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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook


"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook


"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr


"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion


"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson


"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri


"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams


"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France


"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke


"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant


"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville


"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant


"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand


"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal


"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.


"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus


"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814


"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944


"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News


"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas


"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero


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


"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson


"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower


"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler


"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm


"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein


"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms


"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho


"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).


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


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


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


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


"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128


"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)


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


"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days


"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs


"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign


"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden


"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman



 

 
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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


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


You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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


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

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

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber


Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
-- oakhaus.com

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

Favorite....
-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


GARY FARBER IS MY AROUSAL CENTER. -- Justin Slotman

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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

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

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


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


Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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










Amygdala
 
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
 
THE TUBULAR BELLS RING FOR THEE. Good times with Katherine Harris.
[...] Former chief adviser Ed Rollins, who managed Ronald Reagan's reelection to the White House in 1984, said working for Harris was like "being in insanity camp." He likened her staff to dogs that have been kicked.

Before he became the first of three campaign managers to quit, Jim Dornan programmed his cellphone to play the theme song from "The Exorcist" when Harris called.
I'm sure she'll be very comforted, after she loses, by her belief that a vast conspiracy is undermining her. (It will turn out to be the voters of Florida.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you want more schadenfreude, skip it if you don't.

10/31/2006 04:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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THE BIG TIME. Yet again, Boulder makes the front page of the NY Times. This time not for science, or murderers, but the outdoorsy/sports nature of the place, which is certainly accurate (I do my part by being statistically unlikely).
BOULDER, Colo. — Here at 5,430 feet, all roads lead to a finish line somewhere. They just rarely converge.

As the major marathon season hit its fall peak, professional distance runners from Kenya, Japan, Romania and Tanzania, as well as the United States, were pounding the dirt roads in Boulder for a high-altitude boost.

Long a popular haven for elite athletes, the area boasts 300 sunny days a year, 400 miles of trails (including Magnolia, which soars to 8,600 feet), more massage therapists than muscles and a fervent outdoor culture.
True enough.

I clearly have a dirty mind, though, when I read the last lines of the story:
[...] “I know this sounds corny,” he added, “but I really think, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ ”

But will they come at the same time?
Sure, okay.

Some nice pictures of around here, though, behind the athletes, in the Times gallery.








This is all a mix of on the outer edge of, outside of, or a bit further outside of, town, to be sure. The bottom one gives a glimpse of the mountains at the edge of town, but from a distance out of town on the opposite side; in comparison, I'm just a few blocks walk from the Front Range edge of town (the main branch of the Boulder Library is conveniently close to that edge).

In town, we actually have neighborhoods, and lots of buildings, and the university, and a jillion science institutes, and even a downtown where buildings scrape the sky at 6, 7 stories tall!

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5, unless you're a fan of marathoners.

10/31/2006 04:13:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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Monday, October 30, 2006
 
ABOUT THAT IPSOS CUSTODES. The key problem has been endlessly pointed to, but many still ignore it to talk about al Qaeda, or "the insurgents."
The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.

Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis.

[...]

And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."

[...]

Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."

U.S. military reports on the Iraqi police often read like a who's who of the two main militias in Iraq: the Mahdi Army, also known as Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM, and the Badr Organization, also known as the Badr Brigade or Badr Corps.

One document on the Karrada district police chief says: "I strongly believe that he is a member of Badr Corps and tends to turn a blind eye to JAM activity." Another explains that the station commander in the al-Amil neighborhood "is afraid to report suspected militia members in his organization due to fear of reprisals."

American soldiers said that although they gather evidence of police ties to the militias and present it to Iraqi officials, no one has ever been criminally charged or even lost their jobs.

Among the worst of the suspected Mahdi Army members is Lt. Col. Musa Khadim Lazim Asadi, station commander of the Ghazaliyah patrol police. "He has stated to us that he does not believe the Mahdi Militia is a bad organization," a military report said. "He had a picture of Sadr in his vehicle until we said something about it."

"He is a cancer to the station and the people of Ghazaliyah," the report concluded.

[...]

But when U.S. military officials visited Asadi on a recent afternoon, he not only denied that his men were involved in the militias or crime but refused to acknowledge that there had been any killings in the area at all. Although scores of tortured bodies are often found in the neighborhood, Asadi said the murders all took place somewhere else.

At his response, 1st Lt. Cadetta Bridges shook her head in disbelief. "This guy is a crook and a liar," said Bridges, 31, of Upper Marlboro. "They're all crooks and liars."

[...]

Arabi Araf Ali, a police officer in the southern neighborhood of Dora, said police do little more than pick dead bodies up off the street. In the station's parking lot nearby, a colleague washed off a police truck that had just been used to retrieve the corpses of five Shiite men slaughtered that morning. Brain matter littered the ground.

"Some parts of Dora are so dangerous," Ali added, "that we cannot even pick up the bodies there without Americans. We are just too afraid."

The Iraqi police are not the only ones who feel unsafe. The American soldiers and civilians who train the Iraqis are constantly on guard against the possibility that the police might turn against them. Even in the police headquarters for all of western Baghdad, one of the safest police buildings in the capital, the training team will not remove their body armor or helmets. An armed soldier is assigned to protect each trainer.

