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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson


"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin


"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton


"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan


"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt


"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley


"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss


"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon


"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates


"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?"
-- Cicero


"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld


"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).


"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman


“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman


"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison


"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France


"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)


"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)


"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."
-- Batman



 

 
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 cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world


[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]


You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula


...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...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

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd, Newshoggers.com

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

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.
-- Ogged

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.
-- oakhaus.com

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

Favorite....
-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

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


GARY FARBER IS MY AROUSAL CENTER. -- Justin Slotman

Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

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

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit


Archives:
December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013


Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
AlterNet
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
bjkeefe
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Chuckling
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
elementropy
Eschaton
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
Hullabaloo
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
Afro-Netizen
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Attackerman
Attempts
Balkinization
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Cato-at-liberty
Cogitamus
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Eschaton
Ezra Klein
Feministe
Glenn Greenwald
Governing.com: 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Hullabaloo
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Mightygodking
Newshoggers
Orcinus
Pam's House Blend
Pandagon
Paul Krugman
Pharyngula
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Shakesville
slacktivist
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
TAPPED
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
TPMCafe
U.S. Intellectual History
Unfogged
Unqualified Offerings
VetVoice
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
Pandagon
Pharyngula
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Snarkmarket
TAPped
TBogg
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alicublog
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fact-esque
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
jensscholz.com
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
sideshow
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
balkinization
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
Fact-esque
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
governmentality
hullabaloo
Lifehacker
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Macadamia
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Epicycle
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Demosthenes
Rittenhouse Review
Maxspeak
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
MadKane
Nathan Newman
Whiskeyfire
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Corrente
Rising Hegemon
NTodd
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Hullabaloo
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Frameshop
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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.










Amygdala
 
Saturday, April 29, 2006
 
DANGER, WILL! Danger!
Doctor Smith would not be pleased.

But Lennier might be.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

4/29/2006 08:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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AVEDON CAROL IS A BRILLIANT GENIUS, he said redundantly, whom I often agree with and often disagree with, and who frequently awes me and frequently infuriates me. She's prolific that way.

Someone once said "she drives me crazy," a reference about three readers may catch.

I happen to agree entirely with her here about Joe Klein, saving me the trouble of saying something similar.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 12:19: Incidentally, though I sometimes disagree with her, I assume everyone reads Avedon, given her vast profusion of great links. I'm right, right?

4/29/2006 10:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, April 28, 2006
 
ARRESTING ACTION. Sometimes getting arrested as a form of political protest is good, insofar as it brings media attention to a cause.

These aren't all politicians whom I'm necessarily a fan of, (although I tend to like Tom Lantos), but good for them all, here:
Five Democratic members of Congress were arrested at the Sudanese Embassy and led away in plastic handcuffs Friday to protest the atrocities in the Darfur region.

The lawmakers -- Reps. Tom Lantos of California, Jim McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Jim Moran, of Virginia, and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas -- were among 11 protesters arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. The charges are misdemeanors.

The international community has accused the military dictatorship in Sudan of an ongoing genocide of its non-Arab citizens. Several hundred thousand refugees are in the Darfur region after having been driven off their land.

"This generation has watched the slaughter in Cambodia. This generation has watched in the slaughter in Rwanda. We will not watch the slaughter in Darfur," said Lantos, who's a Holocaust survivor. "The Sudanese government has shown total disregard for the wishes of the global, civilized community. I have no optimism as to the actions of the Sudanese government."

Around 50 demonstrators marched in front of the embassy carrying signs that read "Stop the slaughter" and "Women of Darfur suffer multiple gang rapes."

Moran said the United States needs to act to stop the abuses.

"This is about our own humanity," he said. "This is a small planet and when we allow evil like this to go on unabated, it is a stain on the soul of all of us -- the world community. The United States has the ability to stop this -- to lead -- thus we have the responsibility."

[...]

The United Nations' World Food Program warned Friday that thousands could starve because it has not been able to collect funds pledged to pay for food aid. (Full story: U.N. forced to cut food aid to Sudan)

"Despite repeated appeals to donors, WFP has received just $238 million, or 32 percent of the $746 million required to provide food assistance to 6.1 million people in Sudan this year in Darfur, the South, Central, East and the Three Areas (formerly the Transitional Areas of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile)," said a WFP statement. "WFP is particularly concerned about the effect of reduced rations in Darfur, where rampant insecurity continues to cause enormous suffering."

Rallies against the violence in Darfur are planned in more than a dozen U.S. cities this weekend, AP reported, including on Washington's National Mall on Sunday.
From the associated story:
The United Nations said on Friday it would cut food rations for more than 6 million people in Sudan, half of them in Darfur, because of a severe lack of funds.

Many donor countries appear to have tired of the long-term conflict in Darfur, despite signs that malnutrition is again on the rise among people living in squalid camps, the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP) said.

WFP said it was halving food aid from the minimum daily requirement of 2,100 calories to 1,050 calories as of May.

"This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Haven't the people of Darfur suffered enough? Aren't we adding insult to injury?" WFP Executive Director James Morris said.

"This is a measure we should simply never have to take," said Morris, who heads the world's largest food aid agency, feeding 90 million people worldwide.
Remember slogans like "The whole world is watching" and "Never again"? Today's slogan: "The whole world is watching -- again."

The rally in Washington is on Sunday. Sign up here.

Nick Clooney and son George made the trip to Darfur, and will be at the rally. Maybe you can be there, too.

More info here. Find a rally near you here. There will be various ones across the continent, including, but not at all limited to, Portland, OR; St. Paul, MN; Austin, TX; Tucson, AZ; Seattle, WA; New York, NY; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Chicago, IL; Boca Raton, FL, and so on, including one here in Boulder (maybe; there's no time listed; there's also supposed to be one in Denver).

Read The Rest Scale: you can find something to do, I'm sure. It's only genocide. You'd want people to help if it were you, and your family.

4/28/2006 12:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I KNOW SQUAT ABOUT QUILTING, but this home-made Star Wars quilt does seem rather impressive.

Read The Rest Scale: are you into patchwork? (Via, unsurprisingly, Sore Eyes.)

4/28/2006 11:52:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S NEVER TOO LATE to check out The Cure For Information Overload, is it?

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5, if you're patient.

4/28/2006 11:29:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, April 27, 2006
 
MEET GEORGE ALLEN. He wants to be your President.
His 1994 inaugural address as governor promised to "fight the beast of tyranny and oppression that our federal government has become." That year, he also endorsed Oliver North for the Senate even as Virginia Senator John Warner and others in the party establishment shunned the convicted felon. At North's nominating convention, Allen proposed a somewhat overwrought approach for beating Democrats: "My friends--and I say this figuratively--let's enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats."

But, while Allen may have genuflected in the direction of Gingrich, he also showed a touch of Strom Thurmond. Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection--and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination--an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "governor seen leading va. back in time."

[...]

In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.

[...]

According to his sister Jennifer, he was particularly strict about bedtimes. One night, his brother Bruce stayed up past his bedtime. George threw him through a sliding glass door. For the same offense, on a different occasion, George tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone. When Jennifer broke her bedtime curfew, George dragged her upstairs by her hair.

[...]

George tormented Jennifer enough that, when she grew up, she wrote a memoir of what it was like living in the Allen family. In one sense, the book, Fifth Quarter, from which these details are culled, is unprecedented. No modern presidential candidate has ever had such a harsh and personal account of his life delivered to the public by a close family member. The book paints Allen as a cartoonishly sadistic older brother who holds Jennifer by her feet over Niagara Falls on a family trip (instilling in her a lifelong fear of heights) and slams a pool cue into her new boyfriend's head. "George hoped someday to become a dentist," she writes. "George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make people suffer."

Whuppin' his siblings might have been a natural prelude to Confederate sympathies and noose-collecting if Allen had grown up in, say, a shack in Alabama. But what is most puzzling about Allen's interest in the old Confederacy is that he didn't grow up in the South.

[...]

In Palos Verdes, an exclusive cliffside community, he lived in a palatial home with sweeping views of downtown Los Angeles and the Santa Monica basin. It had handmade Italian tiles and staircases that his eccentric mother, Etty, designed to match those in the Louvre. "It looks like a French château," says Linda Hurt Germany, a high school classmate.

[...]

Even the elder George Allen wasn't Southern--he grew up in the Midwest--but the oddest part of the myth of George Allen's Dixie rusticity is his mother. Rather than a Southern belle, Etty was, in fact, French, and, as such, she was a deliciously indiscreet cultural libertine. She would do housework in her bra and panties. She wore muumuus and wraparound sunglasses and once won a belly button contest. According to Jennifer, "Mom prided herself for being un-American. ... She was ashamed that she had given up her French citizenship to become a citizen of a country she deemed infantile." When her husband later moved the family to Virginia, Etty despised living in the state. She was also anti-Washington before her son ever was, albeit in a slightly more continental fashion. "Washingtonians think their town resembles Paris," she once scoffed. "If Paris passed gas, you'd have Washington."

