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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
[...] Only a decade ago, as governor of Virginia, Allen personally initiated an association with the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the successor organization to the segregationist White Citizens Council and among the largest white supremacist groups.
Descended from the White Citizens' Councils that battled integration in the Jim Crow South, the CCC is designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In its "Statement of Principles," the CCC declares, "We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
You've heard plenty about good ol' boy (from California) George since I last wrote about him here and here.
And in the "no, you can have him, really" category, this on Allen's mother:
[...] Allen’s mother, Henriette (Etty), whose maiden name was Lumbroso, is indeed Francophone and Tunisian born, a heritage that forms a romantic theme in “Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter” the memoir of Allen family life written by Allen’s sister Jennifer. What’s more, it is likely that she’s Jewish by birth, although no acknowledgment of that heritage appears in the memoir.
Allen’s campaign spokesman, Bill Bozin, did not return several detailed messages, left over two days, that asked what the senator and his family know about his mother’s heritage.
Though Etty Allen seems not to have dwelled on it during her years in the spotlight as a coach’s wife, she comes from the august Sephardic Jewish Lumbroso family. Her father, who was the main importer of wines and liquors in Tunis — including the Cinzano brand — was known in France, where he lived after World War II, as part of the family, according to French Jewish sources. If both of Etty’s parents were born Jewish — which, given her age and background, is likely — Senator Allen would be considered Jewish in the eyes of traditional rabbinic law, which traces Judaism through the mother.
Oy. The Forward has a lot more at that link.
ADDENDUM, 9/20/06, 3:56 p.m.: See update here, with video.
..Further musings were impossible to extract, as we were hustled off on foot down the block to Mother's, home of the "World's Best Baked Ham," where Bush is dining with local officials.
**BUT OMG, hold the phone. Rob Lowe is here, too!! Yes - That Rob Lowe. Not dining with the Bush party, of course, but also in the restaurant and sort of....smoldering among the baked ham. The Other West Wing, if you will.***
**ROB LOWE ROB LOWE ROB LOWE**
Before leaving the restaurant, Rob Lowe and his two little kids came back to where the pool was holding and accosted April Ryan. Apparently, Rob Lowe had overheard certain poolers singing a selection from his profound, seminal work, "St. Elmo's Fire." Specifically, this pooler and the radio pooler were singing, "I Can Dream About You." Badly.
Since we can't be but who we are, the amiable encounter quickly devolved into a press conference. Rob Lowe, who seemed to welcom this development, said he is in town starting production tomorrow on a TNT Christmas movie called "A Perfect Day."
Rob Lowe said[...]
Rob Lowe is from LA. Rob Lowe is here a month. Rob Lowe is just really amazingly cute in person. Rob Lowe has left the building.
Well, if you can't get any news out of G. W. Bush, at least OMG, it's Rob Lowe!!!
Paging Brad deLong. Brad deLong to the white courtesy phone about our press corp....
NOW ALL WE NEED ARE CARDBOARD CUT-OUT ENEMIES, and a flat war. Too weird.
[...] Welcome to the 'Flat Daddy" and "Flat Mommy" phenomenon, in which life-size cutouts of deployed service members are given by the Maine National Guard to spouses, children, and relatives back home.
The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession, according to their significant others on the home front.
"I prop him up in a chair, or sometimes put him on the couch and cover him up with a blanket," said Kay Judkins of Caribou, whose husband, Jim, is a minesweeper mechanic in Afghanistan.
"He goes everywhere with me. Every day he comes to work with me," said Judkins, who works in a dentist's office. "I just bought a new table from the Amish community, and he sits at the head of the table. Yes, he does."
In the car, her husband's image sits behind the driver's seat so Judkins can keep an eye on him. A third-grade class writes to him as their "adopted" guardsman. And Judkins even brought her husband's cutout -- which she calls Slim Jim, because he's not -- to confession at the local church.
WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT "NEVER FORGET"?I forget. This isn't sinister; it's just mind-numbingly stupid.
An Italian politician has used the "work makes you free" slogan that topped the gates at Auschwitz in a brochure to promote local job centers, saying he could not remember the source but was impressed by the quote.
Countless photographs have focused on the "Arbeit macht Frei" sign at Auschwitz to encapsulate the horror of the Nazi death camps.
"Work makes you free. I don't remember where I read this phrase but it was one of those quotes that have an instant impact on you because they tell an immense truth," Coletti wrote in the pamphlet, Ansa reported.
Coletti could not be reached for comment and the regional job centers were also unavailable.
THEY SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT IN VIRTUAL RCMPS. New frontiers in madness about airline security are being breached every day, as you know.
Today's exciting tale: how to get a plane to land by accidentally dropping your Ipod in the toilet, and then what happens in your interrogation when the reason for your travel is to meet a friend you met online playing World of Warcraft.
[...] "Now Tim, for the sake of the tape recorder, I want you to state your full name and address." I did. "Now, each of us will state our name and position into the tape recorder." There were two detectives from the police department, a detective from Customs, and two members of the bomb squad.
They asked me how we met.
"In an online game."
"What online game?"
"Umm ... World of Warcraft," I responded meekly.
"What kind of game is this?"
"It's a fantasy game ... it takes place online."
"Fantasy ... like it's got wizards and warlocks?"
"Well, it's got warlocks."
So, when they put the pieces together; namely, that I was visiting a female person that I had met over a computer game, their next line of questioning went down an obvious path.
"So you and Cara are friends?"
"How long have you known her?"
"About 5 months I think? Maybe less."
"Do you have a romantic relationship with Cara?"
"Do you want a romantic relationship with Cara?"
"OK, so ... if you and Cara were drunk together, and she turned to you and said, 'Tim, let's go--'"
BOMBING AMBULANCES? This is a very narrowly focused post. I firmly believe that all possibilities of war crimes by Israel in the recent war should and must be investigated, and anyone guilty of such must be strictly and harshly punished.
And I'm leaning towards a very great many criticisms of many aspects of the war from the Israeli side, just as most all citizens of Israel are. Debate and extremely harsh criticism have been raging in Israel, as was inevitable; would that America were so open and self-critical. (Tiny example: Haaretz blogger suggests Nasrallah as new Prime Minister. Of Israel.)
And that Hezbollah committed war crimes by firing thousands of missiles indiscriminately at civilians goes without saying, but, then, there will be no investigations by Hezbollah, of course.
But I'm not examining any of these issues here. That's far too large a topic for one post.
This post is simply to note that this article seems a fairly serious debunking of an alleged incident, which became an alleged series of incidents, and even an alleged policy of the Israeli military, specifically the targeting of ambulances, which certainly would be a war crime (unless there was good evidence that said ambulances were conveying weapons or ammunition or such, of course, or that somehow such a vehicle was targeted accidentally, although in that latter case negligence might rise to a criminal level).
Decide for yourself what you think.
Regardless, it's clear this was a badly fought war, and there are a huge number of questions to be answered. Let sunshine bring forth answers wherever possible.
Change of pace fast enough to give you whiplash bonus, also from Hit & Run: a look at the libertarian (and existential) appeal of Serenity, by Julian Sanchez, that I missed when it appeared. Good piece. Camus comes into the discussion! Clearly George W. Bush should see Serenity. He can discuss it with Tony Snow.
THE BIG LIE is what Barney Frank says Bush and conservatives and those ignoring the war in Afghanistan are applying.
A WAR is missing.
The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
Their argument is that the refusal of many Democrats to support the war in Iraq shows that President Bush's opposition is unwilling to use force against terrorism.
There is, of course, one factual refutation of this partisan distortion. Every Democratic senator and representative but one voted for the war in Afghanistan.
Not only does support for the Afghan struggle demonstrate our willingness to resort to war in self-defense, but one of the reasons why the Iraq war does America so much harm is that it has diverted attention, resources, and support from Afghanistan. Violence is rising there, along with the drug trade, and support is eroding for what we had hoped to establish as a democratic regime.