"I wouldn't let half of them feed my dog," 1st Lt. Floyd D. Estes Jr., a former head of the police transition team, said of the Iraqi police. "I just don't trust them."

Jon Moore, the deputy team chief, said: "We don't know who the hell we're teaching: Are they police or are they militia?"
But as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down!

Ignore the falling on our ass part.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. Of course, this article is just another product of a loser-defeatist liberal press, out to attack Republicans, and who hate America. Don't believe them! You'll have a far more accurate view by believing what you want to believe! Turn off your scanners, Luke! Use the Right-Wing Force!

10/30/2006 11:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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TURN, TURN, TURN. The NY Times Voter's Maze. [ADDENDUM: Link fixed] Brilliant graphic, with excellent succinct statement of the facts.

Play, yourself! Can you find the way to an honest election? (Warning: not actually a game.)

(Some facts behind the Maze. Electionline report here), and yet lots more here.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. Via Avedon.

Also via Avedon: Should I Use Blackface On My Blog? Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5, for fun and real; or short answer: no. (ADDENDUM, 11/01/06, 3:17 p.m.: For a less entertaining explication, this also seems entirely sound and correct, and more or less obvious, to me.)

And yet also from Avedon: excellent Doonesbury.

10/30/2006 05:56:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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MISSING ONE THING. OR TWO. I really think it's absolutely necessary that CNN add one word, and make this "E-lection Nite Blog DanceParty."
[...] CNN is trying to incorporate bloggers directly into its coverage of next week's midterm elections by inviting them to an "E-lection Nite Blog Party," an event aimed at corralling some of the top online opinion makers in one place to provide instant reaction as the results come in.

The cable news network plans to host more than two dozen bloggers from across the political spectrum — including sites like RedState and Daily Kos — at a Washington Internet lounge where they can monitor the election returns on a slew of flat-screen televisions. (Each blogger will get his or her own monitor, which can be tuned to any channel.) There will be free wireless access — and plenty of food and beverages, natch.

[...]

"Bloggers are leading the conversation," said David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief. "You could argue that most of the political dialogue in this country is happening online, so if you don't incorporate that into your coverage, you're missing a major element."

Subscribers to CNN Pipeline, the network's broadband service, will be able to monitor the happenings at the blog party through one of the online channels, which will be dedicated exclusively to footage from the event.
My firm recommendation is that each time a blogger is actually shown on main CNN, they first have to stand and show their dance moves for one minute, before being allowed to speak.

Viewers will then, of course, vote on who the best dancers are, which other blogger they should have as a spouse for a week (this will be spun off into a separate weekly series), who is the most geeky, who has lost the most weight sweating under tv lights by the end of the night, who wins a million dollars by answering the most political trivia questions correctly (replies must actually be in the form of a question, a la Jeopardy), who has cooked the best meal for the other bloggers in ten minutes, and every hour a blogger gets voted out of the party.

There will also be an Iron Blogging Award for most wordage written during all this that's actually completely coherent.

Additionally, a real-time clock will always be running in the lower right corner of the screen, and one blogger per hour will be designated to solve the murder of one of the other bloggers; torture of another blogger will be permitted ten minutes out of each hour, but the tortured blogger will have to have defended the use of torture on their blog during the past year.

My show will have the bestest ratings, CNN!

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. I'm not counting on being invited; I blame anti-Semitism.

10/30/2006 04:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Sunday, October 29, 2006
 
WERE I RELIGIOUS, I'D PRAY THAT SOMEDAY AMERICA COULD DO SOMETHING to earn forgiveness for unleashing this.

But since I'm not religious, I have no idea what that could be. (Anthony Shadid writes "This is Baghdad. What could be worse?"; at least you can find out what "kundara" means in Arabic, if you don't know.)

Also important long reading, from October 22nd: Elizabeth Rubin's In the Land of the Taliban.

And from Noah Feldman's Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age, we learn:
[...] By a conservative accounting, more than three times as many Iraqis have been killed by suicide bombings in the last 3 years as have Israelis in the last 10.
It's an interesting attempt to analyze what Islamic law says about, and what actual practice might be as regards, nuclear weapons.

And speaking of religion, the great Garry Wills on A Country Ruled by Faith, on Bush's turning the government to faith-based everything. Garry Wills is never not worth reading.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for the first three; 3 out of 5 for Wills, since it's not one of his best pieces, however.

ADDENDUM, 10/30/06, 12:05 p.m.: The follow-up to Rubin's piece is here: Taking the Fight to the Taliban; these are likely going to be part of a forthcoming book.

ADDENDUM, 10/31/06, 1:10 p.m.: Longtime pro-American Iraqi blogger Zeyad writes:
I now officially regret supporting this war back in 2003. The guilt is too much for me to handle.
Above:
This video filmed by an Iraqi doctor is a must see. I am amazed that someone could actually film the terrible conditions inside one of Iraq's most dangerous hospitals, Al-Yarmouk Hospital in western Baghdad, in these troubled days.

