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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 --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
2006: A KUBRICK ARCHIVE. I last posted on Stanley Kubrick's obsessive-compulsive filing and saving of everything having to do with his work, including the endless thousands of boxes of research relating to his movies, unmade and made, here. It you have the faintest interest in Kubrick, go read the article I linked there; it should make any Kubrick fan come in their pants.
One of the most extraordinary collections in film history is coming to London. The extensive archives of Stanley Kubrick, maverick director of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, are to be housed at the capital's University of the Arts from next summer.
It will be the first time the archives - including scripts, photographs, props and letters - have been displayed in Britain, though Kubrick lived and worked here for 38 years until his sudden death from a heart attack in March 1999.
Kubrick, a passionate collector, amassed more than 400 boxes of documents and memorabilia at his Hertfordshire mansion. Alongside family photographs and correspondence with the likes of Mrs Vladimir Nabokov, the archives include hundreds of fan letters, which Kubrick filed meticulously but rarely answered. One of the few surviving responses reads: 'Dear Mr William, Thank you for writing. No comment about A Clockwork Orange. You will have to decide for yourself. Sincerely, Stanley Kubrick.'
The collection is so huge that the university, which unites five arts colleges including Central St Martins College of Art and Design and the London College of Communication, is to build a centre for them at the Elephant and Castle. 'This inspirational collection will be the jewel in the crown of the new centre,' said Will Wyatt, chair of the governors. 'We're planning on attracting other archives to go alongside it.'
The acquisition is a coup for the university, as several US institutions had expressed an interest in housing the archives. But Kubrick's family were keen for it to stay in Britain. 'Stanley spent most of his life in the UK and we are very happy the archives will be located in London,' said his widow, Christiane.
MY MY, HEY HEY. I've been a Neil Young fan particularly ever since I first read some of my old friend Paul Williams' pieces on him, shortly after Harvest came out, circa 1973.
So, good to see this:
NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" once again breaks format to bring in the biggest names in music, welcoming Neil Young as musical guest for the entire week of shows November 1-4 (12:35 am - 1:35 am, ET).
On the other hand, I mostly can't stand Conan O'Brien. His unbelievably excessive twitches, mannerisms, and gimmicks mostly all just annoy the living crap out of me. Sometimes he says funny stuff, but I usually can't get past my urge to throw things at the screen enough to make me watch him enough to get to those occasional moments.
I'll make exceptions for occasional exceptional guests, though.
Oh, well, can always have the screen on with the sound off until Neil Young comes on.
ALL THOSE POOR DEPORTED BRITISH JEWS. You never heard about them? Ask Philippe Douste-Blazy, the current French Foreign Minister. Here's a chatty account:
Last month Minister Douste-Blazy visited Israel. Like every other distinguished visitor, he was taken to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. As quoted by the French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine, when shown the maps of the areas where communities had been destroyed, the minister asked whether British Jews had also been murdered. Since the time that German Chancellor Schroeder accidentally extinguished the Eternal Flame (did it have to be a German?), the staff at Yad Vashem has become relatively inured to the vagaries of important foreigners, but Douste-Blazy's question was greeted with incredulity. After all, you don't need to be a postgraduate student in modern history to know that the Germans did not invade Britain. When tactfully reminded of this, the minister persisted, asking, "Yes, but were no Jews deported from England?"
M. Douste-Blazy, perhaps wisely, has refrained from commenting on the press reports, but the story is so astonishing that well-wishers have, unsolicited, sprung to his defense. It is not only untrue, according to these apologists, that the minister is as stupefyingly clueless as might first appear but, on the contrary, his questions demonstrate his rare grasp of the history of World War II. In short, he was thinking of an episode so abstruse that it had even slipped the minds of his Holocaust-savvy Yad Vashem interlocutors. Because, although it is a fact that the Nazis could not have deported Jews from England, there were indeed deportations from British possessions.
Due to the proximity of the islands to France, the British, after the fall of France in June 1940, decided that the islands were indefensible, and by early July 1940, all the inhabited Channel Islands had been occupied by German forces without encountering resistance.
In recent years there have been books and documentary films about the occupation, including a monograph by a leading member of the Jersey community, Frederick Cohen. There was ample warning of the German invasion and most of the Jews forming the small communities of Guernsey and Jersey had fled to the British mainland by the time the Germans arrived. But a few isolated Jews remained. These were either infirm or so removed from Judaism that they no longer looked upon themselves as Jews. The paucity of Jews did nothing to dampen the zeal of the Germans (regular Wehrmacht, incidentally, not SS) in hunting down, with some local help, the few remaining ones. Their efforts produced the grand total of 11 Jews on Jersey and two on Guernsey. In April 1942, three women, Jews born in Poland and Austria, were deported; they perished in Auschwitz. Eight more Jews were deported in February 1943 as part of a general deportation, and subsequent internment in Germany, of 2,000 residents who held British citizenship, but had not been born in the Channel Islands. They all survived the war. These seem to have been all the deportations of Jews from the Channel Islands.
If Douste-Blazy was indeed thinking of the Channel Islands, he has been misjudged. Yet, in a way, it makes his question stranger. Millions of Polish and Russian Jews were exterminated. And, yes, some 80,000 Jews were deported from France to their deaths. In that context, to inquire about the fate of the pitiful handful from the Channel Islands betrays not only a perverse insensitivity to the scale of the Shoah, but what looks like a Gallic Anglophobia that verges on the paranoid.
As the minister has been silent on the matter, I shall adopt the more charitable explanation: Douste-Blazy, who was born years after the war ended, simply did not know. I am talking off the top of my head here, but it occurs to me that French schools may touch only lightly on a chapter of history that, after all, was not France's finest hour.
I have no idea what the explanation is, or how accurate the reporting is -- though it occasioned much chatter in Israel, as you might imagine -- but it seems a wee peculiar, any way you play it. (I'm assuming that the "French satirical magazine" also has a straight section; if not, the writer I'm quoting, and many others, are idiots; I, of course, am also an idiot, but hope I'm not in this particular case.)
MY HALLOWEEN ANECDOTE, which I just posted as a comment elsewhere, so I might as well put it here, so I can later forget and tell it to you at a party, boring the crap out of you with my endless repetitions (have I mentioned I was a young sf fan?).
Growing up in Brooklyn, although I'd certainly spent considerable time in other states, including 6 months living in East Lansing Michigan, 6 months in upstate NY, and elsewhere, the different ethnic mix of Seattle took me quite some time to get used to when I moved there at age 19, particularly insofar as I had endless contact with people who had never met any Jews before, which is not something that happens so much in NYC.
So, about 27 years later, I still recall the rather confused conversation I had with a young evangelical Seattle Pacific U. grad, whom it took a long conversation with to explain why it was that Jews don't celebrate Christmas (really). Then we moved on to Easter. There was more. And then she -- dead serious, I swear -- asked me hesitantly if Jews celebrated Halloween.
I assured her that secular ones such as myself did.
FALL OF THE WARRIOR KING. I hadn't realized that the Times was throwing Magazine pieces behind the Select firewall after a week. I had a close call, because I've keenly wanted to blog Dexter Filkin's amazingly good "The Fall of the Warrior King" piece from the 23rd since then, but felt too fuzzy to until today.
You may or may not remember Iraqi blogger Zeyad of Healing Iraq, one of the first Iraqi post-war bloggers (unlike either Salem Pax [now here] or Riverbend, who started long before the war; Salem a mixed bag of individual politics, thoughtful and uncertain; Riverbend, definitely anti-war/anti-US).
A dentist who returned from abroad, Zeyad was highly, emphatically, pro-American, pro-invasion, and was immediately adopted and heavily promoted by pro-war bloggers.
Then his cousin Zeydun was, as he and everyone in his family understood it, drowned after being thrown off a bridge with another cousin by American soldiers. Massive denial in the rightwing blogosphere erupted (I could supply a long list of links, and it would be interesting indeed to do a damn book on this thing, tracing the evolution of Zeyad's blog, this story, Zeyad's evolving treatment by the rightwing, and so on, but better Dexter Filkins than I, perhaps). Zeyad, whether for reasons unrelated, or not, I have no idea, stopped blogging last April, save for a single post the other week, saying simply:
The verdict against one of the soldiers involved in the drowning of Zaydun was a major disappointment. The defense continues to claim that no body was found, hence no murder. No one brought up the point that US authorities in Samarra kept postponing the exhumation of Zaydun's corpse using the excuse of the security condition in the city.
The National Guard unit which helped Marwan out of the water was not brought in to testify and the court seems to have brushed aside the fact that they are important witnesses to the case. The lying and conflicting statements by the soldiers and their commanders was also not discussed.
Maybe we were simply naive to be led to believe that pursuing the case in a US court would help bring justice. But this is hardly the end of it.
