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Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
REVISING OUR ELECTORAL SYSTEM. California's Assembly has taken a very interesting step. I'm dubious it's a good idea.
Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California's 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.
As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states — mostly in the upper Midwest — that are truly up for grabs.
Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.
The bill is part of a 3-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and a Stanford computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is pending in four other states and is expected to be introduced in every state by January, its sponsors say. The legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes — a minimum of 13 states, depending on population.
The bill — AB 2948 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) — cleared the Assembly 49 to 31 with a single Republican vote from Assemblyman Rick Keene (R-Chico). To become law, it must be passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
Fadem said he was surprised by the partisan divide in the Assembly vote. In the New York Legislature, Republicans introduced the bill, he said, and they support it in Illinois, Missouri and Colorado.
But Republican Assembly members warned that the bill would empower big cities — whose residents tend to vote for Democrats — at the expense of small states.
"Small states suffer here," said Assemblyman Michael Villines (R-Clovis). "Yes, California is a big state. But I don't want a candidate to go to 10, 12 big urban centers, win a majority and walk away with the presidency."
"This would simply say if you're in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Boston … you can elect the president," Villines said.
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) argued that the Electoral College was created by the drafters of the U.S. Constitution after great debate and thought, and he said it should not be altered lightly.
"Direct democracies were properly seen by the founding fathers as very unstable because 50% plus one of the people can vote themselves anything and run roughshod over the rights of the minority, run roughshod over rule of law," DeVore said. "That is what the Electoral College is all about."
I've read sporadically about this movement since it started, but it didn't seem worth blogging about until it got somewhere; now it has.
While I'm not passing definitive judgment at this time, and it's obvious why it's in the short-term interest of California, and other non-battleground states to do this, I'm going to say something that will be unpopular with many who read me, which is that on this issue, I tend to agree with the criticisms voiced by the Republicans quoted above.
I've always been very conservative about tampering with the Electoral College; it's flawed, but its flaws are known, and I'm extremely wary of the Law Of Unintended Consequences.
Moreover, some of the flaws of switching to a straight national-popular-vote-wins system -- which is what would happen if most states adopt this system, which certainly can be done by each state without modification to the Constitution -- are as stated above: suddenly it becomes possible to be elected President by only campaigning in the largest population centers, and catering only to the political desires of the people who live there, and ignoring the rest of the country and every other regional and local concern.
That sounds like an extremely questionable notion to me.
The flaws of the Electoral College system are well-known, and were made even far more vivid in 2000, of course. But the fact is, the system has basically worked very well for over 200 years, and it requires a nominee to travel to a considerable number of states of widely varying types in a considerable number of regions, for all that the known flaws are obvious. Our political system has grown used to balancing out the political interests of widely disparate set of interests and groups of people because of this need.
We don't know what the effects of switching to pleasing pretty much only the denizens of large metropolitan regions will be, overall, in the long run. It's very tempting to chuck the present system aside, since its flaws are known, and leap boldly into the New System, given how bitter (with good cause) so many people are over 2000 and the general frustration people in large states and large metropolitan regions have over the fact that, say, New Hampshire and Iowa hold such disproportionate political power in Presidential election years (and thus that power reverbrates through other years), and that states with small populations, such as Wyoming and Montana, hold a disproportionate amounts of political power (once naturally hears this also as regards why the Senate is Unfair).
But this system was deliberately constructed to be that way, of course, by the Founders. Most deliberately. The point is that we do have a federal system, and that we do have States, not just a national government, and that the laboratory of the states for differing political systems to some degree, reflecting their local conditions and local cultures and local needs, are valuable laboratories for all of us in terms of coming up with new laws and new ways of doing things, and seeing what policies succeed and which don't, and then considering moving a successful program or idea to the national level.
We risk dismantling all that if we drastically cut away the political powers of States qua States.
And I'm very loath to experiment with this sort of thing, given the huge potential cost of the experiment of switching to National Popular Voting if it goes badly.
I know this will be rejected by many because it sounds so Republican. Well, this is an issue I first wrote a paper on in fifth grade, as it happens, and I've been thinking about it and rethinking about it, and considering the arguments that long. And that's what I think. That it sounds rather Republicanish: well, I really don't give a damn. It's what I think.
TO HELL WITH THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, or anything in NYC; none of them are national icons or monuments.
After vowing to steer a greater share of antiterrorism money to the highest-risk communities, Department of Homeland Security officials on Wednesday announced 2006 grants that slashed money for New York and Washington 40 percent, while other cities including Omaha and Louisville, Ky., got a surge of new dollars.
The net effect was that the grant to New York City, which was $207.6 million last year, will drop to $124.5 million this year. Washington will see its grant dollars drop to $46.5 million this year from $77.5 million.
New York officials were given a one-page tally that explained, in part, how the region's risk-based standing was calculated. The document said the region had no "national monuments or icons," four banking or financial firms with assets of over $8 billion, 28 chemical or hazardous material sites, as well as nearly 7,000 other possible important, high-risk targets, like hospitals or major office buildings, a tally that some city officials said had major omissions or errors.
"It's outrageous that these bean counters don't think the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge are national monuments or icons," said Jordon Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg.
The $711 million in so-called Urban Area Security Initiative grants was one piece of a larger $1.7 billion pool awarded to states on Wednesday, which is hundreds of millions less than was available last year.
Over all, New York State will get $183.7 million, a 20 percent drop from last year. That means that the state's per capita share of grant money, which totals $2.78 a person, will drop to an even lower level compared with some rural states, like Wyoming, which will get $14.83 a person this year, according to a calculation by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York.
Apparently the Bush Administration is informing us that terrorism is much less dangerous than it used to be, so we don't have to spend nearly as much money on preventing it as we used to: isn't that great news?
Aren't these the people you want to trust to fight the War On Terror?
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. And strongly consider moving to Wyoming, where most people are Republicans, and a terror attack may happen at any moment (it's clearly 7 times more likely than in NYC), but they'll be more prepared! (Soon to feature the Dick Cheney National Monument! Wait for it!)
A new military parachute system which fits wings on soldiers could enable them to travel up to 200 kilometres after jumping, Peter Felstead, the editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, says the new system has been in use with the German Army since 2003.
But he says the development of the new wing means soldiers can travel much further than the current 48 kilometres.
"The new wing will also reduce the impact of wind conditions on the jumper and allow operatives to travel up to 40 kilometres carrying loads of around 100 kilograms," Mr Felstead said.
"The system is reportedly 100 per cent silent and extremely difficult to track by air on ground-based radar systems."
Jane's Defence Weekly reports that the next stage of the development will utilise small turbo-jet drives, as used on unmanned aerial vehicles, allowing jumpers to be carried longer distances without jumping from such extreme heights.
The system, which involves the development of new modular carbon-fibre wings, will mean that aircraft can drop parachutists from 9,150 metres into an area of operations without flying into a danger zone.
Gotta love the carbon fiber. Especially as carbon nanotubes (which can now be used to make transistors; click link).
DARFUR IS STILL THERE. I know this is a downer post, and an incredibly depressing topic to read about, but things are getting worse.
[...] If this child, Mukhtar Ahmed, could be said to have had any good fortune in his short life, it is that he fell ill last week, and not a month from now. Within a few weeks even the doctor treating him may be gone.
Dr. Sayid Obeid Bakhiet's clinic, one of just two left in this vast, squalid camp of 35,000 people displaced by the conflict in the huge Darfur region of western Sudan, is out of money. It will be forced to close at the end of June unless the organization that runs it, the Sudanese Red Crescent, finds more cash, Dr. Bakhiet said.
