic in my blogging).
But this lengthy WashPo look at The Secret Man, Bob Woodward's thin little post-mortem look back at Deep Throat, by Post reporter Bob Thompson, is a rather interesting look at Woodward, although still all it really does is add a few more details to what we already know, which is by all accounts all Woodward's thin and rushed-into-print book does, as well.
What we mostly have fleshed out is far less about Watergate and more about Bob Woodward himself, and the way he, in a manner alas somewhat inherent to many common ways of being successful in modern life, isn't a completely nice man.
He doesn't come across as a terrible man, or someone not nice in an at all uncommon way in successful people, but merely as someone whose personal anxieties and desire for success led him to more than adequately use common techniques to get ahead: making as many connections with people who might help him as possible, and then sucking up to them and using them as much as possible. Pretty much all of us do at least a little of this, and some of us do yet more, and others yet more. Bob Woodward did a lot. It worked for him. He was clearly not any more immune to worry and self-doubt about this than most intelligent people.
And like most successful people, he continued to not let that get in the way of his continued success.
I don't condemn him. Not at all. And I'm grateful for much of his work, often smarmy or hollow or puffed-up as it sometimes is, because it also usually nonetheless has some considerable value in what we can learn in at least bits and pieces, even from the people who are in turn clearly also using Woodward. (cough, Bush At War, cough.)
And it seems clear from this book, but also from much else, that Woodward remains troubled by some of his choices.
But he's not a man I can greatly or wholly admire, although I am grateful for some of his work.
Because I suspect that although he's got his payoff, he's lost a small part of his soul as his price.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for non-Watergate buffs, 5 out of 5 for those interested in Watergate (in which case you can read Ronald Brownstein's short take, as well).
ADDENDUM: If anyone loses the plot, it's that Richard M. Nixon was the most evil President the Republic ever experienced, and we barely survived, and, hey, look, his henchmen and lines remain popular and some are still in power! This is, I daresay, worth emphasizing.
7/05/2005 08:45:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
The Pentagon's most senior planners are challenging the longstanding strategy that requires the armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at a time. Instead, they are weighing whether to shape the military to mount one conventional campaign while devoting more resources to defending American territory and antiterrorism efforts.
But the current review is the first by the Pentagon in decades to seriously question the wisdom of the two-war strategy.
The two-war model provides enough people and weapons to mount a major campaign, like the Persian Gulf war of 1991 or the invasion of Iraq in 2003, while maintaining enough reserves to respond in a similar manner elsewhere.
An official designation of a counterterrorism role and a shift to a strategy that focuses on domestic defense would have a huge impact on the size and composition of the military.
In a nutshell, strategies that order the military to be prepared for two wars would argue for more high-technology weapons, in particular warplanes. An emphasis on one war and counterterrorism duties would require lighter, more agile forces - perhaps fewer troops, but more Special Operations units - and a range of other needs, such as intelligence, language and communications specialists.
Civilian and military officials are trying to decide to what degree to acknowledge that operations like the continuing presence in Iraq - not a full-blown conventional war, but a prolonged commitment - may be such a burden that it would not be possible to also fight two full-scale campaigns elsewhere.
In other words, to what degree should reality be recognized? How well this decision will be made will be dependent upon how closely or distantly it acknowledges reality.
[...] In effect, the unusual mission in Iraq, which could last for years, has not just taken the slot for one of the two wars; it has upended the central concept of the two-war model. It is neither a major conventional combat nor a mere peacekeeping operation. It does not require the full array of forces, especially from the Navy and the Air Force, of a conventional war, and it takes far more troops than peacekeeping ordinarily would.
Mr. Thompson added that "what we need for conventional victory is different from what we need for fighting insurgents, and fighting insurgents has relatively little connection to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. We can't afford it all."
Probably so, although what a nation can afford is also greatly affected by what it decides it can afford, and what measures it takes to do so.
Oh, yeah, the number, for you lazy sods who won't read the whole thing:
The current military strategy is known by a numerical label, 1-4-2-1, with the first number representing the defense of American territory. That is followed by numbers representing the ability to deter hostilities in four critical areas of the world, and to swiftly defeat two adversaries in near-simultaneous major combat operations The final number stands for a requirement that the military retain the capability, at the same time, to decisively defeat one of those two adversaries, which would include capturing a capital and toppling a government.
"We have 1-4-2-1 now, and we are going to look at that," said Ryan Henry, who serves as principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy.
Asked where the military's heavy commitment to the fight against terrorism fits into the current strategy formula, Mr. Henry said, "It wasn't there when they came up with 1-4-2-1." If a new strategy emerges from the review, he said, it might be "something that doesn't have any numbers at all."
FISH-BARRELLING. I'm not proud to write this post, but not too proud to not write it; in any case, just three quick points from this silly gossip about "Live8" (which, incidentally, I got a chummy e-mail about from an ad agency telling me how much the writer "loves [your] blog!" a while ago asking me to plug Live8; somehow I thought they might get on without my vast possible aid to their promotion, but, hey, I'm sure they'll appreciate this post).
Later on, eyebrows were raised at how quickly an incredibly skinny Victoria, who was wearing a pair of her new own-label jeans, appeared to be necking down the free wine. She has been pictured looking unusually well-refreshed several times over the last few weeks.
This is the former Spice Girl, I take it; I, however, love the phrasing of the second sentence.
Most obscure request of the day came from Madonna, who said she would drink only Kabbalah water - which she credits with getting rid of her husband GUY RITCHIE'S verrucas.
And I'm thinking what the FUCK is "Kabbalah water"?
One of the most bizarre aspects reported about the group is its heavily promoted "Kabbalah Water." It is hyped as “dynamic ‘living’ water” with “a highly organized structure, crystalline formations and a fractal design.”
I bet it makes the best egg creams!
Note 3 is really not worth mentioning, and is another example of me being excessively grumpy, and probably downright a bit mean, but:
A surly ROBBIE WILLIAMS used his two minders to keep away autograph hunters. Everyone was agreed that the singer, charm personified on stage, was the biggest grouch behind the scenes. He paced up and down outside his dressing room to make sure all eyes were on him but snarled as anyone came near him.
He turned on the charm, however, while being interviewed by the BBC's FEARNE COTTON. She blushed as he told her: 'My name's Robbie Williams. I'm single. I hear you're newly single. Why don't we get it on?'
She replied: 'Can we save this for when the cameras are off?' But he continued: 'Make Poverty History and Get Robbie Laid - they're the two messages we've got today.'
And I'm thinking: who the hell is Robbie Williams? Should I have heard of him?
So I look him up, and he was in a band I've also never heard of. And he's apparently well-known in Britain, and also brags about record sales in Portugal and Australia and a few other places.
In Germany the success story continues where ‘What We Did Last Summer’ sold a phenomenal 18,000 copies over the counter on its first day in store [....]
And I'm thinking, gee, that's almost as good as one of the top blogs on an average day. The really snotty observation I had, which really is quite meaningless, for a variety of reasons, is that only once does his "history" mention "America" when it says that:
In 1999, Williams set about trying to woo America, touring in support of The Ego Has Landed, a selection of the best tracks from both albums. In November, he returned to the top of the UK charts [....]
Apparently America wasn't wooed. Which means nothing, of course, in terms of how great or not his music is, and my own having heard of him means even less, means nothing, given how tiny my knowledge of music essentially is. But at least in this case I'm possibly not the only American to never have heard of him.