After all sorts of official denials, the Army did launch an investigation, as you see. Now, Filkins integrates this into the story of Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, and what the fuck has been going wrong in Iraq. One key aspect, that is. Must-read-the-whole-thing. It's quite long, I admit, but it's worth it. Tastes:
The body had not yet turned up. Indeed, at that point, early in January 2004, it wasn't clear there was a body at all. Months later, at the trial, the lawyers would still be arguing about it, the puffy, wrinkled corpse that was finally found floating face down in an irrigation canal off the Tigris. But even then, even before the dead man surfaced, it was clear that something had gone wrong on that cold Iraqi night down by the river, something wild by the American military's standards of discipline and force, and the problem had wended its way up the chain of command to the unit's commander, Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman.
From his base in Balad, a largely Shiite city in a sea of Sunni villages, Sassaman bucked the civilian authorities and held local elections months earlier than in most of the country's other towns and cities. His relations with the locals in Balad were so warm that on each Friday afternoon, inside a circle of tanks on an empty field, his men would face off against the Iraqis for a game of soccer. He was a West Point grad and the son of a Methodist minister. As quarterback for Army's football team in the 1980's, he ran for 1,002 yards in a single season and carried West Point's team to its first bowl victory. Everyone in the Army knew of Nate Sassaman.
Yet as his junior officers briefed him in January about what had happened to two Iraqis his men detained that night by the Tigris, the straight lines and rigid hierarchy of the Army that had created him seemed, like so many other American ideas brought to this murky land, no longer particularly relevant. More important, Sassaman told me later, were his own men, most of them 19- and 20-year-old kids plunked down in this seething country, wearing themselves out to keep the enterprise going, coming under fire four or five times a day. The same day that his men took the two Iraqis down to the river, he attended a memorial service for one of his ablest junior officers, Capt. Eric Paliwoda, whose heart had been punctured by mortar shrapnel and whom Sassaman had lifted into a medevac helicopter as the last of his life drained away.
There would be a fuss if his superiors discovered what his men had done that night, Sassaman did not doubt. It would be the kind of indignation you could expect from people who didn't really know what it was like to fight and live in this place. Sure, it was a dumb thing, but his men had assured him that neither of the Iraqis had been hurt. His best platoon commander even jumped into the water a couple of days later to prove the point. And so Sassaman, standing on the porch of the battalion's command post, decided to flout his 19 years in the Army and his straight-and-narrow upbringing. He turned to one of his company commanders, Capt. Matthew Cunningham, and told him what to do.
"Tell them about everything," Sassaman said, "except the water."
The events that would end the career of one of the Army's most celebrated midlevel officers sent a shock through the American force in Iraq. It is only now, with the Army's investigation complete and Sassaman's career over, that the story can be pieced together from interviews with him, his comrades and the Iraqis. Twenty-two months after that night on the Tigris, it is a tale that seems like a parable of the dark passage that lay ahead for the Americans in Iraq.
Sometimes Sassaman's efforts in Balad approached the absurd. When he wanted to set up a police force, no one in his battalion had the slightest idea of what this would entail. His men asked around, and it turned out that a reservist who was attached to Sassaman's battalion had brought an operations manual with him from the Tiverton, R.I., Police Department. Soon the Balad Police Department was functioning remarkably like its counterpart in a New England village. When Sassaman decided to hold an election, some members of the civilian leadership in Baghdad thought he was pushing too fast. Sassaman and his men forged ahead anyway, registering 45,000 voters. He finally received permission by agreeing to call the balloting a "selection," not an "election."
His power was very nearly total. He could chart the future of a city, lock up anyone he wanted and, if trouble arose, call in an airstrike. When he walked into a crowd, the Iraqis would sometimes smile and sometimes tremble, and sometimes both.
"For a whole year," Sassaman told me, "I was the warrior king."
For all the intensity of the war in Iraq, one of the most remarkable things is how little American generals prepared the Army to fight it. When Sassaman and his men arrived in Iraq, they were ready to fight World War II or the first gulf war, but nothing as murky as a guerrilla insurgency. ("I wish there were more people who knew about nation-building," Sassaman told me one night. "Don't they have those people at the State Department?")
As we wound our way down a country road, we spotted Sassaman and a handful of his men standing on the roadside, gathered round an Iraqi man. It was an interrogation.
"If you weren't here with your camera, we would beat the [expletive] out of this guy," one of the soldiers said. He may have been bluffing, but he was clearly frustrated. Sassaman seemed a harder man, too, though it had been just a few weeks since he was swearing in the City Council and his men were playing soccer with the locals. Beginning in October, the Iraqi insurgency had taken off. The American command decided to lift the curfew in many Iraqi cities to coincide with the arrival of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Sassaman went further, setting up a tent and inviting local tribal leaders to announce a "cease-fire." As long as his men did not come under attack, Sassaman told the sheiks, he would ease off from offensive operations.
In one dawn raid, soldiers from the 1-8 Battalion surrounded a house, kicked open its doors and stormed inside. They rousted 11 men from their beds, pulled them outside and forced them to squat on their haunches. Still inside, in the living room, a young woman stood with three small girls, probably her daughters, each with her hands high in the air. The Americans found no weapons. The Iraqi men squatted outside for half an hour. "I feel bad for these people, I really do," Sgt. Eric Brown said that morning. "It's so hard to separate the good from the bad."
On the night of Nov. 17, as one of the battalion's patrols moved past Abu Hishma, a crowd of young Iraqis began taunting them. Seconds later, a team of insurgents fired a volley of rocket-propelled grenades directly at one of the Bradleys. One rocket-propelled grenade, or R.P.G., sailed directly into the chest of the driver, Staff Sgt. Dale Panchot. It nearly cut him in half.
The death of Panchot seemed to change everything for the battalion.
The day after Panchot was killed, Sassaman ordered his men to wrap Abu Hishma in barbed wire. American soldiers issued ID cards to all the men in the village between the ages of 17 and 65, and the soldiers put up checkpoints at the entrance to the town. Around the camp were signs threatening to shoot anyone who tried to enter or leave the town except in the approved way. The ID cards were in English only. "If you have one of these cards, you can come and go," Sassaman said, standing at the gate of the village as the Iraqis filed past. "If you don't have one of these cards, you can't."
As a measure intended to persuade the Iraqis to cooperate, wrapping Abu Hishma in barbed wire was a disaster. As they lined up at the checkpoints, the Iraqis compared themselves with Palestinians, who are sometimes forced to undergo the same sort of security checks and whose humiliations are shown relentlessly on television screens across the Arab world. "It's just like a prison now," said Hajji Thamir Rabia, an old man in the village. "The Americans do night raids, come into our houses when the women are sleeping. We can't fight them. We don't have any weapons." After Abu Hishma was wrapped in barbed wire, the attacks against the Americans dropped off, but it was a victory bought at no small price. Much of the village felt humiliated and angry, hardly the conditions for future success. Sassaman's reputation was sealed, as I discovered when I slipped past the guards and into the town. "When mothers put their children to bed at night, they tell them, 'If you aren't a good boy, Colonel Sassaman is going to come and get you,"' an old man in the village said.
Under the prodding of the generals, Sassaman took the concept of nonlethal force to its limits. His theory was that no progress would be possible without order first and that ultimately, even if his men were hard on the locals, they would come around. When his men came under fire from a wheat field, Sassaman routinely retaliated by firing phosphorous shells to burn the entire field down. The ambush site would be gone, and farmers might be persuaded not to allow insurgents to use their land again.
Sassaman detained Sunni sheiks, holding them responsible when his troops were attacked. When Iraqis gave him bad intelligence, he detained them too. When locals scrawled graffiti on a wall, denouncing President Bush or calling on the Iraqis to kill Americans, Sassaman asked local leaders to paint it over, and if they did not, he ordered his men to destroy it. If kids threw rocks, his men threw rocks back. If they caught an Iraqi man out after curfew, they piled him into a Bradley, drove him miles outside of town and told him to walk home. "All I was getting at was, If grown-ups throw rocks at me, we're throwing them back," Sassaman said. "We are not going to just wave. We are not driving by and taking it. Because a lot of the units did."
On a mission in January 2004, a group of Sassaman's soldiers came to the house of an Iraqi man suspected of hijacking trucks. He wasn't there, but his wife and two other women answered the door. "You have 15 minutes to get your furniture out," First Sgt. Ghaleb Mikel said. The women wailed and shouted but ultimately complied, dragging their bed and couch and television set out the front door. Mikel's men then fired four antitank missiles into their house, blowing it to pieces and setting it afire. The women were left holding their belongings.
"It's called the 'leave no refuge' policy," Mikel later explained to Johan Spanner, a photographer working for The New York Times.