Whether or not one subscribes to the geopolitical aims that motivated the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq, it is clearly invalid to assert that support for that war is the indispensable badge of one's willingness to confront terrorism. Only by adopting the techniques of the big lie can the vice president make his case that those opposed to the Iraqi war fail to understand the importance of a firm response to terrorists. In fact, given the deleterious effect it has had on our effort in Afghanistan, and the enormous boost it has given to anti-American forces around the world, the big truth is that the Iraq war has damaged our ability to fight terrorism.
All too true.
And as I keeprepeatedlypointingoutinpostafterpost, we're in greater and greater and greater danger of losing the war in Afghanistan, as the Taliban continues to resurge ever more strongly with each passing month, and as people continue to ignore Afghanistan. (Which is exactly what George W. Bush, Don Rumsfeld, and their supporters want, as Barney Frank points out.)
THE JINGLE-JANGLE MORNING. If you like Bob Dylan, Louis Menand's piece is pretty good. That's redundant, of course; Menand is rarely less than brilliant. This is, but his "pretty good" is still far better than almost anyone else's.
A few bits:
[...] Since there is nothing Dylan likes less than being mistaken for "Bob Dylan"—"If I wasn’t Bob Dylan, I’d probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers," he once said—this is not a productive interview dynamic.
"I wanted to meet the mind that created all those beautiful words," Judy Collins told David Hajdu for "Positively 4th Street," his delightful group biography of Dylan, Richard Fariña, and Joan and Mimi Baez. "We set something up, and we had coffee, and when it was over, I walked away, thinking, 'The guy’s an idiot. He can't make a coherent sentence.'"
In the early nineteen-sixties, the Weavers, Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte, and Peter, Paul, and Mary were heard everywhere. (We had all their records in my house when I was growing up.[)]
Mine, too. My mother abhorred all music when I still lived with her, and heard all of it as noise; but my father had the standard NYC liberal set of albums, which is to say, the above, and show tunes (including the inevitable West Side Story), and Allan Sherman, and some spoken word stuff, including Martin Luthor King, Woody Allen, and Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce, along with a smattering of other stuff; that's what I heard before I started buying records on my own after listening to the radio.
First record I ever bought (okay, nagged my parents into buying for me)?
The singles of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." I was around 7, and I played them incessantly on my little kids' record player. Thereafter, the stuff that later became classic rock; that my cousin Abbe, about 8-9 years older than me lived upstairs, and later became a music producer, including Debbie Gibson's and the road manager for the Village People, was a rock fanatic and had a huge collection, helped; after age 14 or so my taste started to broaden eclectically into pretty much everything (though never much into country/western or rap or opera, as yet, I'm afraid; but most everything else).
Oh, and later my friend Paul Williams influenced me.
"[...] The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the 'Blonde on Blonde' album," Dylan says. "It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound."
Was that wild mercury sound in "I Want You"? Yeah, it was in "I Want You." It was in a lot of that stuff. It was in the album before that, too. "Highway 61 Revisited"? Yeah. Also in "Bringing It All Back Home." That's the sound I’ve always heard. . . . The period when you came out with "Highway 61" must have been exciting. Those were exciting times. We were doing it before anybody knew we would -- or could. We didn’t know what it was going to turn out to be. Nobody thought of it as folk-rock at the time. There were some people involved in it like The Byrds, and I remember Sonny and Cher and the Turtles and the early Rascals. It began coming out on the radio. I mean, I had a couple of hits in a row. That was the most I ever had in a row -- two. The top ten was filled with that kind of sound -- the Beatles, too -- and it was exciting, those days were exciting. It was the sound of the streets. It still is. I symbolically hear that sound wherever I am. You hear the sound of the street? That ethereal twilight light, you know. It's the sound of the street with the sunrays, the sun shining down at a particular time, on a particular type of building. A particular type of people walking on a particular type of street. It's an outdoor sound that drifts even into open windows that you can hear. The sound of bells and distant railroad trains and arguments in apartment buildings and the clinking of silverware and knives and forks and beating with leather straps. It’s all -- it's all there. Just lack of a jackhammer, you know. You mean if a jackhammer were— Yeah, no jackhammer sounds, no airplane sounds. All pretty natural sounds. It's water, you know water trickling down a brook. It's light flowing through the . . . Late-afternoon light? No, it’s usually the crack of dawn. Music filters out to me in the crack of dawn. The "jingle jangle morning"? Right.
Turns out he's got a bit of a looney streak, which I suppose helps explain his willingness to, ah, think out of the usual orbits.
Still, it's a bit worrisome that a guy whose ambititious, and admirable, project depends on the best possible science and engineering believes stuff like this:
[...] As his fortune grew, he began to indulge his interests in the paranormal. In 1995, he founded the National Institute for Discovery Science, a clearinghouse for a range of things, including investigations into psychic phenomena, alien abductions, and out-of-body and near-death-experiences.
Bigelow worked closely with John Mack, the controversial Harvard University psychiatrist who investigated the stories of people who believed they had been abducted by aliens. Bigelow interviewed 235 people who claimed to have had close encounters.
"Because of the diversity of the folks involved and the credibility of their backgrounds, as well as the fact that this is a global phenomenon, I think they should be taken seriously," he said.
Er, well, no, they shouldn't, of course. Mack's results have been refutedmanytimes.
But one hopes that this can be chalked up to something of an excess of open-mindedness, and that it won't compromise the safety of the TransHab inflatable orbital module concept, which seems basically sound.
One hopes. I surely wish for the project, like every other private space venture, to succeed.
[...] NASA officials said they could not endorse particular commercial ventures. But James Hartsfield, a spokesman for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the agency would not have transferred the TransHab technology to Bigelow unless it thought his firm was "viable and able to make use of it."
Bigelow pledged $500 million of his fortune to the company. So far, he's spent $75 million.
Some time after 2010, he hopes to be ready to fly his full-scale module, known as the BA 330. It will weigh 20 tons, have three or four individual guest rooms and contain nearly 12,000 cubic feet of space, more than half the volume of the International Space Station.
That's where Musk comes in. "I think our futures are very closely tied together," Musk said.
He's now working on the Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon crew capsule, which could carry seven people for about $30 million. That works out to less than $5 million a seat, but still puts the cost of a weeklong space vacation at $13 million.
Musk, who has yet to have a successful launch, recently got a boost from NASA, by qualifying for a share of a $500-million contract designed to help private companies interested in flying supplies to the International Space Station after the shuttle is retired in 2010.
Best of luck to them, and all the others.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.
I'm not confident I'll get to as much blogging as I'd hoped to today; just about everything hurts this morning: kidney, gouty feet (not as bad as it gets; I can hobble; on the other hand, I can only hobble, barefoot, just now), teeth, other bits and pieces. But with luck this will pass soon. I can't say how effing bored I am with this stuff; why, there's just no entertainment value in chronic pain the way they advertise.
8/30/2006 07:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
THE QUBAISIATE IN SYRIA; a quite interesting look at this Islamic secret society for women. I'd only seen very passing mentions of it before, although the general trend of increasing Islamic religiousity in Syria is very well-known.
But the details here approach fascinating, and are likely significant, including this:
[...] At those meetings, participants say, they are tutored further in the faith and are even taught how to influence some of their well-connected fathers and husbands to accept a greater presence of Islam in public life.
Women are in the vanguard. Though men across the Islamic world usually interpret Scripture and lead prayers, Syria, virtually alone in the Arab world, is seeing the resurrection of a centuries-old tradition of sheikhas, or women who are religious scholars. The growth of girls’ madrasas has outpaced those for boys, religious teachers here say.
There are no official statistics about precisely how many of the country’s 700 madrasas are for girls. But according to a survey of Islamic education in Syria published by the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, there are about 80 such madrasas in Damascus alone, serving more than 75,000 women and girls, and about half are affiliated with the Qubaisiate (pronounced koo-BAY-see-AHT).