I was struggling to keep my tears from flowing because I was watching it with an American friend 2 days ago. But at one point, when an injured Shi'ite woman lying in an ambulance started screaming at the camera, "Bring Saddam back! It wasn't like this under his rule!" I lost control.

This should be on every American tv channel. Go see it.
And an interesting translation of Sadr's latest instruction.

And this round-up of Iraqi blogger responses to Omar at Iraq The Model's hysterical response to the Lancet study is also interesting. (How accurate is the Lancet paper? I don't know; I certainly know that Omar doesn't know, though, and emotion is not a refutation of math; of course, the Iraqi denouncing him as a "traitor" and saying free speech is irrelevant isn't impressive, either.)

10/29/2006 01:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 6 comments

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THE POSITION OF BUSH'S FOOT. Kevin has some nominations for candidates for stupidest things Bush said in his Oval Office session with conservative columnists. (Turns out Clinton wasn't the only President to get blowjobs in the White House.)

I have a few more.

Here:
[...] Olmert believes in the same thing. His attitude is, if I don't have a partner, I'm going to withdraw anyway. That's what he campaigned on. My attitude is, give him a chance to participate with you in the process, to make it lasting. He said, fine. He starts to reach out to the Palestinians, the Jordanians, and others, and Hamas strikes; then Hezbollah strikes. This is a group of extremists who can't stand the thought of democracy.
Hello? Hamas won the Palestinian elections overwhelmingly. Hezbollah has:
In 1992, it participated in Lebanese elections for the first time, winning 12 out of 128 seats in parliament. It won 10 seats in 1996, and 8 in 2000. In the general election of 2005, it won 14 seats nationwide (of 128 total), and an Amal-Hezbollah alliance won all 23 seats in Southern Lebanon. The bloc it forms with others, the Resistance and Development Bloc, took 27.3% of the seats (see Lebanese general election, 2005). When municipal elections were held in 1998 this party won control of about 15 percent of contested municipalities. With a proven track record by the second round of elections, in spring 2004, the party won control of 21 percent of the municipalities.

Hezbollah is a minority partner in the current Cabinet, holding two (and endorsing a third) cabinet positions[97][98] in the Lebanese government of July 2005.
Gosh, yes, both groups sure "can't stand the thought of democracy."

Another gem a few sentences later from Our President:
[...] Now the extremists and radicals have found great comfort with each other.
I forget: do we hate the extremists more, or the radicals? I always get confused about that.

Moments later:
[...] I view this as a struggle of good versus evil, by the way. I don't think religious people murder. I think people are misusing religion to justify their murder. And a lot of Americans understand it that way. Maybe it's not nuanced enough for some of the thinkers and all that stuff – that's fine. But that's exactly what a lot of people like me think.
I'm sure you do. I'm sure you do. By definition, religious people can't murder. Of course. It's a logical impossibility!

Oh, and the reason for the Sunni/Shia hatred?
[...] But, Larry, reconciliation takes a while when you've lived under the thumb of a tyrant who caused people to hate to begin with.
Who knew Saddam Hussein killed Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali? Now we know.

And to point to the obvious:
[...] I was affected deeply by the attacks of September the 11th. It became clear to me that day that we were at war. And I didn't need a consultant or a guru or anything to tell me that. I know we're at war.

And we're still at war, and these guys want to kill.
Does this look like war to you? Is this what the country looked like, and how we responded, during past wars? During the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, or even Korea (the President seized the steel mills, and kept up the draft) or Vietnam?

If this is war, where is the draft? Where is the enlarged, comfortably sized, army? Where is the all-out effort? Where are the places civilians are making hard contributions? Where's the sacrifice in the economy to ensure we "win"? Where's the full mobilization of the country?

When we see that, I'll believe we're at war; meanwhile, we're at domestic political rhetoric, and putting it all on an over-small Army and Marines that we're greatly diminishing the capacity of for a considerable time to come.

But you know this. Onwards. Here is a revealing moment:
[...] And I believe that when it gets down to it, money in people's pockets are going to matter. I really do. Immigration is an issue. I don't hear it being discussed much out there. Of course, generally, I'm doing all the discussing.
I believe that, too.

Another unsurprising flash of truth:
[...] And one of the things we try to think about is how to institutionalize change so that certain things can't be undone.
No surprise there.

That wraps up my nominations and observations. How lucky we are to have had this man in office for two terms.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. Amygdala: the blog that reads dumb stuff from dumb people who matter, so you don't have to. It's more of a sacrifice than Bush asks for, anyway. 3.5 out of 5 for Kevin's nominations, though.

10/29/2006 10:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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CRABBY. Ladies and gentlemen, my good friend, the Crab Nebula; it'll be in town all week. Maybe longer!
Meanwhile, supposedly Michael Griffith, NASA Administrator, is deciding this weekend whether or not to save the Hubble.
[...] On Tuesday, he will announce whether the telescope will be repaired or will be allowed to gradually run out of steam.

NASA said Friday that a series of events and briefings will follow the announcement at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt -- the kind of activity that often accompanies a decision to go ahead with a big mission. But agency officials said that no decision had been reached and that Griffin will study the pros and cons over the weekend.