[...]

But his siblings have said he actually takes after mom. Like Etty, George saw himself as disconnected from the culture in which he lived. He hated California and, while there, became obsessed with the supposed authenticity of rural life--or at least what he imagined it to be from episodes of "Hee Haw," his favorite TV show, or family vacations in Mexico, where he rode horses. Perhaps because of his peripatetic childhood, the South's deeply rooted culture attracted him. Or perhaps it was a romance with the masculinity and violence of that culture; his father, who was not one to spare the rod, once broke his son Gregory's nose in a fight.

[...]

Writing of her brother's love for the "big, slow-witted Junior" on "Hee Haw," Jennifer reports, "[t]here was also something mildly country-thuggish about Junior that I think George felt akin to."

In high school, Allen's "Hee Haw" persona made him a polarizing figure. "He rode a little red Mustang around with a Confederate flag plate on the front," says Patrick Campbell, an old classmate, who now works for the Public Works Department in Manhattan Beach, California. "I mean, it was absurd-looking in our neighborhood." Hurt Germany, who now lives in Paso Robles, California, explodes with anger at the mention of Allen's name. "The guy is horrible," she complains. "He drove around with a Confederate flag on his Mustang. I can't believe he's going to run for president." Another classmate, who asks that I not use her name, also remembers Allen's obsession with Dixie: "My impression is that he was a rebel. He plastered the school with Confederate flags."

[...]

Two days earlier, while preparing for this interview, I had Allen's high school yearbook open in front of me.

[...]

I stared closely at Allen's smirk in his photo, weighing whether his old classmates were just out to destroy him. And then I noticed something on his collar. It's hard to make out, but then it becomes obvious. Seventeen-year-old George Allen is wearing a Confederate flag pin.

[...]

A few hours later, his office confirms that the pin was indeed a Confederate flag. In an e-mail sent through an aide, Allen says, "When I was in high school in California, I generally bucked authority and the rebel flag was just a way to express that attitude."
Vote for George. He's a rebel.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5; this guy has raised more money than any other Republican for his Presidential campaign, and is considered one of the top contenders. Isn't that swell?

4/27/2006 04:32:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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THUMBING THEIR NOSES. This story about flash drives with all sort of top secret info on al Qaeda members, and U.S. informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, constantly being easily available for sale in the bazaar right outside the huge Bagram base has been going on for weeks, since the LA Times first broke it, and it's as nuts as ever.

It's just incredible that anyone can wander into the Bagram marketplace, and buy these drives with this info that people die over, and that weeks later, it's still going on. And has apparently been going on for years. Years!

At first I simply couldn't even understand from the stories how the drives were winding up there. Now it's become slightly more clear: the base employs a lot of Afghans -- check this quote:
Reed, who visited Afghanistan in January, said the military was trying to balance security with economic development. Keeping Afghans off the base would cut them off from an important source of jobs, he said.
And then apparently U.S. soldiers and personnel just leave the freaking drives around, so they are "pilfered" by Afghan employees (a lot of menial work, I'm inclined to suspect is much of it), and since they naturally have little money, they run outside the base and immediately sell the damn things.

It's still just inconceivable that the Army and other personnel could let this go on, and that it's been going on for so long.

But it's so: Leaks of Military Files Resume.
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Just days after U.S. troops were ordered to plug a security breach at their base here, the black market trade in computer memory drives containing military documents was thriving again Monday.

Documents on flash drives for sale at a bazaar across from the American military base over the weekend contained U.S. officers' names and cellphone numbers and instructions on using pain to control prisoners who put up resistance. A study guide on one of the drives describes tactics for interrogating and controlling detainees by pinching or striking nerve and pressure points on their face, neck, arms and legs.

Traders at the bazaar near Bagram's main gate were openly displaying pilfered U.S. military memory drives in their shops Monday, two weeks after the Los Angeles Times reported on the black market in computer equipment, some of which contained American military documents marked "Secret."

U.S. soldiers spent thousands of dollars later that week buying scores of flash memory drives from the bazaar. The soldiers walked through the black market with a box of money, purchasing all the computer equipment they could find.

For several days afterward, no more memory drives were available.

But an 18-year-old Afghan man who works on the base said that by Friday, memory drives were being smuggled off the base again. The devices are smaller than disposable lighters.

Several shopkeepers have said in recent days that they are eager for the military to return to the market so they can sell their new stock for premium prices.
So, upside: we've got a program to fight Afghan unemployment. Advantage: us.
Some of the memory drives for sale earlier this month listed the names, addresses and photographs of Afghan spies providing information to U.S. Special Forces. Others that were also marked "Secret" included American military officials' view that the Taliban and their allies were using bases in Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan. One had maps dated Dec. 1, 2001, the day after U.S. and Afghan militia forces began their offensive at Tora Bora, that described possible escape routes of Osama bin Laden. The routes in the maps start not at Tora Bora, where many had thought Bin Laden was at the time, but in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Some of the drives contained sensitive documents that had been deleted but could be retrieved with software available on the Internet.
You want asymmetric warfare? It's when U.S. personnel are too stupid to secure flash drives, and to realize that hitting "delete" doesn't actually erase info, but Afghan and Pakistani peasants have internet access and know how to recover files.

Welcome to 21st century warfare.

How?
The teen, who described his job as collecting U.S. soldiers' laundry, said he had smuggled out four flash memory drives to a local shopkeeper after shift change Sunday afternoon.


[...]

Several more U.S. military drives were on sale at other shops in the bazaar Monday. One shopkeeper said he had been selling pilfered American military flash drives for four years, mostly to young Afghan computer users looking for cheap equipment, but also to some foreigners.

"I may have sold thousands of these flashes since I have come and opened this shop," the shopkeeper said.
Well, at least it's not poppies, you know.

For four years!

And you wondered why they couldn't find bin Laden.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for both for asininity.

ADDENDUM, 4/28/06, 3:31 p.m.: Here is the sort of thing that can result from this sort of lack of security:
Taliban militants and their allies are waging a dirty war in Pakistan's unruly tribal areas, kidnapping and executing people suspected of spying for U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Militants have killed at least 53 accused spies and pro-government elders in Pakistan over the last two years, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Many of their bodies were found with notes that claimed the victims had visited U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. Local residents put the death toll from such executions at about 150.

The headless corpse of the latest victim, taxi driver Khun Majan, was found in a ditch Tuesday near the town of Angoor Adda, a suspected Taliban haven in the South Waziristan tribal region, eight days after relatives reported he had been kidnapped.

"He visited a U.S. forces base in the Birmal area, Paktika province of Afghanistan, and was providing information about mujahedin to our enemies," said a note on his body.

It was not known whether any of the victims were working as informants or spies for U.S. forces.

But secret documents on a memory drive stolen from the American air base at Bagram, north of Kabul, and sold at a bazaar outside its gates, show that U.S. Special Forces apparently used informants in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. The files contained what appeared to be highly sensitive material, including the identities of informants and their families, and some of the information the sources had provided.

None of the informants' names that appeared on the drive sold at the Bagram bazaar, however, matched those of victims killed in Pakistan. And many of the killings predate the files found on the drive.

Abductions and summary executions of people accused of spying for the U.S. or supporting Pakistan's government in the northwestern tribal areas began in June 2004, during an offensive by Pakistani forces against suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, said Pakistani officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

[...]

The Times did not disclose any details that could identify the Afghan spies named in the documents, which included detailed accounts of information they had provided from their missions in Afghanistan and trips into Pakistan.

One of the drives apparently belonged to a member of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

The unit has recently carried out missions in southern Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition is battling a growing insurgency by Taliban, Al Qaeda and other fighters.

One document on that drive, marked "secret," reported that an Afghan informant arranged for an Afghan friend living in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta to visit a U.S. base in Afghanistan.

During the December meeting with a Special Forces officer, the three men discussed the possibility of using the visitor as a guide for U.S. troops, which would cross into Pakistan to capture or kill Taliban leaders.
Now this is an example of a real security leak, utterly unlike, say, "revealing" that we're trying to eavesdrop on phone calls and the internet, which obviously al Qaeda is perfectly well aware of, even without newspapers "reminding them," as AG Gonzalez so idiotically put it the other day.

4/27/2006 04:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
 
WAVE. Just a placeholder post to mention that I'm alive and reasonably well, since I tend to get e-mail if I don't post for a few days.