"What will happen to these people when I am gone?" he asked as he rushed between the flood of patients he sees — as many as 80 a day, six days a week. "Only God knows."
The brutal war in Darfur has set off what the United Nations has called the "world's worst humanitarian crisis," a crucible of death that seems to grow grimmer despite a new peace agreement. But it is not bullets that kill most people here now. It is pneumonia borne on desert dust, diarrhea caused by dirty water, malaria carried by mosquitoes to straw huts with no nets.
At least 200,000 and perhaps as many as 450,000 have died as a direct result of the conflict in Darfur, according to estimates by international health and human rights organizations, though no one is sure how many of the deaths have come from combat and how many from the hunger and disease that have been caused or worsened by the war.
But these days, people mostly die because they cannot get health care, clean water or enough food.
The conditions are so dire that the effort faces a widespread collapse, Jan Egeland, the top United Nations aid official, told the Security Council this month.
In the camp at Zam Zam for people displaced by the fighting, a health center run by Doctors Without Borders closed earlier this month, and no other international organization has stepped in to fill the gap.
The Spanish Red Cross, the organization coordinating the handful of remaining charities working in the camp, is frantically trying to find more money to keep Dr. Bakhiet's clinic going, and is optimistic that a donor will be found.
Then last month, Unicef said child malnutrition in Darfur was creeping back up toward the level it reached in 2004, when the crisis was at its worst. The World Food Program announced this month that it would halve rations for Darfur because it had received only 32 percent of the $746 million it needed to feed the needy in Darfur.
I know there's fatigue over this, but the people in Darfur are real, and they feel worse than fatigue.
Just over a year ago, Alaa Seif al-Islam was one of a growing number of Egyptian bloggers who recounted their lives online, published poetry, provided Web tips, helped private aid agencies use the Internet and stayed out of politics.
But on May 25, 2005, Seif al-Islam witnessed the beating of women at a pro-democracy rally in central Cairo by supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party. He was then roughed up by police, who confiscated the laptop computer ever at his hand.
After that, Seif al-Islam's blog turned to politics. It began not only to describe the troubles of Egypt under its authoritarian president, Hosni Mubarak, but also described acts of repression and became a vehicle for organizing public protests.
At least six bloggers are among about 300 protesters jailed during the past month's suppression of demonstrations. The bloggers, supporters say, were singled out by police, who pointed them out before agents rushed in to hustle them away. In the view of some human rights observers, the Egyptian government has begun to note political activity online and is taking steps to rein it in.
"Blogging was a new but growing phenomenon. The government is monitoring, and it doesn't like" what it sees, said Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
The legal status of the jailed bloggers and other detainees distresses their relatives and friends: Under Egypt's emergency laws, which have been in place for 25 years, the bloggers can be jailed indefinitely. A special court reviews such detentions only every 15 days. Some prisoners held under emergency laws have been jailed for more than a decade.
Internet observers say there are about 1,000 bloggers in Egypt, a small number compared with Iran, which has about the same number of people but about 75,000 bloggers. The Egyptian number has been growing, however, increasing about 50 percent in the past six months, estimated Amr Gharbeia, a prominent Egyptian blogger.
Seif al-Islam provided a hint of the Internet's effectiveness when he organized a rally last summer that drew several hundred protesters to an Islamic shrine, an unusual site for such an event. Most political demonstrations in Egypt take place in front of government buildings or government buildings or those that house lawyers' and journalists' unions.
"The young people are more imaginative than us," said Ahmad Seif al-Islam, Alaa's father and head of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a human rights group. "We would never have thought of going to a popular shrine."
Free Alaa, and the other Egyptian bloggers, and all those fighting for freedom and democracy in Egypt. (Yes, the most likely successor at present is the Muslim Brotherhood; still, we can't stand and watch this sort of repression.)
GOR BLIMEY. The story I've been meaning to get to for nearly two weeks! The shocking sex cult that threatens Britain!
That is, it threatens to reduce you to hysterical laughter, if you know what it's about. The Torygraph:
Sex slave cult uncovered in Darlington
Curtains were twitching in a quiet suburban street yesterday after police uncovered a sect whose followers base their lives on science fiction novels advocating the sexual enslavement of women.
Members of the group were interviewed in Darlington after a report that a Canadian woman was being held there against her will.
They helped the 29-year-old return home after she told a friend that she wanted to leave but had burnt her passport after joining the sect.
However, a police spokesman said no criminal activity was discovered and all those involved were "consenting adults".
They also investigated claims from a father in Essex who was concerned that his 18-year-old son was being trained to be "a master of his own sex slaves".
Officers spoke to the teenager and said they were satisfied that he was living voluntarily at the property, a pebble-dashed terrace house.
The so-called Kaotian sect is a splinter group of the Goreans, who have about 25,000 followers in Britain. They base their lives on a series of novels written by John Norman, the pen name of the elderly American university professor, John Frederick Lange.
The books describe life on the planet of Gor, where society is divided into castes and women are kept as slaves.
The popularity of the books spread on the internet, where there are sites, chatrooms and role-playing games dedicated to the fictional world.
Lee Thompson, 31, who lives at the house in Darlington and describes himself as a master who trains slaves, said women members cooked and cleaned as part of their duties, but there was also "an element of sexual domination".
In an interview with the Northern Echo, Mr Thompson, who was banned from a butcher's shop in the town for turning up with a young woman on a leash, said: "I have been called sick but I don't think what I do is bad."
He said about 350 followers met regularly in pubs and clubs around the North East, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to York. A follower for 15 years, Mr Thompson said he had been a master to about eight women.
Mr Thompson said he read the novel Tarnsman of Gor when he was 13. By the age of 16 he decided to pursue the lifestyle described.
He met Goreans - whom he described as rougher than Kaotians - at a nightclub. He became an "apprentice" at 16 and a "master" at 21.
One neighbour said on learning that she was living next to a sex slavery sect: "This is a Christian country and you don't really need that sort of thing here. This country's going down the pan."
A shopkeeper added: "I saw them in the town centre with the man leading her by the chain, I couldn't believe it."
A spokesman for Durham Police said: "An investigation by our officers did not disclose any criminal offences."
Now, the fact is, the Gor fans are real. But they're also completely harmless.
The first 3 books in the series I read back in the Sixties, when the number of science fiction and fantasy books published per month in paperback by all the publishers there were was approximately 14-18; of that, fantasy was actually usually about 2, compared to science fiction (which was fine by me).
It was perfectly possible to read all those books, plus the 6 monthly magazines (Analog, Amazing, Fantastic, Galaxy, If, and The Magazine of Fantasy And Science Fiction), and still read the sporadic sf hardcover, and endless more older sf books and magazines besides.
So I did.
And the first 3 Gor books by "John Norman," as published initially by Ballantine Books (and later by DAW, until even they dropped them), were run-of-the-mill Edgar Rice Burroughs knock-offs about an Earthman transferred to another planet, having to make his way in a land of sword-fighting and lords and whatnot.
It was around the fourth book that the series started to take a turn towards an emphasis on the protagonist's relationships with woman, and their need to feel dominated by him. And that emphasis only grew, and I quit reading them by the fifth or sixth book.
But John Lange, the professor who wrote them under the pseudonym of "John Norman" taught at Queens College, which had an sf club that contributed significantly to local NYC sf fandom (we're talking about a total of 50-70 people or so in all of NYC in the early Seventies, mind, spread among several overlapping clubs of rather different nature, plus a handful of stand-offish individualists), and Lange came to a couple of the local Lunacons.