"Every scientist on the face of the globe, and many people in the general public, are watching this, looking forward to a decision," said Mario Livio, head of the science program at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages the Hubble's scheduling and research for NASA. "I'm cautiously optimistic, but there are so many factors involved."

[...]

Griffin has often said that he believes the telescope is one of the great scientific instruments of all time and that it deserves to be repaired.

"If we can do it safely, we want to do it," Griffin said at a September briefing after the successful landing of the space shuttle Atlantis. "But we have new constraints on . . . the space shuttle system. We have a new understanding of its fragility and vulnerability."
It's a serious decision; the shuttle has proven so unreliable that it's a risk to human life every time it goes up. But the Hubble also advances our understanding of the universe all the time, as well as improving our aesthetic appreciation of it.

Meanwhile, I'm crabby, because -- and I considered doing a post entitled "It Never Rains, But It Pours" -- amongst other of my longterm ailments, the gout has been acting up in my right foot the last couple of days. (This is likely a result of getting back on the allopurinol, which while lowering over the long term the chemicals in the body that cause gout, can encourage crystallization in the short term; crystals forming in the joints is what gout is, in essense; all this as I understand it, anyway.)

Fortunately, it's not (currently, anyway; gout can change rapidly within an hour, or even less) towards the extreme end: just along the mild-to-moderate pain and swelling, not the drop-a-feather-on-it-and-get-a-scream end of the spectrum; but still sufficient to add to my grumpiness, although the fact that I continue to feel generally truly lousy is probably even more frustrating; I have a jillion articles and topics I want to blog, and I largely just feel too crappy, and foggy, and sleep-deprived, and pained, and all around bleh, to be up to doing much.

But this is an old story by now. Though no less frustrating for it.

Thus the Crab.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for the piece about the Hubble.

Hmm, Steele just laughed and sneered at Cardin for: "you're referring to a website," when Cardin kept harping on Steele only having 168 words on his about Iraq; this during the Meet The Press Maryland Senate debate that is on at the moment. Ooh, and now he's trying to explain his stickers that say "Steele Democrat" by claiming it's just like "Reagan Democrats." And when Russert said "do you have stickers that say 'Steele Republican'?," Steele said "well, yeah, I... uh, no; say, that's a good idea! I didn't think of that!"

Uh, right.

Oh, and on the bright side, thanks to Pablo, I've been able to see Stargate SG-1's 200th episode, and it truly is as hilarious as everyone said it was. More laughs than I've had in months. Thanks, Paulster! (So many laughs! The puppets! The Farscape take! The invisibility! The Furlings! So much more!)

MOMENTS LATER: Great, trying to post this, I get this, repeatedly, from Blogger: "The blog you were looking for was not found."

ADDENDUM: I started trying to post around 9:25 a.m.; at least status.blogger.com says:
Sunday, October 29, 2006

There are problems with publishing to blogs. We are working on fixing this. Blogs on the beta are not affected.

Posted by Pal at 08:08 PDT
At least this time, like most times, the problem isn't also taking down "status" (another unbelievably genius policy of Blogger's is to make the announcements available only on their own servers; so, of course, when the servers go down....; this is one of the stupidest things I've ever seen in my life).

10/29/2006 08:03:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, October 27, 2006
 
THERE ARE MANY REASONS MOST LIBERALS may roll their eyes when hearing about "originalism" as a constitutional theory, or when people rant about "activist" judges, but one good reason is laid out here by Adam Cohen: it's the complete hypocrisy and inconsistency. Those who engage in the above are generally utterly one-sided in their concern; certainly the conservatives on the Supreme Court are.

One example:
[...] The court began its punitive damages crusade in 1996, in the case of a man who sued BMW for failing to tell him that the new car he bought had been damaged and repainted. The man won $4,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. The Supreme Court set aside the punitive damages award as so “grossly excessive” that it violated due process, but the court declined to lay out any clear standards for when an award was too high.

In 2003, in a fraud case against State Farm Insurance by a policyholder, the court struck down $145 million in punitive damages. It held that the award was excessive since compensatory damages were only $1 million. That 145-to-1 ratio was unacceptable. Due process generally required, the court held, a “single-digit ratio” between punitive and compensatory damages.

These rulings are remarkably “activist” by all the traditional measures. They take a vaguely worded constitutional guarantee — that no one shall be deprived of property without “due process of law” — and translate it into a right that is not at all apparent from the words’ plain meaning. They attempt to turn the guarantee into a precise mathematical formula. And they substitute the judges’ worldview for that of elected officials. If Oregonians believe punitive damages are too high, their legislature can impose a legal cap.

These activist decisions, which give corporations valuable constitutional privileges, relied on the votes of conservative justices, who are supposedly skeptical of “judge-made” rights. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy provided key votes for BMW. Justice Kennedy wrote the State Farm “single-digit ratio” opinion, and Justice O’Connor and former Chief Justice William Rehnquist joined it.

The contrast with the court’s decisions on punishment of human wrongdoers is stark. In 2003, the court considered the sad case of Leandro Andrade, a father of three who was given a minimum of 50 years in prison under California’s tough “three strikes” sentencing law, for shoplifting $153.53 worth of videotapes from Kmart. He argued that his prison term violated the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court — in a majority joined by Justices O’Connor and Kennedy and Chief Justice Rehnquist — could find nothing excessive in the punishment.