That same winter in Samarra, Sassaman's men moved through a hospital and pulled a suspected insurgent from his bed. When a doctor told the Americans to leave, a soldier spat in his face. Another time, an officer told Spanner, one of Sassaman's soldiers threw a wounded man into a cell and threatened to withhold treatment unless he told them everything he knew. "We've told him he's not getting medical attention unless he starts to talk," Capt. Karl Pfuetze told Spanner. The man's fate was unknown. (Pfuetze now denies the withholding of treatment. Sassaman insists he never condoned beatings or denial of medical treatment.)
The best explanation for such tactics was offered by an officer in the Fourth Infantry Division. Echoing the private comments of many American officers, he said that the Iraqis seemed to understand only force. "To an American, this might upset our sense of decency," he added. "But the Iraqi mind-set was different. Whoever displays the most strength and authority is the one they are going to obey. They might be bitter, but they obey."
Among the enlisted men in Sassaman's unit, one of them, Specialist Ralph Logan, had demonstrated his misgivings about the rough tactics. Logan, 26, was sometimes chided by his peers for the delicacy with which he searched Iraqi houses, carefully pulling blankets out of closets and folding them into piles, while his comrades flung everything onto the floor. "People didn't exactly get beaten up," Logan said. "They got slapped around, roughed up, usually after they were detained. It was gratuitous. Sassaman didn't do it, but he definitely knew about it. He definitely condoned it."
But most of the tactics employed by Sassaman's men had been explicitly ordered or at least condoned by senior American officers, and many units in the Sunni Triangle were already using the same kind of tough-guy methods.
Majool Saadi Muhammad, 49, a tribal leader in Abu Hishma, said that he had harbored no strong feelings about the Americans when they arrived in April 2003 and was proud to have three sons serving in the new American-backed Iraqi Army. Then the raids began, and many of Abu Hishma's young men were led away in hoods and cuffs. In early 2004, he said, Sassaman led a raid on his house, kicking in the doors and leaving the place a shambles. "There is no explanation except to humiliate," Muhammad told me. "I really hate them."
"The soldiers fighting the insurgents became demoralized because they were the strong fighting the weak," van Creveld says. "Everything they did seemed to be wrong. If they let the weaker army kill them, they were idiots. If they attacked the smaller army, they were seen as killers. The effect, in nearly every case, is demoralization and breakdowns of discipline."
One such moment may have come in January 2004, when Mikel and his men, on the same day they destroyed the women's home, asked a group of about 10 Iraqi men to help them find someone. According to Johan Spanner, the photographer, the men shrugged and told Mikel that they didn't know anything. Mikel and his men told the Iraqis to do push-ups. "Do this," one of the Americans said, getting down on the ground to demonstrate. So the Iraqi men got down on the ground and started doing push-ups, and the American soldiers stood around and laughed.
It was around this time that soldiers in the 1-8 started getting people wet.
That's enough. Go read the whole thing.
Learn what occupation does. To the occupier, as well as the occupied. And what happened to Zaydun and why. Maybe. The why, anyway.
THE SPACE ELEVATOR GAMES are not any of the elevator games you ever played or heard of, girls and boys. Nope.
With the flick of a switch, a searchlight beam illuminated a photovoltaic array, and a prototype space elevator called Snow Star One lifted off the ground. As the humble assemblage of solar cells, metal braces and off-the-shelf rollers rose slowly from the launch pad and up a long blue tether, a small crowd of spectators let out a boisterous cheer.
The contraption, designed by University of British Columbia undergrads Steve Jones and Damir Hot, didn't get very far -- it managed to wriggle its way just 15 feet up the 200-foot-long tether before stalling out. But as the first competitor in the inaugural Space Elevator Games, even that modest performance was enough to cause a quite stir in the still-embryonic space elevator community.
On the beam-power side, the challenge at the games was to use a 10,000-watt light source to send a robot 50 meters up the ribbon in under 50 seconds. For the tether competition, the goal was to construct a 2-gram tether that would be tougher than a 3-gram band made from a high-strength material called Zylon. The best-performing robot and tether, had they beaten those figures, would have earned their owners $50,000 each.
Despite the lackluster performance, however, most participants were upbeat about the proceedings. Hot, for one, was ecstatic. "It's the first beam-powered climber ever," he said. "So we're very proud. In fact, we're beaming."
Entrants in the tether-strength competition had a bit more luck, with one group narrowly missing the prize with a tether made out of Spectra, a material often used in body armor.
Spaceward board member Michael Laine, president of a Bremerton, Washington-based company called LiftPort that is seeking to commercialize space-elevator technology, noted that next year's games will up the ante considerably. While the already daunting thresholds will be set even higher, there will also be more money to entice competitors -- $100,000 for first prize, $40,000 for second and $10,000 for third.
"I think that next year is going to be big," Laine said. "It's going to be harder, but I think there's going to be lots of people that rise to the challenge. We're at the beginning of something really great."
I sure hope so. People unfamiliar with nanotech and the science here think this is far out, but it doesn't seem, in fact, to be at all further out than rocket tech was in the Thirties. The future will be a lot stranger than you think, and that's before we even get close to thinking about a Singularity. Oh, yes, here's what Arthur C. Clarke had to say last month.
For instance, this wasn't something you used to hear, was it?
There is something just so tomorrow about the Russian robo-therapists with their mechanical cats.
Alexander Libin softly strokes the orange-cream fur of NeCoRo -- a semi-realistic cat-robot packed with visual, auditory and movement-sensitive sensors and weighing 3.5 pounds -- while his wife, Elena, serves tea and cookies. They are in their home office on the sixth floor of the Willoughby, a blend-in high-rise in Friendship Heights. In their mid-forties, the Libins are slim-neat and smart-chipper as they talk about the future of pets.
"She's like a real pet," Alex says. He's petting a tabby nicknamed Cleo and, by gosh, it does look like a cat, or some come-alive stuffed animal from a high-end horror movie. It is much more lifelike than Sony's Erector-Set-like robo-dog, Aibo.
Cleo lounges on the dining table, stretches its paws, arches its back, twitches its tail, opens and shuts its eyes. When it turns its neck you can hear a creepy mechanical whirring sound: reh-uh-reh, reh-uh-reh.
Self-described robo-therapists and affiliated faculty members at Georgetown University, the Libins believe in the restorative value of animal companions. The catbot, they explain, is easier for many people -- the elderly, the allergy-stricken, the autistic and disabled children and adults -- to relate to than a real cat. Developed by Omron Corp. of Japan, the mecho-pets are not yet available in the United States, Libin says.
The whole scene makes you a little nervous. As you delve into the future of pets on this planet, and any others we may land on, you discover at least three possibilities: robotic, cloned and biologically reprogrammed. It's a foggy, uncharted world of cuddly robots, copycat puppies, nonallergenic cats, glowing fish, gargantuan guinea pigs, miniature hippos and the reestablishment of endangered or extinct species that could put us all in danger.
Because pets are not human but are endowed with personality, intelligence and emotion, they are the perfect foils -- in-between beings -- for our scientific curiosity. Think about it. Of course scientists are going to tamper with their genetic structures! You bet they'll tinker with their bloodlines! Breeders have been doing that for years. But now pet researchers can implant software, readjust the genome and conduct experiments in interspecies embryo transfer in ways that have never been done before.
"I'm not scared of the robots," says Alex as he pets Cleo. "I'm scared of the people."
There's a whole bunch more in that story. But on to another oldie! Like this:
Negative feelings about black people may be subconsciously learned by both white and black Americans, suggests a brain imaging study. The research is among the first to test the brain physiology of racial biases in both black and white subjects.
The new study showed that both white and black people had increased activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala - which responds to fearful or threatening situations - when completing a matching task with images of black faces.
“I think the results are very specific to being raised in this society where the portrayal of African Americans is not very positive, on average,” says Matthew Lieberman at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, who led the study. “It suggests that those cultural messages are not harmless.”
But the amygdala also responds to novelty. The spike in activity upon viewing black faces shown in previous studies with solely white participants could just be the unconscious reaction to seeing an unfamiliar, or “outgroup”, face.
Both black and white people showed increased amygdala activity on the visual matching task with black target photos. The same task with a white target face produced no such activity. Because black faces are presumed not to be “novel” to black subjects, Lieberman concluded they must have learned, through pervasive cultural cues, to associate black people with fear.
The results mimic studies which measure hidden biases using tests called Implicit Association Tests (IAT), says William Cunningham at the University of Toronto, Canada. IATs use subtle tasks, such as the time it takes for subjects to associate ideas of race and positive or negative words, to uncover unconscious attitudes. Many studies have found that black Americans show preferentially positive associations for white people in IATs. Friends and neighbours
However, Cunningham cautions that increased amygdala activity and IAT scores cannot simply be translated as evidence of prejudice. Furthermore, black Americans often show highly variable responses on IATs, depending on their personal history and the diversity of their friends and neighbours, for example.