For many years any kind of religious piety was viewed here with skepticism. But while men suspected of Islamist activity are frequently interrogated and jailed, subjecting women to such treatment would cause a public outcry that the government cannot risk. Women have taken advantage of their relatively greater freedom to form Islamic groups, becoming a deeply rooted and potentially subversive force to spread stricter and more conservative Islamic practices in their families and communities.
“Rasha would call and say, ‘Today we’re going shopping,’ and that would be a secret code meaning that there was a lesson at 7:30,” Hadeel said. “I went three times, and it was amazing. They had all this expensive food, just for teenage girls, before the lesson. And they had fancy Mercedes cars to take you back home afterward.”
Hadeel said she had at first been astonished by the way the Qubaisiate, ostensibly a women’s prayer group, seemed to single out the daughters of wealthy and influential families and girls who were seen as potential leaders.
“They care about getting girls with big names, the powerful families,” Hadeel said. “In my case, they wanted me because I was a good student.”
Women speaking about the group asked that their names not be used because the group is technically illegal, though it seems the authorities are increasingly turning a blind eye.
“To be asked to join the Qubaisiate is very prestigious,” said Maan Abdul Salam, a women’s rights campaigner.
Mr. Abdul Salam explained that such secret Islamic prayer groups recruited women differently, depending on their social position. “They teach poor women how to humble themselves in front of their husbands and how to pray, but they’re teaching upper-class women how to influence politics,” he said.
Some nice "secret society" details on coded dress and communications and what not, as well, though I can't imagine that if a NY Times reporter knows this stuff that the Syrian Mukhabarat isn't far more intimately familiar. Clearly this is tolerated at a high level.
One wonders if any of this figures into the thinking of those who fantasize about knocking over the (relatively secular, primarily minority Alawite-led) Assad regime; just as Hamas won the Palestinian elections, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein led to the freeing of the Shi'ite religious leadership and conflict with the Sunni population (with the Kurds opting out of Iraq almost entirely), a collapse or overthrow of Assad would doubtless produce an Islamic, fractured, regime or chaos in Syria, as well.
But one doesn't wonder long how much this figures into the thinking of those who still cheerfully believe the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. (That Hussein was an evil tyrant, and the Assad regime also very nasty, and Hamas not charming either, isn't relevant to the question of not "would it be nice to replace them with something better?," but the question of "how could one possibly do that, since knocking over the anthill isn't sufficient, and hope is not a plan?")
An entirely different question is: what, if anything, does this say for a possibly more, what one might very loosely call, feminist type of Islam? Or is it anti-feminist in encouraging stricter Islam? And does it suggest anything about the place of women in Syria in the future?
NY TIMES SUPPRESSES ARTICLE IN BRITAIN, as described here.
If Web readers in Britain were intrigued by the headline "Details Emerge in British Terror Case," which sat on top of The New York Times's home page much of yesterday, they would have been disappointed with a click.
"On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain," is the message they would have seen. "This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial."
In adapting technology intended for targeted advertising to keep the article out of Britain, The Times addressed one of the concerns of news organizations publishing online: how to avoid running afoul of local publishing laws.
"I think we have to take every case on its own facts," said George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company. "But we're dealing with a country that, while it doesn't have a First Amendment, it does have a free press, and it's our position that we ought to respect that country's laws."
[...] But my argument here is exactly with this dodge. Grass, the wondrous novelist and self-appointed in-house moralist for postwar Germany, constructed a book meant to blur the self-disclosure of his SS past and, in the process, dull that new reality's potential moral hook on his legacy.
Grass's selectivity is fobbed off as memory failure, but it is systematic enough so what is left is not much more than mild self-criticism, reminiscence, and the brilliant descriptive language that would be expected of him.
But in this accomplishment, he sets up an enormous tension between what he says he did not do - fire a shot, commit war crimes or even have an inkling of the SS's monstrousness - and the why of 60 years fleeing the reality of an SS involvement that he now makes out as taking place on the softest, least horrid edges of infamy.
In this reader's head, Grass constructs two columns: an intentional one for his version of events, and a second inadvertent column for what readers want to know and do not find out.
In confessional terms, this leaves no dust on Grass's knees. As the self-outing of a compromised moralist, there is barely an admission beyond blindness and stupidity. Never once does Grass acknowledge thinking a single impure Nazi-type thought, no less acting as its agent.
The writer is contrite, but what about the years of lies about being part of a symbol of devastation? We sense regret but do not feel his pain.
The point is in the column empty of details.
Grass talks about his hardened drill instructors back from the east and their "cruel wit." But what about their jokes - were they about Jews, partisans, or gypsies, or an extra schnaps ration for manning machine guns in mass executions? Not a detail.
And no names either of barracks buddies or thoughts about what they've become. Grass returns to see a persecuted teacher after the war, whose name we learn, but there are no faces, no conversations, no "cruel wit" from those who, in theory at least, were being schooled alongside the author by the SS.
Grass also spares the reader any re- creation or sense of the SS ideological training that dehumanized its members, and built a psychological machine to carry out, whether by Waffen SS troops or their black-uniformed counterparts, missions in the service of horror.
The column of no-details fills with unanswered questions. Grass mostly spares himself in the process and we are insulted in our disbelief. By not daring to provide the jokes, the names, the details, we ask again, what kind of human being wrote "The Tin Drum," and then hid from these personal facts for 60 years?
For me, the most extraordinary episode of this bewildering cop-out is the book's treacherously ambiguous description of how the 17-year-old Grass ditched his SS identity when cut off from his unit and facing capture by the Russians.
His SS insignia would have meant certain death. But Grass can't be sure if he thought himself of switching to a Wehrmacht jacket, or if a slyer companion told him to do it.
His struggling nonexplanation leaps off the page: This "unknowledge," as he calls it, is the book's axle. Everything turns or falls on it, but particularly Grass's contention that as a brilliant young man he really didn't understand what the SS was, or believe that the Holocaust had taken place until months after Germany's capitulation when Baldur von Schirach, the former Hitler Youth leader, acknowledged knowing of it at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.
The great Grass ought to have been open to a clear choice: saying whether he jumped or was pushed into all this. Instead, he fudges the story of his SS enlistment and kind of glides around the specifics.
This is a shame. A great writer, up for one last whack in which he must rescue not so much his literary reputation but his honor, slithers around the requirement of finality.
Not so much out of uncertain memory but out of what looks like one more attempt, after 60 years of lying, not to let go, not to let the truth shine and burn off the haze.
I went long on the quotes here because I'm afraid this piece will disappear behind the Times paywall. And, of course, I've not read Grass's memoir, which won't appear in English translation for another year. But I continue to think that keeping this secret is not the act of a moral icon.
HUGOS AND SUCH. Full list of winners. Nice to see folks I've known since the mid-Seventies, like Bob Wilson, or since the early Eighties, such as David Levine, win. As well as, of course, friend since in between there, David Langford racking up his billionth Hugo, and friends (maybe) from the Nineties such as the Plokta crew.
Also nice that Serenity won, although I've concluded that I like the tv series better than the movie. Complete results on the nominating votes here (note: these are not the figures for the final vote, but for the earlier nominating vote; it's often interesting to see what else got nominated, however).
I'm doubtless one of the few people disgruntled at the news that the venerable, if vastly lesser known, E. E. Evans Big Heart Award, given at the Worldcon since 1958, has been renamed the "Forry Ackerman Big Heart Award."
Few enough people remember E. Everett Evans, and those who do may recall his few sf novels, such as the Planet Mappers, and posthumous colloboration with Doc Smith, Masters of Space, or his E. E. Smith concordance (done with Ron Ellik), and others; Man Of Many Minds was likely the best of the lot, although Alien Minds had a lovely Hannes Bok cover; the whole purpose of the award was to remember E. E. Evans.