"People are not stupid. Everybody thinks our own government is to blame for our terrible situation," said a 39-year-old coal miner from Chongjin who was interviewed late last year during a visit to China. "We all know we think that, and we all know everybody else thinks that. We don't need to talk about it."
Kim Sun Bok, a 32-year-old former factory worker who came to South Korea last summer, said the country was "changing incredibly."
Today, people can shop at markets all over Chongjin, the result of a burst of entrepreneurship grudgingly allowed by the authorities. Almost anything can be purchased — ice cream bars from China, pirated DVDs, cars, Bibles, computers, real estate and sex — for those who can afford the high prices.
The retail mecca is Sunam market, a wood-frame structure with a corrugated tin roof that is squeezed between two derelict factories.
The aisles brim with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches, scallions, watermelons and cabbage, as shown by rare video footage taken last year by the Osaka, Japan-based human rights group Rescue the North Korean People. Everything else comes from China: belts, shoes, umbrellas, notebooks, plates, aluminum pots, knives, shovels, toy cars, detergents, shampoos, lotions, hand creams and makeup.
Each of Chongjin's seven administrative districts has a state-sanctioned market. Sunam, the city's largest, is expanding, and some say it has a wider variety of goods than the main market in Pyongyang. Many vendors wear their licenses pinned to their right breasts while the obligatory Kim Il Sung buttons remain over the heart.
Although markets have been expanding for more than a decade, it was only in 2002 and '03 that the government enacted economic reforms that lifted some of the prohibitions against them.
"You get the sense that there is a tremendous gap between rich and poor and that the gap is growing," Jeung said.
The flip side, of course, is that the poor are getting poorer.
Do note, however, that the point of the story is not that North Korea has become a rich and free place. Hardly. But you'll have to read them to find out significantly more; the main point is that the recent mass starvation, and resulting desperation, has caused significant changes in the past couple of years.
It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to judge what inaccuracies might lie in this story -- for all I could be able to verify, they might be Walter-Duranty-reliable -- but given the problems inherent in trying to find out what goes on in the Dear One's paradise, these pieces are quite valuable.
It's still highly grim reading.
Among those who make it to China, many describe a moment of epiphany when they find out just how bad off North Koreans are.
Kim Ji Eun, a doctor from Chongjin, remembers wading across the partially frozen Tumen River in March 1999, staggering to a Chinese farmhouse and seeing a dish of white rice and meat set out in a courtyard.
"I couldn't figure it out at first. I thought maybe it was for refrigeration," recalled Kim, who now lives in South Korea. "Then I realized that dogs in China live better than even party members in North Korea."
GRAPHICS MATTER. After many years of reading Slate -- since its inception -- although I can't say how long it's been since they starting using this particular graphic element -- I finally noticed today that the little boxes with words in them were also stories, not ads that my eye should reflexively skip over.
BOMBS BURSTING IN MID-AIR. Sunset tonight in Boulder, Colorado -- where, coincidentally, I presently live! -- is at 8:33 p.m. So WTF are the fireworks at Folsom Field scheduled for 7 p.m.?
I don't understand.
(At least all I have to do to see them is step outside my building and walk a few dozen steps past some trees; but I'd greatly prefer it was dark out; although the past three years have had displays that, while not Grucci Brothers' level, unsurprisingly, they're really very good for a town quite larger than Boulder.)
Ah, wait, although the tv news has been saying for days that that's the time, and the frigging newscrawl on all local stations has literally been repeating all the local times for hours, this suggests that that's when the "gate opens" at the field, while a "show" with music "from Chris Daniels and the Kings begin[s] after 8 p.m."; so I now suspect that the actual fireworks won't take place until after dark, as is the norm. I guess I'll do what I did last year, which is wait for the first BOOM! before I step outside.
Which now makes this entry pretty much pointless, but why ruin standards around here by not posting it?
ADDENDUM: Yup, started promptly at 9:30, and ran a nice twenty minutes (I thought I recalled past years going half an hour, but probably not). The thing I particularly like about Boulder 4th of July fireworks is the way that sonic bursts crash off the mountains at the edge of town, and echo, and the really loud ones will run further north up the Front Range and then back again, as well. You don't get that in NYC or DC or any of the big U.S. cities that I know of (other than, of course, perhaps Denver, but the mountains there are still a lot further away than walking some blocks to the edge of town).
THAT SKIFFY STUFF. This, incidentally, is an excellent site, split into this part, which has links to numerous terrific sf short pieces, old and not-so-old, mostly all free online; and this part, linking to numerous reviews of magazine sf, but particularly also this part, reviewing the vast majority of collections/anthologies of the best short sf, with story lists and brief comments on the majority of stories; it's a great resource for reminding one's self of great stories, or finding ones one hasn't read.
Check Out The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5. Tons of excellent writing can be found, at both first and second hand. (For all the relative modern respectability of sf, most people still largely think of movie and tv crap, and I say that as someone immensely fond of [relatively] crap movie and tv "sci-fi.")
7/04/2005 04:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
THIS IS WHAT "WRITING IS ABOUT"? Mildly interesting little piece about the phenomenon of the personal screenwriter.
While these kind of personal writers may be well-known inside Hollywood, they often toil in public obscurity — neither McKay nor Herlihy nor Rayfiel received a screenwriting credit on these recent movies. Don't shed any tears, though. Even without screen credit, top rewrite artists can bank more than $250,000 a week for script revisions and frequently can stay on a movie for months at a time.
But what may be great for the star may not be great for the movie. The personal screenwriter perk has the potential to gum up production with compulsory revisions, alienate the film's original writer and leave audiences feeling as if they've heard the same dialogue again and again.
If the line "You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth" sounds at all familiar, it's because Pollack has used that bit of dialogue written by Rayfiel in no fewer than four movies: "The Slender Thread," "This Property Is Condemned," "Three Days of the Condor" and this spring in "The Interpreter."
Producers and studio executives complain that the personal writer for a director or actor can not only bloat a film's budget but also slow production to a crawl, with screenplay tinkering yielding new pages throughout production, as has happened on the upcoming "Fun With Dick and Jane."
[...] "It's a great arrangement for any screenwriter to be associated with an actor who trusts you," says screenwriter Jim Herzfeld, whose "Meet the Parents" script was fine-tuned during production by Ben Stiller's preferred screenwriter, John Hamburg. "Every screenwriter wishes he had an A-list actor who considers him 'his guy' and kept him steadily employed on the actor's projects."
Yes, for $250,000.00/week, I can sort of see that. Or even for $50,000.00 a week!
[...] In earlier teamings with Howard and Crowe, Goldsman would sit in on script readings, reworking dialogue after the actor read it aloud. "It's a fantastic process, and I'm stunned that it doesn't exist on all movies," Goldsman says. "We don't think the script is finished until we do this. Just because something reads well doesn't mean you've thoroughly examined it."
[...] Like other writer-actor and writer-director pairings, Rapp says she and Altman benefit from a relationship that invites creative debates without bruised feelings. Rapp says she might pitch 10 ideas to Altman, but even if he bit on only one, "I would walk out feeling I was the best writer on the planet. That's what writing is about: You don't get everything right the first time."
True more often than not, as regards rewriting and writing, but the fact that Anne Rapp wrote Dr. T and the Women convinces me less than well. Ditto for the juxtaposition of the two sentences, although I don't ever trust the reliability and proper context of short quotes in news accounts, speaking of how to write.