“Measuring one's experience rather than the colour of their skin will probably get us closer to understanding what an amygdala response to an outgroup face means,” says neuroscientist and amygdala expert Paul Whalen at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, US.
Interestingly, when the subjects performed the verbal matching tasks, the race-biased amygdala effect disappeared. The scans showed that when word processing, areas of the brain involved in fighting impulses or inhibitory control took over.
“The moment you start thinking about race in words you know you’re thinking about it and can make decisions,” says Lieberman. “In general, putting your feelings into words seems to regulate or dampen those feelings.”
I thought you needed to know. Since May. Anyway....
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for the elevator; 3.5 out of 5 for a lot more on the Future Of Pets. Check the date on that story for an idea of how far I'm backed up with links, by the way. 2.5 out 5 for the racial story; the bunker-buster one: as curious, but there's not much there.
10/31/2005 10:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
NAMOR FOUND HIM, ACTUALLY. This ever happen to you?
FRESNO, California (AP) -- Two climbers on a Sierra Nevada glacier discovered an ice-encased body believed to be that of an airman whose plane crashed in 1942.
The man was wearing a World War II-era Army-issued parachute when his frozen head, shoulder and arm were spotted Sunday on 13,710-foot Mount Mendel in Kings Canyon National Park, park spokeswoman Alex Picavet said.
Park officials believe the serviceman may have been part of the crew of an AT-7 navigational training plane that crashed on November 18, 1942. The wreckage and four bodies were found in 1947 by a climber.
WHAT'S THAT, YOU SAY? I loves me some language. Not that I speak any furrin languages: I'm an American! We're too stupid to know other languages, most of us, and we don't need to! If we don't outright conquer you, we send you our Arnold Schwarzegger movies, and before you know it, you, too, are shpeaking English as well as de Goovornor!
But how languages work, change, evolve, spread, differ: fascinating stuff. So dis, er, this book sounds quite interesting.
In "Empires of the Word," a door-stopping survey of linguistic history that's as big (and almost as unwieldy) as its subject, Nicholas Ostler puts language front and center as an engine of historical change. If scholars have looked to politics and war or economics and social trends to explain the march of civilizations, Ostler argues for the primacy of language. "Far more than princes, states or economies, it is language-communities who are the real players in world history," he contends.
Did you know, for example, that English has certain unexpected commonalities with Chinese? Both have subject-verb-object word orders, as well as spoken forms that are "only loosely attached to the written traditions of the language."
Above all, Ostler is concerned with the growth and spread of language. How does a language develop and thrive, and why does it wither and die? Throughout the book, he argues against a more traditional, triumphalist view of linguistics, which stresses conquest as a key factor in the spread of language. Consider the following from British linguist J.L Firth, who remarked in 1937 that "statesman, soldiers, sailors, and missionaries, men of action, men of strong feelings have made world languages."
The story Ostler tells is more complicated. In fact, if there is a unifying theme to this sprawling saga, it's that political domination does not necessarily translate into linguistic supremacy. "Permanent language spread, it turns out, is not to be achieved through planning, or naked force," he notes. There are any number of historical examples to buttress the claim: The Franks, Vandals and Goths who picked apart the Roman Empire left no linguistic imprint on Western Europe, where the remnants of Latin were transformed into such languages as Italian, Spanish and French. Turkish and Mongol invaders, who ruled China from AD 400 to about 1100, did not dent the authority of Chinese, one of the globe's most enduring languages. The Dutch ruled Indonesia for nearly two centuries, but you don't hear their language on the streets of Jakarta. Nor, it turns out, does economic preeminence contribute much to our understanding of language dynamics. Case in point: While the seafaring Phoenicians dominated Mediterranean trade throughout the first millennium BC, Greek thrived as the lingua franca.
Sure, but it's gyros to me. (I was carefully trained as a child by my neighborhood maker on Avenue J., the father of a friend in fourth grade, in Brooklyn, how to pronounce that word, by the way, so I'm ready for my trip to Greece.)
YAHOO CAN GO FUCK THEMSELVES. Yesterday, or possibly Saturday, Yahoo Mail started requiring passing one of those "type these picto-letters in first" security measures before sending each piece of mail.
Fine and well and good. I approve of any reasonable anti-spam measure, most heartily, even though I find that I almost always have to do those two or three times; I have trouble recognizing them as letters, due to some combination of my bad eye-sight, lack of prescription glasses (lost my last pair over three years ago; if not for reading glasses, and the ability to enlarge type onscreen, I wouldn't be able to read much), and the way I read (super-fast on block writing; very slowly on cursive).
Today I compose a mildly lengthly mail. I send. That is, I try. And what does the software tell me?
Character String Verification Error
You need to pass the verification test to send any more email.
Your message has not been sent and will not be saved.
That's right: they didn't offer another chance with a fresh set of picto-letters (let alone a third or fourth chance), as per norm with this sort of software.
No, they FRIGGING DESTROYED MY MAIL as punishment. (Backing the pages up just showed an empty form, as well.) That'll show me. G-Mail invite, anyone?
I've sent them a very angry e-mail, explaining that they'd just likely lost a customer.
ADDENDUM: That was fast. No need for more invites, thanks!
MINUTES LATER: G-mail account go. I'm not sure yet whether to try to switchover entirely to it, which would mean listing it on the blog just as my yahoo address is findable without much difficulty if you look on the sidebar and run your pointer over the copyright notice, which would mean greatly increasing the spam quota, or whether it's practical to try to use it as my "private" address; it's possibly too much of a pain to try to cut and paste from reading via Yahoo, but replying via G, though that might otherwise be optimal. Will experiment, and see.
Meanwhile, continue to send me mail at the Yahoo address, telling me about my lottery wins, investment needs, and how I need to update my PayPal password; I couldn't bear to lose so many investment opportunities, and hearing from so many foreign friends!
There would be a certain satisfaction in abruptly closing the Yahoo account today (better: in two minutes), but it really wouldn't be Prudent At This Juncture. To the Dark Side, fall not, I must.
INCIDENTALLY, if any of you blogging fiends out there would like to mention, I'm stilling getting next to no hits or links, due to my break, so feel free to mention that I'm back to regular blogging, and that checking me at least daily, if not several times per day, if one finds enough here of worth, might be profitable. Your check will be in the mail, and I promise not to c--, er, anyway. I look forward to again seeing more than 8-20 readers per hour (which are mostly search engine hits, anyway).
TURNER NO JOY. I make a bit of an effort to try to minimize how many front page stories I link to, because those are the stories that least need pushing, but this is so my alley that I have to, and besides, I have a link to add.
The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.
The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.
Now, it's been known for decades that there was no second attack, which was the one that directly caused the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" which was the entire legal basis for the scaled up Southeast Asia War post-August 1964, but with differing degrees of emphasis, what happened has always been regarded as some mix of genuine confusion and the intent of LBJ to find a casus belli.
This is the first hint of actual faking of the original intelligence, let alone the notion that it started as a genuine mistake at the lowest level, which was then covered up down there. This is huge historical news, since it sounds fairly definitive (although always beware first, and second, and third, and all, reports, of course; if this doesn't reteach that lesson, what does?). If you care, you'll darn well read the rest of the article.
What I found extra-fascinating is that while for about a decade I've greatly enjoyed reading pretty much everying posted by Studies In Intelligence, the unclassified historical journal of the CIA (which I post about from time to time; I have more sitting in the "To Blog" file, along with ~400 other articles just now), it never occurred to me that the NSA would have a similar institution. Turns out they do. And have similar papers (if an uglier webpage design).
Happy happy joy joy for me, although it's also some hours of more reading. It's also some hours of more reading!
On Christmas Eve 1968, one of the largest audiences in television history tuned in to an extraordinary sight: a live telecast of the moon's surface as seen from Apollo 8, the first manned space flight to leave Earth's gravitational pull and orbit the moon. The historic journey captivated people around the world; many welcomed a technological triumph in space after a year marked by assassinations, riots and war.
As this American Experience production reveals, however, the mission's success was far from assured. The Apollo 8 astronauts had just four months to prepare for the risky lunar orbit, and catastrophic failure would have brought a halt to America's goal of putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
With images and audio never before broadcast, this film recounts the flight many consider to be NASA's most daring and important. Interviews with Apollo 8 astronauts, their wives, mission control staff, and journalists take viewers inside the high-stakes space race of the late 1960s to reveal how a bold decision by NASA administrators put a struggling Apollo program back on track and allowed America to reach the moon before the Soviets.
That's my sort of Must-See Appointment tv (to be taped).