And I actually knew a couple of otherwise highly intelligent, vibrant, strong, dynamic, accomplished, women, who were, in fact, eager fans of the Gor philosophy/style. (They also tended to join the local Society for Creative Anachronism, the SCA, where they could play at meeting Lords, and such.)
A bit hard for me to understand, particularly at the time, since I was only a teen, but I noted it down as one of many oddities of so many sorts of oddities one encounters via sf fandom, along with an amazing range of people accomplished in all walks of life.
And later, after sf conventions exploded in the Eighties, in size and number, one started to see fringe-fans showing up in small numbers in Gor outfits, and a handful of women -- but also sometimes men -- being led around in collars and chains. Yet later, there was a bit more overlap with what became known as the BDSM community with some sf cons where they felt more at home, but not at others where they did not.
At some point in the Eighties, Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books got fed up with the Gor books, and dropped them, leading to a series of self-pitying essays by Professor Lange appearing complaining how he was being censored and so forth. The world's tiniest violin was played.
And that's pretty much that. That some people like to be dominated and play-act at it, both sexually, and in some cases, in other aspects of their life, should come as no news to anyone with much experience of life who isn't very sheltered. And that's about all there is to the "Gor cult."
So it was quite amusing to see Britain rise in a tabloid tizzy a couple of weeks ago over this shocking, shocking discovery.
But soon they had to worry about cheese injuries and Giant Rabbits, so life goes on. God save the Queen. Whatever she's wearing these days by way of neckware.
SPRINGTIME FOR STORM-TROOPERS. The immigration ruckus has been, as you knew it would be, good for the neo-Nazis. (Or, as one says, "there's nothing 'neo' about us.")
Pugnacious anthems and racist diatribes have never been in short supply at Nordic Fest, an annual white-power Woodstock held over the Memorial Day break near the former mining town of Dawson Springs, Ky. And this past weekend was no exception. On the agenda were a Triumph of the Will--themed running event and a cross "lighting" sponsored by the Imperial Klans of America. But something new did arise at Nordic Fest this year: bellicose talk and plans of action against illegal immigrants. Among the scheduled guest speakers was Hal Turner, a New Jersey Internet radio talk-show host who recently instructed his audience to "clean your guns, have plenty of ammunition ... and then do what has to be done" to undocumented workers.
With immigration perhaps America's most volatile issue, a troubling backlash has erupted among its most fervent foes. There are, of course, the Minutemen, the self-appointed border vigilantes who operate in several states. And now groups of militiamen, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are using resentment over the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. as a potent rallying cry. "The immigration furor has been critical to the growth we've seen" in hate groups, says Mark Potok, head of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center counts some 800 racist groups operating in the U.S. today, a 5% spurt in the past year and a 33% jump from 2000. "They think they've found an issue with racial overtones and a real resonance with the American public," says Potok, "and they are exploiting it as effectively as they can."
Both Potok's group and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are worried that extremists are burrowing their way into the anti-immigration mainstream. Mark Martin, 43, of Covington, Ohio, is a chef at a French restaurant and tends his backyard organic garden. But he also dons the black and brown uniform of western Ohio's National Socialist (read: Nazi) Movement. "There's nothing neo about us," he says. Martin admits he frequently harasses day laborers and threatens them with deportation. "As Americans, we have the right to make a citizen's arrest and detain them," he insists. "And if they try to get away, we have the right to get physical with them." Martin gleefully boasts about leading eight fellow storm troopers in disrupting a May 1 pro-immigrant rally in Dayton by taunting protesters. Although police ultimately restrained him, Martin believes his agitation was worthwhile because it attracted new recruits. "After the rally, the Klan called us," he says. "Now we've started working together more often."
The anti-immigration nativists: uniters, not dividers.
There's more about the militias gaining strength again. And you know who the go-to guy for all this is: yes, of course it's David Neiwert at Orcinus.
COUGH. Incidentally, I currently have ~$60 to get through to the end of June with for food and all expenses, let alone possibly seeing a dentist, or renewing my medications in 2 weeks, and no prospect of any known or anticipated further income in June, so consider this one of those not-so-discreet little hints that any donations would be most gratefully received with embarrassed and awkward thanks.
THEY'RE BUSTING MR. WIZARD! The War on DIY science. This is certainly ridiculous. How many of you played with chemistry sets in your basements when you were kids, or took apart transformers, or built Heathkits, or model rockets, or had a microscope or telescope, or dissected god knows what?
I sure did all of the above, and more I ain't confessin'.
The first startling thing Joy White saw out of her bedroom window was a man running toward her door with an M16. White’s husband, a physicist named Bob Lazar, was already outside, awakened by their barking dogs. Suddenly police officers and men in camouflage swarmed up the path, hoisting a battering ram. "Come out with your hands up immediately, Miss White!" one of them yelled through a megaphone, while another handcuffed the physicist in his underwear. Recalling that June morning in 2003, Lazar says, "If they were expecting to find Osama bin Laden, they brought along enough guys."
The target of this operation, which involved more than two dozen police officers and federal agents, was not an international terrorist ring but the couple’s home business, United Nuclear Scientific Supplies, a mail-order outfit that serves amateur scientists, students, teachers, and law enforcement professionals. From the outside, company headquarters – at the end of a dirt road high in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque – looks like any other ranch house in New Mexico, with three dogs, a barbecue, and an SUV in the driveway. But not every suburban household boasts its own particle accelerator. A stroll through the backyard reveals what looks like a giant Van de Graaff generator with a pipe spiraling out of it, marked with CAUTION: RADIATION signs. A sticker on the SUV reads POWERED BY HYDROGEN, while another sign by the front gate warns, TRESPASSERS WILL BE USED FOR SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS.
[...] The CPSC’s war on illegal fireworks is one of several forces producing a chilling effect on amateur research in chemistry. National security issues and laws aimed at thwarting the production of crystal meth are threatening to put an end to home laboratories. In schools, rising liability concerns are making teachers wary of allowing students to perform their own experiments. Some educators even speculate that a lack of chem lab experience is contributing to the declining interest in science careers among young people.
Go read the rest of this example of yet another case of Homeland Security Gone Wild! (They're only drunk on power.)
How bad is it? They're busting Mr. Wizard.
[...] One kid whose interest in science was sparked by the gift of a chemistry set was Don Herbert, who grew up to host a popular TV show in the 1950s called Watch Mr. Wizard. With his eye-popping demonstrations and low-key midwestern manner, Mr. Wizard gave generations of future scientists and teachers the confidence to perform experiments at home. In 1999, Restoration Hardware founder Stephen Gordon teamed up with Renee Whitney, general manager of a toy company called Wild Goose, to try to re-create the chemistry set Herbert marketed almost 50 years ago. “Don was so sweet,” Whitney recalls. “He invited us to his home to have dinner with him and his wife. Then he pulled his old chemistry set out of the garage. It was amazing – a real metal cabinet, like a little closet, filled with dozens of light-resistant bottles.”
Gordon and Whitney soon learned that few of the items in Mr. Wizard’s cabinet could be included in the product. “Unfortunately, we found that more than half the chemicals were illegal to sell to children because they’re considered dangerous,” Whitney explains. By the time the Mr. Wizard Science Set appeared in stores, it came with balloons, clay, Super Balls, and just five chemicals, including laundry starch, which was tagged with an ominous warning: HANDLE CAREFULLY. NOT EXPECTED TO BE A HEALTH HAZARD.
I trust I need quote no more. Go read the rest of the madness. (And they're taking jungle gyms out of playgrounds, too: too risky!)
WEDNESDAY HADITHA ROUND-UP. No major revelations this morning; various stories.
The NY Times adds some details, but nothing particularly earth-shattering.
A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq.