[...] A more important challenge for personal writers is making audiences giggle; it's no coincidence that almost all of the actors who use a particular writer are comedians. When Ferrell and McKay work on a script, they'll bat around ideas until they can make the other laugh, even if the jokes don't at first seem that funny.
While on "Saturday Night Live," the two cooked up a skit about a salesman named Bill Brasky. "Everybody hated it except us, but we got it on the show," McKay says. "I wish I could say I was more of a unique individual. But if Will likes it, I like it."
Adds Ferrell: "We have gotten into a few drunken wrestling matches, but it never feels like any of our decisions come down to life or death."
More recently, the two teamed to make "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and sold their race car comedy "Talladega Nights" to Columbia Pictures in a pricey bidding war.
And if you can write to please Will Ferrell, well, without doubt you must be a great writer.
It just goes without saying, doesn't it? (Hint: there are certainly people I find less funny and fascinating than Will Ferrell, but let's say that I'm not his biggest fan.)
EXASPERATED CRANKINESS. Why is it, anyway, that Bruce Sterling's blog is, as it has been for eons, full of bizarre, apparently random, line-spacing and paragraph spacing, and mostly dead links? Not to mention having no indication of what is quoted material and what is not, other than context; strange and pointless use of multiple parentheses where only single ones would do; strange and sporadic "picket fence"-type line breaks; and weird inclusions in quoted material of pointless elements, such as the writer's phone number.
If someone were new to being online, this would be explicable, but as it is?
Squirrels In Boulder County Turn Up With Bubonic Plague
I only hope Rocky is safe.
BOULDER, Colo. -- Some Boulder homeowners are being told to keep their pets indoors after some squirrels in the area turned up with plague.
A wetter season followed by hot weather has Boulder County health officials concerned about the spread of bubonic plague. On Friday, workers went door to door, handing fliers to residents around Ninth and Mapleton Avenue.
The plague is spread through infected rodent fleas, usually found on squirrels and prairie dogs but cats can also bring the fleas inside homes.
Officials are telling residents in the area to keep pets indoors if possible. Also, residents are advised never to touch a dead or injured wild animal found in a yard or in the street.
And here I was just deliberating the other week as to whether I should do something about that squirrel corpse by the bus stop. Really. (I applied my usual solution of thinking about it until I stopped.)
Still, important health tip:
Health officials say a person infected by the plague can develop swollen glands and fever.
And then you get all better. The story ends there.
Wouldn't want to alarm anyone with unduly negative thoughts, I guess.
NO ONE'S PART OF AMERICA IS BETTER than anyone else's, nor more or less "real," and claiming otherwise is, I say on this day, un-American and despicable. Todd Zywicki writes:
...sorry Justice Breyer, I don't count Cambridge as "real America"....
Why would it be more respectable to insert the name of any given spot in the United States into that opinion than any other given placename?
Is, America, in fact, more "real" in one locale than in another? Are citizens resident in that locale "realer" Americans than those residing elsewhere? Are their opinions more authentic and more "American" than those of other Americans?
Is this, in fact, a valid position for a law professor to hold? Discuss.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.
ADDENDUM: The following is the context of Zywicki's statement:
Finally, both Jones and Batchelder would bring to the Court something that currently is sorely lacking--a real-world, outside-the-beltway perspective. The insularity of the Court today is quite striking, especially after the long stability of the Court's membership, and they must be oblivious as to what is actually going on in the rest of the country and how they are perceived in real America (sorry Justice Breyer, I don't count Cambridge as "real America"). It has been decades since any of them lived outside the northeast corridor (at least Justice Thomas gets out in his RV during the summer). It might be useful to have someone around who can pop their balloons every once in awhile and give them a sense of the real world.
Somehow I suspect that those who feel this is an apt thing to say about "Cambridge" would not feel as cheery about, say, a resident of Cambridge, or Georgetown, or the Upper West Side, declaring that, say, Philadelphia, Mississippi doesn't "count as 'real America.'" I'm guessing they wouldn't approve of someone from within "the northeast corridor" asserting that, for instance, someone from rural Oklahoma, or Texas, or South Carolina, needs to get out into the "real America" of the northeast corridor, where the "real world" lives. But perhaps I'm wrong.
7/04/2005 08:00:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
Ganczarski is among the most important European al Qaeda figures alive, according to U.S. and French law enforcement and intelligence officials. The operation that ensnared him was put together at a top secret center in Paris, code-named Alliance Base, that was set up by the CIA and French intelligence services in 2002, according to U.S. and European intelligence sources. Its existence has not been previously disclosed.
Funded largely by the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, Alliance Base analyzes the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them.
Most French officials and other intelligence veterans would talk about the partnership only if their names were withheld because the specifics are classified and the politics are sensitive. John E. McLaughlin, the former acting CIA director who retired recently after a 32-year career, described the relationship between the CIA and its French counterparts as "one of the best in the world. What they are willing to contribute is extraordinarily valuable."
But even as Rumsfeld was criticizing France in early 2003 for not doing its share in fighting terrorism, his U.S. Special Operations Command was finalizing a secret arrangement to put 200 French special forces under U.S. command in Afghanistan. Beginning in July 2003, its commanders have worked side by side there with U.S. commanders and CIA and National Security Agency representatives. Organizing Alliance Base
Alliance Base, headed by a French general assigned to France's equivalent of the CIA -- the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) -- was described by six U.S. and foreign intelligence specialists with involvement in its activities. The base is unique in the world because it is multinational and actually plans operations instead of sharing information among countries, they said. It has case officers from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States.
The Ganczarski operation was one of at least 12 major cases the base worked on during its first years, according to one person familiar with its operations.
"It's really an effort to come up with innovative ideas and deal with some of the cooperation issues," said one CIA officer familiar with the base. "I don't know of anything like it."
Writer/director Joss Whedon (the upcoming Wonder Woman) has commented on rumors that his "Firefly" and "Serenity" star Summer Glau is up for the role of Kitty Pryde in X-Men 3, now that "Lost" star Maggie Grace is no longer on board. Whedon posted the following on the "Serenity" official site's message board:
Summer did read for Kitty in X3. I know because she called me and mentioned she was going to and did I know anything about the character (there were no 'sides' to study -- they had to get them when they came in). So the girl I turned into sort of a superhero in my movie was going to read for the character that most influenced ALL my girl-heroes, Kitty Pryde. Karmically funky. Anyhoo, she called me after and said it was very emotional and kind of like when she read for FIREFLY, she just got into a very intense groove. She started telling me about the scene she read and that's when I realized WHY it was kind of like she read for FIREFLY. 'Cause (as you may know) it was a scene I wrote for Astonishing X-Men issue #5. I assume they just didn't have sides ready and used that but this was like a karmic moebius strip, it was just too folded in on itself. In this time of odd, I turned to beer. (No I didn't. Stay in school.)
I don't know what the X-peeps are looking for -- or even if that other girl has really dropped out -- but for my money, Summer would make a wonderful Kitty. (And I don't say that lightly.) As long as it doesn't interfere with SERENITY II: RICARDO MONTALBAN'S STILL PISSED -- or, much more importantly, SERENITY III: SO VERY NUDE.
LIKE MOST SURVEYS I've taken from childhood, this one is apparently pointlessly unanswerable and stupid.