Based on the Constitution’s words, Mr. Andrade certainly had a stronger case than BMW or State Farm. The Eighth Amendment expressly bars “cruel and unusual punishments,” which might reasonably be interpreted to cover imprisoning a man from age 37 to 87 for stealing $153.53. The companies claimed only that the punitive damages awards violated their “due process” rights, a far greater textual stretch.

On the issue of what is “excessive” punishment, Mr. Andrade’s claim is also stronger. It is hard to see how it is excessive to make Philip Morris, whose market capitalization is $166 billion, pay a mere $79.5 million for “extraordinarily reprehensive” and lethal conduct, but not excessive to make Mr. Andrade spend what is likely to be the entire second half of his life in prison for a petty theft.
Hard to see, indeed. Here's an idea:
[...] Whatever the court decides, it should develop a constitutional theory of excessive punishment that covers human and corporate wrongdoers equally, as the Duke Law School Professor Erwin Chemerinsky and others have urged.

The current doctrines make no sense, least of all by the standards of conservative constitutional interpretation. Conservatives like to talk about the “framers’ intent.” The framers were deeply concerned about excessive punishment, and set forth their views on it in the Eighth Amendment. They would be perplexed that the high court they created believes their Constitution permits a father to remain in jail for 50 years for petty theft, but does not tolerate taking a fraction of the wealth from a company that kills people.
And speaking of those founding framers, let's look again at their views on religion, as wackily extremist liberal George F. Will reviews Brooke Allen's Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers.
Not since the medieval church baptized, as it were, Aristotle as some sort of early — very early — church father has there been an intellectual hijacking as audacious as the attempt to present America’s principal founders as devout Christians. Such an attempt is now in high gear among people who argue that the founders were kindred spirits with today’s evangelicals, and that they founded a “Christian nation.”

[...]

Eighteenth-century deists believed there was a God but, tellingly, they frequently preferred synonyms for him — “Almighty Being” or “Divine Author” (Washington) or “a Superior Agent” (Jefferson). Having set the universe in motion like a clockmaker, Providence might reward and punish, perhaps in the hereafter, but does not intervene promiscuously in human affairs. (Washington did see “the hand of Providence” in the result of the Revolutionary War.) Deists rejected the Incarnation, hence the divinity of Jesus. “Christian deist” is an oxymoron.

[...]

When Franklin was given some books written to refute deism, the deists’ arguments “appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist.” Revelation “had indeed no weight with me.” He believed in a creator and the immortality of the soul, but considered these “the essentials of every religion.”

What Allen calls Washington’s “famous gift of silence” was particularly employed regarding religion. But his behavior spoke. He would not kneel to pray, and when his pastor rebuked him for setting a bad example by leaving services before communion, Washington mended his ways in his austere manner: he stayed away from church on communion Sundays. He acknowledged Christianity’s “benign influence” on society, but no ministers were present and no prayers were uttered as he died a Stoic’s death.

Adams declared that “phylosophy looks with an impartial Eye on all terrestrial religions,” and told a correspondent that if they had been on Mount Sinai with Moses and had been told the doctrine of the Trinity, “We might not have had courage to deny it, but We could not have believed it.” It is true that the longer he lived, the shorter grew his creed, and in the end his creed was Unitarianism.

Jefferson, writing as a laconic utilitarian, urged his nephew to inquire into the truthfulness of Christianity without fear of consequences: “If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comforts and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.”

Madison, always common-sensical, briskly explained — essentially, explained away — religion as an innate appetite: “The mind prefers at once the idea of a self-existing cause to that of an infinite series of cause & effect.” When Congress hired a chaplain, he said “it was not with my approbation.”

In 1781, the Articles of Confederation acknowledged “the Great Governor of the World,” but six years later the Constitution made no mention of God. When Hamilton was asked why, he jauntily said, “We forgot.”

[...]

Allen neglects one argument for her thesis that the United States is a “secular project”: the Constitution mandates the establishment of a political truth by guaranteeing each state the same form of government (“republican”). It does so because the founders thought the most important political truths are knowable. But because they thought religious truths are unknowable, they proscribed the establishment of religion.

[...[

And in 1786, the year before the Constitutional Convention constructed the regime, Jefferson, in the preamble to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, proclaimed that “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

[...]

Since the founding, America’s religious enthusiasms have waxed and waned, confounding Jefferson’s prediction, made in 1822, four years before his death, that “there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.” In 1908, William Jennings Bryan, the Democrats’ presidential nominee, said his Republican opponent, William Howard Taft, was unfit because, being a Unitarian, he did not believe in the Virgin Birth. The electorate yawned and chose Taft.

[...]

In 1953, the year before “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared July 4 a day of “penance and prayer.” That day he fished in the morning, golfed in the afternoon and played bridge in the evening.
Oh, that crazy radically anti-God leftist, George Will, saying such lies!

Your Amygdala itself wrote about the Treaty of Tripoli, three years ago, the treaty in which the U.S. said that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

And a similar post to this one is here, quoting David L. Holmes's Faiths of the Founding Fathers.