Whereas Forry Ackerman has always arguably been the Best Known Sf Fan In The World Ever (arguably far out of proportion to his accomplishments, which also arguably more or less ceased in fandom, though not in the world of monster film fans, by the late Fifties). Odds are that you've never heard of either and don't care, but if you've heard of one, it's surely Forry Ackerman, not E. E. Evans.
So I take the message from Worldcon fandom here to be: you'll be remembered in fandom until you're, you know, forgotten. There's a time-limit, and if we honor you, we'll take that honor away after enough time has passed, and we don't care any more if you're forgotten. We'll give your honor to someone more famous. Why? Power law.
Feh. No disrespect intended to Forry Ackerman, but this is a stinky, ugly, way to honor someone. And if he had any grace, he'd have refused to let them do this.
Forry's version of how the award was created is here, or if you prefer more context, here.
Before Evans goes further into the shade, here is a little speech of his from 1953, published in Peter Vorzimer's fanzine Abstract, looking at science fiction then, and ahead at what might come in fifty years or so. (Minor correction: "Norman Weiner" is actually Norbert Wiener.)
Read The Rest Scale: as interested. But, what the heck, special bonus from that issue of Abstract, Bob Bloch's I Was A Fakefan For The FBI. Some other classic sf fanzines here.
ADDENDUM, 8/29/06, 8:32 p.m.: In case anyone cares, although I am deeply out of touch with fandom these days, yeah, I did read a lot by now about the whole Harlan/Connie Willis thing; I do have some opinions, based on knowing Harlan, but I wasn't there, I've barely exchanged a few words with Connie, I don't really know much about their actual relationship, and I think I'll stay out of this one; besides, anyone who really cares likely already knows where to find a multiplicy of accounts, from Rick Wyatt's Harlan website to a considerable number of LiveJournals.
ADDENDUM, 8/31/06, 10:10 a.m.: I managed to overlook that the full voting breakdowns for the final Hugo ballot are included in the link I gave for the results above. As I noted in a comment to Tom Bozzo:
The funny thing is that since I'd already read the list of winners before I pulled that specific iteration, I actually overlooked that the break-downs were included right off; for almost all of the past 35 years or so (sheesh!) I've been looking at the results in real time, the final break-downs weren't made public for a couple of months, since the committee was always too burned-out to get around to it until then. The idea that they'd be efficient enough to release them with the results is so alien to me that it never even occurred to me that it would happen.
But as I also said:
Yeah, I've enjoyed playing with some of the figures for years, teasing out which blocks of voters who like X clearly next most like Y, in various categories; it's always been helpful in understanding taste in the field in all the various areas.
HOMICIDE DURING WAR. Sometimes it can be very hard to tell murder from authorized killing, sometimes not so much.
On the one hand, soldiers need to legitimately protect themselves, on the other, careless or indiscriminate killing is both morally wrong and practically unwise during an occupation/counter-insurgency.
The greatest problem, other than being in Iraq at all, is that only a commanding officer can launch a military criminal investigation; the countervailing pressures, and usually leading far more strongly against an investigation, are obvious; there's little doubt that too few true crimes are investigated or punished.
(Yeah, been having various of the symptons my lousy health produces get in the way of blogging the past week; sorry, as usual; hope to do better as the week goes on. As well, have been developing a worsening of a formerly minor sleep apnea into one possibly more troublesome, but probably won't say more until I know more; it's just as likely no big deal at all; hope to see doctors this week).
8/28/2006 09:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
UNBELIEVABLE. Wait, why am I giving this publicity?
I WANT AMERICA BACK. When will we stop keeping people locked up, in Guantanamo, or anywhere else, despite there being no reason to believe they are guilty of anything?
How can we let this go on for years? What if they were one of your relatives?
SARAJEVO, Bosnia -- On Jan. 18, 2002, six men suspected of plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy were seized here by U.S. troops and flown to Cuba, where they became some of the first arrivals at the Pentagon's new prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The seizure was ordered by senior U.S. officials in defiance of rulings by top courts in Bosnia that the men were entitled to their freedom and could not be deported. Today, more than four years later, the six remain locked up at Guantanamo, even though the original allegations about the embassy attack have been discredited and dropped, records show.
In 2004, Bosnian prosecutors and police formally exonerated the six men after a lengthy criminal investigation. Last year, the Bosnian prime minister asked the Bush administration to release them, calling the case a miscarriage of justice.
• Mustafa Ait Idr • Hajj Boudella • Saber Lahmar • Mohammed Nechle
Someday it could be someone you know. And if it isn't: what sort of reason is that?
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.
ADDENDUM, 7:11 p.m.: Of course, the wonderful stinger is that it's possible that now, after nearly five years of sitting in hell in Guantanamo Bay for no good reason, these guys might feel inclined towards engaging in terrorism. I know I'd be a little grumpy in their shoes.
8/21/2006 05:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
WE THINK YOU'RE CONFUSING THAT WHOLE "ARYAN, SWASTIKA" THING. I didn't mean to make it a special Indian news day here at your Amygdala today, but ya never know what the news will serve up.
MUMBAI (Reuters) - A new restaurant in India's financial hub, named after Adolf Hitler and promoted with posters showing the German leader and Nazi swastikas, has infuriated the country's small Jewish community.
Hitler's Cross', which opened last week, serves up a wide range of continental fare and a big helping of controversy, thanks to a name the owners say they chose to stand out among hundreds of Mumbai eateries.
"We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people's minds," owner Punit Shablok told Reuters.
Now, why would that be? Maybe the whole trying to conquer the world thing? Or the genocide thing?
"We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different."
"In the way he was different." That's the melt-down quote.
[...] Posters line the road leading up to it, featuring a red swastika carved in the name of the eatery. One slogan reads: "From Small Bites to Mega Joys."
A huge portrait of a stern-looking Fuehrer greets visitors at the door. The cross in the restaurant's name refers to the swastika that symbolized the Nazi regime.
"This place is not about wars or crimes, but where people come to relax and enjoy a meal," said restaurant manager Fatima Kabani, adding that they were planning to turn the eatery's name into a brand with more branches in Mumbai.
Hey, why not a worldwide franchise? It could be a blitzkrieg of success!
And the waiters? Definitely should all be in Waffen SS uniforms. The maitre'd? Gestapo.
My proposed slogan: Hitler's Cross: food so good, you'll eat like you were in a concentration camp!
The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.
The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive.
These numbers have never been secret; you can find them in hundreds of books at your public library; in thousands of books in a truly comprehensive library, and in thousands of public papers.
Why make the the numbers secret now? No fathomable reason! Just because! It's the Bush Administration! They don't need a reason to make things secret!
This isn't even one of those cases where something is classified to cover up something embarassing. There's just no reason!
[...] In another case, Burr cited two declassified copies of a 75-page memo on military policy issues that Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara sent to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, one obtained from the National Archives in 1999 and the other from the Pentagon this year.
In the 2006 copy, Pentagon reviewers blacked out numbers that were left untouched in the earlier version, including the number of ballistic missile launchers and the number of heavy bombers the United States expected to have in 1965, 1967 and 1970. (Comparative numbers for the Soviet Union were left alone.)
Burr also compared two copies of a memo that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote for President Gerald R. Ford for a 1974 National Security Council meeting on arms control negotiations.
One copy, obtained from the NSC through a Freedom of Information Act request in 1999, has visible references to "200 older B-52 bombers" and 240 Trident missiles, among other weapons data. In the second copy, released by the Gerald R. Ford Library in May 2006, such information is blacked out -- as is similar data for the Soviet Union.
Experts say there is no national security reason for the administration to keep such historical information under wraps -- especially when it has been publicly available for years.
But wait! I've figured it out! I've solved the mystery!