Among the pieces of evidence that conflicted with the marines' story were death certificates that showed all the Iraqi victims had gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest, the official said.
The investigation, which was led by Col. Gregory Watt, an Army officer in Baghdad, also raised questions about whether the marines followed established rules for identifying hostile threats when they assaulted houses near the site of a bomb attack, which killed a fellow marine.
We pretty much knew this, but this adds Col. Watt's name, and emphasizes that it stood out that there was early evidence that the marines were lying as regards the cause of death. However, this does suggest that the Marines -- I don't know if NCIS had yet entered the picture -- were questioning the original story before Time brought it to them in March. [CORRECTION: Sorry, I'm getting my own timeline confused. As I reported here and here, Time reported their findings to the military in January. Sorry.]
Watt reported to Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the senior ground commander in Iraq, on March 9.
[...] Colonel Watt's findings also prompted General Chiarelli to order a parallel investigation into whether senior Marine officers and enlisted personnel had attempted to cover up what happened.
Among them were Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, whom officials had said was one of the senior noncommissioned officers on the patrol, and Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, the battalion commander, the senior official said. Colonel Chessani was relieved of his command in April, after the unit returned from Iraq.
I reported on Chessani here on Saturday, May 27th.
In their accounts to Colonel Watt, the marines said they took gunfire from the first of five residences they entered near the bomb site, according to the senior military official.
The official said the marines had recalled hearing "a weapon being prepared to be used against them."
This appears, if other reports are correct, to be the beginnings of their attempt at a cover-up, though that's a very tentative assessment, to be sure.
The rest of the account is mainly about the payments made to the Iraqi families.
[...] The relatives of each victim were paid a total of $2,500, the maximum allowed under Marine rules, along with $250 payments for two children who were wounded. Major Hyatt said he also compensated the families for damage to two houses.
I'll pause to note that $2,500 goes a lot further in Iraq than here, but not that much further. Also, when court awards are made in American compensation cases, life-span is taken into account, and compensation for children is apt to be higher than for adults, I believe. Just saying.
Paul Hackett, well-known erstwhile Democratic Congressional candidate from Ohio, is the attorney for Captain James Kimber, one of the three relieved battalio officers, and he's been making the rounds of interviews with reporters. He claims:
Pentagon investigations into the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians are focused on about a dozen enlisted Marines and do not target their commanding officers, the lawyer for one of the officers said Tuesday.
This may be completely right, but it's also one of their lawyers talking, so filter accordingly.
[...] The troops are from Kilo Company, part of Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
Kimber, who was nominated for a Bronze Star for valor in Haditha, was relieved of command because his subordinates used profanity, removed sunglasses and criticized the performance of Iraqi security services during an interview with Britain’s Sky News TV, according to Hackett.
The Pentagon has named two others who were relieved of command: Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion’s commander, and Capt. Lucas McConnell, who commanded Kilo Company. Hackett does not represent either man but said neither was present for the shootings and he believes neither man is a target of the investigations.
It seems worth noting that the reasons given for relieving Kimber seem quite like chicken-shit excuses to remove him, possibly because his superiors wanted him relieved, and this provided an excuse while the investigation is ongoing; I don't know. Maybe lots of officers get relieved for the above offenses in Iraq, though I'd be a bit surprised.
[...] White House press secretary Tony Snow said Tuesday that President Bush was briefed about the killings by National Security Adviser Steve Hadley early this year when Time magazine began asking questions about the incident.
"The president also is allowing the chain of command do what it’s supposed to do over at Department of Defense, which is to complete an investigation," he said.
The Briones and Wright family continue to speak up about their sons, who took pictures of the aftermath, but aren't involved, as I reported here.
[...] Wright’s parents, Patty and Frederick Wright of Novato, declined to comment on what might have happened to the photos their son took but said he turned over all of his information to the Navy.
"He is the Forrest Gump of the military," Frederick Wright said. "He ended up in the spotlight through no fault of his own."
Ryan Briones told the Los Angeles Times that Navy investigators had interrogated him twice in Iraq and that they wanted to know whether bodies had been tampered with. He turned over his digital camera but did not know what happened to it after that.
Arwa Damon, CNN reporter, talks about her shock at knowing the marines involved, and how careful they are to avoid unnecessary casualties.
The White House said the details of an investigation into the killings of Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November 2005 will be released to the public when the probe is completed.
Press Secretary Tony Snow said that he has been assured by the Pentagon that "all the details" will be made available. "We'll have a picture of what happened," Snow said.
Asked when Bush was first briefed about the events in Haditha, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq, Snow replied Tuesday: "When a Time reporter first made the call."
Another detail from that AP story, though:
Meanwhile, Lance Cpl. James Crossan of North Bend, Wash., who was injured in the roadside bomb attack in Haditha, told a Seattle television station that some of the Marines might have snapped after seeing one of their own killed in action.
"So, I think they were just blinded by hate ... and they just lost control," Crossan told KING-TV, which aired the interview Tuesday.
CNN has a fresh interview with Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie, the new Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., done by Wolf Blitzer. He testifies to other unjustified killings in Haditha, albeit second-hand. It's worth reading this in its entirety:
BLITZER: What do you know about what happened at Haditha?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, I heard the report very soon after the event in November from some relatives. And as it happened, my own security detail [man] comes from that neighborhood. And his home is hardly a hundred yards from the home which was hit.
And he was in touch through the Internet with his folks and neighbors. And the situation which he reported to me was that it was a cold-blooded killing.
BLITZER: By who?
SUMAIDAIE: By the Marines, I believe. Now, at that time, I dismissed the initial reports as incredible. I found it unbelievable, frankly.
BLITZER: You were at the United Nations then?
SUMAIDAIE: I was at the United Nations, and I found it unbelievable that the Marines would go in and kill members of a family who had nothing to do with combat. But I was under pressure by my friends and relatives to raise this issue.
Without any evidence in my hand, I didn't really want to make any claims that I could not substantiate. That was, remember, before any video came out. It was just word of mouth, people telling me what happened.
And I know the power of the rumor and the power of allegations without foundation. But in this case, it was more than that.
BLITZER: Well, you didn't raise it?
SUMAIDAIE: I did not raise it. I noted it. But I did not raise it. I raised it unofficially by -- through private conversations.
BLITZER: But even months before the incident in November, you lost a cousin at Haditha in a separate battle involving United States Marines.
SUMAIDAIE: Well, that was not a battle at all. Marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them.
His mother, his siblings were there. He led them into the bedroom of his father. And there he was shot.
BLITZER: Who shot him?
SUMAIDAIE: A member of the Marines.
BLITZER: Why did they shoot him?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, they said that they shot him in self-defense. I find that hard to believe because, A, he is not at all a violent -- I mean, I know the boy. He was [in] a second-year engineering course in the university. Nothing to do with violence. All his life has been studies and intellectual work.
Totally unbelievable. And, in fact, they had no weapon in the house. They had one weapon which belonged to the school where his father was a headmaster. And it had no ammunition in it. And he led them into the room to show it to them.
BLITZER: So what you're suggesting, your cousin was killed in cold blood, is that what you're saying, by United States Marines?
SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.
I would like further investigation. I have, in fact, asked for the report of the last investigation, which was a criminal investigation, by the way.
[Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq] is aware of all the details, because he's kept on top of it. And it was he who rejected the conclusions of the first investigation. I have since asked formally for the report, but it's been nearly two months, and I have not received it.
BLITZER: Did you raise these concerns you had with the president today when you were at the White House presenting your credentials?
SUMAIDAIE: No, I did not, because I did not want to bring a personal note into a much wider brief that I have here.