Just back from being out Doing Stuff most of the day, and am exhausted. I had really wanted to do a long post last week on the Jack Anderson FBI document rummage, and various related stories, but that's receding into the past. Still, will see what happens when I pick up more regular posting again Real Soon Now (meaning maybe later tonight or tomorrow, or maybe not for another couple or more days, as I work out of a bad mood and one of my not-so-communicative states).

Thanks for bearing with me, and have no fear: I shall MacArthur, er, return.

4/26/2006 04:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, April 22, 2006
 
*(#$%!. Someone wonderful gifted me three months ago with a Netflix subscription for three months.

The annoying thing -- actually, there are a bunch of annoying things, but this is one of them -- about Netflix is that I couldn't find out how long it would last, or on what date.

I tried, I really did.

There was no way of showing that info, via the software.

Morons.

So I had a vague idea, but not more.

The more than annoying thing happened earlier today when it turned up that they billed me, on top of the entirely inconvenient fact that I'd gone down to less than the $19 billed in my bank account. (I'd gone down to ~$2, which is perfectly normal for me, thanks, it's not my preference, but it's perfectly normal, goddamnit.)

So on Monday, I'll be hit with a $30 charge for the overcharge, by BankUSA, adding up to $45.

Meanwhile, the phone account is backed up ~$90 or so.

And the last thing I want to do is say anything about any of this.

You have no idea how little I want to mention any of this.

Life is far worse for many people in the world.

Personally, I'd prefer to pound myself in the face, just now.

Fun, fun, fun. Pound. Fun. God, I hate asking, and I hate myself, and I hate this crap. Fuck. Hate. Fuck. Pound.

I really want a job to make it stop.

4/22/2006 10:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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STAR TREK LIVES!? Via J. J. Abrams.
J.J. Abrams is becoming the next Gene Roddenberry.

Paramount is breathing life into its "Star Trek" franchise by setting "Mission: Impossible III" helmer J.J. Abrams to produce and direct the 11th "Trek" feature, aiming for a 2008 release.

Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, Abrams' producing team from "Lost," also will produce the yet-to-be-titled feature.

Project, to be penned by Abrams and "MI3" scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto OrciRoberto Orci, will center on the early days of seminal "Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer space mission.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as curious.

BELATED ADDENDUM, 10:17 p.m.: The former Sarge got to this before I did, and has a very interesting take; I made a brief comment, but intend to make a longer one later.

UPDATE, 4/27/06, 6:38 p.m.: See my comment in comments, and this piece and here, if you care, for update on Abrams' general refusal to confirm anything beyond that he's producing the film.

4/22/2006 01:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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Friday, April 21, 2006
 
FIXING THE INTELLIGENCE. Tyler Drumheller speaks:
A CIA official who had a top role during the run-up to the Iraqi war charges the White House with ignoring intelligence that said there were no weapons of mass destruction or an active nuclear program in Iraq.

The former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, also says that while the intelligence community did give the White House some bad intelligence, it also gave the White House good intelligence — which the administration chose to ignore.

Drumheller talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley in his first television interview this Sunday, April 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Drumheller, who retired last year, says the White House ignored crucial information from a high and credible source. The source was Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, with whom U.S. spies had made a deal.

When CIA Director George Tenet delivered this news to the president, the vice president and other high ranking officials, they were excited -- but not for long.

"[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," says Drumheller. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

They didn't want any additional data from Sabri because, says Drumheller: "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."

The White House declined to respond to this charge, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that Sabri was just one source and therefore not reliable.

Drumheller says the administration routinely relied on single sources -- when those single sources confirmed what the White House wanted to hear.

"They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all," he says. The "yellowcake story" refers to a report the CIA received in late 2001 alleging that Iraq had purchased 500 tons of uranium from Africa, presumably to build a nuclear bomb.

[...]

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. … This was a policy failure. … I think, over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time," Drumheller tells Bradley.
Absolutely 100% predictable response:

1) This is CBS, the utterly partisan network of Dan Rather, that's always been liberal and out to get Republicans, and particularly our great President Bush -- the traitors.

2) The CIA has always been against the Administration, as everyone knows, because they are a bunch of liberal wussy wimps. Or something like that; the rationale for why the CIA would be so anti-Administration, other than on, you know, the facts, has always been difficult to make the least sense of, but it runs back through the absurd allegations that they didn't do enough to support the Afghan muj, and back to the claim that they were eviscerated by the Church and Pike Committees (that one at least has a grain of truth, but is grossly exaggerated, as a rule, but that makes it unlike all the rest of this history), and back to the charge that they were insufficient in prosecuting the Vietnam War and negative about it, and back to somehow citing Alger Hiss, and the Communists who have infiltrated the State Department, and the Nixon/McCarthy charges against the wimpy "Eastern Establishment," and back to the charges that OSS was insufficient in supporting Chiang Kai-shek, the brave and noble Chinese leader, and thus responsible for Losing China To The Communists.

There's a clear thread of historic insanity and willful disregard for reality here, and it's almost touching to see the tradition carried on.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5; I quoted most of it; obviously, one can check 60 Minutes on Sunday, which this piece is a tease for.

4/21/2006 03:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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A PERHAPS NOT OBVIOUS POINT. Both former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, and the current chief, General Peter Pace, have spoken up with some defense of Secretary Rumsfeld, in response to the well-known complaints of various generals who had operational commands in Iraq.

The point not everyone may be fully attentive to is that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had and has no such operational role. None of the Chiefs have an operational role. At all. In anything military.

That's not their job. They are not in the military [operational, see below in comments] chain of command.

The JCS are administrators. And that's all.

The [operational] chain of command in the military runs from President to Secretary of Defence to the Commanders of the various Commands (Central Command, Northern Command, Southern Command, Special Operations Command, etc.).

In the case of the Iraq war, that meant from SecDef Rumsfeld to General Tommy Franks, Commander of Central Command.

The JCS has squat to say about any of it, though they are legally required to offer "advice" to the President (not the Secretary of Defence) should he ask for it.

Tommy Franks famously called the JCS "Title X motherfuckers," and made sure to have as little to do with them as possible when planning the various Iraq war plans (Generated Start, Running Start, Hybrid, Cobra II). (See Plan Of Attack, p.118.)

So when Meyers or any of the JCS then, or now, say they have no problems with how Rumsfeld handled Iraq, well, this doesn't mean remotely as much as it would mean if they had much of anything to do with Iraq.

It certainly doesn't mean as much as the opinion of someone actually in the [operational] chain of command, such as those whom have spoken up.

Just thought that was a point worth getting out there, since I've not noticed anyone else making it.

4/21/2006 10:04:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 8 comments

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Thursday, April 20, 2006
 
JUST BECAUSE IT PUTS A BIG SMILE ON MY FACE, Sara Ramirez's Tony-winning performance, along with Tim Curry, and all the other lads in Spamalot of "Find Your Grail."
More Spamalot video here.

View the rest, it's your quest. If you like, see and hear high school marching bands perform the music! See high school productions! Oh, the thrill, especially on dial-up. (Find many other past posts on Spamalot via the search bar on the left.)

That watery tart Ramirez really belts it out, doesn't she? And just seeing Tim Curry's grin makes also makes me grin.

4/20/2006 09:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE DECIDER. Peggy Noonan spanks Mr. Bush.
[...] Inside the White House they say, "We think big." Maybe. But maybe they're not thinking. They say, "We're bold." But maybe they're just unknowing, which is not the same thing. The bold weigh the price and pay it, get the lay of the land and move within it. The dreamy just spurt along on emotions.

[...]

Message to all biography-reading presidents, past present and future: Just because they call you a jackass doesn't mean you're Lincoln.
As people have said for decades: heh.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. She's kinda dreamy with optimism herself, at the end, though.

She's also right, incidentally, that Mark Bowden's article on Desert One -- remarkably not behind The Atlantic's subscription wall -- is very good; I've read many accounts of the mission, and Bowden's is as clean and clear as you'd expect.

One detail I'd not picked up on in previous accounts:
On the morning of the mission, the men had assembled in a warehouse, where Major Jerry Boykin had offered a prayer. Tall and lean, with a long, dark beard, Boykin stood at a podium before a plug box where electrical wires intersected and formed a big cross on the wall. Behind him was a poster-sized sheet displaying photographs of the Americans held hostage. Boykin chose a passage from the first Book of Samuel:
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone …
Of course, Jerry Boykin didn't used to be so famous.

Lots more from The Atlantic on Iran here. Bowden's formerly subscription only profile of President Ahmadinejad (who has little power in comparison to Supreme Leader Khamenei, of course) here. His December, 2004 piece on the students 25 years later is quite good.

And just because I had occasion to mention it in e-mail earlier this evening, some info on SAVAMA\VEVAK here and here, and a typical piece of behavior internally.