It's a shame there are all these lying preachers deluding people about American history.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for the George Will, but feel free to also read the two earlier posts. I may be forgetting Andrew Olmsted ever following up on our discussion in comments on that last one, despite my asking about it on at least two later occasions. But I may be forgetting; I'm still feeling pretty lousy and spacey.

10/27/2006 11:46:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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ALARMING. Seven Reasons Why Karl Rove Is Optimistic. Can't say any of this seems wrong to me. (Of course, I still feel lousy and spacey, so whadda I know?)

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 10/29/06, 3:06 p.m.: Also, GOP at a loss? Karl Rove has an 11th-hour plan to win; basically, the old classic: use government resources and last minute pork.

But to a far greater degree than probably any since Teddy Roosevelt's Civil Service reforms, with the foundations laid over the past year and more:
[...] For example, Interior Department employees describe regular visits from Rove's staff during Bush's first term. On one occasion, Rove visited a retreat for the 50 top Interior Department managers. The lights dimmed in an agency conference room as Rove went through a PowerPoint presentation showing battleground races in the 2002 midterm election, and occasionally made oblique but clearly understood references to Interior Department decisions that could affect these races.

By stopping short of explicitly calling on the Interior Department officials to take action, Rove stayed within the rules against exerting improper political influence.

This year, Rove's deputy, Sara Taylor, has delivered similar presentations to nearly every Cabinet agency — providing managers with a look at polls showing presidential approval ratings and the latest data on House and Senate races.

In addition to Taylor's visits to Cabinet agencies, Mary Matalin, the Republican consultant and former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, spoke to agencies this fall describing the stakes in November.

"These visits are a reminder of what's important," said one agency manager who attended one of the sessions. "They didn't need to say anything explicitly. We already knew what to do." The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the sessions.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5.

10/27/2006 12:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, October 26, 2006
 
ITALIANS FOR DARFUR. This Italian blog, Italian Blogs for Darfur, dedicated to helping the people of Darfur, is asking people, including non-Italians, to sign their petition asking Italian tv companies RAI, Mediaset, and La7 to give more time on air about Darfur.

So go sign; hard to see how it can hurt, and it's worth noting that Italy will be on the UN Security Council, as of January, so Italian popular opinion particularly matters.

10/26/2006 09:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
 
A SUNNI SEMI-BAATHIST COUP COMING IN IRAQ? Certainly a lot of people have made note of the fact that the Administration has recently stopped mentioning "democracy" as being part of the Inevitable Victory in that shredded country.

It's quite a leap, of course, from that to this, but that this Administration must be feeling pretty desperate, and that it's chock-a-block with people who aren't exactly apt, despite all the pretty rhetoric, to be adverse to a coup (hello, Donald Rumsfeld and John "Death Squads" Negroponte!), is fairly undeniable.

I wouldn't make any bets, but it's interesting speculation.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Via Jim Henley, where you doubtless already saw the link.

Incidentally, for those unaware, as I was, until John Robinson mentioned it to me, Firefox 2 is now available, although the automatic updater is not yet installing it. I've only been using it a few hours, but see no problems, although I do keep trying to close taps by the old method, rather than the new single-tab buttons.

And I'm still looking for a way to turn off the spell-checker, which certainly shouldn't be turned on as the default; I hate frigging spell-checkers; never use them, ever; notice a huge number of typos here? What I do notice is that people who use them constantly wind up with a huge number of homonym errors they don't catch, and other forms of properly spelled, but wrong, words used -- because they trust spell-checkers, instead of doing it themselves. To be sure, I'm sure they're good for some people, insufficient as they are; I just wouldn't be caught dead using one, myself, and how do I turn this sucker off?

It's added a number of things that used to be Extensions (which have now been renamed "Add-Ons," and which have always been the key part of why Firefox is so excellent); you can read about what's new here. Or just be trusting and download here, if you like.

Incidentally, Blogger blew out for a while, earlier, after another brilliant "scheduled outage" at 2 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon. I can't say how annoyed the timing of these scheduled outages make me; when I was using Panix, world's finest ISP, they never ever ever would have dreamt of scheduling an outage, other than in pure emergency, at other than 3-4 a.m., so as to inconvenience the fewest number of users; they thought nothing of coming in or staying until that hour.

But clearly Google/Blogger believes that would be too much trouble for their employees; far better to piss off and inconvenience their nine billion users. Way to impress us, Blogger!

ADDENDUM, 10/26/06, 11:36 a.m.: Okay, it's showing an annoying tendency to sporadically, when one is first attempting to click a link, leap to the top of the displayed page instead of opening the link; it never happens more than once per link, and only happens sometimes, but it's still an annoying apparent bug.

10/25/2006 08:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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NOVEMBER, 1956. Two years ago to the day before I was born (okay, these events stretched over approximately a week, but November 5th, dear old Guy Fawkes Day, was in the middle), a nice little sketch (if overly short for my taste), on the drama of Suez and the Russian re-invasion of Hungary, from the perspective of The Observer.

Another thing to remember, remember of the Fifth Of November.