BLITZER: But what I hear you saying -- and I don't want to put words in your mouth -- is there maybe, in Haditha, at least, a pattern to what happened to your nephew, what happened apparently in November when these other Marines went in?
Are there any other examples of cold-blooded murder that you are familiar with in Haditha?
SUMAIDAIE: I am familiar with at least one other killing of three youths, which happened very soon after the killing of my cousin. They were in a car. They were unarmed, I believe. And they were shot.
Now, in that case, there could be possibly [an] excuse or explanation that the Marines were afraid. They were approaching them too fast, or whatever. But the details as they were related to me were such that there was no possibility of misunderstanding.
But in all these situations, you know, you have the word of the community, people around, civilians around -- and you have the word of the individuals in the Marines. ...
When it comes to comparing these two sources, I mean, if my uncle, whom I have known all my life since childhood, and I know he would not make up stories, and I know he would not lie, and I know what is at stake is the life of his grandson, then, you know, I know which word to take.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence the U.S. military will do a thorough investigation?
SUMAIDAIE: Ultimately, possibly, yes. But in situations like this, the ramifications are so profound that they -- they would initially take the attitude that they hope this would go away.
If it can be swept under the rug, it would. But when -- when it goes up higher in the hierarchy, then there are people who recognize the potential damage of cover-up, and there is a better possibility of it being opened up.
BLITZER: So you're concerned there could be a cover-up?
SUMAIDAIE: There is always a concern against cover-up. But let me say this, Wolf, events like this, Abu Ghraib, killing, intentional killing like this, ... as I said in my statement at the time in July of last year, ... are a betrayal to the American people. They're a betrayal to what the Marines are doing and what the American Army is doing.
On the whole, the United States and the military are doing an honorable job on an honorable project, which is of immense potential benefit for the United States and for us. Such crimes detract from that.
The focus in all the international media has been on these things, not on the good things. And I do believe that for every bad apple, bad Marine, there are thousands and thousands of good -- good ones doing [a] good job, doing the best they can under difficult circumstances.
However, it is absolutely imperative that we remove the bad apples and we expose them and we don't try to cover them up.
Pretty balanced, overall. And it tells you something about where we're at in Iraq today, and how inured -- but not -- Iraqis are to death, today.
A series of car bombings and other attacks killed more than 50 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier on Tuesday, evidence of a new intensity in the violence in Iraq and underlining the security problems facing the country's 10-day-old government.
In an indicator of rising violence, more "multiple-fatality" bombings -- involving at least three deaths -- occurred this month than in any other since the war began in 2003, according to the Brookings Institution, which issues a twice-weekly report of security and reconstruction statistics. The report this week noted 44 such bombings as of May 25; since then, that number has risen above 50. The next-worst month was September 2005, with 46.
The LA Timesreports: "Hopes for Iraq Pullback Fading." This due to the fighting in Ramadi.
And Prime Minister Maliki promises "an iron fist" in Basra, and declares a state of emergency for one month. Still no Defense or Interior Minister, though.
[...] On Tuesday, Dozier remained in critical but stable condition at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, to which she was airlifted after undergoing two surgeries in Iraq. She is being treated for shrapnel wounds to her head and extensive injuries to her legs and is expected to remain there for several days.
Army Col. W. Bryan Gamble, commander of the American military hospital, told CBS that the 39-year-old correspondent was doing "as well as can be expected," noting that she was moving her toes and was responsive to commands.
MOST FAFISHLY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! Listen up, everyone! Gather round! Huddle! Huddle!
Okay: everyone here? Dahlgren, quit writing in your notebook, and get over here, and pay attention!
All right, then.
A lot of you -- most of you -- have been increasingly worried about the silence at Fafblog! Understandable. It's been almost two months since the two little rabbits and the ineffable Medium Lobster have been heard from.
But I have most wondrous and good news!
I can say little, but I have been in communication with our heros! I bring Word!
Fafblog! shall resume "pretty soon." This has been communicated to me directly from a higher dimension from the Medium Lobster. A firm reassurance!
Now, my limited perceptions allow for only limited information, but most of all I have to deal with the fact that if, say, I've received a National Security Letter restricting what I can say, I wouldn't be able to inform you of that. You understand.
It's possible that the little rabbits have been making an inspection tour of Guantanamo Bay. It's possible than they've been on a naval vessel in the Pacific. Some say they're doing orbits in a satellite and will be making re-entry "pretty soon." Others assert technical computer problems may have been involved, while yet others believe that it's possible one of the little guys has had a wee bit of a health issue. Yet others believe a trans-dimentional rotation may have been involved, as well. Still others speak of a double-super-secret underground mission for the underground, which is secret, and underground. Carrots may or may not be involved, as also may Task Force 626. Underground.
Some say it's a combination of more than one of the above.
I cannot confirm or deny any of these rumors. Okay, I can confirm that one or more is the case, though other reasons may also be involved.
But I can absolutely and completely tell you that I do have direct and clear word from the Medium Lobster that Fafblog!will return, without doubt, unquestionably, lobster-claw-swear, "pretty soon."
So you can spread that word on my personal word, and if it doesn't happen, never listen to me again!
(Hahahahaha, that implies they have a reason to listen to me in the first place! Shut up!! No, you shut up!)
Anyway, I have spoken. Bow before me! Bow before me NOOOOWWWWWW!
ADDENDUM, 6:45 p.m.: It's kinda amusing, but totally unsurprising, that these folks have created a sub-blog in comments at Fafblog, if not a native religion, when left to their own devices. Community wants to be.
[...] It turns out that Marie-Antoinette's friend the Princesse de Lamballe, who, according to long-established history, was murdered by the September mob, her naked body pierced and mutilated, was merely decapitated, and her fully clothed body brought directly to the police station, where -- a very French touch, this -- "within hours, corpse and head were reunited." This is some comfort, but perhaps not quite as much comfort as Andress thinks, either to the Princesse or to us.
By then, the Convention (the successor of the National Assembly) had turned from its more or less orderly and bourgeois phase into a gathering of radical clans, who met every day in a former church to argue, drink, speechify, and accuse. It was as if S.D.S. had seized power in Washington in 1968 and Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, Jane Fonda, and two or three ambitious renegade generals were all suddenly trying to run the country, while their followers smoked pot and played Jefferson Airplane records, oscillating between a vague, messianic utopianism and a baleful, apocalyptic vengefulness.
There is a case to be made that the real singularity of the Terror was the first appearance on the stage of history of this particular psychological type: not the tight-lipped inquisitor, alight with religious rage, but the small, fastidious intellectual, the man with an idea, the prototype of Lenin listening to his Beethoven as the Cheka begins its purges. In normal times, such men become college professors, or book reviewers or bloggers. It takes special historical circumstances for them to become killers: the removal of a ruling class without its replacement by a credible new one. In the confusion, their ethereal certainties look like the only solid thing to build on.
It is often said that terror of this kind is possible only when one has first "dehumanized" some group of people—aristocrats, Jews, the bourgeoisie. In fact, what motivated the spectacle was exactly the knowledge that the victims were people, and capable of feeling pain and fear as people do. We don’t humiliate vermin, or put them through show trials, or make them watch their fellow-vermin die first.
More persuasive is Andress’s attempt to release the Revolution, and the Terror, from the hold of the Burkean critique of rationalism. It was not an excess of encyclopedias that moved the murderers.
I particularly like this on history in general:
Read Gibbon on the destruction of the Alexandria library by the Christians, or E. P. Thompson on the Luddites—not to mention Robert Conquest on the Gulag—and suddenly old murders matter again; the glory of the work of these historians is that the right of the dead to have their pain and suffering taken seriously is being honored. It is not for history to supply us with a sense of history. Life always supplies us with a sense of history. It is for history to supply us with a sense of life.