But, no, I absolutely do not think it makes any sense at all to attack this regime militarily in the mid-term future, and likely not the long-term future (and obviously not in the short-term future, duh). But that doesn't mean they're not a pretty awful regime, either. But so were Stalin's and Mao's. And so is Kim Jong Il's. Military attacks aren't, it happens, the solution to everything. Wishing for magic solutions, well, it's called "wishful thinking" for a reason.

Though it's too bad Desert One didn't work out. But it always was an incredible long shot.

4/20/2006 08:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FREE ONLINE OED ACCESS is still available through the 23rd, I slightly belatedly note. Very kewl. (I miss my old double-volume with the magnifying glass, along with my half-wall of dictionaries and usage books, sniffle.)

Look Up The Rest Quickly. Via Lis Riba.

4/20/2006 06:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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PEOPLE ARE FAR MORE HARMFUL TO ANIMALS THAN RADIATION, it turns out. Unsurprising, really. Once can find a slightly surprising number of animals in urban areas -- there were quite a few raccoons who enjoyed our garbage all the years I lived in Washington Heights in Manhattan -- but it's still news when a coyote visits town.

Compare the number of animals in Manhattan to that in most forests.

Then note that Wildlife defies Chernobyl radiation:
The exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station is teeming with life.

As humans were evacuated from the area 20 years ago, animals moved in. Existing populations multiplied and species not seen for decades, such as the lynx and eagle owl, began to return.

There are even tantalising footprints of a bear, an animal that has not trodden this part of Ukraine for centuries.

"Animals don't seem to sense radiation and will occupy an area regardless of the radiation condition," says radioecologist Sergey Gaschak.

"A lot of birds are nesting inside the sarcophagus," he adds, referring to the steel and concrete shield erected over the reactor that exploded in 1986.

"Starlings, pigeons, swallows, redstart - I saw nests, and I found eggs."

There may be plutonium in the zone, but there is no herbicide or pesticide, no industry, no traffic, and marshlands are no longer being drained.

There is nothing to disturb the wild boar - said to have multiplied eightfold between 1986 and 1988 - except its similarly resurgent predator, the wolf.
But, then, I would note this, wouldn't I, since I agree with Patrick Moore, former co-founder of Greenpeace, about nuclear energy being largely remarkably safe and vastly less damaging to the environment than, say, coal. (And ad hominem about Moore really isn't relevant to the facts of the issue, regardless of what said facts are.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for both. Mind, I don't personally plan any trips to Chernobyl, but no one in their right mind would want to build another plant that that. But I'd like to cut down on carbon emissions, and on miner's deaths, and other coal-related deaths, and standardized nuclear plants are the best way to do that, as innumerable sensible liberal folk agree. (Though unlike Matt Yglesias, I do know something about nuclear power and the relative dangers.)

4/20/2006 05:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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BUYING WEAPONS FROM EGYPT. A couple of passages from Charlie Wilson's War, which, holy shit, you'll be hearing lots more about, apparently (Mike Nichols, Aaron Sorkin, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks?).

Charlie Wilson, semi-obscure Democratic anti-Communist, former Naval officer, Congressman from Texas is single-handedly, from his position on the Appropriations Committee, ramping up the CIA and others' support of the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan (yeah, it had a later downside).

On page 312, we're in Egypt with CIA tough guy Gust Avrakotos and his military support team, looking to buy weapons from the hard-drinking, ethnic joke-telling Eqyptian Defense Minister, Abu Ghazala:
The Eqyptian gunners were standing at attention as a three-star general who talked as if he had been educated at Oxford gave a rousing description of the ZSU-23's attributes. The key point he made -- at the urging of his advisers, Gust had insisted on this demonstration -- was that after his men fired at a target across the desert, the Americans would see how easily the gun could be broken down and moved by mule up the incline.

Even the doubting weapons experts were suitably impressed with the first part of the exercise. They could see through their binoculars how smoothly and accurately the guns fired. The Eqyptians then began to strip the gun down to move it up the hill. The object, after all, was to have a gun that the mujahideen could actually transport among the mountains of Afghanistan.

Charlie was still sitting tall in his seat, not at all bothered by Vickers's tactful effort to explain why this gun simply would not work. By this time, the Eqyptians had put the six-hundred-pound base of the gun on wheels, and several mules had been harnessed to haul the dead weight up the long, steep incline.

"Commence the exercise," shouted the general, whereupon a squad of soldiers pulled the blocks out from behind the ZSU's wheels and began urging the mules forward. Gust is charitable in his memory of this moment: "Egyptians win my heart because no matter how bad they fuck up, they always smile. Those fucking mules started going backward. They were in danger of going ass over head backward, whereupon twenty Egyptians appeared from nowhere trying to hold the mules and push them back. They almost lost all the Eqyptians as well."

Vickers watched with astonishment as the soldiers desperately jammed rocks behind the wheels to keep the gun cart from racing backward down the landfill. Once it was stabilized, they would bravely begin again, each time with even more desperate efforts to stop the inevitable movement in the wrong direction. "If there had been a way to will it up the mountain, they would have," recalled Avrakotos. Finally, after repeated Eqyptian tries and failures, Wilson himself ordered an end to the exercise. In an effort to spare the Egyptians further embarassment, Gust said with enthusiasm, "This chicken is great. Thanks for the demonstration."

[...]

Most of the Egyptians' initial efforts to sell weapons to the Agency resembled a Keystone Kops movie. The most preposterous moment came during a test firing of Mohammed's new briefcase-size tank destroyer. Once more a general delivered a rousing briefing and a stalwart Egyptian fired at the target, but this time the round, acting like a boomerang, turned back on the watchers. "Oh shit!" Charlie yelled as they all hurled themselves flat. "We decided not to buy any of those," Wilson remembers.

There had been much wringing of Eqyptian hands before the demonstration, ostensibly over the disclosure of such valuable state secrets to such known friends of Israel. Art Alper had gone to some lengths to conceal his religious affiliations. After scrambling up from the ground, Gust had quipped to the embarassed General Yahia, "I don't think the Jews have to worry about this one."
Eees good book.

Read The Rest Scale: well, you'll have to pick up a copy, then.

4/20/2006 11:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE POWERPOINT PRESENTATION THAT EARNED $253 million, which meant $1 million per slide. In a trial. Over two and a half hours of non-stop PowerPoint.

Tips:
Atkinson also employs a storyboard artist and a screenwriting coach to help him hit the right dramatic beats. Then he throws a little science in the mix; he has studied how the mind works when absorbing images and narration at the same time.

Research has shown, for example, that an audience learns better when it is not being exposed to duplicated information. Atkinson pet peeve No. 1: that whole reading from a slide thing — bad idea.
There's something more than a tad recursive, though, about a guy who becomes rich and famous doing PowerPoint presentations on how to improve PowerPoint presentations.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

ADDENDUM: 7:38 p.m.: This comparison of the PowerPoint styles of Darth Vader and Yoda makes a good companion link. (Via Sore Eyes.)

4/20/2006 09:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BIG WORDS MAKE YA SOUND STOOPID (when badly chosen). It's twue! See here.

Abstract here: Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.

I hates it when people do that. Words have specific meanings and nuances. Thesauri leave people unacquainted with the actual usage of the words the impression that the words are interchangeable, when they rarely are.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

4/20/2006 09:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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LET'S TALK BROADWAY FANBOYS. Julia Roberts is too beautiful for reviewers to be able to review the play she's made her Broadway debut in.
In Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain," the existential enigmas and conundrums of faith that always pepper this playwright's work assume a tantalizingly dichotomous form that. ... Excuse me, I was talking. What? How is she? How's who? Oh, her. O.K., if you must know, she's stiff with self-consciousness (especially in the first act), only glancingly acquainted with the two characters she plays and so deeply, disturbingly beautiful that you don't want to let her out of your sight. Now can we go back to discussing Mr. Greenberg's play? Fat chance.

One of the three stars of the Broadway revival of "Three Days of Rain," which opened last night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, is Julia Roberts, who is making her big-time theatrical debut. And though Ms. Roberts gives a genuinely humble performance, there is no way that this show is not going to be all about Julia.

Ms. Roberts is the sole reason this limited-run revival, which ends on June 18, has become the most coveted ticket in town.

[...]

The only emotion that this production generates arises not from any interaction onstage, but from the relationship between Ms. Roberts and her fans. And before we go any further, I feel a strong need to confess something: My name is Ben, and I am a Juliaholic. Ms. Roberts, after all, is one of the few real movie stars — and I mean Movie Stars, like the kind MGM used to mint in the 1930's — to have come out of Hollywood in the last several decades.

[...]

Her strength, as far as her public is concerned, is in her sameness, which magnifies everyday human traits to a level of radioactive intensity, and a feral beauty that is too unusual to be called pretty.

Like a down-home Garbo, she is an Everywoman who looks like nobody else. And while I blush to admit it, she is one of the few celebrities who occasionally show up (to my great annoyance) in cameo roles in my dreams.