It's worth also recalling, among many points of context, that rationing in Britain had only ended two years earlier, in 1954. The post-war Forties was a time of absolute boom in America, but in Britain misery, suffering, deprivation, and reconstruction of a heavily bombed country, which lost far more of its men than the U.S. (and only 3 decades after having lost even more vastly a higher proportion of its men), and essentially all of its wealth, a country plunged into debt, continued, relatively speaking, until the mid-Fifties.

(And, really, the infrastructure of many residences in Britain didn't start to become fully, overwhelmingly, proportionally speaking, modernized until as recently as the past couple of decades, although, of course, the process began over earlier decades; when I was in Britain only ten years ago, in 1996, plenty of pre-war houses I visited had no heat other than fireplaces, no showers, or only DIY installations, and so on; and I'm not talking about the difficulties of castles, lordly homes, etc.; just ordinary people's houses.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as interested; though reading books on either Hungary or Suez, '56, will give a heck of a better picture and context, of course.

10/25/2006 04:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
 
CONGRESSIONAL COUNTDOWN. The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com offer a daily analysis of the top 35 most competitive House races, and the top 9 such Senate races.

There are invaluable stories of this nature elsewhere every day, of course, but this is still a useful place to check every day if you're not omnivorously devouring political stories every minute of each day in this best of all possible times (okay, slight exaggeration, but after 6 years, still, pretty good times).

Of the two Colorado race they cover, in the Colo. 7th District, I'll be rather surprised if Ed Perlmutter (D) doesn't knock down Rick O'Donnell; I haven't been seeing any Jay Fawcett (D) or Doug Lamborn ads, but, then, the 5th is considered one of the most Republican districts in the nation.

The 1st, 2nd (mine), and 3rd Districts are walks for the Democrats (hell, the Republicans didn't even bother to run anyone, literally, against Diana DeGette in Denver; in my District Mark Udall will crush his opponent, a nobody high school teacher).

I can only pray that Angie Paccione will defeat the odious Marilyn Musgrave in the Colorado 4th, but I have to honestly say it's mostly just a hope; they debated tonight, and I look forward to seeing the televised repeat, anyway. And I like to think a Paccione victory is at least a posibility in the current environment. It's probably the most swingable remaining district in the state in this race.

I would also deeply love to see Bill Winter beat Tom Tancredo, but I have to say that it seems fairly unlikely, alas.

But with any luck, in a week we'll have gone from a Congressional delegation that was 4-3 for Republicans to 4-3 Democrat, and just maybe even 5-2. (Plus Democratic Governor Bill Ritter.)

Read The Rest Scale: well, I've just been talking out of my ass here, but you might want to note the linked site.

I hope to post in a few days about the no less than 7 ballot issues, plus 7 other referenda -- the second longest ballot in the nation, after Arizona this year, given that we also have the Congressional races, the governor's race, plus umpty county initiatives/issues, plus a load of city races and initiatives. Then there are the bonds! Our ballot is a frigging novel!

And one of the initiatives is to make it far easier for there to be more initiatives! Including down at the city, county, and educational district levels! Because we need more initiatives! (I'll be against this one, although there would be a few parts of it I'd favor if they stood alone; but more about all of this in a future post; look forward to your eyes glazing over! [or, I hope, just scrolling past if it's of no interest to you].)

ADDENDUM, 8:33 a.m.: here, for instance, decent coverage of the Senate races, as of today, by Ronald Brownstein.

Incidentally, for the record, wow, I'm still feeling pretty much like crap, though somewhat less than yesterday; but distinctly more so than I'd hoped.

10/24/2006 11:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE RETURN OF THE GRIFFITH; I was thinking I wasn't at all sure it's "America's most famous public observatory," as claimed, but then I realized that I was thinking "planetarium" (and thus my thought that the folks at the Hayden Planetarium might argue; full disclosure! I grew up going to the Hayden).

But then I realized I was also thinking: how much useful "observing" can be done from L.A., city of lights?

So naturally I had to poke around just a bit to see. It's tad unclear on just a quick look, but it really sounds like just a planetarium that also happens to let the public look through telescopes.
Since 1935, the Observatory has given tens of millions of visitors the opportunity to become observers. Griffith Observatory offers exciting shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, public telescopes, and observing and astronomy exhibits.
Not much of an emphasis on actual science being done. Even early on it sounds more like a public education facility (which is a great thing, of course!)
[...] On December 12, 1912, he offered the City of Los Angeles $100,000 for an observatory to be built on the top of Mount Hollywood to be fully owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. Griffith's plan for the observatory would include an astronomical telescope open to free viewing, a Hall of Science designed to bring the public into contact with exhibits about the physical sciences, and a motion picture theater which would show educational films about science and other subjects. This last aspect of the plan would eventually evolve into the planetarium, a technology not invented until the 1920s.

The City Council accepted Griffith's gift and appointed him head of a three-person Trust committee to supervise the construction of the observatory and a greek theatre performing arts facility, which Griffith promised to the city the following year. Bogged down by further political debate, the project continued to be delayed. In 1916, with his health failing, Griffith realized that his vision of a public observatory would not be realized in his lifetime. He drafted a will containing bequests for the observatory and greek theatre, along with detailed specifications regarding the nature of the observatory, its location, and programmatic offerings. Griffith died on July 6, 1919.
I'm also highly unclear on the connection between astronomy and "greek theatre," two subjects I've never particularly thought of using in the same sentence before. ("Geek theatre," maybe.)