And the website is fine, as expected, as well. Of course, I won't read much, because I don't want to be spoiled! (Will they make it!?!?!?!) :-)
Read The Rest Scale: as interested.
ADDENDUM: I kinda wish they'd labeled the animated shots of the spacecraft as such; I'd like to believe that everyone will recognize it as such, but I'm a bit cynical; perhaps overly so, here.
Watching it I also realize how incredibly ancient and "historic" and From Another, Alien, Time it has to seem to those under thirty-five or so; heck, that's how it strikes me, watching the old familiar shots -- it was So Long Ago. It's just that I remember the context, and y'all young'uns don't. Fetch me my walker! It's time to pogo with it! What's that, sonny? Speak up!
10/31/2005 08:02:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
HE'D HAVE A FOOL OF A CLIENT, ANYWAY. Wonkette makes an amusing catch:
It looks like there's one White House lawyer who won't be representing himself:
I L Libby Jr Cheif of Staff, Room 276 Eisenhower Exec Office Bldg. Washington DC 20501
Email: Not available
Membership Status: Suspended Reason for suspension: Non-payment of dues. Disciplinary history: None Date of admission: May 19, 1978
A few days later, Libby's relationship with New York Times reporter Judith Miller -- who spent 85 days in jail protecting his identity as a source -- was described enigmatically as an "entanglement" by the paper's executive editor.
I won't speculate -- I couldn't possibly say -- but you could.
Oh, and Libby also currently has a broken foot. It can't be karma, because that would be about his next life.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for the WashPo piece; 1 out of 5 for Wonkette.
BONUS PILE-ON POOR SCOOTER LINK: Excerpts of the sex scenes from Libby's 1996 novel! No-shit quote:
He asked if they should fuck the deer.
Presumably while the aspens are turning, out West, in clusters, because their roots connect them.
Some days you have to look for the posts, and some days they fly in your window, delivered by a screaming neon-blue banshee carrying eight operatic walruses break-dancing in pink tutus.
Libby has a lot to live up to as a conservative author of erotic fiction. As an article in SPY magazine pointed out in 1988, from Safire (“[She] finally came to him in the bed and shouted ‘Arragghrrorwr!’ in his ear, bit his neck, plunged her head between his legs and devoured him”) to Buckley (“I’d rather do this with you than play cards”) to Liddy (“T’sa Li froze, her lips still enclosing Rand’s glans . . .”) to Ehrlichman (“ ‘It felt like a little tongue’ ”) to O’Reilly (“Okay, Shannon Michaels, off with those pants”), extracurricular creative writing has long been an outlet for ideas that might not fly at, say, the National Prayer Breakfast. In one of Lynne Cheney’s books, a Republican vice-president dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress.
Like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, “turds,” armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”
Homoeroticism and incest also figure as themes. The main female character, Yukiko, draws hair on the “mound” of a little girl. The brothers of a dead samurai have sex with his daughter. Many things glisten (mouths, hair, evergreens), quiver (a “pink underlip,” arm muscles, legs), and are sniffed (floorboards, sheets, fingers). The cast includes a dwarf, and an “assistant headman” who comes to restore order after a crime at the inn.
A GUIDE TO REJECTED SUPREME COURT NOMINEES is here, and a most useful little page it is. Some fascinating bits, too, to history bugs such as me (perhaps thee?).
Remember how the Senate mustn't intrude into Executive perogative?
In at least two instances, a majority of the Senate and House successfully petitioned the president to nominate a specific individual. In 1862, 129 of 140 House members and all but 4 senators signed a petition urging President Abraham Lincoln to nominate Samuel F. Miller of Iowa to the vacancy caused by the death of Justice Peter V. Daniel. The Senate confirmed Miller's nomination half an hour after receiving it. After Justice Robert C. Grier announced his resignation in December 1869, members of Congress submitted a petition to President Ulysses S. Grant asking him to name former secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton to the seat. Pending in the Senate was the nomination of Grant's attorney general, Ebenezer R. Hoar, to a second vacancy on the Court. Hoar's nomination had run into some difficulty. Although Stanton was not Grant's first choice, the president acceded to the congressional request, thinking that the Stanton nomination might enhance Hoar's confirmation chances. But Grant's strategy never bore fruit. Confirmed immediately upon nomination, Stanton died four days later of heart trouble. The Senate subsequently rejected Hoar in February 1870.
How often are nominees rejected?
Of the 148 individuals nominated to a seat on the Supreme Court, 28, nearly one-fifth, have failed to win confirmation. By contrast, the Senate has denied confirmation to only ten cabinet nominees.
Any other Miers-type rejections?
Only two Supreme Court nominees have gone unconfirmed primarily on the grounds that they were professionally unqualified. In 1873 President Grant nominated his attorney general, George H. Williams, to be chief justice. Williams had served as chief justice of the Oregon Territory, but his record was undistinguished. When the Senate showed signs of balking at the nomination, Williams asked that his name be withdrawn.
Nearly one hundred years later President Richard Nixon's 1970 appointment of G. Harrold Carswell was rejected largely because of Carswell's mediocre juridical record. A second Nixon nominee, Clement F. Haynsworth Jr., although well qualified judicially, was rejected in part because he appeared insensitive to ethical improprieties and participated in cases where his financial interest might have involved him in conflicts of interest. Similar allegations of impropriety led to the resignation in 1969 of Justice Abe Fortas, nominated to the Court four years earlier by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Here's a lesson for the left:
In 1930 the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mounted a successful lobbying campaign against confirmation of Herbert Hoover's appointee, John J. Parker. A well-qualified federal judge from North Carolina, Parker was accused of insensitivity to labor and racial problems. Civil rights activists might well have rued their success. Parker continued as a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals where he handed down some of the earliest and most influential decisions in favor of rights for African Americans. The man elevated to the Supreme Court in his stead, Owen J. Roberts, was not so supportive on civil rights issues.
It's not terribly relevant at the moment, any more, but rejections because we can't figure out the nominee's views?
One nominee was denied the position of chief justice because the Senate could not decide what his political views were. In addition to being seventy-four years old at the time of his nomination in 1874, Caleb Cushing had been a Whig, a Tyler Whig, a Democrat, a Johnson Constitutional Conservative, and a Republican. Those shifting allegiances gained him so many political enemies that Senate opposition forced President Grant to withdraw the nomination.
You want a nuclear option?
Perhaps the most pointed political rejection of a nominee was the treatment of Henry Stanbery, President Andrew Johnson's attorney general. Stanbery was well liked, but the president was not. To deny Johnson any opportunity to make appointments to the Court, Radical Republicans in Congress engineered the passage of legislation that reduced the number of justices from ten to seven as vacancies occurred. The seat to which Stanbery had been appointed in 1865 was thus abolished and his nomination was never considered.
Now there's an idea. If we were the majority. (Kidding. I think.)
Anyway, see the whole thing for the rest, including a list of all the rejected candidates.
Of course, this is why I wasn't particularly over-joyed with Miers pulling out. (And, incidentally, this is the first time the Advanced Pundit Word was right about who the nominee was going to be. Damnit.)
THE TEN-YEAR PRESIDENTIAL CABINET INVESTIGATION. Already we hear expectedcircles complaining that Fitzgerald's investigation has gone on for two whole years! So unjust! Such a persecution and criminalization of politics!
As it happens, David Barrett, the Independent Counsel charged with the investigation of President Clinton's Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, has had his investigation going on for a mere ten years now. It started in 1995.
It's still going on. Of course, that's blamed by Tony Snow and the Wall Street Journal on Cisneros' lawyers, and, unsurprisingly, the lurking Menace of Hillary Clinton (bwahahahaha!, laughs the Wicked Witch). Perhaps they're right; I know nothing about it.
But, anyway, rest assured that Fitzgerald still won't be investigating in 2015. So pray forgive if some of us wait until then to do other than nod sagely at this terrible plight of the two-year investigation of the present White House.
LIVE WEST WING. I suppose you'll have seen 666 commericials from NBC for this, and that's just in the last few minutes, if you watch NBC, but I'd not heard before about their stunt for next week of doing a live debate between Alan Alda's Vinick and Jimmy Smits' Santos -- one version for East Coast and another for West Coast.
Musing that I'd have to modify my dubiousness that the producers intended other than a Santos win, after tonight, due to the sudden onslaught of Vinick-heavy episodes (although I accidentally missed last week's, and haven't read a summary yet), and that since both candidates are essentially human saints, and wouldn't it be nice to see both in the role, my preferred format for next year instantly hit me.
They'll never do it, of course, but: they do both win. We get to see alternating episodes of the alternatve universes, see?