Speaks to me.
On the Terror and the Revolution, itself, though I don't regard myself as at all terribly knowledgeable on the subject, this seems right:
In the old regime, if you were determined to stay out of politics, politics could stay out of you. In revolutionary France, the modern development was that you could not withdraw, or go into self-exile—you could not even repent or adopt the other religion. You could only wait and hope not to die. When the Abbé Sieyès, asked what he had done during the Terror, answered, "I lived," he was making more than a mordant joke; he was identifying the new thing that had come into the world, which was a will to killing that made merely living achievement enough.
Well-done, Adam Gopnik. But he usually does.
Of course, as regards this type turning into killers: "In normal times, such men become college professors, or book reviewers or bloggers."
One can just see the pajama-clad blogger supervisors standing grim-lipped as the victims are hauled onto the stage for death by fisking.
NO GUN RI, where a massacre of Korean refugees took place during the Korean War that was much argued about in 1999 as to whether it was deliberate U.S. policy, or a tragic accident, has emerged into the news with crucial new information that seems to resolve the issue in contradiction to the 16-month Pentagon study that asserted it was an unintentional tragedy, not policy.
More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light -- a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that U.S. soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines.
The letter -- dated the day of the Army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950 -- is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.
"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio, in his message to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
The letter reported on decisions made at a high-level meeting in South Korea on July 25, 1950, the night before the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment shot the refugees at No Gun Ri.
Estimates vary on the number of dead at No Gun Ri. U.S. soldiers' estimates ranged from fewer than 100 to "hundreds" dead; Korean survivors say about 400, mostly women and children, were killed at the village 100 miles southeast of Seoul, the South Korean capital. Hundreds more refugees were killed in later, similar episodes, survivors say.
The No Gun Ri killings were documented in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story by the Associated Press in 1999, which prompted a 16-month Pentagon inquiry.
The Pentagon concluded that the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy" -- "not a deliberate killing." It suggested panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals concealed enemy troops.
But Muccio's letter indicates the actions of the 7th Cavalry were consistent with policy, adopted because of concern that North Koreans would infiltrate via refugee columns. And in subsequent months, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees shot, documents show.
Ya never know what documents will turn up. Good to finally have such an important piece of information on such an important event -- not that it's going to help U.S./South Korean relations, but so it goes.
TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICHEST OF THE RICH. I don't have the energy to blog at the length the issue of the estate tax deserves right now, but it's worth noting some of what the upcoming Republican attempt to make permanent the elimination of the estate tax means.
At the time it was first repealed by President Bush, the tax applied only to estates worth more than $1 million. The current plan is to gradually phase the tax out, until it is permanently repealed in 2010. In April of last year, the House passed a bill removing the law's sunset provision, making the repeal permanent upon Senate approval.
Pointing to data indicating that 99 percent of the estate tax is paid by the highest-earning 5 percent of Americans, a report released by the Democrats indicates that CEO's of major oil companies stood to gain significantly from a repeal. Democrats' estimates put oil company gains at at least a "$200 million windfall." The family of one oil executive, Lee Raymond (the former ExxonMobil CEO, pictured above left), alone stood to receive a tax break worth over $160 million.
Democrats have also once again issued a 2005 Government Reform Committee report indicating that repealing the estate tax repeal would save the President, Vice President, and 11 cabinet members anywhere from $91 - 344 million.
The estimated cost of the repeal, according to Democrats, is $1 trillion for the years 2011-2021.
"A recent Center for Public Integrity report found that a handful of superrich families had spent $490 million lobbying against the tax," the American Prospectnoted Tuesday. "If they succeed, these same families will gain almost $72 billion."
Good deal, eh?
The Republicans have sold this thing by lying about how it doesn't just affect the immensely wealthy, but affects small farmers, which is nonsense. They've convinced a lot of people that they or their children, will ultimately be in danger of having to pay this tax when, in fact, unless you're a member of one of these families, that isn't going to happen.
You might want to look into it, and spread the word. Not paying down the deficit takes that trillion dollars away from everyone's children.
A decades-long campaign by right-wing activists (brilliantly documented by Yale professors Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro in their book "Death by a Thousand Cuts") has convinced many Americans that the estate tax poses a threat to countless hardworking families. That was always nonsense, and under the estate tax revisions that almost all Democrats support -- raising the threshold for eligibility to $3.5 million for an individual and $7 million for a couple -- it becomes more nonsensical still. Under the $3.5 million exemption, the number of family-owned small businesses required to pay any taxes in the year 2000 would have been just 94, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office. The number of family farms that would have had to sell any assets to pay that tax would have been 13.
I think nothing more be said about how Big a Lie the Republicans are selling here.
STILL A SNOW JOB. Allow me to point out what makes this one of the Dumbest Things Ever.
[...] Mr. Bush also singled out one other attribute, citing Mr. Paulson's "ability to explain economic issues in clear terms." Administration officials have been frustrated at their lack of success in translating what they see as a strong economic performance into higher poll ratings.
Mr. Bush today said that Mr. Paulson would be "the leading force on my economic team, and a key spokesman for my economic policies."
Republicans had long been pushing for a change at Treasury, arguing that Mr. Snow, despite devoting much of his energy to making the case that the economy had flourished under Mr. Bush, had failed to convince the public at large.
Mr. Harris of Lehman Brothers said that selling the American public on the idea that the economy is in fine shape could be one of Mr. Paulson's most difficult tasks. "He's got a big mountain to climb in front of him," Mr. Harris said. "With an election coming up, he needs to convince the American public that the economy is healthy, but the reality is the economy isn't as healthy as it once was."
It's utterly simple: if people's lives get better financially, and they're more financially secure, and so are their families, friends, and neighbors, it's clear to them that, so far as they are concerned, the economy is doing great.
And if it's a mixed bag by those measures, the economy is a mixed bag for them.
And if they're insecure, worried about lack of insurance, worried about paying bills, living on credit, worried about losing or finding a job, or such, the economy, in their view, sucks.
That's all there is to it.
All the macro-economic statistics in the world are meaningless numbers to people. They don't give a flying f*ck what the GDP is, or what the money supply is, or how M1 is doing, or where and why the prime rate is where it is, or any other Washington statistic.
This should be obvious to anyone who either a) doesn't have their head up their a**, or b) isn't a political propagandist, but, then, I'm being redundant in discussing the Bush Administration, amn't I?
Good luck with Mr. Paulsen's selling job, guys. Have fun storming the castle!
THE DAILY HADITHA REPORT. Timegoes back, and covers a lot of reaction from residents. It's all worth reading, but a few quotes:
[...] Residents of the neighborhood, known as Al-Subhani, say they find themselves constantly replaying in their minds the gory details of the massacre that killed 24 Iraqi men, women and children. Six months on, "even our children are still talking about it constantly," says Thabet, whose own house was barely 100 yards from the IED explosion. "This was a big thing to happen to a small neighborhood. Our memories of that day will forever be fresh."
Belated as the investigation was, the residents of Hay al-Sinnani say they were gratified by its thoroughness. That there have been three separate enquiries suggests the U.S. military "want to get at the truth," says Walid Abdel Khaliq, the doctor of the Haditha morgue where the victims' bodies were taken.
They were especially impressed by the NCIS investigators. "They must have visited the houses 15 times," says Khalid Raseef, a spokesman for the victims' kin and uncle of Emaan and Abdel Rahman Waleed, the children who lost almost their entire immediate family in the massacre. The investigators "asked detailed questions, examined each bullet hole and burn mark, and took all sorts of measurements. In the end, they brought all the survivors to the homes and did a mock-up of the Marines' movements. It was a very professional investigation."