There's only one possible answer that makes sense! The Administration fears an attack in 1965, 1967, or 1970!
That's right! The administration has discovered that the terrorists have time travel capability!
Ladies and gentlemen: we must not allow a time machine gap!
Thank heavens it's the Bush administration in charge, and not Al Gore. The way it was before.
PUSH-BUTTON GANDHI, BUT PLEASE DON'T PUSH THE BUTTONS. This is fairly goofy.
Gandhi is now available at the push of a button. The frail, half-naked ascetic who fought British colonial oppression with nonviolence and austerity is the focus of a multimedia museum here, his life, values and words popping out from computer screens, laser beams, musical bamboo poles and other hands-on electronic gadgets.
As anyone who knows anything about the Mahatma knows, he abhorred technology, regarding that of the 1940s and earlier as foreign to Indian values, and something that India and Indians must reject to be self-sufficient.
He advocated everyone take to spinning wool by hand (a small rotating wheel was apparently technology he could accept).
As it happens, he had bunches of other ideas that I, for one, wouldn't have been persuaded by, such as the virtues of drinking urine; he also engaged in the curious practice of sleeping largely naked with his nubile young nieces, so as to "test" his celibacy.
Hey, don't ask me, I just report the news, and history.
So ya gotta think this would have disgusted him about as much as anything that didn't involve outright hatred and death would have:
[...] Now the house also has what claims be India's first hands-on, multimedia museum. But in a society where officials young and old closely guard their authority, it is largely hands-off for visitors. Instead, about 18 young docents, picked from underprivileged families and clad in Gandhi's trademark handspun clothes, control the buttons and the visitor's experience.
"We don't encourage the visitors to touch, because these are sensitive and expensive machines," says Singh. "Our visitors are not as disciplined and sophisticated like those visiting the Smithsonian or the New York museums. A number of our visitors are villagers and are unfamiliar with computers."
The museum uses archival film footage extensively in several exhibits. In the first gallery, a small touch-screen computer slides along a mud wall that, in a blend of tradition and the modern, is coated with cow dung that in Indian villages is traditionally viewed as a purifying agent.
Moved along the wall by a docent, the screen presents a tableau of events from Gandhi's life in film and photographs -- his childhood, sepia-toned family portraits, the scene from Richard Attenborough's 1982 film "Gandhi" when he is thrown out of a first-class train coach in South Africa, and many others.
In a section about Gandhi's tireless campaign against India's caste system, a docent encouraged visitors to form a human chain around a carved pillar. When the visitors held hands, the pillar lit up. The mere act of people touching strangers whose caste was unknown to them was meant to remove biases at this exhibit, called the "Pillar of Castelessness," the docent explains.
"The light comes on, and the caste prejudice vanishes," he says.
Uh, yeah. A little overly symbolic for my taste, insofar as that "vanish[ing]" of prejudice seems unlikely to be gone longer than it takes for the light to go off again.
But, hey, nice thought, I guess.
[...] The museum is full of beautifully designed displays -- high-gloss Brio-like trains and cows, ornate xylophones that play Gandhi's favorite prayer songs, laser beams that illuminate his prison journal, quilts that light up and mud huts with murals. But some visitors commented on the divergence between Gandhi's life and the medium.
"As you walk through the video-arcade-meets-spiritual-mall, you cannot make up your mind what should you respond to," says Kavita Singh, who teaches art history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "The sophisticated technology? The beautifully handcrafted objects in which it is embedded? The series of bad ideas that they serve? Or the fact that it is, of all people, Gandhi who is the unfortunate victim of this project?"
Yeah, I gotta think he'd just have hated, hated, hated, the whole thing.
On the other hand, India was never going to be what he wanted (although it's too bad Jinnah had to lead Pakistan out, and not to mention the unbelievable amount of killing, and transfer of population, that was involved in the separation; but it was likely inevitable), and in a sense a gimcrack, blinking, buzzing, memorial, is also sort of symbolic of modern India as it is today, one might say.
One other little note -- earlier in the story it says this:
The $2.15 million exhibition, which opened last year, is an expansion of an older, more solemn memorial, the sprawling colonial-style house where Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life. It was on its grounds in 1948 that Gandhi, walking to a daily prayer meeting, was shot dead by a Hindu radical.
What the story discreetly doesn't mention is that that "radical" was a follower of the RSS, the fascist group behind today's ruling Hindu-extremist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), the political wing of the fascist, ethnic-cleansing, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). I guess it would be impolite to point that out.
Oh, well, at least the story didn't call him "Ghandi."
FAITHFUL TO THEE, ALICE, IN OUR FASHION. The Sunday NY Times Book Review put up their front page review (by still newish sf reviewer Dave Itzkoff, whom I wrote about briefly here and here) of Julie Phillips' JAMES TIPTREE, JR. The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon; needless to say, it's unusual for an sf-related book to get that prestigious slot, but I'm very glad to see this clearly astonishingly good book get that kind of attention.
I wrote about Julie Phillips' biography of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. here and here.
NEW TEXTS, NEW TOYS, NEW IDEAS. It's the 21st century! Hurrah for 12 planets! Profit!
[...] "Does it make our products obsolete?" asked Kim McLynn, spokeswoman for Illinois-based Learning Resources, which makes an inflatable solar system and a Planet Quest game. "Wow, a whole new universe."
For people who make their living on the old Mercury-through-Pluto system, a change in the planets means quick but welcome revisions, no matter how costly.
"This is, of course, a huge headache for publishers," said Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, a New York-based research institute that follows educational textbooks. Last-minute changes are expensive, but won't break any publisher, he said.
For example, Pearson Prentice Hall has science texts for next year going before California's textbook approval board and will try to get the 12-planet revision in for the state officials to review, said Julia Osborne, the publisher's science editorial director.
"It's worth it because this is such an exciting thing," Osborne said. But 2006 textbooks are already at schools, she said, so for "most students this fall it will be out of date."
Because schools keep textbooks for five to 10 years, it will be about seven years before most school books have 12 planets in them, said Osborne and Sewall.
At the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the main pavilion has a model of the solar system - the sun and nine planets (Earth is the size of a softball). The planetarium will likely have to add three new planets.
"They're pretty small," said astronomy director Geza Gyuk of the proposed new planets. "Maybe we can bring in a pingpong ball and that'll do the trick."
They are war heroes, leading legions into battle through intricately designed realms. They can be sorcerers or space pilots, their identities woven into a world so captivating, it is too incredible to ever leave. Unfortunately, some of them don't.
Video games have often been portrayed as violence-ridden vehicles for teen angst. But when several people in South Korea and other countries died after sitting hunched in Internet cafes, immersed in virtual worlds for hours on end without food or sleep, some began to see excessive online gaming as a new technological threat.
Like gambling, pornography or any other psychological stimulant, these games have the potential to thrill, engross and completely overwhelm.
Brady Mapes, a 24-year-old computer programmer from Gaithersburg, Md., and an avid WoW fan, calls it a "highly addictive game -- it sucks the life out of you."
As MMO fan sites filled with raving gamers proliferate, so have online-addiction help blogs, where desperate recluses and gamers' neglected spouses search for a way out.
Another gamer writes that she was angry at her boyfriend for introducing her to online gaming, which began consuming her life at the expense of her personal and academic well-being.
"But I think deleting [your] character doesn't work, because the game haunts you," she said. "All I could think about was playing."
Kimberly Young, who has treated porn and chat-room addicts since 1994 at her Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, said that in the past year video game fixation has grown more than anything else.
The trend echoes across the continents, with game-addiction treatment centers cropping up in China in 2005 and this summer in Amsterdam. In South Korea, where 70 percent of the population has broadband Internet access, the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity offers government-funded counseling for the game-hooked.
Yee believes escapism to be the best predictor of excessive gaming. A person who plays MMOs in order to avoid real-life problems, rather than simply for entertainment or socialization, is more likely to experience what he calls "problematic usage."