Yeah, I know. Aside from it being too weird for the WW audience, they'd not want to pay both Smits and Alda their-sized salaries, if nothing else (even if they didn't keep visiting Martin Sheen, as well, as is currently planned).
But, again, I can fantasize. It's my blog. (Although I live in dread of the day BlogShares tells me there's been a hostile takeover; new management!; union-busting will immediately follow, I'm warning you!; no, I still don't clearly understand BlogShares.)
Piece on West Wing's sudden topicality with the parallel leak investigations here. Spoiler warnings for shows up to last week! Interestingly, they figured out that Fitzgerald would subpoena reporters 16 months ago, and timed the end of their leak inquiry for last week on the basis of knowing when the real grand jury would end.
10/30/2005 07:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
TORTURE, DUTY, AND KEEPING ONE'S MOUTH SHUT. I mentioned the PBS Frontline documentary, The Torture Question, here. (Regrettably, I've, er, had trouble finding my videotape -- I'm kinda lousy about labeling them sometimes -- so while I'll find it Real Soon Now, I have no opinion till then.)
But I find this interesting. Here a pro-war milblogger, one "Froggy," aka Matthew Heidt, attacked the documentary, and in particular the credibility of Specialist Tony Lagouranis, who was featured making allegations in the documentary.
Many comments followed, generally agreeing what a disloyal, non-credible, swine Lagouranis is. Here's where it got interesting. Lagouranis started posting replies (very calmly, I might say). He was met with near-uniform attacks (of varying degrees of reasonablness, of course). He continued to respond.
The heart of the complaints (as opposed to general tendency of many of the ex-or-current soldiers commenting to simply name-call, apparently taking that as a logical rebuttal) seems to be that, setting aside details of what was hearsay or not, and other quarrels and accusations, that whatever actually happened, so long as it wasn't a matter of Lagouranis personally witnessing or stopping a major crime, such as murder, that he was utterly wrong to "run to the media" and violate the -- these words are not used, they're mine -- code of silence these soldiers generally felt that to violate was the mark of a "buddy f*cker."
In the interests of full disclosure, I have banned Tony from the comments because I felt that he was using them to slander people and had failed to present anything approaching "evidence" of war crimes or torture. I felt that I had given him a fair opportunity to present his side of the matter and that he was ultimately unconvincing and frankly disingenuous toward the people he was accusing. If he wants to email me to appeal this decision, then I will reconsider it. He has already emailed other commenters and here is a sample from one of those emails, "By the way, I am smarter than many of my former leaders. You know that is true. You can't be in the military for 22 years without realizing that idiots rise up in the ranks."
So that pretty much sums up his attitude and by the way that jibes perfectly with my speculatory statements made in the initial post. I feel like we know what we need to about Tony, and if he wants to make some more media appearances to show the world how much smarter he is, then he can do it somewhere else.
That was at 2:28 on October 21st, but the thread continues; the majority of it is subsequent to the banning.
There wound up being a few hundred comments, and I'm not so fascinated as to want to read them all, particularly given the great repetitiveness, and the empty semantic content of too many messages. But a few quotes for flavor:
Two things: This spc's testimony echoes of the same line of unsubstantiated BS that Kerry piled on his former shipmates during Viet Nam. Literally the same tone.
From reading your description of it the guy sounds like a total tool.
Keep the faith is something that flew over the guys head. Somebody should have returned the favor and left his *ss outside the gate.
I didn't get to see, "The Torture Question," mostly because I can smell the liberal bullshit from a mile away, but did it feature things like Nick Berg or Paul Johnson having their heads mercilessly rent from their bodies?
Lagouranis was defended by a friend in a very balanced way. Lagouranis then first arrived here and several more followed (and yet more and more, later). Here's one response (to be sure, this sort of thing wasn't the province of Mr. Heidt/Froggy, nor of everyone commenting, though it's representative of the less substantive responses:
We have a name for people like you, in the military (that I've served in for 22 years).
You sound like a typical malcontent. Someone that thinks they're better (smarter) than all their leaders. Like others have said, you don't pass the smell test.
Stop spreading hearsay, you tool.
The prisoners might lie, but it is hard to believe they could all tell us the same lie.'
That's not hard to believe at all. I frequently hear the same lie when I listen to various MSM outlets.
This one is from Froggy:
I really don't think that you understand what your duty was as a soldier. To me, you sound like your duty was primarily to yourself. You demonstrate absolutely no fidelity or affinity with your service, and by your own admission you took steps to avoid responsibility as some kind of protest against the Army. I could see your frustration in the interview, and your postings here have only reinforced that view. [...] You probably weren't cut out for what you were involved in, and that doesn't make you a bad person. But, once you were there, your first obligation was to your unit, the Army, and the United States and you decided instead that your first obligation was to Tony. So you took care of Tony, and everybody else came next.
That's blue falconry my friend, and all that squawking you did on PBS was nothing more than a little man lashing out at the people he came to despise. You clearly have a lot of intellectual potential, but you do not have very good judgement. Being a smart guy doesn't make you right, having and displaying your intellect is a responsibility as well.
You talked about "vibes" at Abu Ghraib. You put off a distinct vibe that you are a malcontent who is hostile to the mission and the leadership. That vibe is going to attract others with similar proclivities and filter out more balanced perspectives. Whatever shit you heard from your buddies was coming from other malcontents with alternate agendas just like you had. You and your "sources" created a nice little echo chamber where all of your stories made sense.
I am aware of many things that SEALs did in Iraq that I will never discuss in a public forum. I am a frogman, but I never served in Iraq. I maintain my fidelity with my brothers who daily risk their lives trying to do a very dangerous job. If I were to betray my comrades by not even giving them the benefit of the doubt in the same way that you have done, I would feel ashamed. Apparently you do not. That is a character flaw that you should see about fixing.
If you consider going "to the media last" your duty, then you clearly have no idea what the word "duty" means.
You participated in a coordinated slander of every person you ever worked with by volunteering for that interview. The bias demonstrated by Frontline during that piece was staggering, and you buddy fucked everyone you served with by allowing yourself to become a tool with which to bludgeon your comrades.
You are no better than John Kerry. He came back from Vietnam and testified before Congress that his comrades had committed all manner of war crimes based on just as flimsy bullshit charges as you have laid out here. I hope for your sake that this was not some publicity stunt to launch your political career, because we will not forget what you did on that show.
I cannot prove a negative after the fact from half a world away, Tony. But you have shown yourself to be a craven and self centered buddy fucker on Frontline and here in my comments. You have no credibility to make many of the charges you have made and I suspect that is the reason your desperate attempts to "hold the military to the law" were unfruitful. Who the fuck do you think you are anyway? Froggy
Apparently Tony Lagouranis (shitbird) is waging an email campaign on some of the people that have posted anti-shitbird comments here. What a tool.
He sent me an email trying to defend himself and his actions.
A truly detestable POS (and First Class Blue Falcon)...
This one might be the best summary of one view:
I hate to tell you this, but it isn't your duty to hold the military to the law. It is the responsibility of those in command, perhaps the JAG corps, those in government who have experience and objectivity. By going to the MSM you essentially relied upon the least objective group with little to no actual experience to "hold the military to the law." You might as well have death row inmates sit on capital murder juries.
Your duty is to report what you observe that concerns you up the chain of command. It is their duty to evaluate all the intelligence and act appropriately. [...] You reported what you heard up the chain of command, and having no actual first person evidence of what you claim, your duty ended there. Had you witnessed these things, had reported them, and believed they were still occuring I might understand your attempt to "protect the image of the US" by making sure it stopped before the MSM got a hold of it and the info was used by the insurgents as propaganda. But going to the MSM only did what your duty should have led you away from. Your duty was to protect and serve the US and its image, and the military. You could have used what you had to protect these things, instead they were your target. What does that really accomplish anyway. You have tarnished your uniform and flag, as well as everyone elses. And that doesn't help prevent prisoner abuse.
I think that's as much space as I care to devote. Examine further or not as you wish.
What I find most interesting is the unsurprising thread that loyalty to the service should trump a belief that the law and Uniform Code of Military Justice have been violated. Lagouranis didn't go to the press until after he was discharged, and felt that none of his apparently many reports to the chain of command were heeded. Presumably his duty, in some eyes, was to keep his mouth shut, regardless, ad infinitum, or perhaps just until the war was over. Well, I certainly understand loyalty, and have a clue as to why many would feel this way. It's interesting to see it in action, though.
THE BULLDOG. Two of the most contradictory men I've ever had deeply mixed feelings about and opinions of, with admiration winning out, but having to fight a major fight to triumph over some loathing and horror (both being fairly racist, for one thing), but most of all have always been fascinated by, both because of the contradictions, and the huge scale of their lives (as well as way with words), are Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
I've read innumerable biographies of both, as well as major parts of their multitude of writings, ever since childhood.