This probably accounts for my feeling so nervous when I arrived at the theater, as if a relative or a close friend were about to do something foolish in public. I don't think I was the only one who felt that way in the audience, which had the highest proportion of young women (from teenagers to those in their early 40's) of any show I've attended. There was a precurtain tension in the house that had little of the schadenfreude commonly evoked by big celebrities testing their stage legs. We all wanted our Julia to do well.

[...]

And yet, and yet. I found myself fascinated by the way her facial structure (ah, those cheekbones!) seems to change according to how the light hits her. In repose, her face seems impossibly, hauntingly eloquent. She has a scene — all right, a few seconds — of flirtation with Mr. Rudd in the second act that is absolutely charming. And on the few occasions when she smiles, it's with a sunniness that could dispel even 40 days and 40 nights of rain. None of this, for the record, in any way illuminates her characters or Mr. Greenberg's play.
And so on. And this is the NY Times Broadway critic, Ben Brantley, not some gushing fanboy. Okay, he is a gushing fanboy, here.

And the headline for the story is "Enough Said About 'Three Days of Rain.' Let's Talk Julia Roberts!"

Pity the poor playwright.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you want to, you know, actually know something about the actual play.

(I have a bunch of political posts I'd like to get to, but today is busy, and I've got to finish George Crile's excellent Charlie Wilson's War in time to get it back to the library tomorrow, since I can't renew it again, so we'll see.)

4/20/2006 09:12:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
 
BECAUSE WHO DOESN'T WANT A CLOSER, MORE INTIMATE, RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR HAMSTER? Best paragraph here in media res:
"We want to enable pets to play games in a way very similar to the way human players' play," said RASTER's Vladimir Todoroviæ, a collaborator working on the Metazoa Ludens project. "To play a computer game with your hamster would definitely make us think about where we have come with digital tradition now."
Indeed it would. Indeed it would. I can't think how many times I've thought this to myself, sitting around my fireplace.

Who hasn't?

Okay, maybe you haven't sat around my fireplace. But still. Don't we all crave deepening our relationship with Hamster-Americans? (Or hamsters of your preferred nationality?)

More:
As in a traditional video game, players navigate a virtual world in a bid to stay alive. The twist? Computerized movements in Mice Arena are mapped to and from the real world, where an actual predator (your hamster) gives chase to a digital avatar (you) by pursuing a real piece of bait. The avatar's movements in the virtual environment direct the bait around a small tank fitted with actuators that mold and twist an elastic latex floor into the changing terrain of the game map. The hamster's pursuit in the tank is monitored by infra-red sensors that relay its position to the computer screen.

Researchers at Emerging Art and Architecture Research Group, or RASTER, and Singapore's Mixed Reality Lab have so far developed a game engine for Mice Arena, and they're currently syncing it to actuators that manipulate the shape of the arena floor. They are also in the process of building a remote-control bait mechanism for the hamsters to chase. They expect to demonstrate a fully functional prototype by November.
I can't wait.

I might even consider getting a hamster.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as curious/amused; who says your Amygdala doesn't bring you News You Can Use?

Remember our slogan!
It may sound like a really complicated version of Ms. Pac-Man, but the goal of the game makers is ambitious: to merge human spaces with pet spaces through pervasive computing interfaces.
Oh, wait. That's their slogan, not ours. Our slogan: We Confuse Easily.

Secondary slogan: Pet Us!

(Note: slogans rotate weekly. Or at intervals. Next week's proposed slogan: We Rotate Weekly. Or At Intervals.)

ADDENDUM, 4:29 p.m.: Almost forgot this part:
In addition to Mice Arena, two other games in the Metazoa Ludens series have been proposed. In Chicken Petman, a real chicken will don the role of a ghost and chase movable bait controlled by a person within a maze. In Jellyfishtrone, the team plans to translate the swimming motion of a jellyfish into the serpent's movements in the traditional game of Snake.
Groovy. We need more games we can play with chickens.

And what's a more cuddly pet than a jellyfish?

ADDENDUM, 4/19/06, 9:31 a.m.: As always, Pharyngula readers, feel free to click the Home button on the left, or here to read other posts, and welcome. (Although posting is expected to be light the next day or three while I complete other work; but heavier posting will resume next week, with more of my usual idiosyncratic mix of topics, including politics, weird science, science fiction, and whatever the hell strikes my whim.)

ADDENDUM, 4/20/06, 7:35 p.m.: I belatedly notice that Sore Eyes linked a couple of days before I did.

4/19/2006 02:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, April 17, 2006
 
I TEND TO TAKE THIS SORT OF THING A BIT PERSONALLY, you know. Palestinian militants threaten to attack Jewish targets abroad. I don't mean that I'm particularly worried about being picked up in Boulder, Colorado, of course, or anywhere else. It's just that threats are threats, and it just isn't very sporting of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to make these sorts.

It's not apt to increase one's sympathies for what claims they may have to be fighting injustice, and all.
[...] "This is an open call to all our fighters in the homeland to focus on kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians inside our occupied land. And if the enemy does not release our prisoners, then Zionists outside Palestine will be an easy target for our fighters," the group said in a statement.

[...]

Palestinian security sources say al-Aqsa gunmen were behind some of the recent rash of kidnappings of foreigners in the Gaza Strip, which Israel quit last year after 38 years of occupation.

They have also been involved in internal Palestinian clashes.

But gunmen from the group, which has also carried out suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories during the five-year-old uprising, have not previously threatened Jews abroad.

The smaller Islamic Jihad group made a similar call, announcing at a Gaza rally that they might seize Israeli soldiers and settlers unless Palestinian prisoners are released.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, whose party now controls the Palestinian government, said militants had given Israel "a complete chance" to free the prisoners during a de facto truce reached last year.

"Therefore we believe our people have the right to use every possible means, including the use of force, to free prisoners and end their suffering," he said.
And, naturally, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, so all are equal targets, whatever their beliefs, whatever their citizenship, baby or cripple alike. (And likely anyone who looks like a Jew, or has a Jewish-sounding name, or who happens to be standing near a Jew, or....)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. This follows, of course, today's terrible bombing. And, yes, there are valid complaints on the Palestinian side; but this isn't the way to get them discussed, or a day to discuss them on.

4/17/2006 10:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, April 15, 2006
 
I WOULD LOVE TO VISIT BRITAIN again so much. Even to check this out. It might be nonsense. I suspect a grain of truth, but how much, I don't know. No matter, there are still parts of the British Museuem I missed, and so much more.

(I recall a long chat in which a fellow in Leeds declared that everyone in New York owned guns, according to the law; there were other odd opinions, to be sure.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

4/15/2006 05:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 9 comments

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CAN'T TELL THE PLAYERS WITHOUT A PROGRAM. This Nir Rosen piece on who the various actors are in the sectarian play that is Iraq today is one of the most valuable pieces I've yet read on the show. Which can be said of all of his pieces on Iraq.

And it's unsurprising that just the other day I was thinking of how invaluable the American Army's experience in Bosnia could be here.

Key observation:
Sectarian violence is killing more people and destabilizing Iraq more than the antigovernment insurgency ever did.
It doesn't matter what one calls it, when this is true.

It should also be needless to say that awfulness is everywhere, but it occurs to me to note that if I don't say it, someone will think I don't think it:
The troops have also been enmeshed in strange local dynamics. A few weeks ago, a schoolgirl came to them with an armload of books that included a chemical weapons training manual. She led the soldiers to her father, a former Iraqi Army colonel suspected of being an insurgent. After the soldiers detained him, they gave the girl a chocolate bar.

They have also gone on raids with local security forces. But this, too, has its risks.

One night last month, American troops helped police officers from Hamiya, the working-class Shiite town, aggressively round up 10 men, all Sunnis, from Jurf.

"I left thinking, wait a sec, were we just part of some sort of sectarian revenge?" the colonel said.
Awfulness. War is awfulness.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5, both times.

ADDENDUM, 6:50 p.m.: I once had a friend who was an Army major. He averred that he had no knowledge of the experience of the Army in Bosnia. Basically, that's the whole problem we have. That experience wasn't generally distributed in knowledge. We've gone to hell because my former friend had no knowledge of Bosnia, I suspect.

4/15/2006 03:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, April 14, 2006
 
STOP TRYING TO CHARM ME. Dear President Ahmadinejad continues to coo sweet nothings:
The president of Iran again lashed out at Israel on Friday and said it was "heading toward annihilation," just days after Tehran raised fears about its nuclear activities by saying it successfully enriched uranium for the first time.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

[...]

On Friday, he repeated his previous line on the Holocaust, saying: "If such a disaster is true, why should the people of this region pay the price? Why does the Palestinian nation have to be suppressed and have its land occupied?"