I have no idea how I'm supposed to decide which of the last images I'm supposed to link to, just as I had no idea how to answer most of the questions.
Apparently this tells us things about us. You can certainly tell that I have no understanding of how to answer these sort of distinctions. Most of them depend upon notions that don't intersect with reality as I know it.
Which is pretty much the problem I've had since my psychologist dad thought it was a great idea to administer this sort of nonsense to me since I was, whatever, six or so.
I found this link on your weblog: "...Search Tips Our Mysterious Name Our mission . Our task . Me (Battery Park, 1996) . Home Join..."
How would you classify the link above?
How would you describe your relationship with the author? (by friend we mean someone you are especially close to)
I found this link on your weblog: "...developments in the 2008 Presidential election, which is now coming down to the wire , we learn: Richland County Democrats" How would you classify the link above?
Etc. Mostly it's "other." And we learn from this what? Other than I have to mostly answer these tests with "other"? What have we learned?
Besides that people who think these are useful tests are "other"?
I know I'm inclined to take things literally, but these things mostly all come up "other" for me. Talk about alienation.
(Similarly, recently, John Cole somehow wanted me to boil down six hundred or whatever books from childhood I felt worth rereading to a small list, but without benefit of any guidelines; my usual response: how the fuck do you want me to do that? As is normal for a query about such an incoherent question, I received no answer; pointing out that the answer contained over six hundred books didn't seem relevant, somehow; I don't get these people, myself.)
6/29/2005 08:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
For 40 years, the central argument of the Republican Party—George W. Bush's party—was that liberals had it backward: If you prop people up, they'll never stand up, and you'll never stand down. You have to let go. As you stand down, they'll stand up.
Which brings us to the occupation of Iraq. In blood and money, it's fast becoming the most expensive welfare program in the history of the world. Like other welfare programs, it was a good idea when it started. Like other welfare programs, it has begun to overtax the treasury and the public. Like other welfare programs, it warps the behavior of its beneficiaries. But in one respect, it's unique. It's the one welfare program conservatives can't criticize or even recognize, because they're the ones running it.
Of course, once people were cut off welfare, they deserved whatever happened to them, and studies of that are not so interesting. It must all be good! (Expenditures went down!)
Hey, I hear it worked for the American poor. After all, there are no American poor we need to help any more, right? Not even the children.
Throwing money at the problem only makes it worse. I'm sure I've heard that.
Clarissa is "hands-free" and responds to astronauts' voice commands, reading procedure steps out loud as they work, helping keep track of which steps have been completed, and supporting flexible voice-activated alarms and timers.
Astronauts now perform about 12,000 complex procedures to maintain life-support systems, inspect space suits, conduct science experiments, perform medical exams and other routine tasks.
"Just try to analyze a water sample while scrolling through pages of a procedure manual displayed on a computer monitor while you and the computer float in microgravity," challenges astronaut Michael Fincke, who recently completed a six-month stay on the ISS. "To be able to speak to the system and hear the step-by-step instructions while my hands are free to complete the procedure will be like having another crew member aboard."
"NASA wanted the system to be ready to assist at any time and without requiring artificial activation commands," said Renders. "Therefore, a simpler 'Star Trek' solution - like having crew members address the computer by stating a specific word such as 'computer' before posing a question or speaking a command to the system - wasn't a viable solution. We needed to improve the performance of the system in discriminating between commands and conversation."
The Xerox methodology allows Clarissa to more accurately analyze each utterance. It can recognize words, sentences and word context and can act on a variety of commands phrased in different ways. The system now looks at all the individual words within the sentence, takes into account the system's confidence that it has correctly recognized each individual word, and uses a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm to weigh the various pieces of positive and negative information.
This significantly increases the system's ability to determine the difference between commands directed to the system and side conversations. According to Renders, the improvements have cut the error rate of the system by more than half.
Clarissa currently supports about 75 individual commands, which can be accessed using a vocabulary of some 260 words. The team plans to increase the commands and add to the vocabulary in the future.
"Some commands are rather simple, but others are quite complex," Hockey said. "A lot of the time, you're just saying 'next' or 'go to step eight'. But you also might need to say something like 'cancel the alarm at 10:25' or 'set challenge verify mode on steps three through fourteen.'"
Recommendation: do not ask it who shaved the Spanish barber. Do not ask it if it must sterilize all error. And above all: make sure it does not have the engrams of Richard Daystrom.
The often-coveted but elusive reports are produced by CRS, a public policy research arm of Congress. CRS, which boasts hundreds of analysts and a $100 million budget, churns out hundreds of briefs each year on a wide range of topics. It recently issued one, for example, called "U.S. Treatment of Prisoners in Iraq: Selected Legal Issues." Another was titled, "Gasoline Prices: Policies and Proposals." A third was "Immigration: Policy Considerations Related to Guest Worker Programs."
The reports have long been praised as nonpartisan, concise and readable. But they are reserved for members of Congress, committees and their staffs.
Now some are available; why not all, and why not from Congress?
JEWISH MARTYRS. I've read a lot in recent years from some Christians about how awful and evil Islam allegedly is, lots centered around how Muslims believe in killing themselves to kill others, and how it's a sick culture of death that believes in training children to kill and to be martyrs.
There are a lot of reasons to combine skepticism with offense at much of this (one of the most simple, but hardly the only, reasons is that it's easy to believe that few people eager to attack Islam will also have qualms in other circumstances about attacking Judaism and Jews), but I also have to take note of a couple of developments among others in the past couple of weeks.
A group of girls was arrested two weeks ago during the road-blocking campaign as a dry run to thwart the disengagement. They refused to disclose their names to the police.
"We are Jews from the Land of Israel," they insisted on replying every time they were asked, emulating the way the illegal immigrants to Israel, and those who took them in, used to answer the police during the British Mandate.
When taken for questioning, the girls switched tactics and chose a joint name - Sarah Aharonson. Aharonson, who lived about 100 years ago, managed the Nili underground activities. When the network was captured, she was tortured by the Turks for three days and ultimately shot herself. The idea to choose her name was based on the tactic of the policemen who evacuated the Havat Gilad outpost, who said their name was "Shahar Ayalon" (the West Bank police commander's name).
The parents' reactions?
The father of one of the girls says it was their way of showing that they were not ordinary criminals, but were involved in a kind of civil disobedience protesting the threat of expulsion hovering over the heads of the Gaza and northern West Bank settlers.
"The judge was willing to release them on condition that they remain confined to their settlement until the end of the proceedings. Neither they nor we, the parents, agreed," the father says.
"It would be a voluntary custody that could last even a year, preventing them from demonstrating against the deportation. I respect my daughter for her position, and encourage her to stick to it," he says.
Refusal to disclose their names
Another father says the girls' refusal to disclose names derives from the assumption that the police release many of the minors who do so after being arrested.
The girls are being held in Ma'asiyahu prison. A few of them were placed in solitary confinement, but held firm in refusing to give their names.
Two of them broke down after they found that if they did not identify themselves they would not be allowed to take their matriculation exams in prison.
One of the two lost her father in a terrorist attack at the beginning of the intifada. Her mother says her daughter asked for her permission before going out to block roads. "It was difficult, but I agreed. Two of my children were arrested, and I commended them for being caught for doing as the Torah says and not idle things."
The mother says her daughter will resume blocking roads as soon as she completes her matriculation exams.
What's the justification for all this?