No great man, they say, is a hero to his valet. A bodyguard, who oversees his charge pitilessly night and day, might be expected to have a yet lower opinion. Walter Thompson, a protection officer from Scotland Yard, spent almost 18 years guarding Winston Churchill, from 1921 to 1945, with a break in the 1930s. His presence was so constant that, as he ruefully admitted, he became a "perpetual annoyance" to Churchill's wife, Clementine.
He was outside the door of every room her husband was in. He ate and slept at the Churchills' houses in London and at Chartwell in Kent, and then at Downing Street and in their Blitz-proof quarters in the annexe. He travelled with "the Old Man" so often that his own marriage was wrecked, protecting him from potential assassins, helping him through "the Black Dog" of his depressions, caring for him when he was ill and near death. In the war, as Thompson pointed out, he spent more time with Churchill than "any other human being", Clemmie included. She did not like it, sometimes making this clear by not feeding him.
Officialdom did not like it either, when it came to Thompson's memoirs. He had almost completed them by June 30, 1945. Churchill had just ceased to be prime minister., and Thompson was about to retire from the police. Downing Street and the police commissioner, Sir Harold Scott, agreed it would be "quite improper" for him to publish material "for some considerable time to come". Thompson's meagre pension, £353 12s a year, could be forfeit if he went ahead. He anyway had to supplement it — he collected rents for New Romney council and worked in pest control — and the threat was enough.
He became a minor celebrity, lecturing on his years with Churchill and writing more or less expurgated reminiscences, published in Britain and the United States. He died in 1979. His full, unpublished memoirs, running to 350,000 words, were found in the loft of a Somerset farmhouse by his great-niece Linda Stoker, and form the background to a new television series, and a book, Churchill's Bodyguard, to be published on November 7.
So many fascinating quotes, I have to fight the temptation to quote nearly all.
As Churchill built a sandcastle for his children on the beach at Frinton-on-Sea, Thompson witnessed one boot and sock being soaked by a mischievous wave. Churchill plunged the other boot into the sea. "Well, Thompson," he said. "We must treat them both alike."
Driving back from Buckingham Palace in 1940, after the king had asked Churchill to form a government, Thompson congratulated him on the "enormous task" he had undertaken. "God alone knows how great it is," Churchill replied. "All I hope is that it is not too late. I am very much afraid it is, but we can only do our best." Tears welled in his eyes. He was 66.
Thompson thought he looked it — "he walked with a conspicuous stoop... most of his hair had gone... his cheeks were pouchy" — and at this supreme moment Thompson sensed his uncertainty. But he muttered and set his jaw, "never again at any time" to express such doubt.
Thompson asked if he thought Hitler had committed suicide. "That is the way I should have expected him to have died," he said. "That is what I would have done under the same circumstances." On VE Day he sent Thompson back to get his cigars before greeting the crowds. "They expect it of me," he said, the showman to the fore.
Their first trip together was to the Middle East. Jews were pitted against Arabs in Palestine, and nationalists demanded independence in Egypt. The party was accompanied by T E Lawrence, whose success in throwing the Turks out of Arabia had created the uneasy vacuum Churchill sought to fill.
Talk about wanting to be a fly on the wall!
As their liner came alongside in Alexandria, the clamour of the crowd on the dockside reached "a veritable crescendo of fury" as it caught sight of Churchill coming down the gangplank. To avoid riots, Thompson had to smuggle Churchill out of his hotel and onto King Fuad's royal train for the trip to Cairo.
Word was soon out, though, and every window on one side of the train was smashed by a mob as it slowed down for a level crossing. Churchill sat calmly smoking a cigar as stones whizzed through his carriage. In Cairo, Russell Pasha, founder of the Camel Corps and head of the Egyptian police, added to Lawrence's warnings. "Churchill is in great danger," he told Thompson. "Trust nobody, black or white."
The hapless policeman ran into Churchill's disregard for his own safety. Thinking him tucked up in his room, Thompson was shocked to find his charge had left the hotel alone and on foot. He looked out into the teeming streets, in vain. He found Churchill leaving Field Marshal Allenby's house, with a naughty smile, and laid into him. "Look, sir, we can't have this," he stormed. "You're making my job impossible."
He feared he'd gone too far. But Churchill was softness itself. In future, he said, he'd do all he could to help his bodyguard. "We're just beginning to understand each other," he added. It was, Thompson said, "my first experience of anything approaching intimacy with him". A camel-borne excursion to the tombs at Saqqara brought a painful introduction to the bulldog side of the Churchillian character. Churchill soon fell off, to Lawrence of Arabia's amusement. "I started on a camel and I'll finish on a camel," Churchill growled, and remounted.
As the entourage moved on by train to Gaza and Jerusalem, Russell Pasha said they were moving "into a climate of unclassifiable fanaticism". Churchill's fanatical love of a hot bath came first. He demanded one as the train swayed slowly through the desert. Thompson unearthed an old hip bath in the baggage car, but could find no water. "You're slipping, Thompson," said Churchill. "I thought you were a man of intelligence." He had Thompson stop the train and climbed down to the track in a brightly coloured dressing gown. The tub was set up in the desert, and the engine driver drew hot water from the boiler. Churchill "smiled up at the engine crew, stripped naked and fitted himself into the bath". When done, he "sauntered, pink and clean" back to his carriage.
A large and restive crowd, seemingly "Gaza in its entirety", awaited them. They were muttering "Down with the Jews" and "Cut their throats,"
I assume they were enraged by Israel's conquest of the West Bank. Or maybe it was the simple existence of Israel itself that angered them.
but Lawrence stilled them with a few words, and the crowd parted to let them through, some prostrating themselves in front of him. Churchill said to Thompson: "They worship him."
Jerusalem was tense. Churchill zoomed off anywhere that caught his fancy, into souks and alleys. Thompson feared "I would never get this man back home alive". But he noticed that Churchill was visibly moved at Bethlehem and the holy places. Beneath the rough shield of the politician, he thought, was "a sensitive, sentimental and humorous interior... The truth was that he was one of those dynamic persons whose original ways need getting used to". Fresh back from Jerusalem, Churchill's name headed a list of assassination targets found on an IRA man. As he drove through Hyde Park one morning, two men were spotted signalling to a third in a clump of trees. "If they want trouble, they can have it," Churchill said. Thompson, feeling it "not part of my duty to pander to his desire for a hand-to-hand scrap in Hyde Park", drew his gun, told the chauffeur to drive like the devil, and shielded Churchill with his body. "Don't ever do that again!" Churchill shouted.
He promised his wife that he would go to bed safely in the bomb-proof basement of the annexe. Thompson watched him meekly descend, get into bed, and as promptly get out again. "I have kept my promise to Mrs Churchill," he said. "I came downstairs to bed, but now I am going upstairs to sleep."
During the bouts of bricklaying that filled any idle moments at Chartwell — he was proud of his walls, not realising they were so crooked that Thompson and a builder rebuilt them when he went off to lunch — Thompson thought it typical that he laid the mortar on not with a trowel, but a shovel.
He had a penchant, too, for shedding his clothes and wandering about naked. Roosevelt discovered him so at the White House. "You see, Mr President," he said, unabashed, "I have nothing whatever to hide from you."
That one I've heard before. Okay, and the one about going to bed, too; but maybe you've not.
In Moscow, Thompson warned him that his room was almost certainly bugged. Churchill stamped the floor and said: "This is Winston Churchill speaking. If you have microphones in my room it is a waste of time. I do not talk in my sleep."
Whatever one thinks of the man, they don't seem to make many like him these days. At least, they don't elect them to office. Imagine Tony Blair running from the Boers!
JUST TO REMIND MYSELF. And you never know when things disappear from websites. This is the official White House transcript of President George W. Bush's interview on Polish tv on May 29, 2003.
Q But, still, those countries who didn't support the Iraqi Freedom operation use the same argument, weapons of mass destruction haven't been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?
THE PRESIDENT: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.
Fill in your own comment.
Incidentally, the President also said this, leading into that:
And it was also -- the critics need to watch very carefully what's happening. NATO is going to support the Polish efforts inside of Iraq.
One can make quite a list of this sort of thing. Particularly if one includes statements of Mr. Cheney.
THAT DAMNED FAINT PRAISE. Ursula Le Guin nails the writer of a nonfiction book, Dava Sobel's The Planets, for portraying astrology as legit. Yeah, baby!
Sobel is a very good journalist, as the success of her book "Longitude" would testify. It may be unjust to imply that she's less interested in what she writes about than in the way she writes about it. Her declarations of fascination with the solar system, the "planet fetish" she's had since the age of 8, are surely sincere. Yet this appears not to have been the kind of straightforward interest that leads a kid to read everything she can find about the planets and dream of being an astronomer; rather, it seems a playful fancy, decorated with diverting similes and full of human interest.