Liz Woolley, a Wisconsin software analyst and veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded Online Gamers Anonymous in May 2002 by adapting AA's 12-step addiction recovery model to help gamers quit cold-turkey. Woolley recommends getting professional help for underlying issues and finding other hobbies and real-world activities to replace gaming.
"Addicts want to live in a fantasy life because you can't do a 'do-over' in real life," she said. "It can be hard to accept. You have to let them know, 'Hey, this is real life. Learn to deal with it.'"
Since Blizzard Entertainment released WoW in 2004, calls to Online Gamers Anonymous have more than tripled, according to Woolley, who said the industry is directly at fault for the suffering of the people she tries to help.
"I think the game companies are nothing more than drug pushers," she said. "If I was a parent, I wouldn't let them in my house. It's like dropping your kids off at a bar and leaving them there."
The signs of excessive MMO use are similar to those of alcoholism or any other dependency -- tolerance, withdrawal, lying or covering up, to name a few. However, many in the industry are hesitant to call it an addiction because, in the case of MMOs, the nature of the problem is based on how it affects the user's life, not the amount of time spent playing.
Shawn had played online games before, so she didn't suspect anything different when he picked up the newest MMO from Sony. Within months, Woolley said, Shawn withdrew from society, losing his job and apartment and moving back home to live a virtual life he found more fulfilling.
After a number of game-induced grand mal seizures sent Shawn, who was epileptic, to the emergency room repeatedly, he chose to pay ambulance bills rather than stop playing. The medical professionals he saw treated his external symptoms but dismissed his gaming condition.
"They told me, 'Be glad he's not addicted to something worse, like drugs,' and sent him home," Woolley said.
On Thanksgiving Day 2001, Woolley found 21-year-old Shawn dead in front of his computer after having committed suicide. Everquest was on the screen.
Clearly, we should ban MMORPGs right now. I am so frightened!
They are a menace! Society will be destroyed! Escapism is evil, and must be wiped away! Fantasy is sickness! Playing is non-useful!
IT ALWAYS GETS WORSE IN DARFUR. It's hard for me to blog about this anymore; it's soul-sucking.
Three months since the signing of a tenuous peace deal, Sudan appears to be preparing a major military offensive in its troubled Darfur region, aid workers are increasingly at risk, and the population "may have to relive the horrors of late 2003 and early 2004, and hundreds of thousands of lives will be at risk," a top United Nations official warned the Security Council in a private briefing yesterday.
The blunt assessment by the deputy head of the U.N. peacekeeping forces, Hedi Annabi, came as Britain and the United States introduced a Security Council resolution to send 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur over the opposition of Khartoum. China and Russia, however, suggested they would reject the resolution, and the Sudanese government reiterated its opposition to a U.N. force.
About 2,000 villages have been destroyed across Darfur, and violence and disease have left as many as 450,000 people dead and 2 million homeless.
Zoellick resigned in June to join a Wall Street investment house, and the administration has not named a replacement and has ignored calls from Congress for a special Sudan envoy.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has since declared that Sudan's army will fight any U.N. forces sent to Darfur, even though U.N. forces are already based in the southern part of the country to monitor a separate accord.
Khartoum has told the United Nations that it plans to deploy 26,500 armed forces to Darfur by year's end, which would violate the peace agreement, Annabi said. He said there are reports that the buildup of forces has already commenced and that extra battalions have been deployed.
Annabi told the Security Council that since the signing of the deal, "instead of reconciliation and building of trust, we see more violence and further polarization."
Eleven aid workers have been killed since the signing of the peace agreement, "an unprecedented level of deadly attacks," and humanitarian organizations have access to only half of the 3.6 million people affected by the conflict, he said. He said aid workers may be forced to withdraw completely from North Darfur, where more than 1.2 million need help.
The peace agreement lacks the support of larger segments of the population, Annabi added. Minni Minnawi, the rebel leader who signed the accord, is from a different ethnic group than is much of the Darfur population, adding to the tensions, experts have said.
Annabi said the violence between the rebel groups since the accord was signed has "resulted in hundreds of deaths, systematic looting, new displacements and horrendous acts of sexual and gender-based violence."
MOM, WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO BE A CRATE-OLOGIST. So U.S. intelligence reportedly spotted C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles being loaded at an airport in Iran a couple of weeks ago, and got Iraq to deny permission for the plane to use Iraqi air-space, and Turkey to say sure, come on through: so long as you land for an inspection -- and the plane flew back to Iran -- all according to this story.
[...] In the closed world of spy satellite photo analysis, it's called "crate-ology": the science of identifying a weapon or some other key component by the size and shape of its box.
The technique came into play last month when a U.S. spy satellite, looking down on an Iranian air base, captured images of military crews loading what U.S. intelligence analysts concluded were eight C-802 Noor anti-ship cruise missiles on board a transport plane, according to intelligence officials.
The C-802 is "the size of a small truck," says Robert Hewson, a missile expert with Jane's, an authoritative military reference service. Information about the crate, proximity to the place of manufacture and shipping route would enable an analyst to identify it with near certainty as a C-802, he says.
Hewson said there is an entire discipline in intelligence on the technique of identifying weapons based on their containers.
Dino Brugioni helped develop the technique during a career that spanned four decades in increasingly senior positions as a U.S. imagery intelligence analyst.
Brugioni, who in retirement has been a consultant to U.S. intelligence agencies, said analysts use large catalogs with detailed information on weapons crates. The boxes are distinctive, he said. An analyst can quickly tell the type of ammunition or artillery shells by the box used to ship them, he said.
Brugioni said other indicators — for example, a crew taking precautions by loading explosives on a plane far from any buildings — tell analysts that boxes are not empty.
Yeah, kinda vague, isn't it?
We've now learned that: boxes can be "distinctive."
This concludes today's lesson in "crate-ology," class! Study hard. This will be on the quiz.
Tomorrow we'll cover: boxes can be both square and rectangular. That's Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. Make sure you read them all.
Next week we'll get to: boxes -- often, they are made of wood.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, DUKE CUNNINGHAM. What a piece of work. (Although I have say that it's damned strange to see a piece by Kitty Kelley -- yes, that Kitty Kelley -- in The New Republic.) Duke:
[...] Two years after marrying Duke, Nancy filed for divorce and a restraining order. She said in court papers that her husband "is a very aggressive spontaneously assaultive person, and I fear for my immediate physical safety and well-being." She later had a change of heart--"he put on that poor sad-dog face of his," she said--and they reconciled. According to Nancy, he was shell-shocked from his tour in Vietnam and had nightmares about parachuting into waters filled with the bodies of Viet Cong. "When we first married, he slept with a knife under his pillow," she said. "Well, the knife graduated to a loaded gun."
They started their family while Duke was in the Navy working his way up the chain of command. But Nancy claims that her husband's temper got in the way of his advancement. "He was too confrontational with his superiors and got low scores on his fitness reports," she said. He was repeatedly denied promotions, and, according to Gregory Vistica's Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, he was nearly court-martialed for breaking into his commanding officer's files to compare his personnel records with those of fellow pilots. He also demanded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, and then threatened to boycott the ceremony when he learned he was only getting the Navy Cross. "He felt cheated," said his wife. "He said, 'I earned it and I deserve it.'"
In the meantime, he started his own business, Top Gun Enterprises, Inc., playing off his show-horse status as the first ace in Vietnam. Through it, he sold Top Gun merchandise, including lithographs of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, books by Cunningham, speeches by Cunningham, tapes by Cunningham, plus a Top Gun official organizational ball cap--a huge seller after the Tom Cruise movie. The most expensive item offered was "The Randy 'Duke' Cunningham Fighter Ace Kalinga Style Buck Knife." Packaged in a hardwood case lined with blue satin, it cost $595.00.