The land of Palestine, he said, referring to the British mandated territory that includes all of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, "will be freed soon."

He did not say how this would be achieved, but insisted to the audience of at least 900 people: "Believe that Palestine will be freed soon."

"The existence of this (Israeli) regime is a permanent threat" to the Middle East, he added. "Its existence has harmed the dignity of Islamic nations."

The three-day conference on Palestine is being attended by officials of Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian territories.
He sure knows how to sweet-talk.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

4/14/2006 02:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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LEADERS NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. What Major General John Batiste, commander of the 1st Army Division going into Baghdad has to say.
MS. SAWYER: You have done an extraordinary thing, calling on Secretary Rumsfeld to step down. Why?

GEN. BATISTE: Diane, there's really two reasons. One is, leaders need to be held accountable. By that I mean, we went to war with a flawed plan. We certainly had the troops necessary to win the fight to take down Saddam Hussein, but we in no way considered the hard work to win the peace. There was 10 years of good, deliberate war planning by U.S. Central Command that was essentially ignored.

[...]

GEN. BATISTE: You know, the American Army has significant experience with peace enforcement operations in the recent past, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti. We've done a lot of work on this, all tied to the principles of war. General Shinseki, when asked, you recall, in front of the Congress said it would take about 300,000. In my estimate, that's about right. It takes troops' boots on the ground in this kind of an operation where you're building the peace; you're setting a country up for self-reliance. It is hard work. You have to control the ground; you have screen the borders; you have to intimidate the insurgency.

Too many times I was forced to conduct a movement to contact with my forces. The problem with that, you only own the ground for a moment in time. This is not the way you fight an insurgency. So I would say that back when we developed that plan, there were people that had responsibilities to step forward based on the principles of war, and say, sir, no, we got this wrong.

[...]

MR. SMITH: You know, it's interesting, because we've interviewed the secretary here. One of the issues, right from the beginning of the war, "Are there enough troops on the ground? Do you have what you need to effectively fight this war, effectively to win the peace?" He said, "Well, I'm relying on my commanders on the ground." And we suggested to him, "Well, maybe your commanders are telling you what you want to hear." Does that ring true to you at all as a scenario that happened over the last three years?

GEN. BATISTE: If you're talking about the process to build the plan to invade Iraq and build the peace, I think the secretary's comments are disingenuous.

MR. SMITH: Disingenuous.

GEN. BATISTE: I think he built that plan the way he wanted to, without regard to the CENTCOM work for 10 years to build a deliberate plan. You know, the hardest part of war is building the peace. You've got to own the ground. You've got to change people's attitudes and give them alternatives to the insurgency. You've got to intimidate the insurgency. You've got to go after them day after day. And that takes boots on the ground.

General Shinseki had it right, you might recall, when he suggested that it would take around 300,000. And we all remember what happened to him. He was retired early, and the secretary of Defense did not go to his retirement ceremony.

MR. SMITH: Let me ask you this, General --

GEN. BATISTE: That has stayed with me forever.
And so on. Read the rest.

I left out the part where he spares the President, but he shouldn't, of course. The buck stops there, I've heard tell.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

4/14/2006 12:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 6 comments

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MICHAEL KINSLEY explains what happened. Seems pretty much spot-on, to me.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for a little potted history of the last thirty-plus years.

4/14/2006 12:32:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FREE SPEECH ISN'T JUST FOR JEWS. In the following tangle, I'm going to have to be careful to explain that my concern is with two things here, but that I'm not discussing a third.

There are several things that concern me about the upcoming trial of Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, who are generally referred to as "former AIPAC lobbyists."

One has to do with the war, the current political climate, and, yup, The Jews. I'll be starting with that.

But the other issue is freedom of the press, and the threat to start prosecuting anyone who accepts classified information, and that's a danger to all of us.

Then there's the third issue, the infamous Mearsheimer/Walt paper, which I'm not going to get into in the slightest; I haven't read it, and don't at this time plan to; life is short, and enough other people are arguing about it. At present, I have no opinion (some prejudicial suspicion, but nothing more); not gonna talk about it.

So:
The coming trial of two former representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for alleged violations of the Espionage Act is fueling concern among Jewish leaders that Israel and the Jewish-American community increasingly are being blamed for the Bush administration's troubles in the Middle East.

[...]

Meanwhile, leaders of such groups as the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League say they're tracking global media that they believe disproportionately focuses on the role Jewish officials inside the Bush administration played in building the case for war in Iraq.

[...]

A number of prominent strategists overseeing the Iraq invasion during President Bush's first term are Jews, such as former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Pentagon's then-No. 3 civilian official, Douglas Feith. Although they have been singled out for particular criticism, Jewish leaders say critics of the war often selectively bypass the scores of non-Jewish officials who also played central roles in developing the Iraq policy.

"Now you have an Iraq war that Americans are turning against, and you have people saying it's all a Jewish conspiracy," says Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, which promotes religious tolerance and the rights of the state of Israel. "But look at President Clinton's team: You had many Jews who aggressively pushed for peace in the Middle East. But these same critics don't see this as part of the same conspiracy."
This is my first concern. I see this stuff a lot. It's all over if you look for it, or are sensitive to it.

Instead of observing that various war supporters supported the war because of their convictions (possibly summarizable as "being neo-conservative," but cases such as Francis Fukuyama and others seem to indicate that that's not a wholly accurate label, either), what's observed by many is Look At All The Jews Behind It, and They Must Have Wanted War Because They're Jews, because It Was Really For Israel, and, of course, as we know, Only Jews Are Concerned About Israel, and besides, that means all Jews are of a single mind, and that's why all American Jews supported the war in Iraq, and why all Israeli Jews are Likudniks.

Except, of course, all of that is nonsensical crap. Most American Jews opposed the war, and Likud could barely win two handfuls of seats in the recent Israeli election, they're so unpopular in Israel. The fricking "Pensioner's Party," devoted to getting old people more money got far more seats and votes than Likud.

Neither are George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleeza Rice, Jewish, last I looked.

But most people are also blind to these sorts of classic tropes, and the long history behind them, and how they've been used in the past, and are still used today.

I was fairly disturbed when, in a blog comments conversation the other day, someone alleged that Israel was "threatening" Iran, and when I asked for support for that allegation, this article was hauled out of the hopper.

Now, I believe that the person who did this did so in great innocence, and simply isn't sensitive to the classic tropes of You Know What, and probably didn't read the article very carefully.

But here's the sort of thing we can find in one of Germany's largest magazines, and that a good, smart, American can let pass as innocuous:
With Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, his undersecretary Douglas Feith, and political advisor Richard Perle, all of the Jewish faith, Tel Aviv's right wing presumably already has influential supporters in Washington. In a comment on US foreign policy, the Financial Times, which normally leans toward Bush, recently wrote that "The Israeli tail wags the American dog."
Apparently it isn't obvious to everyone what's wrong here.

Does Israel's right wing have "influential supporters in Washington"? Absolutely. That's a perfectly legitimate thing to say. Now, the hint that such people might therefore, when considering or advocating American policy, be swayed to advocate policy that would be bad for America, out of undue prejudice towards the interests of Israel is another question, but it's certainly a perfectly legitimate topic for debate, as well. Absolutely, and let's be clear about that.

But what's blatantly, blatantly wrong here is the notion that such people, whether merely influential, or also so biased towards Israel as to advocate ill-advised policy for America might do so not out of their ideology, or worldview, or politics, or convictions, but because they are Jews.

As I observed: the rulers of America are not, in fact, Jews.

But the trope of The Jewish Advisors Are Poisoning The Well With Their Schemes: well, that was very big indeed with Mr. Goebbels and Mr. H., and all their ilk.

That's where it all goes wrong. That's where the illness lies. The focus not on politics, ideology, or conviction, but on Jewishness as The Problem.

The allegation that Jews are Secretly Controlling/Over-influencing Our Policy And Lives: that's the heart of classic anti-Semitism.

From that we get suspicion of Jews in power, examination of names for Jewishness, and proceed to witch-hunts for Jews, expunging of Jews, investigations into the undue influence of Jewish interests, and so on down the line.

To say this sets off hackles and alarm bells is an under-statement. And I'd like it to set off yours, too, please.

Back to the WSJ, and Mssrs. Rosen and Weissman:
The trial of the former AIPAC lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, is scheduled to begin next month. The two men are charged under the Espionage Act with receiving and disseminating classified information provided by a former Pentagon Middle East analyst. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley are among the witnesses Messrs. Rosen and Weissman's defense team has indicated it may call.