"Earth," she writes, "had siblings in space, just as I had older brothers in high school and college." As a consequence, Sobel's inquiry into the planets, though full of solid information from reliable sources, constantly swerves and bobs about for tidbits, eye catchers and clever narrative devices. One chapter is presented as if written by the planet Mars, another from the point of view of Caroline Herschel, the 96-year-old sister and assistant of the man who discovered Uranus. Such fictionalizing tricks are entertaining enough, although the material really doesn't need them.
In one spot, however, they lead the author off track altogether. Some consideration of astrology is quite appropriate to a book about the planets and their significance to humanity, but Sobel's chapter on Jupiter seems to endorse astrology rather than merely discuss it. Of Jupiter's Galilean moons, Sobel writes, "Just as the planetary alignments in a horoscope limn the possibilities of a life, so the relative positions of these moons have determined their destiny." Then she spends two paragraphs describing an astrological chart drawn up for the spacecraft Galileo and the accuracy of its predictions.
Though Galileo Galilei, like most people of his time, believed in astrology, it's not his beliefs for which we honor him but his science, the laborious honesty of his observations and hypotheses. To put astrology on the same footing as astronomy is to concede the claim of "intelligent design" proponents that baseless assertions, wishful thinking and dogmatic systems somehow deserve equal time with scientific observation. Galileo knew better. Required on pain of death to deny the observational knowledge that the Earth moves and restate the dogmatic belief that the Earth does not move, he did so, but (the story goes) under his breath he muttered, "All the same, it moves."
It moves; everything moves; science itself moves almost as majestically and rapidly as the planets. The histories and discoveries Sobel relates need no ornament; they're stunning in themselves.
There's a great deal of good data and fascinating information in this chapter and in the book as a whole. Yet it comes so fast and from so many directions, and the selection of subjects seems so often almost random, that I begin to wonder who "The Planets" was written for. Though quite accessible to a good reader of 10 or 12, the book is not for kids in most American schools because they lack the necessary background context into which to fit the scattershot names, dates and data. It's for adults, then, but which adults? Those with some memory of school or college history or general science courses, I guess, who are happy to be reminded of such matters and to learn some new facts and connections without having to go very far into anything or think very hard about it. This is the solar system lite.
I'm not trying to be snarky about it. There are times you want stout and times you want lite. Each planet came together and organized itself out of a whirling mess of dust and pebbles and ice chunks and cosmic sweepings and debris; and in the same way Sobel, acting as the force of gravity, has pulled together a piecemeal mess of disparate bits of information and made a more or less whole thing. It isn't a rock planet, or a gas giant, but it is a pleasant, undemanding, often tantalizing, sometimes exciting book.
Observe the proper use of a stilleto, rather than a bludgeon; what a pleasant change.
There was no escape, even for superhero Mr. Incredible.
"Throw down your heads and get up against the wall!" police in Hollywood shouted at the movie cartoon character from "The Incredibles" and his sidekick, Elmo the Muppet.
Authorities were cracking down on what some have complained is the shakedown of Hollywood Boulevard tourists when they arrested the two costumed impersonators along with a third, the dark-hooded character from the slasher movie "Scream."
Mr. Incredible and Elmo said they were taken into custody at gunpoint and driven in handcuffs by police car to the front of the Kodak Theatre. There they claim they were paraded on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before shocked tourists and other boulevard impersonators.
"We were leaving to get something to eat. We had our heads off and were walking about a block away to our car when they pulled up," said Barry Stockton, 42, aka Mr. Incredible, wearing a red superhero costume topped with a huge, cartoonish head.
Donn Harper, 45, said he complied, tossing his bug-eyed, furry red Elmo costume head to the ground. "They jumped out of their car with guns drawn. With all of the crime in Los Angeles they pick on us?"
Stockton, of Ontario, and Harper, of Echo Park, were charged with misdemeanor "aggressive begging" along with the "Scream" character, Bill Stevens, 54, of Hollywood. Police said the trio was among those who had been warned that authorities were preparing to respond to growing complaints from boulevard visitors and merchants about the Tinseltown impersonators.
Some tourists have complained that they were harassed for failing to pay the costumed characters for posing for photos with them in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the nearby Kodak Theatre. Some merchants have grumbled that the impersonators were also scaring customers with menacing costumes, fake weapons and props like phony snakes.
Last Wednesday's arrests occurred following a sting operation conducted by a pair of undercover officers pretending to be French tourists who didn't understand English or the American tipping culture.
"One of them asked how much I charge, and I said we work for tips. She said, 'Chips?' I had a dollar bill in my hand and I showed that to her. That was my mistake. When you're talking to foreigners you have to show them," said Harper — who said he makes up to $400 "on a good day" posing for tourist pictures.
Stockton also displayed currency when the phony Frenchwoman seemed puzzled. Stevens did too. "She asked how much we charge, and I said we usually get a dollar," Stevens said.
Los Angeles Police Officer Michael Shea said the impersonators — who make their own costumes or buy what they say are "licensed" suits on EBay — were summoned to a meeting last month at the Hollywood and Highland shopping center and warned that enforcement of solicitation and harassment laws was coming. Sixty-eight of them, many in costume, showed up.
Shea said Mr. Incredible and Elmo were brought back to the boulevard so others could see they had been busted. "Make no mistake about it — I wanted the characters to know what we're doing," Shea said. The trio was released on $100 bond each.
Other impersonators worried that the crackdown signals a move by the merchant-supported Hollywood Entertainment District to take over the lucrative but independent picture-posing business.
Standard remark about what you can't do goes here.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. Evanier also has a screen grab of Keith Olbermann interviewing Elmo here.
THE HARRIET MANY WILL NEVER KNOW. Garry Trudeau (celebrating 35 years with UPS) had a week's worth of strips on Harriet Miers' Senate hearings in the can and set to run from October 31st until November 5th (my birthday!; have I mentioned that's my birthday?). They've been pulled, and will not run in newspapers.
But you can read them here, if you like. Here's a sample:
THANK YOU, GOD! Beware of this happening to you. Watch the skies!
A Russian couple had a narrow escape when their naked neighbour dropped in - through the ceiling.
Rozalia Valiakhmetova had been relaxing in the bath when the floor gave way, dropping her and the bath tub into the flat below.
She said: "I had just dozed off and then I heard this huge crash and realised what had happened. The bathroom floor just collapsed under the bath and I came crashing through the ceiling of the people below me.
"They seemed as shocked as I was when they saw me lying there naked in the bath in the middle of their living room."
SUNDAY MORNINGS. Stephanopoulos is talking to Matthew Cooper, and Cooper just called Libby a liar. "It didn't go that way" were his actual words as to Libby's repeated testimony that he told Cooper that he only knew about Valerie Plame/Wilson from other reporters. Cooper said he was squeamish about testifying, but will.
Cokie Roberts predictably takes the defender line: no underlying crime, everyone else in the White House innocent. Stephanopoulos takes the "why would Libby do such a stupid thing" line.
Terry Moran claims Bush has grown distant from Cheney and is less influenced by him now, after some of Cheney's predictions haven't worked out.
He later expostulates on the theme that Bush is governing as a divider, not a uniter. Who knew?
These shows are one of the best ways to watch Conventional Wisdom form and set. Also, I feel pleased every time I find I can spell "Stephanopoulos" off the top of my head, as well as "Stracynski." Try me next time you see me live!
ADDENDUM: Next up, on Meet The Press Russert narrates a timeline with key excerpts from the indictment, including about himself; Broder's first words are -- big surprise! -- about how difficult it is to understand how such a smart man as Libby could... you know the drill. Safire immediately points to the "no underlying crime" thingie. That's "the whole thing" in his words. It was all about a "CIA attempt to get a prosecution on this law" and "there was no conspiracy, he said that very clearly... this was a cover-up of a non-crime."
Man, these people are always so goddamn predictable.
All the Admin-defenders, of course, take the frame that the whole thing is over now, when, of course, this is merely the first public reaction of Fitzgerald; it's the beginning, not the end.
But that notion is anathema to them, natch.
ADDENDUM: The Timesreports on Russert reporting on himself. Not having cable, I couldn't see this, but here's an interesting quote:
On "Hardball" Friday night, Tom Brokaw, the retired NBC anchor, said of Mr. Libby: "In all the years I've been covering Washington scandals, this is the clumsiest case of lying I've ever been witness to," and said Mr. Libby "concocted this scheme, beginning by trying to set up Tim Russert."
Here is the transcript of today's Meet The Press. (ABC doesn't seem to believe in transcripts for free.)
ADDENDUM: Ha, got someone to point out it's "Straczynski"! Works every time!