When Duke officially announced his candidacy, Nancy had her 1976 divorce papers sealed. "I didn't want people to know he slept with a loaded gun under his pillow."
From the beginning of his political career, Duke exhibited a take-no-prisoners attitude. During his first congressional campaign primary in 1990, he distributed brochures associating his Egyptian-born opponent with Muammar Qaddafi. In the general election, he hammered the Democratic incumbent, Jim Bates, who was bogged down in a scandal involving charges of sexual harassment. Duke appeared at campaign rallies in his leather bomber jacket and referred to Bates as a "MiG." His posters featured him in his flight suit.
Members of Congress also remember Duke Cunningham's abusive temper, especially toward Democrats. He suggested the Democratic House leadership should be "lined up and shot," something he had earlier recommended for Vietnam war protestors. He called Clinton's labor secretary, Robert Reich, "a communist supporter" because "he goes along with Karl Marx in many of his writings."
During a conference committee debate on illegal immigration, committee Republicans, including Cunningham, prevented Democrats from making any amendments, and Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank responded sarcastically: "I apologize to the gentleman from California for talking about substance." Cunningham shot back, "You want to talk about prostitution rings in basements?" (Six years earlier, Frank, openly gay, had been embroiled in a scandal involving a former male companion who had been caught running a prostitution ring from the congressman's basement apartment.) During a debate over sending troops to Bosnia, Cunningham accused Virginia Representative Jim Moran, who voted against authorizing the president to send U.S. troops to Kuwait, of turning his back on Desert Storm. Moran took a swing at him as they were leaving the House chambers. Moran later told The Washington Post: "I thought he had been bullying too many people for too long."
Nancy showed little interest in defending her husband's behavior, which, she said, was an embarrassment to her and her girls. "When I was going to retire and become director of the Rhoades School, I made him promise to stop gay-bashing in public, because it might upset parents at that private school," she said. She recalled when her husband addressed a group of men about his prostate surgery, he said his rectal procedure was "just not natural, unless maybe you're Barney Frank." Frank dismissed Cunningham's comment. "I wouldn't list stability as his strongest personal characteristic," he said. Frank later added, "He tends to frequently blurt out stuff on gay issues. He seems to be more interested in discussing homosexuality than most homosexuals."
The Top Gun congressman drew his harshest fire in 1995, when he objected on the House floor to a pro-environment amendment. He said it was supported by "the same people that would put homos in the military." When former Colorado Representative Patricia Schroeder rose in objection to the remark, he told her, "Sit down, you socialist."
Former California Representative Ron Packard, who sat with Cunningham on the Appropriations Committee, recalled him becoming irate in a California delegation meeting when he realized he did not have the support for a committee assignment he sought. "He was extremely upset and threatened to quit Congress," said Packard. "That was the first indication that he didn't have control of his emotions." Nancy said her husband became so irate in 2000 about not getting a leadership position that he stormed into Dennis Hastert's office. (Six calls to Hastert's office for confirmation went unanswered.) Looking back, Nancy sees her husband's loss of a leadership position as his final undoing. "He thought he should be at the top, and, when Speaker Hastert promoted people over him, Mr. Cunningham became very, very disturbed," she said.
Before he donned his orange jumpsuit to work in the library of the holding pen at Butner, North Carolina, Duke tried to hide a small stash of money. The night before he was sentenced, he drove to Nancy's grandmother's house and dropped a duffel bag in the garage stuffed with cash and dirty underwear.
"She called me immediately," said her attorney. "I went over to inventory everything and gave it to the U.S. attorney. God only knows where that money came from. Duke had $32,000 in $20 and $100 bills stuffed in Ziploc bags jammed in a metal box." When Nancy told Duke that she had turned over his money to her lawyer, he berated her. She said she had no other choice. "But he just doesn't understand," she said. "He claims he's innocent, that he's been railroaded by the government, that he shouldn't be in prison. He says he signed the plea agreement under duress." She shook her head. "He even thinks he will be pardoned by President Bush."
A charmer, isn't he?
The missus now calls him "Mr. Cunningham." I don't particularly buy her story, but the touches about Mr. C weren't something I thought you would want to miss.
HADITHA COVER-UP UNCOVERED. Finally, some real news on this story.
A high-level military investigation into the killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November has uncovered instances in which American marines involved in the episode appear to have destroyed or withheld evidence, according to two Defense Department officials briefed on the case.
The investigation found that an official company logbook of the unit involved had been tampered with and that an incriminating video taken by an aerial drone the day of the killings was not given to investigators until Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, intervened, the officials said.
There are other details about the missing video, but also this:
In addition to faulting officers in the Second Marine Division for not aggressively investigating the Haditha killings, the Bargewell report said the commanders had created a climate that minimized the importance of Iraqi lives, particularly in Haditha, where insurgent attacks were rampant, the officials said.
“In their eyes, they didn’t believe anyone was innocent,” said one of the officials, describing the attitude of the marines in the unit toward Iraqis. “Either you were an active participant, or you were complicit.”
Then it turns out that General Huck, the commander of the Second Marine Division, who had ordered one of the first investigations, was lied to by those who briefed him.
I am happy to report that despite all, I am doing well. I started physical therapy, I communicate with friends on a daily basis, I play my iPod and listen to songs with Chaz and the doctors and nurses, and I write. Don Dupree, the Executive Producer of “Ebert & Roeper” installed a plasma TV and DVD player in my room. I am going to watch "Half Nelson" and I hope Kevin Smith was right. I also thank my good friend Jay Leno for sitting in my chair in my absence, and, of course, thanks to Richard Roeper.
I thank all of you for your prayers, your well-wishes, your gifts, cards, e-mails and flowers. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't tell you when, but I sure look forward to being back on the movie beat.
As do many of us look forward to Roger's return to good health.
MAO'S POPULARITY IN INDIA AND NEPAL. I was just slightly startled to find someone who hadn't heard of the large-scale and growing Maoist guerrilla armies and movements in India (known as the "Naxalites"), or those that have so constantly threatened Nepal in recent years, so it occurs to me to blog a couple of articles.
Here is a Grauniad piece from August 2nd on the situation in India.
When Tata Steel began building the country's third-biggest steel mill in a plot of the 5,000-hectare (13,000 acre) Kalinganagar industrial area in the dust bowl of eastern India this year, executives thought they would be welcomed.
After all, they reasoned, the company, with revenues of more than £3bn, was bringing development and jobs to one of India's poorest places. However, by the end of the day, the bulldozers had not moved an inch and 12 people lay dead after what appeared to be a pitched battle between locals, armed with axes and spades, and police who carried guns and tear gas.
What happened in Orissa, say many experts, could easily be replicated across India, where the same mix of tribal disaffection could bubble up into a series of peasant uprisings. A bigger danger is that holding sway over a vast area of India is an armed group of left-wing guerrillas, referred to as Naxalites, who see industrialisation as an unwanted intrusion and threaten a violent contest over rural lands.
When the Guardian visited Naxalite guerrillas deep in the forests of central India earlier this year, Gopanna Markam, a company commander of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, stressed that the "exploitation" needed to be stopped. "The government is bent upon taking out all the resources from this area and leaving the people nothing."
This is not a threat to take lightly. Naxalite bandhs or shutdowns in Jharkhand state, with rich deposits of iron ore and dolomite, have cost local steelmakers 60 days of lost work a year. Armed rebels have carried out several attacks in southern Chhattisgarh on the state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation iron-ore mine.
Coincidentally, it is post-Maoist China's surging economy that is driving global demand for raw materials and in India it is Maoist-inspired revolutionaries who seek to dent their supply.
The Naxalites, who follow a radical Maoist ideology, have waged a low-intensity guerrilla war against India for decades. They control 92,000 square kilometres (36,000 square miles) of the country, from Nepal to the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. This "red corridor" runs along some of India's poorest parts and through areas inhabited mainly by tribal peoples. In many places Naxalites have in effect become the state - running schools, digging wells and administering justice through "people's courts".