A father of one of the girls says that when the judge extended the girls' remand, she told one of the girls that by refusing to disclose her name she was violating the halakha in a number of ways. The girl stood up and told the judge "the Torah is based on kiddush hashem (sanctifying the Lord's name by dying as a martyr) and obeying his orders, not the judge's."
Italics mine. So we again are reminded that there are Jews who idealize dying as a martyr. Great, eh?
Here's a fascinating thing about this Haaretz story (usually one of the best sites for Israeli news): it's about "girls." How old are the "girls"? 18? 16? Notably, the story never says.
So let's look to distant Los Angeles for what should be the lede 'graph of the story:
The detainee was the very picture of defiance.
She scrawled slogans on the walls of her cell. She mocked her interrogators by chanting loudly whenever they tried to question her, or by reviling them as traitors and stooges. She even refused to reveal her name.
Her jailers reported, however, that she also sometimes got homesick and cried. Which wasn't particularly surprising, given that she was only 12 years old.
And the other girls? Also many pre-teens and teens.
In recent months, Israeli teenagers and preteens have become the shock troops of a nationwide campaign of protests against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip this summer, Israel's first such ceding of settlements in war-seized territory the Palestinians want for their future state.
Hundreds of youngsters have been arrested for offenses such as blocking highways, daubing antigovernment graffiti on walls and scuffling with police and soldiers. They usually spend no more than a night or two behind bars, if that, but some have been incarcerated for weeks at a time.
Opponents of the Gaza withdrawal tend to hold the teen lawbreakers up as heroes, likening them to the ranks of defiant young Jews who risked and, in some cases, lost their lives in Israel's fight for statehood more than half a century ago.
Others, however, see impressionable youngsters being cynically used by adults in order to promote their own political agenda — an uneasy reminder, for some, of Palestinian youngsters being exploited by militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the last four years of fighting.
Over the months, Israeli authorities have developed a profile of what they consider to be the hard core of the young protesters, some of whom are already veterans of a dozen or more arrests.
Many are the children of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, who fear the Gaza withdrawal would leave their communities vulnerable to uprooting as well.
Most are from religiously observant homes, with little or no contact with the secular world. And many strive to outdo even their settler parents in the zeal of their belief that the West Bank and Gaza are part of the Jewish people's biblical birthright.
Significant numbers of these youngsters are followers of extremist right-wing figures like the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated in 1990, who advocated the expulsion of Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza. Many have engaged in brawls with Israeli troops trying to evacuate illegal hilltop settlement outposts scattered throughout the West Bank, an experience that has already helped inculcate in them an abiding disrespect for the Jewish state and its symbols of authority, including the army, the courts and the government.
Out on the streets, the youngsters boldly defy police and soldiers. Particularly nettlesome to the authorities are groups of teenage girls, clad in ground-skimming skirts, who deliberately tussle with burly officers in body armor at demonstrations on roadways or outside the homes of government officials.
The girls, most of them petite and long-haired, are well aware that television footage of them being roughly treated can stoke anger against the police, particularly from religious Jews who consider such physical contact improper.
After unruly demonstrations, female participants tend to gather, giggling like the schoolgirls they are, to triumphantly compare welts and bruises.
"If we get hurt, we show each other what they did to us," said Matti Ernstoff, a seasoned 16-year-old road-blocker whose cherubic face, long ponytail and diminutive stature are well known to Israeli police and court officials.
At a recent demonstration, Matti and a dozen other teenage girls blocked a busy Jerusalem intersection, linking arms and planting themselves in the path of oncoming traffic. Together, they shrieked the main anti-pullout slogan — "Jews don't expel Jews!" — at police officers who tried to herd them out of the roadway.
Parental reaction, again?
Matti's mother, Sara-Rivka Ernstoff, said whenever her daughter failed to return home after a demonstration, she assumed the girl had been arrested, and also knew that Matti had probably refused to identify herself or asked to make a call home. She has never tried to dissuade her from such actions.
"Of course I worry like any mother would, but I really don't lose sleep when she's in jail," she said. "She's old enough to make her own choices."
Many Israelis were disquieted when the same argument was put forth this month by the mother of the jailed 12-year-old girl, whose case garnered nationwide attention. The girl, whose name was not publicly disclosed, spent more than three weeks in jail after refusing to sign a declaration promising to stay away from anti-pullout demonstrations. Her parents said they acceded to their child's wishes that they not come forward to identify and claim her.
"She might be in the body of a 12-year-old girl, but her perception and understanding is more mature than ours," the mother told Israel Radio. "Her spirit won't be crushed…. I am confident she won't suffer any emotional problems in the future." Social workers and even prison officials were aghast.
"This mother scares me," said Etti Peretz, who heads the Israeli social workers organization. The mother, she said, needed to "take a close and candid look at whether the end justifies all means."
Prosecutors have threatened, on grounds of parental neglect, to seek state custody of minors whose families knowingly leave them in jail. That has triggered heated arguments about whether such a step would ultimately be even more harmful to the child involved.
Some analysts see the young activists as increasingly cut off from the mainstream of Israeli society.
"They're alienated, and I'm just not sure how they can be reintegrated," said Giora Rahav, a sociologist at Tel Aviv University with a specialty in juvenile crime. "There is a real messianism at play here, and it's very powerful as a uniting force for them, but also very isolating."
In a country in which military service is a key rite of passage, most of the young protesters do not intend to go into the army after high school, because they regard the Israel Defense Forces as the tool of a tyrannical government policy. They speak with disdain and even hatred of institutions such as the Supreme Court, the prime minister and the Knesset, blaming them for having cleared the way for the pullout.
"In many ways, they're disengaging from the state of Israel," said Mordechai Nisan, a political scientist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "They have this sense of themselves as being like the original Zionist pioneers, with a pristine connection to the land, and a total belief in the purity of their cause."
Often, anti-pullout activism is a family affair. Matti's brother, Koby, 18, is under house arrest and facing an array of charges, including spray-painting slogans that were considered to constitute incitement, and planting a fake bomb with a note protesting the withdrawal.
Authorities are divided over whether anti-pullout protests such as road blockings constitute legitimate free speech or are a threat to public safety, and whether they are likely to escalate into wide-scale sabotage, or worse.
Vandalism is already on the rise. Activists recently glued shut the locks of hundreds of government offices, and protesters have previously slashed the tires of army vehicles and poured sand into their gas tanks.
Good thing only Islam extols martyrs.
Last point: here is how extreme right-wing Israeli news source Arutz Sheva reports this sort of thing:
(IsraelNN.com) A 5-year-old girl manning a booth against the expulsion plan was assaulted by a passerby, identifying himself as a fan of the planned Jewish transfer and disengagment. The incident occurred in Ra'anana earlier tonight as the young girl stood near the tent shouting "Jews don't expel Jews!"
Here is how a blogger such as "Israpundit" links to that:
The depravity of Abu Omri's henchmen.
"Abu Omri" is the charming way such people refer to the vile anti-Semite Nazi Arab others know as "Ariel Sharon."
The action represents a reversal of GOP policies toward the VA. For the past four months, House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly defeated Democratic amendments to boost VA medical funding.
Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, faced criticism from House and Senate committee chairmen at two hearings.
"I sit here having recently learned that the information provided to me thus far has been disturbingly inaccurate," Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) told Nicholson. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) told Nicholson that the failure to alert Congress earlier about the VA's money problems "borders on stupidity."