The families say they cooperated fully with the NCIS, but drew the line at exhumation; investigators' requests for the bodies to be dug up for forensic examination were flatly turned down by the families. Islam doesn't permit bodies to be disturbed after burial.
Raseef also commends the investigators for the sensitivity to the families' concerns, reassuring them that the enquiries would not be swept under the carpet. "One of them said to me, 'I have been sent here personally by President Bush to make sure that justice is done," he says.
Even so, few in the neighborhood expect the Marines to be adequately punished for their role in the massacre. They point to the Abu Ghraib trials, which many Iraqis feel have resulted in only light sentences for the offending guards. Asked what punishment would be appropriate for those who killed the 24 Iraqis on Hay al-Sinnani, Raseef responds angrily, "There's only one appropriate punishment: a bullet in the head."
Thabet, the human rights worker, feels the same way. "These are people who didn't just kill individuals, they destroyed entire families," he says. "In Islam, the punishment for such a crime is death."
But the victims' families and other eyewitnesses have always maintained that the Marines acted in revenge for the death of Terazzas "You could tell they were enraged," says Thabet. "They not only killed people, they smashed furniture, tore down wall hangings, and when they took prisoners, they treated them very roughly. This was not a precise military operation."
If the families are skeptical of U.S. military justice, they have even fewer expectations of their own government. Thabet, Raseef and Khaliq all say they have not received a single enquiry from the Iraqi government in Baghdad. "In their eyes, we are nobodies," says Raseef, bitterly.
Curiously, no political group has sought to make capital out of the Haditha massacre. It says a great deal of the huge gap between Iraq's politicians (who tend to restrict themselves within the safe confines of Baghdad's highly protected Green Zone) and its people that not a single politician has bothered to visit Haditha, or even sent condolences to the bereaved families. Some Sunni leaders have mentioned the massacre in speeches, but only in the most desultory manner. "There are so many atrocities against our people," says Saleh Mutlak, a prominent Sunni politician and member of parliament. "Everybody knows these things."
I'll take good news where I can find it:
[...] Since TIME's story and the investigations that followed, residents say the Marines have become more restrained in their behavior. "Before, when they heard a gunshot, they would start firing in all directions," says Raseef. "Now, they rarely fire at all."
[...] When Thabet gave him a business card, which says he works for Hamurabi Human Rights, which produced the incriminating videotape, the Marine grew apologetic. "He told me that the men who killed my neighbors were not typical Marines," Thabet recalls. "Even among the Marines, they are known as the 'Dirty Force.' Then he said, 'For myself, I don't think killing 15 Iraqis is a fair response for the death of one Marine.'"
[...] For the most part, the residents of al-Subhani welcome the kinder, gentler face of the Marines. But they say the damage done by Terazzas's company on that November morning cannot be undone. "I was an admirer of America," says Khaliq, the morgue doctor. "When those bodies were brought here, it turned upside down my image of that country and its people." Of the Marine with whom he shared bread, Thabet says: "He spoke to me politely, and I respect him for that." But reciprocating the friendly gestures would be asking too much. "As long as they come as bearing guns, we will be reminded of what their colleagues did to our friends and family," says Thabet. "We will not forgive."
And Editor & Publisher reprinted an interesting piece by Tom Lasseter of Knight-Ridder, published last August, 3 months before the events in question.
Some bits from Aug. 28, 2005:
[...] Officers worry about the enemy while trying to make sure their men don't crack under the pressure.
"I tell the guys not to lose their humanity over here, because it's easy to do," said Marine Capt. James Haunty, 27, of Columbus, Ohio. "I tell them not to turn into Col. Kurtz."
Asked for an example of the kind of pressure that could cause Marines to crack, Haunty talked about the results of a car bomb: "I've picked up pieces of a friend, a Marine. I don't ever want to see that s--- again."
Sitting with his men at a morning meeting in the town of Hit, Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti said he was up late the night before, unable to sleep in the heat, when a call came from a patrol requesting permission to shoot an Iraqi man. The man, the patrol leader said, was out past curfew and appeared to be talking on a cell phone. Visconti intervened and told the patrol leader not to shoot.
Looking at his young lieutenants and sergeants, Visconti said, "If he's a bad guy, if he's running the (car bomb) factory, I'll put the gun in his mouth and kill him myself ... but first let's get a f------ security check."
With a worried look, Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., continued: "There's killing bad guys and there's murdering civilians. Let's do the first and not the second. Murderers we're not, OK?"
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Niezgoda nodded in agreement. The next day, a roadside bomb knocked Niezgoda unconscious and broke his arm.
"It's a lot like it was in Vietnam, when the VC's (Viet Cong) would come out and pretend to be your friends," said Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Vidler, 23, of Syracuse, N.Y. "You're fighting an enemy on his home ground and you don't know who's who."
"There's been reports of a .50 (caliber) sniper rifle out there. Maybe they called this in just to get us out here and take a shot. A .50-cal would go straight through our (body armor) plates," Coffey said, looking at the buildings across the river. "Why do I feel like I'm in a f------ Vietnam movie?"
The WaPost's Thomas Ricks also reports that drone footage of Haditha was taken that day and is part of the examination; clearly it was a very busy day in Haditha on Nov. 19, and there was considerable higher-level attention being paid. Naturally, this will figure in the investigation of who knew what when, and the ensuing cover-up.
Meanwhile, the killing tends to be so endemic each day, that it's barely worth mentioning: 49 Killed in String of Attacks in Iraq. Just another day in Iraq. The number of wounded is far larger, of course. And the number of members of their families and friends affected, yet larger. And the ripples go across a society. And the professionals of Iraq keep fleeing, as almost everyone who can get out leaves:
Of course most of headlines bring bad news and every once in a while we find some good news or potentially good news but regardless of that, they all can be considered as good raw material for blogging but the thing is that we're growing numb over news whether good or bad.
I very well realize that this numbness is dangerous but I can't help it, I'm surrounded by these news, events and incidents. I see them on TV, hear them on the radio, read them-and write about them-on the web and chat about them with friends, family and workmates and occasionally witness them first-hand. And this is leading me to the threshold where they stop to be interesting but I'm trying hard to keep a distance from this threshold or at least slow down its arrival and that's why I'm still writing till this moment.
On the other hand many of my friends, relatives or the people I know have either left Iraq or are planning to do so, actually instant messaging and emails have long ago become the only way I stay in touch with my friends.
"I'm going to take my family to Syria next month and will be staying there for a year or two until things calm down" or "I've been granted admission to a university in the UK" or "my uncle found a job for me in Egypt and I'm leaving next week"…
These are examples of what I get to hear from people I know and it's getting more and more frequent lately.
Not all people have the resources or the urgent need to leave Iraq; so they chose to be refugees inside Iraq; I have friends who left Baghdad and went to Najaf or Kurdistan seeking the nearest place where safety can be found.
One friend told me the other day that "Iraq is no longer a place for civilians like us, let politicians, militias and soldiers settle their accounts but I am leaving indefinitely". I don't know what to tell these people; I can't advise them to stay and risk their lives with all the violence happening around and I feel sorry they are leaving, sorry for them and for the country; it's never easy for them to leave the place where they were born and had lived their entire life to go start from zero in a place where they'll be total strangers and at it's not possible to build a country without people but at the same time, you can't help your country when you are dead or living in fear all the time.