Although the movement has splintered many times in the 40 years since it began, a unified leadership emerged last year under the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The new party, with a 10,000-strong armed wing, was promptly banned. By April India's prime minister was calling the Naxalites the "single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country".
KATHMANDU: Two factions of Nepal's Maoist rebels clashed in a village in the country's south, the fiercest fighting since the rebels signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.
Maoist cadres and Janatrantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) militants exchanged fire for about two hours in Itatar VDC in Siraha, 260 km south of Kathmandu, yesterday, police sources said. However, there were no reports of casualty on either side though hundreds of bullets were fired during the encounter.
The encounter took place when a district level meeting of the JTMM was in progress. The Siraha coordinator of JTMM Shyam claimed the clash erupted after hundreds of Maoists opened fire at JTMM cadres while they were holding the meeting.
However, Maoist district secretary, Abinash claimed the JTMM men first opened fire at Maoist cadres who were on a regular patrol near the Nepal-India border as part of their drive against dacoits in the border areas.
The Maoists declared a war against the JTMM headed by Jai Krishna Goit after its cadres killed two Maoist guerillas in Saptari. Goit left the Maoist party and formed the JTMM two years ago.
This sort of thing has been happening daily for several years, with frequent clashes between the militias India has created to battle the Maoists/Naxalites (see Colombia, El Salvador, Vietnam, etc., for previous iterations of this sort of thing).
Hyderabad - The killing of one of Andhra Pradesh’s top Maoist leaders has dealt a huge blow to the rebels, forcing its entire leadership to think of shifting the base out of the Nallamalla forests.
Amid questions as to how the police could reach the forest hideout in Prakasam district and target the Maoist leader who was always guarded by over a dozen men armed to the teeth, the Communist Party of India-Maoist is reportedly thinking of changes in its strategy.
Policemen shot dead Madhav, the CPI-Maoist state secretary, and seven other guerillas including five women in Yerragondapalem mandal in Prakasam district on Sunday. The state Maoist leadership, who had shifted their operational base from north Telangana to Nallamalla forests in the late 1990s following a police crackdown, now seems to have lost this bastion too.
The ’shootout’ that claimed the life of Madhav, who left his home a quarter century ago to work among the poor, came as a big moral booster for the state police, which unlike their counterparts in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had largely succeeded in containing the Maoist violence with specialized training.
Although the Andhra Pradesh Maoists have been suffering a series of setbacks since January 2005 when an eight-month truce collapsed, this is the first time in nearly four decades that they lost their chief. The police killed about 150 Maoists last year and the outfit has already lost 100 cadres this year.
The fact that a majority of them including several top leaders were killed in and around Nallamalla forests proved the effectiveness of the operations by Greyhounds, the special anti-Maoist police force that has become a role model for other states affected by Maoist violence.
The sustained anti-Maoist operations in the Nallamalla forests shattered the CPI-Maoist dreams to turn into another Dandakarnya. The forests and villages in Dandakarnya region spreading from Chhattisgarh to Nepal are virtually ruled by Maoists - or so goes the claim.
With Nallamalla forests spread over five districts in the state’s central region no more safe for Maoists, they are now looking for another hideout to operate from, said police sources.
The Maoists are reportedly eying the Satyamangalam forests, from where India’s most wanted bandit and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan once used to operate.
Since the dense forests spread over Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, the Maoists see it as an ideal place to base and strengthen themselves in the other southern states where they are relatively weak.
While the Andhra Pradesh police are celebrating their huge success, they also know that the problem is far from over.
‘It is a hard time for Maoists but it will be too early to say that we have solved the problem,’ said Director General of Police Swaranjit Sen.
The police also know that Maoists are down but certainly not out. ‘They have struck back every time the police thought the movement was weakening,’ pointed out a Maoist sympathizer.
In 1999, the police achieved a major success by killing three central committee members of then People’s War Group, which in 2004 merged with the Maoist Communist Centre to form the CPI-Maoist, in Karimnagar district.
A few months later a senior state minister, A. Madhava Reddy, was gunned down in retaliatory action.
Despite killing about 3,000 Maoists and arresting or forcing the surrender of an equal number since 1993, the Maoist presence in the state is unabated. The police think the state still has about 700 armed Maoists while the number of armed guerillas in all 14 affected states is estimated to be around 2,000.
The CPI-Maoist in the state has three units - the Andhra Pradesh State Committee, the North Telangana Special Zonal Committee and Andhra-Orissa Border Committee, each operating in its respective region.
In 1969, a year after Maoists launched their armed movement in Naxalbari in West Bengal, Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh witnessed an armed uprising by farmers.
Since then the movement went through many ups and downs. On April 20, 1980 Kondapalli Seetharamaiah founded People’s War, which stepped up its activities in the late 1980s.
Maoist violence has so far claimed more than 6,000 lives in the state including those of 2,500 civilians, policemen and politicians.
At least 25 villagers were hacked to death and 21 others injured in a major attack by Maoist rebels in India's central Chhattisgarh state on Monday, news reports said.
"Between 500 to 800 rebels surrounded a village in Dantewada district shortly after midnight and killed 25 people using axes and knives," OP Pal, the district's superintendent of police told Deutsche Presse Agentur.
Dantewada lies about 500km south of state capital Raipur.
It was the biggest attack by Maoist rebels in the state, Pal said.
The villagers were targeted as they were opposed to rebel activity in the area and were part of an anti-Maoist campaign called Selva Judum (Campaign for Peace), Pal said.
He added that 23 people were abducted by the guerillas who fled after carrying out the attack.
Maoist guerillas under Imadpur police station in Ara on late Saturday evening, using powerful explosives, blew up the house of Jugeshwar Yadav, a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) activist and the key accused in the July 22 murder of a Communist Party of India (ML) sympathizer Veer Bahadur Mahto, the Ara police said.
According to the report, dozens of heavily armed Naxalites arrived at the house of Yadav and set it on fire on Saturday evening. The house was locked when the extremists burnt it to ashes.
Before leaving, the extremists also torched the barns used to keep animal fodders, the police said.
And here is a reprint of a good NY Times piece by Somini Sengupta from April 13tg, "In Villages Across India, Maoist Guerrillas Widen 'People's War.'"
[...] While the far more powerful Maoist insurgency in neighboring Nepal has received greater attention, the conflict in India, though largely separate, has gained momentum, too. In the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives.
Here in central Chhattisgarh State, the deadliest theater of the war, government-aided village defense forces have lately taken to hunting Maoists in the forests. Hand in hand with the insurgency, the militias have dragged the region into ever more deadly conflict.
Villagers, caught in between, have seen their hamlets burned. Nearly 50,000 are now displaced, living in flimsy tent camps, as the counterinsurgency tries to cleanse the countryside of Maoist support.
The insurgents blow up railway tracks, seize land and chase away forest guards. They have made it virtually impossible for government officials, whose presence here in the hinterland is already patchy, to function. Police posts, government offices and industrial plants are favored targets. Their ultimate goal is to overthrow the state.
Today the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which exists solely as an underground armed movement with no political representation, is a rigidly hierarchical outfit with toeholds in 13 of 28 Indian states. It stretches from the tip of India through this east-central state to the northern border with Nepal, where the Maoists have set off full-scale civil war.
Estimates by Indian intelligence officials and Maoist leaders suggest that the rebel ranks in India have swelled to 20,000, though the number is impossible to verify. One senior Indian intelligence official estimated that Maoists exert varying degrees of influence over a quarter of India’s 600 districts.
The top government official in one of Chhattisgarh’s rural Maoist strongholds, Dantewada, acknowledged that the rebels had made some 60 percent of his 6,400-square-mile district a no man’s land for civil servants.
Not that there are many civil servants. His district’s police department has a vacancy rate hovering around 35 percent; in health care, it is 20 percent.