"Somebody was hoping they could hide the ball for a while and talk about it later, and frankly in this arena you can't afford to do that," Lewis said.
As GOP House and Senate leaders scrambled to deal with the politically damaging shortfall and quell criticism from veterans' advocacy groups, Democrats intensified charges that the Bush administration and the Republican congressional majorities are failing to care for those who put their lives on the line for the country.
The Bush administration, already accused by veterans groups of seeking inadequate funds for health care next year, acknowledged yesterday that it is short $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year.
The disclosure of the shortfall angered Senate Republicans who have been voting down Democratic proposals to boost VA programs at significant political cost. Their votes have brought the wrath of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and other organizations down on the GOP.
The $1 billion shortfall emerged during an administration midyear budget review and was acknowledged only during lengthy questioning of Jonathan B. Perlin, VA undersecretary for health, by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) at a hearing yesterday.
At a noon news conference yesterday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee covering veterans affairs and the lead sponsor of Senate Democratic efforts to add $1.9 billion to the VA budget, accused the Bush administration of unwillingness "to make the sacrifices necessary to fulfill the promises we have made to our veterans."
In a rare display of bipartisanship on the polarized issue of veterans spending, Craig appeared with Murray at the news conference and said he agreed with many of her comments.
Murray cited an April 5 letter written by Nicholson to the Senate in a bid to defeat her amendment: "I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY2005 to continue to provide timely, quality service that is always our goal," he had said.
Murray aides said they obtained a draft copy of the midyear review in early April, suggesting that the department knew of the budget problems at the time Nicholson wrote the letter.
The House has already approved a $68.1 billion Department of Veterans Affairs appropriation for fiscal 2006 that has been sharply criticized by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans.
Richard Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans, said the money problems this year and next were obvious to anyone visiting VA clinics and hospitals.
"You could see it happening, clinics shutting down, appointments delayed," Fuller said.
Joseph A. Violante, legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, said Perlin's testimony yesterday confirms the veterans' assessment that the administration is "shortchanging veterans."
The Bush administration and House Republicans have been the main focus of anger among veterans organizations.
Their "policies are inconsistent with a nation at war," said Steve Robertson, legislative director of the American Legion. They violate the basic military value of "an army of one, teamwork, taking care of each other," he said.
The administration and Congress, Robertson said, are promoting policies that "subdivide veterans into little groups, the ones that 'deserve' and the ones who 'don't deserve.' "
Veterans groups are particularly angry with Buyer, who was specially chosen by the House leadership to chair the House Veterans Affairs Committee to keep spending down. Buyer was selected to replace Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who had alienated House leaders by pushing for high levels of spending on veterans programs.
Buyer recently sparked new controversy in an interview published by the American Legion Magazine in which he said the department should concentrate on serving a "core constituency," and he disputed assertions that "all veterans are veterans and all veterans should be treated the same."
The Indiana Republican has defended the House's fiscal 2006 spending levels for veterans, contending that VA health care would actually grow by $1.6 billion under the House legislation.
American Legion National Commander Thomas P. Cadmus countered that nearly $1 billion of the $1.6 billion increase would be achieved by cutting other medical accounts: $533 million from the medical administration account, $417 million from medical facilities and $9 million from medical and prosthetics research.
And note this little maneuver:
In addition to their unhappiness with spending levels, veterans groups are bitter over the changes initiated by the Republican leadership in the jurisdiction of appropriations subcommittees. VA funding was shifted from the subcommittee that includes housing and NASA programs to the subcommittee on military quality of life and Veterans Affairs and related agencies, which forces the Veterans Affairs Department to compete for limited funds with such programs as Defense Department health care, military cemeteries and military construction.
"The American Legion is not about to write Congress and say 'take away from DOD heath care' [in order to boost VA funding]. That's completely unacceptable," Robertson said.
And yet oh so clever. Too clever by half of the ever-so-supportive-of-the-military-not Republican leadership.
The veterans lobby has already beaten back two controversial Bush administration proposals: a $250 enrollment fee for veterans joining the health care system and an increase in the prescription co-payment, from $7 to $15.
Leaders of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans and the Disabled American Veterans all noted a striking partisan division in Congress on veterans issues, with Democrats giving them much more support than Republicans.
Traditionally, Violante said, "Republicans have been supportive of defense," but he said Bush administration policies and votes in the House and Senate suggest that the GOP does not view the care of veterans as "a continuing cost of war."
The words of the legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans: the traitor!
So the GOP that cares for injured veterans this way are the people to vote for to support the military and our troops and our defense: don't forget!
I NEVER OFFERED TO MARRY AVEDON when she was available, and it wouldn't have worked anyway, and not to suggest she'd have been interested or should have been, but I'd like to keep the offer figuratively open, in the old Usenet sense, at the least, for stuff such as this, anyway.
(Jeez, after all, the number of jerks we've both known for about thirty years is overly long; not that we don't have much more such as that to bond over.)
Oh, yes, flag-burning: I generally want to slap people for it, but not, you know, imprison them. I'm just so liberace, or liberal, or libertarian, or something that way.
GOT IT. Bill O'Reilly, rumored to be a broadcaster of some sort, is quoted as, apparently, saying:
O'REILLY: And when he [Durbin] went out there, his intent was to whip up the American public against the Bush detainee policy. That's what his intent was. His intent wasn't to undermine the war effort, because he never even thought about it. He never even thought about it. But by not thinking about it, he made an egregious mistake because you must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it. And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9-11, is a traitor.
Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.
If only I listened more to the radio I would be able to more quickly figure these things out.
Investigators have yet to reveal O'Reilly's personal feelings about being put in chains. It's possible that this is based upon some sort of desire as to what should be done to radio talk show hosts not entirely clear on the face of it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
Read The Rest Scale: 1.75 out of 5. I am, incidentally, I must confess immediately, unenthused about spending energy attempting to track down a transcript of this show to seek to determine if a larger context would provide a useful defense for O'Reilly -- alien brain parasites, or being in the middle of a comedy sketch or satire, or a visitation from an evil twin, perhaps -- but if any reader knows of such a defense, please do feel free to link to it in comments.
6/22/2005 09:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
A few years after the publication of a book I wrote on Kilby and his co-inventor, Robert Noyce, Jack received Japan's grandest engineering award, the half-million-dollar Kyoto Prize. My family and I were living in Tokyo then, and one of my daughters, an 8-year-old budding scientist, was assigned to do a class paper on the famous man. As we sat in the restaurant at Jack's hotel, concerned PR types from the Kyoto Prize organization kept rushing over to say it was time for Jack's interview with this vast TV network or that national newspaper. Kilby, as always, refused to be rushed. "We can do the TV Asahi interview," he said, "after I finish talking to Katie."
What Jack liked best about the various awards he won was the chance to take friends and family -- two daughters, five grandchildren and his sister Jane -- to whatever city or country was giving him the honor. He was pained, however, when he tried to hail a taxi outside the Grand Hotel in Sweden and then discovered that the Nobel Prize people had expected the new laureate to ride around town in their limousine. "An incredible waste," he mumbled under his breath.
There's a bunch more like that. One thing I'm entirely sympathetic to, despite my complete lack of aptitude for engineering or anything remotely mechanical:
He spent 30 years tinkering in an office beside the freeway in Dallas, producing a few dozen patentable ideas, but nothing very lucrative. Leaving the big corporate lab, he said, "was pretty damn close to stupid as a financial matter. But there's a lot of pleasure for an engineer in picking your own problems to solve. So I've enjoyed it."