This is the kind of dilemma unfortunately many Iraqis are facing these days and time is a very important factor here and Iraqi's are not sure whether it's on their side or on the enemy's…some people tell me they don't want to quit now that they endured so much and been through a lot. The other day I was with some friends at home and the subject eventually surfaced "let's just wait for another six months, I'm sure things will improve by then" one friend said and I nodded in agreement "I'm not willing to take the risk, what if I get killed or kidnapped tomorrow or next month!? I'm leaving Iraq to live somewhere else until I believe it's safe to return, we live only once guys!" and I nodded in agreement too. Both opinions make a lot of sense and I could never say the first friend was a coward since he's still living through what I and the other friend are living through.
Finally, this very long NY Times Magazine piece about a National Guardsman's return to Pennsylvania, and what it's like trying to re-enter the culture of home -- yeah, he's dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- is well worth reading, as well.
One quote, though, with little comment:
["]And I don't mean to sound arrogant when I say this, but I miss the power. Over there, when we would do a patrol and have a car approach us and we fired warning shots, that's a thrill, that's power. Over there, everybody knew we were there. We were the king of the road, and they either respected or hated us for it. And now you're back here, and you ain't king of nothing.["]
It's possible that this kind of reaction, as well, isn't helpful to American-Iraqi relations.
AMADINEJAD RUNS HIS MOUTH AGAIN with Spiegelon the Holocaust. He's pretty explicit:
SPIEGEL: There was great indignation in Germany when it became known that you might be coming to the soccer world championship. Did that surprise you?
Ahmadinejad: No, that's not important. I didn't even understand how that came about. It also had no meaning for me. I don't know what all the excitement is about.
SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president's denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.
Ahmadinejad: I don't exactly understand the connection.
SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?
Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.
SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?
Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?
SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.
Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.
On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...
SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...
Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.
SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.
Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.
Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.
SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"
Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.
SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?
Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.
He goes on in this vein.
[...] Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end - in 20, 50, 1,000 years?
You can click and read the rest, so I don't have to fill my blog with more of this crap. He talks more about other subjects on the second page.
He is a very ignorant man, and he regards anti-Semitism as a highly useful tool to rouse political support in his country and to divert attention from real problems. It's an ancient story.
ONE OF THE MOST DEPRESSING IRAQ STORIES YET. If they can't turn this sort of thing around, there's not much hope. Maybe they can turn it around. One can only hope.
In Ramadi, "Zarqawi is the one who is in control," the sheik said, speaking to a Washington Post special correspondent in Ramadi. "He kills anyone who goes in and out of the U.S. base. We have stopped meetings with the Americans, because, frankly speaking, we have lost confidence in the U.S. side, as they can't protect us."
Another sheik, Bashir Abdul Qadir al-Kubaisi of the Kubaisat tribe in Ramadi, expressed similar views. "Today, there is no tribal sheik or a citizen who dares to go to the city hall or the U.S. base, because Zarqawi issued a statement ordering his men to kill anyone seen leaving the base or city hall," he said.
"We are very upset. But being upset is better than mourning the death of a sheik or tribal leader," Kubaisi said. "Zarqawi has imposed himself on us. We started thinking of appeasing Zarqawi and his group, because rejecting them means death."
So they're sending the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Good luck, and I mean that with utmost sincerity.
Meanwhile, while I was waking up, I was reading a story about how the only reason most people in Baghdad weren't that upset about Haditha is that a) they're so used to dozens of people being massacred every day, and they're down to just caring about their own families; and b) they assume that the Americans constantly massacre all the time, anyway.
Maybe I'll find the story again when I'm more awake. It was also pretty depressing.
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.
ADDENDUM, 10:14 a.m.: Anderson reminds me in comments that I was thinking of this story:
"We are tired of this news. I don't want to hear about more killings," said Ismael Abbas, a 37-year-old express-mail courier, chuckling slightly in acknowledgment of the callousness of his words. He added, "The only news I care about is when a car bomb explodes in my neighborhood. I just check if my family is okay."
Like most in Baghdad, he counts his personal toll from the war: a brother and three cousins killed last year when a mortar round -- most likely from insurgents -- fell on their neighborhood in the eastern part of the city.
"So what if more innocent people were killed?" Abbas said of the reported massacre in Haditha. "Dozens of them die daily."
We have a Haditha every day. We have a Fallujah and Karbala every day,'' said Muhanned Jasim, a local merchant, citing two of the many landmarks for civilian death in the war, the 2004 U.S. offensive in Fallujah and insurgent bombings in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala.
An antiques seller in central Baghdad, Jasim hadn't heard the news of Haditha, he said, because he no longer has electricity to power his television.
"We live in darkness,'' he said, fanning his face as the sweat rolled down. "What's the big news about Iraqis getting killed? We're powerless to change the situation."
Ghasan Jayih, a pharmacist, said he could pinpoint when he stopped caring: in November 2004, when gunmen shot and killed his best friend as the man drove home from his job as an interpreter at a U.S. Army base. "When I lose the friend of my childhood, it means nothing else can matter to me."
"Were they the first . . . Iraqis to be killed for no reason?" Jayih said. "We're used to being killed. It's normal now to hear 25 Iraqis are killed in one day."
"Nothing will happen in their trial," said Omar Hamdoon, a Sunni Arab owner of a clothing shop for women.
"Even if they investigate, and even if five American troops are proved guilty, would they sentence them to death?" said Jayih, the pharmacist. "Unless they do that, the investigation won't interest Iraqis."
NOW, CLASS, WHO CAN TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS? Anyone? You, there, in the back?
Israeli leaders and academics Monday slammed a vote by the largest university and college lecturers' union in Britain in favor of a motion recommending that its members boycott Israeli academics and institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israeli policy in the territories.
The motion passed with 106 in favor and 71 against. There were 21 abstentions.
The 69,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) debated the proposal for the boycott at its annual conference in the northern English city of Blackpool. Two parts of the motion passed with a show of hands while a third went to a vote. Under the boycott, union members also will not submit articles to Israeli research journals.
Yes, that's right: there's no British boycott of that fine and upstanding democratic nation that so honors human rights both in Tibet and at home, China.
Nor of Russia, which displays its fine treatment of human rights in Chechnya.
Nor of, so far as I know (I trust someone will let me know if I'm wrong), of Sudan, which behaves simply splendidly in Sudan.
Nor of that exemplar of human rights, North Korea.
Nor any boycotts over objections to Saudi Arabia's splendid upholding of women's rights.
Boiling people in Uzbekistan? A-ok!
No, clearly the most evil and oppressive country in the world is Israel.
Glad to know that British academia has taken a stand.
Bradley Burston calls it "Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome" and is a tad cutting.
Let us revel this morning in our own righteousness, our self-evident immunity from reproach, our moral stain-repellence, our unerring instinct for the just, our irresistible compulsion to right wrongs and raise the downtrodden.
Let's, just for the moment, be British leftists.
Save us, Britons. Save us from ourselves.
The Mandate never dies. It only changes uniform.
Yes, but they did such a splendid job in the first half of the 20th century: who wouldn't welcome advice from the former occupier? Father knows best!
Read The Rest Scale: if you weren't paying attention before (I was, but figured I'd wait until something happened; it's not like they care about my opinion), now's the time. Yeah, the vote will likely be overturned with the merger next week, but meantime, nice way to send a message that you care, NATFHE.
WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL TED NUGENT -- well, you decide for yourself. But I have to say that there's something fairly amusing about watching him horrify (not entirely) the "limey asshole" who wrote this profile.
I'm tempted to explain that, why, yes, Ted is just a typical American. Just for the David Cronnenberg Scanners-like head-popping effect.
Annoyingly, I don't seem to see a byline anywhere.