The Justice Department's indictment details how Messrs. Rosen and Weissman allegedly sought to promote a hawkish U.S. policy toward Iran by trading information and favors with a number of senior U.S. officials. Lawrence Franklin, the former Pentagon official, has pleaded guilty to misusing classified information. Mr. Franklin was charged with orally passing on information about a draft National Security Council paper about Iran to the two lobbyists, according to people familiar with the case, as well as other classified information. Mr. Franklin was sentenced in December to nearly 13 years in prison, but his sentence could be reduced, depending on the testimony he provides for the prosecution.

Lawyers for Messrs. Rosen and Weissman, as well as many Jewish leaders, say the actions of the former AIPAC employees were no different from how thousands of Washington lobbyists work. They say the indictment marks the first time in U.S. history that American citizens -- outside government employees or contractors -- have been charged with receiving and disseminating state secrets in conversations. In court filings, the defense team argues that their clients couldn't have known that the information they received was classified, and they say a conviction in the case could cast a chill over the U.S. media and political process.

The actions of the men are "what members of the media, members of the Washington policy community, lobbyists and members of congressional staffs do perhaps hundreds of times per day," the legal team wrote this month in a brief seeking to have the case dismissed. "These meetings are a vital and necessary part of how our government and society function."

Several members of Congress have expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying groups, such as AIPAC. These officials say they're eager to see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the lack of transparency in the case.
Now, this trial has a variety of aspects. One is the Jewish/anti-Semitic angle I raised above: the trial is being used by people of certain persuasions as evidence of allegations ranging from suspicion of undue Israeli influence in American politics/policy, to outright declarations that America is, as we all know, Controlled By The Jews.

The larger angle is the First Amendment, as reported by Walter Pincus (among many others):
The federal judge overseeing prosecution of two former lobbyists charged with receiving and transmitting national defense information under the 1917 Espionage Act has given the government until today to respond to defense claims that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and may violate the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered the government to provide the additional support for the charges filed last August against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The two were accused of receiving classified information during conversations with government officials, one of whom, then-Pentagon employee Lawrence A. Franklin, warned Weissman that the information he was giving was highly classified.

At a hearing last Friday on the defendants' motion to dismiss the indictments, Ellis directed a series of questions to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory expressing concern that the government had not dealt with constitutional issues raised by the defense.

"I didn't find your response in writing to match up with the fairly extensive attack by the defendants . . . so I am going to have further briefing," Ellis said. Last January, at the hearing where he sentenced Franklin to 12 years for passing classified information to the two lobbyists, Ellis called attention to the imprecise nature of the almost 90-year-old statute that restricts disclosure of "national defense information" that could harm U.S. interests or help enemies.

Ellis also said he had thought there would be well-established precedent he could follow, since the statute had been around for so long. But it has turned out that Rosen and Weissman are the first nongovernment employees to be indicted under the act for receiving classified information orally and not through documents or other tangible items.

"I think we are a bit in new, uncharted waters and that's why I'm going to consider this matter extremely carefully," Ellis told DiGregory and attorneys Abbe Lowell and John Nassikas, who represent Rosen and Weissman.

The case is drawing the attention of First Amendment attorneys because both Ellis and prosecutors have noted that the two lobbyists -- in receiving and disseminating the information -- are doing what journalists, academics and experts at think tanks do every day.

Floyd Abrams, a New York attorney who has represented the New York Times in a variety of high-profile cases, said in an interview this week that the AIPAC case "is the single most dangerous case for free speech and free press." Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, wrote on his Web site this week: "Anything other than a dismissal of the charges would mark a dramatic shift in national security law and a significant reduction in First Amendment protections."

Attorneys for the AIPAC lobbyists argue that First Amendment protections bear on the case because their clients were exercising their free speech rights.

DiGregory argued that oral disclosure of defense information was not protected speech because someone could be telling the contents of a classified document.

To read the statute that narrowly "would do great damage to our ability to protect national security," DiGregory said.

Ellis said the government must respond to the defense argument that the statute, which does not define "national defense information," is so vague "that men of common intelligence necessarily must guess at its meaning and differ as to its application."

The judge also told prosecutors to deal with another defense argument: that the statute does not provide "fair warning," since this is the first time it has been applied to civilians. Due process "bars courts from applying a novel construction of a criminal statute to conduct that neither the statute nor any prior judicial decision has fairly disclosed to be within its scope," Ellis said.

DiGregory conceded that every case up to now cited by the government has involved either government employees or the passing of classified papers.

Ellis also raised the question of what would happen if people to whom Rosen passed the defense information relayed it to someone else. "Would it [the criminal liability] continue to apply ad infinitum?" he asked. DiGregory replied, "That's a difficult question to answer in the abstract."
It's fairly unusual for a judge to raise such questions on his own. Uncharted waters, indeed.

If this theory of the 1917 Espionage Act holds, then any journalist who receives classified information can be jailed.

It would turn out that we've had an Official Secrets Act all along, and it took the Bush Administration to unearth it.

This case is the proverbial camel with its nose in the tent. If these guys can be convicted under the theory that it's illegal for anyone to receive classified info -- and remember that this has never been the case before, that no one has ever even been charged with such a thing, in all the zillions of cases of government leaks of classified info -- than, yes, anyone who receives classified info can be so convicted.

There's no problem, mind, that I'm aware of with the conviction of Larry Franklin. He passed on classified material that he, a government official, was forbidden by law to pass on; he appears to have been guilty and properly found so. Fine.

But we've never before convicted people of a crime for receiving classified material. That's a whole 'nother ball game.

The staff of the New York Times who reported on the NSA "Program," including James Risen? Jail time.

Seymour Hersh? Jail time.

Pincus at the Post? Jail time.

And every other reporter, forever more.

Needless to say, Woodward and Bernstein would have gone to jail, and so those who published the Pentagon Papers, and on and on.

So this is kinda an important case. And not just because of the Jewish aspects.

But, hey, think of us as your canary in the mine. It's in our job description.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for the WSJ piece if you want to digress onto Walt/Mearsheimer; 0 out of 5 for the Washington Post piece.

This, incidentally, is a post I'd love to see linked to by others, but since pretty much no one ever links to my political posts, I'm not going to hold my breath.

4/14/2006 07:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Thursday, April 13, 2006
 
SUPERHERO! David Zucker is planning that film. (Annoyingly, there are no permalinks there, so you have to scroll down to "Superhero! Spoofs Comics"; I'm unclear how long the link will be good.)

Zucker, of course, is the director of Airplane! and all the Naked Gun and Scary Movie moobies.
Director David Zucker told SCI FI Wire that he is working with Scary Movie 4 co-writer Craig Mazin on a superhero spoof film, Superhero!, which will not only poke fun at the conventions of the comic-book hero, but also continue the very rigid rules of spoof he has set up for his series of funny films. "We've got two sets of rules we're following," Zucker said with a laugh. "It's not easy. There's a vast body of work with superhero movies, and Mazin and I compiled a list of a dozen or so characteristics of all these movies."

For one thing, a superhero can't tell his love interest his real identity, Zucker said. "They can never reveal who he is, and so you have a bunch of these cliches in a genre of people where they share enough characteristics they can be in this superhero world," he said.

The trick is to adhere to what Mazin called "the bible of movie spoofs," which Zucker put together after making Airplane!, Top Secret! and the Naked Gun movies. The 15 rules include not referring to a film that's too obscure, avoiding dated references and avoiding building any of the plot's key points into a joke. As for the superhero spoof film, it won't feature a bizarre one-joke super power and won't refer to any existing superheroes. "We'll make up our own guy with our own super powers," Zucker said. "It will be an original thing, but people will be comfortable in that superhero world. It can't be a joke power, because you can't sustain it. We have a lot of rules you have to follow. If it's a joke power, it's a joke one time and can't continue to be funny. These will have to be real powers. I love the fact that Spider-Man got bitten by something and that gave him super powers. We're watching every movie that came out, and it's a genre that's ripe. Look at all the similarities in ... X-Men, Batman, Fantastic Four, Superman. All of them have common stories. I think there's something funny there, too."

Superhero! is planned for release in 2007 by Dimension Films, which distributed the Scary Movie franchise
For a heck of a lot more from Zucker, and Robert K. Weiss, the producer of all those films, see here for a mildly funny interview of the two. Typical sample:
For "Airplane!" the filmmakers originally approached Jack Webb, of "Dragnet."

"He didn't have a big sense of humor," Weiss says.

"No, he didn't."

"One actor, the guy who appeared on 'Rat Patrol,' the TV show? That guy was angry," says Zucker. "He hated us."

"Probably dead by now."

"So now we could get him."

"Dying for work."
I'm not a huge fan of their films, actually, but maybe you are.

Read The Rest as amused, but don't call me Shirly.

4/13/2006 07:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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CRIPES, THE GENERALS ARE ROLLING LIKE TEN-PINS. Maj. Gen.Charles Swannack.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander who led the elite 82nd Airborne Division during its mission in Iraq has joined the chorus of retired generals calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon.