Hey, that's a lot like bl******.
Oh, and thanks for my computers, my tv, and so on, Jack Kilby, even if you were only the beaver.
WHAT, NO QUOTES FROM THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT? What most strikes me about the American Film Institutes' List of Top 100 Quotes From U.S. Films is that if you clear out all the quotes that are actually originally famous as quotes from books, and drop the quotes that are famous because other movies, prior or subsequent, also used them, and drop the quotes that are dependent upon being punchlines for visual scenes, or are routines from vaudeville, or are taken directly from stage plays (or real life: no one wrote "Houston, we have a problem," and it was world-famous for decades before the movie): you wind up with a much shorter list.
Which is to say, it's not exactly a great source to look at for all that many examples of great original American screen-writing in very short form. That's all.
It's more or less just "here are a lot of lines most people remember." Not that there's anything wrong with that.
How many more specials can the AFI squeeze out of this format before we're onto Top 100 Sets Ever Made, or Top 100 Hairdos In American Movies, I wonder?
Spc. Sean Baker had worse than his Koran treated. But, being a trained and cunning member of al Qaeda, he's surely lying about what happened to him.
That, or it's the brain damage. Which must be his own fault. And an accident. And a coincidence.
But if it's anything worse, well, it's an omelette, you know. An omelette of freedom, all spicy yet bland, runny but firm, and full of healthsome salt and pepper! Remember the delicious omelette, which will sustain you all day! Forget Spc. Sean Baker! His egg was a noble sacrifice, cracked as it was only against a few bad apples.
Let us draw the lesson we need to from this story: don't keep good eggs in the same bags with rotten apples, but if we do, the fish will never stink from the head down.
This has been your Amygdala Good Cooking Tip of The Day.
HOW GOES THE FIGHT? Another fine victory. In only another two years or so, the war will be won! We see the light at the end of the tunnel!
And it's always only about two years away.
You know, I really want to be optimistic about this thing in Iraq. I so very much do. Really. I want it to have been worthwhile. I want a democratic and at least vaguely just Iraq at the end. I want the deaths of all the Iraqis and Americans and Brits and others to have been worthwhile and to have meant something. I want some justice for all, the living and the dead.
I want it all to have not been some giant error, not some some vast miscalculation, not some well-meant failed effort, not some horrible, terrible, waste.
And I still don't know how it will actually look in two years, in five years, in ten years. I don't. Any number of results seem possible, still. Some far better, some far worse. The likely results are hard to see as ideal, or even very great, but who the hell knows?
All of which is a lot of throat-clearing to comment about this: another tactical victory, and in this case, the reporting doesn't even pretend it will have any virtuous mid-term effects. No, the results are only claimed to be great in the short-term: we won! We destroyed (almost, large parts of) the village, in order to save it! In the mid-term, as the article relatively cheerfully quotes the U.S. military, this will mean nothing! The "insurgents" will be back very shortly, and we don't have any spare toops to leave, and the Iraqis got, essentially, squat, who will likely run like mice when the insurgents show up and shout "boo!"
But, hey, the long run! Look at the long run! It's so solid, and predictable, and reliable, and dependable, sure! The long run is the solution! Eventually, there will be enough fine Iraqi Army troops that the insurgents will be driven out, peace and justice restored, and all will be well, will be better than well, because democracy and freedom will have been added, and everything goes better with them! In the long run, we'll have won!
In other words, there are four distinct steps in Our Cunning Plan:
1. Win for the moment, retreat. 2. Lose in the next moment. 3. (Other things happen) in the mid-term. 4. We win!
Part 3 should be no problem at all. It never is.
U.S. Marines claimed success on Tuesday in another battle against insurgents in the Iraqi desert but acknowledged that the war was far from over and that guerrillas would soon recover lost ground.
After four days of bombardment and street-to-street gunbattles, the Marines cleared Karabila -- a strategic way station near the main border crossing where the Euphrates flows in from Syria -- of foreign fighters who made it a base.
But U.S. officers and local people in the town, badly damaged by the fighting, said the insurgents would be back.
"That is another in a string of successful operations that continue to disrupt and interdict insurgent activity in west Anbar province," said Colonel Steve Davis, who commanded the 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops involved in "Operation Spear."
Success in Part 1!
Battalion intelligence officer Captain Thomas Sibley pointed out, however, that any final victory was still some way off: "If this was the only thing we did, we would lose this war -- quickly. But it's not the only thing we're doing.
"Yeah, in a couple of weeks they'll be back and they'll make up for these losses. But that's fine, because we're not beating them in two weeks. We're beating them in two years."
Mohammed Solfeij, 33, whose house is on the outskirts of Karabila near where the Americans first entered the town, said the insurgents would be back "as soon as the Americans leave."
"The people are suffering. Most of them have fled to live in the desert," he said.
Part 2: not so good.
Unlike the U.S. forces that seized in November and now largely hold the former insurgent bastion of Falluja, near Baghdad, the 20,000 Marines who patrol the vast desert remainder of Anbar province -- nearly a third of Iraq's territory -- lack the numbers to stay in areas after battles.
The result has been a series of operations to clear insurgent strongholds along the Euphrates, from Syria to Falluja, after which the Marines withdraw to their bases.
Karabila, close to Qaim, is just across the river from where the same troops mounted "Operation Matador" early in May.
The Karabila assault, which began with air strikes and an advance into the town from the south early last Friday and lasted until dusk on Monday, was a success in military terms.
Locals say much of the town had been under control of foreigners, who had even set up checkpoints in the center.
Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Mundy said the U.S.-led forces killed 45-50 insurgents. A Reuters correspondent was shown five insurgents' bodies and heard detailed accounts from individual Marines of firefights in which more were killed.
One Marine was killed and six wounded, Mundy said. His forces killed three civilians and wounded two in a firefight and made no count of the number of civilians who may have been hurt from afar by air or artillery strikes, although much of the town was deserted before the battle.
The chief doctor at the area's main hospital in Qaim, Hamdi al-Alusi, said on Tuesday he had counted 25 civilian dead and feared others lay buried in the rubble of their homes. Those figures could also not be independently checked.
U.S. and Iraqi troops searched every house, often only after the front gate was blown off. Weapons caches were detonated on the spot bringing houses down around them.
Whole streets were obliterated.
Marines say the devastation is the price to pay to disrupt Sunni Arab insurgents responsible for a suicide bombing campaign that has worsened over the past two months since a new Shi'ite-led government was formed. And they hope that soon they will no longer have to abandon towns once they clear them.
A company of about 100 newly trained Iraqi troops assisted the 1,000 Americans in Operation Spear -- all the local troops the Marines have to work with in their territory so far.
Parts 1 & 2 also has some unfortunate negative side-effects, but the locals are grateful for the help, and willing to live with minor details such as the swathes of destruction cut through their homes! Then comes the particulars of Part 2, shortly. But have no fears! Because soon enough will come Part 3!
"In two years, or maybe one year or six months, there will be Iraqi army or Iraqi security forces that come here and stay on the territory that we push the insurgents from," said Sibley, the intelligence office. "The locals will love it."
Acknowledging that the going was still "tough" in Iraq, President Bush stressed again on Monday U.S. hopes that Iraqi forces would be trained eventually to take control.
For Suleiman Salim Hussein, 39, who said his brother's nine -year-old daughter Ulla Tahir was killed on Friday when a U.S. shell crashed into the house, that day cannot come too soon.
"We don't want anybody. No Americans, no insurgents. What we need is a government. An army. Police stations," he said.
"We need a city."
It will happen! It's on our list! We're just a little fuzzy on the timing and details! And then, moving quickly on, we get to Part 4, final victory, and the good guys win, and we go home. The end. It's a nice story. It could even possibly happen.
It would be nice if it didn't really so greatly on faith, though.
There's actually one single line, representing the larger point, the one point to cling to any real hope about, that I didn't already quote from that one, rather representative, story, and it's this:
And there are signs of fighting between Iraqis and foreigners.
We can only hope that that will grow, and a political settlement between most Iraqis and most other Iraqis made that can be kept, that will push the fighting down to a minimum, and that political momentum and, flowing from that, economica and political success growing. This is, to be sure, a hope, not a plan. But this war won't be won by military means (where have I heard that before? Hard to say, when we're not allowed to discuss past wars, isn't it?); all military means can do is try to contain it, and without a political solution, that will fail. So pray for the sense and calm and maturity of the Iraqi people.
What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue—in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.
Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq.
Great news! Smashing victories, and it's all over to the Iraqis now. Be sure to keep this in mind in months to come. (This is a cute way to deal with Part 3: just declare that it really has nothing to do with us, and direct everyone to look elsewhere, say, up my sleeve. We won that Other [nameless] War, too, by the same logic, by the way; and that's what counts.)
THE NEW LONG. I don't know what else goes here, but I'm thinking I may not have to.
At a West Ham cemetery yesterday: the 117th attack on a Jewish graveyard in 15 years By Marie Woolf
16 June 2005
The graves of the two children - Rachel, aged 13, and Abraham, aged four and a half - had stood undisturbed side by side for almost 150 years. But yesterday their headstones lay smashed, the Hebrew inscriptions, etched on fine Portland stone, crumbling in the dust.
Same old same old.
West Ham, though? I should visit during my next visit, which I hope will eventually happen. (This time properly honoring and respecting my hosts.)
The 2006 Thunderbird team won’t start training until this fall, but it already is headed for the history books. The Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron on Thursday announced the selection of Capt. Nicole Malachowski as the team’s No. 3 right wing pilot, making the 1996 Air Force Academy graduate the first female demonstration pilot in the Thunderbirds’ 52 year history.
In fact, she’s the first female demonstration pilot on any U.S. military high performance jet team.
An F-15E pilot assigned to RAF Lakenheath’s 494th Fighter Squadron, Malachowski just returned from a deployment in Southwest Asia and was on leave when she received the news.
Be still, my beating heart. (Okay, I have no idea how good her conversation is, but anyway.)
WARNER BROTHERS. Keeping an eye on the late-breaking developments in the 2008 Presidential election, which is now coming down to the wire, we learn:
Richland County Democrats held the nation’s first straw poll for the 2008 presidential race Wednesday and the surprise winner was U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
Clinton’s victory at the sparesely attended event was a mild upset. Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a native South Carolinian and last year’s Democratic vice presidential candidate, had been considered the favorite.
Clinton got 44 votes to 34 for Edwards. Virginia Gov. John Warner came in third with 32 votes and U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware got 24 votes.
It's unclear whether this came as more of a surprise to Mark A. Warner, Democratic Governor of Virginia, or Republican Senator John Warner, who must be thrilled at his Democratic support.
But it's great to know that political reporters are on top of such subtleties. It's pretty darned hard to figure out such a technical and deep matter, after all.
(Next: followup reveals Elizabeth Taylor's shock at learning that she's still married to Mark, having confusedly divorced John by mistake.)
SMOKING WEED. Who is surprised? I'll give these people this: they're honest crooks -- they stay bought.
Senior Justice Department officials overrode the objections of career lawyers running the government's tobacco racketeering trial and ordered them to reduce the penalties sought at the close of the nine-month trial by $120 billion, internal documents and interviews show.
The trial team argued that the move would be seen as politically motivated and legally groundless.
"We do not want politics to be perceived as the underlying motivation, and that is certainly a risk if we make adjustments in our remedies presentation that are not based on evidence," the two top lawyers for the trial team, Sharon Y. Eubanks and Stephen D. Brody, wrote in a memorandum on May 30 to Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum that was reviewed by The New York Times.
The two lawyers said the lower penalty recommendation ordered by Mr. McCallum would weaken the department's position in any possible settlement with the industry and "create an incentive for defendants to engage in future misconduct by making the misconduct profitable."
At the close of a major trial that dozens of Justice Department lawyers spent more than five years preparing, the department stunned a federal courtroom last week by reducing the penalties sought against the industry, from $130 billion to $10 billion, over accusations of fraud and racketeering.
The department has vigorously defended the decision, denying political motives and saying the $10 billion reflected an effort to arrive at a figure that would comply with an adverse decision from an appellate court this year that some officials said sharply limited the types of sanctions the department could seek. The department did not dispute the authenticity of the memorandum but declined to make Mr. McCallum or other lawyers available to discuss it.
A spokesman for the department, Kevin Madden, said political considerations were never factored into the decision to reduce the penalty.
"This was a decision that was made on the merits of the case and that strictly followed the law," Mr. Madden said.
In light of the appellate court ruling, he said, "a decision was made by the department that the best argument for the government to make was one that would preserve credibility in the government's case with the trial judge, would result in a favorable decision from the trial judge and would result in a trial court decision sustainable upon appeal."
The newly disclosed documents make clear that the decision was made after weeks of tumult in the department and accusations from lawyers on the tobacco team that Mr. McCallum and other political appointees had effectively undermined their case. Mr. McCallum, No. 3 at the department, is a close friend of President Bush from their days as Skull & Bones members at Yale, and he was also a partner at an Atlanta law firm, Alston & Bird, that has done legal work for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, part of Reynolds American, a defendant in the case.
"Everyone is asking, 'Why now?' " said a Justice Department employee involved in the case who insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation. "Why would you throw the case down the toilet at the very last hour, after five years?"
Ultimately, Mr. McCallum overruled the objections from the trial team, and the documents and interviews suggest that his senior aides took the unusual step of writing parts of the closing argument that Ms. Eubanks delivered last week in federal court in seeking the reduction in penalties.
Officials who insisted on anonymity said the change on the penalties provoked such strong objections from the trial team that some lawyers threatened to quit. Department officials have now proposed that a lower-level lawyer who has outlined the reasons for reduced penalties take over crucial parts of the remainder of the trial.
In another memorandum sent on Tuesday that was also reviewed by The Times, a senior official in the criminal division of the department recommended that the lower-level lawyer on the team, Frank Marine, who has supported the $10 billion penalty internally and publicly, "be in charge of preparing" the final briefs and the proposed order on penalties.
Thank goodness we have these folks in charge, protecting a wonderful American industry from unfounded and vicious charges by people who clearly prefer to smoke the immensely dangerous hallucinogen maryjane, infamous for the millions of of deaths it has caused. Will these liberal terrorsymp America-hating communists never be rounded up and treated to lemon-chicken dinners in camps? How long must we put up with their hateful mewling?
Jeeves, bring me my pipe. I need to relax. Bring me an interrogator, as well; I wish to see some soothing fraternity pranks while I smoke. Pay them out of this spare $110 billion dollars I have in my pocket.