"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him," retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack told CNN's Barbara Starr on Thursday.

[...]

Swannack is critical of Rumsfeld's management style.

"Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there," Swannack said in the telephone interview.

"And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press ... and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward."

Swannack, who served more than 30 years in the Army, said part of the problem at the Pentagon is Rumsfeld's system of promoting senior leaders.

"If you understand what Secretary Rumsfeld has done in his time in the Pentagon, he personally is the one who selects the three-star generals to go forward to the president for the Senate to confirm."

Swannack also criticized the way the war was being run before he retired.

In May 2004, while still on active duty, Swannack told the Washington Post that he thought the United States was losing strategically in Iraq.
Something I almost blogged on a few days ago, but didn't, was this quote:
[...] Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also defended Rumsfeld this week, telling reporters that "nobody works harder than he does."

"People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld," Pace said Tuesday.
I have to wonder if Pace wasn't saying, cleverly, that he questioned Rumsfeld's judgment, since, of course, no one questions the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld; we question his, duh, judgment.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5. Yesterday, more generals.

UPDATE, 6:27 p.m.: more.

Zinni and Batiste were just on the PBS Newshour, or as we know it, the commie network.

4/13/2006 03:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EARLY WARNING, INDEED. Arkin today. (You've been reading him, like I told you, right?; well, just in case not.)
World pressure and American diplomacy would be mightily enhanced if Iran understood that the United States was indeed so serious about it acquiring nuclear weapons it was willing to go to war over it. What is more, the American public needs to know that this is a possibility.

[...]

We now also know that the Iraqis themselves didn't quite believe that the United States was serious about regime change and that it would go all the way. Perhaps though, had the United States candidly stated its intentions rather than spending so much time denying reality, Baghdad would have gotten the message and war would have been averted, perhaps in another time and place.

It seems today we face a similar problem with Iran. The President of the United States insists that all options are on the table while the Secretary of Defense insists it "isn't useful" to discuss American options.

I think this sends the wrong message to Tehran. Contingency planning for a full fledged war with Iran may seem incredible right now, and Iran isn't Iraq. But Iran needs to understand that the United States isn't hamstrung by a lack of options, Iran needs to know that it can't just stonewall and evade international inspections, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes of "winning" because war is messy.

As I've said before in these pages, I don't believe that the United States is planning to imminently attack Iran, and I specifically don't think so because Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons and it hasn't lashed out militarily against anyone.

But the United States military is really, really getting ready, building war plans and options, studying maps, shifting its thinking.

It is not in our interests to have Tehran not understand this. The military options currently on the table might not be good ones, but Iran shouldn't make decisions based upon a false view. Two so-called "experts" are quoted in The Washington Post today saying that there are no options, that there is no Plan B, that the United States will just live with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. They are fundamentally wrong about the options, and misunderstand the Bush administration as well.

But most important, this constant drum beat in the newspapers and the media sends the wrong message to Iran. This is why Secretary Rumsfeld should be saying that the U.S. is preparing war plans for Iran, and that the United States views the situation so seriously that it would be willing to risk war if Iran acquired nuclear weapons or lashed out against the U.S. or its friends. The war planning moreover, Rumsfeld needs to add, is not just routine, it is not just what military's do all the time. It is specifically related to Iran, to its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, to its meddling in Iraq and support for international terrorism.

Iran needs to know the facts and the American public need to know the facts. But most important, the American public needs to hear the facts about American war plans, military options and preparedness from the government so that they can understand where we are and decide whether they think the threat from Iran justifies the risks of another war.
There's a bunch of more. So go read it, and the rest of his entries for the past week (or more; knock yourself out).

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

4/13/2006 03:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, particularly their spiritual needs.
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Calling hip-hop culture “the greatest attack on the youth of the world,” EX Ministries founder Elder G. Craige Lewis charges rap stars like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Ja Rule, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Three 6 Mafia with hiding Satanic images in their music.

Hip-hop music has devilish intent, he told audiences at Yokosuka Naval Base and Yokota Air Base last weekend.

“The devil has a plan to deceive this country through music,” Lewis told the 60 people at Yokosuka’s Little Theater on Sunday. “It started with heavy metal, but that only attracted a demographic of white, suburban kids. Hip-hop has global appeal. It’s an entire culture of clothes, music and lifestyle. You listen to the music while the lyrics promote killing, drugs, sex, crime, idolatry and violence.”

[...]

“Lucifer was the chief musician in heaven before he fell to Earth and became Satan,” Lewis said. “It’s ridiculous to see these people thanking God for selling so many records or winning awards. You can’t serve two masters. You can’t dance with the devil and praise the Lord.”

He called on parents to destroy their hip-hop CDs and posters and to “tighten things up” for their kids.
Our troops are only strengthened thanks to the message of the good Reverend. Praise the lord! Demons, out!

Or is it "out, damned spot?" I confuse so easily.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 for a bit more detail if interested enough.

4/13/2006 01:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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IT TAKES A GOOD MAN to be a court clerk. Or woman. Particularly if you summon jurors in NYC.
If you have been called to serve on a jury in Manhattan, you may remember Norman Goodman, if only by name. His name appears on every state summons that goes out to a prospective juror in Manhattan, which, even in these times of low crime, number about 6,000 a week.

It is a name that fills otherwise imperturbable citizens with fear, loathing and often a need to come up with excuses probably last used in fifth grade.

A jury summons signed by Norman Goodman prompted one woman to send in a small plastic bag, filled with gray powder, on behalf of her husband, the subject of the summons. "Some of his ashes from the crematorium," the woman scribbled next to the bag.

Woody Allen sent a note, in cramped printing, protesting that he had been so traumatized by his experience in court during a child-custody dispute with Mia Farrow that returning to sit on a jury was out of the question.

Yet another prospective juror wrote simply: "My cat threw up on the form." On the back of the summons, there was, indeed, an orange and yellow splat.
There are a bunch more good anecdotes.

I started this post the way I did because, once upon a time, circa ~1980, I spent a good part of a year being the temporary Court Summons Clerk for Seattle Municipal Courts.

This didn't require me to deal with jurors. What my job primarily consisted of was reading through the tickets police wrote, which were mostly, but not entirely, traffic tickets, and try to determine from their chicken-scratches and odd language, all fit into a -- well, you know how large a ticket is; I just worked from the policy copy -- who, precisely, had witnessed the alleged crime, and then determine who was most and best summonable, and then write the summons, get it off to them, and then deal with their responses.

A fair number of times I exercised my Vast Power to essentially pre-emptively dismiss cases, since it was evident that the ticket was written so incompetently that there was no other witness, and a case that was simply the cop's word was, in the extremely strict and clear guidelines I had been given, not going to fly; sometimes, of course, false information had been given, and the alleged witness couldn't be found, giving the same result.

Other times, the cop's description was incomprehensible. And then there were the excuses from witnesses who were served with my summons.

I wish I could tell you a bunch of hilarious anecdotes, because once upon a time, I could tell them to you; unfortunately, more than twenty-five years later, I've pretty much forgotten all the specifics, at least, at this moment.

There were some pretty strange traffic accidents, though. The ones where people were having sex while driving were always fun. Trying to figure out the physics of how car A could have gotten over to place B could also be intriguing (wait, it was flying?).

But it was definitely one of the more interesting jobs I've had. I did a number of long-term (meaning 3-18 months long) jobs for the City of Seattle Muncipal Temporary Service; some rather high-level administrative jobs, despite being temporary positions; one time I administered the school immunization program for, I forget the precise number, but dozens of school districts, and I actually had the power to close schools to get them to comply. (I never did, but I threatened to a few times.)

The Municipal Courts position, incidentally, gave me full, unfettered, and unsupervised access to the police computer system, and the police records room, and the court records room.

Naturally -- I will say only twenty-five-plus-years later -- I abused that privilege, and looked up everyone I knew (so much for privacy, eh?; a zillion people could do this, and not just cops, but lots of people in the system, like me); hey, so so&so had that many DWIs, eh? Interesting. What, that offense? And the court records say what? Huh!

I also (abusively and utterly unofficially, but completely effectively) expunged my own record for the single ticket I've ever gotten in my life, which was for, well, let's say it had to do with being in public very late at night, just after taverns with lots of video games closed, and that a liquid was involved, but that I've never had a driver's license. Walking home and a bodily function were involved, and that's all I'll say. It was a misdemeanor; I hope no one pisses themselves to read of my vast criminal record.

Anyway, I wouldn't count on access to such systems being better (having better privacy protection, that is) these days, even though that's frequently claimed, and could be so, but, as I said, it takes a good man or woman to do those jobs.

Me: I yam what I yam. Not so bad, really.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for tales of celebrity juror excuses, and more.

4/13/2006 12:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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