There's more in that vein at that link; anyway, it sounds like a fabulous place, and I'll try to visit should I ever visit L.A. again (which I certainly hope shall be the case at some point). I'm just a little doubtful that it's more of an "observatory" than a "planetarium," other than on a technicality.

Meanwhile, back at the original link:
After a four-year, $93 million facelift, America’s most famous public observatory re-opens Nov. 3. The new Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles retains its iconic Art Deco form, but inside, exhibit space has doubled.

[...]

That machine is a Zeiss Universarium Mark IX Star Projector. It’s the best in the world. We negotiated improvements with Zeiss and they produced the most accurate, the most gorgeous and the most awe-inspiring domefull of stars in the world. It is exquisite. But we’re still keeping one old feature: we will continue to have a live storyteller narrating the program. We think that’s important.
I'm not sure why, other than tradition, but what the hey.

This definitely sounds reasonably cool, though:
[...] What is the giant image of stars and galaxies you call the Big Picture?

It is the biggest astronomical picture in the world. It’s not a mural. It’s not a piece of artwork. It’s a real dataset 150 feet long and 20 feet high. This piece of sky depicted is actually extremely small. What we blow up is actually the amount of sky you can cover up with your index finger held out in front of you. If I pointed out to you that specific piece of sky, you wouldn’t see anything with the unaided eye. There aren’t any major stars there. And yet, when you see the Big Picture, it is filled with objects. There are over a million galaxies visible and lots of stars from the Milky Way as well. The Big Picture puts us out in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This is really the nearest metropolis of galaxies to our own home in the Milky Way Galaxy.
Then this sounds a bit gimmicky, but, again, hey, I like gimmicks as much as the next person; I'm an American!
One of the new features outside is a big solar clock-calendar called the Transit Corridor. What is that?

This is an instrument that reaches to antiquity in terms of how it works, but also reaches forward to the 21st century in the use of technology. It’s a 150-foot-long channel running north-south, 10-feet wide, with a bronze line inlaid in the floor. It’s like the Greenwich Meridian, except it’s the Griffith Meridian. At the south end, there’s a black monolith, kind of like the one in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but with a stainless steel foil extended [upward] with a hole in it. At noon every day, the sunlight passes through the hole and strikes a curved brass arc inscribed with the months and dates. But this is the 21st Century, so there are also sensors running in the arc. When the sunlight strikes a sensor, it triggers LEDs on a star chart to show which stars would be out in the daytime on that day.
Ooh, LEDs! Who isn't excited by those?

Sounds a bit 1967 World's Fair, but, still: fun.

But I have to like any article that mentions the extremely peculiar (and really really bad; I mean, amazingly bad, though not so much in the context of the other old Saturday movie serials; and I suppose someone could make an argument for it being some sort of precursor of Firefly, though that person won't be me), The Phantom Empire:
[...] The Observatory has been in so many pictures, I actually think it should have its own star on Hollywood Boulevard. The very first appearance was when it was still under construction. Gene Autry starred in a 12-part serial called “The Phantom Empire.” It was a very strange science-fiction western.
For extra credit, name the far more famous movie that used Griffith Observatory in a scene!

Or, Read The Rest Scale, otherwise: 2.5 out of 5, since I quoted the best parts. But we could always reverse Paul Harvey's slogan.

It is a very pretty site, though.
Note subtle clue as to that other film.

ADDENDUM, 9:02 p.m.: Elsewhere from Newsweek's online edition, in the department of public exhibitions, a piece about the Jewish Museum's “Masters of American Comics” exhibit. It:
[...]endeavors to establish a canon of fourteen of the most influential artists working in the medium throughout the 20th century.”
There's a gallery of panels at the link. Among other Comics Is Getting Taken More Seriously news:
[...] Even Norton—publisher of those massive American-literature doorstops we had to lug through college—is getting into the game. They’ve given Will Eisner, one the genre’s true granddaddies, a loving treatment in “Will Eisner’s New York” this month, a compilation of four of his tragicomic love letters to the Big Apple published over the last 20 years of his career (he died in January 2005). Eisner’s stories are as good as any top-rate short fiction. At his best he’s on par with O. Henry. At his worst, an incredibly moving Hallmark card. There is sentiment and humor here, yes, but there is also a brutal honesty that does not flinch from the harshness and poverty of an uncaring big city: a couple witnesses a rape but demurs from identifying the assailant, offering instead a litany of flimsy excuses; an immigrant single mother’s only water supply is shut off when the fire department clamps a leaky hydrant; a man has a heart attack in broad daylight, attracting gawkers but no help. And there is no doubt of Eisner’s influence on today’s masters. What is Chris Ware’s boundary-breaking “Building Stories,” which is excerpted in the Yale anthology, if not a direct descendant of Eisner’s “The Building,” an interwoven narrative of four ghosts that haunt the site of an old skyscraper?

But wait, there’s more. Houghton Mifflin, which has been publishing its “Best American Short Stories” anthologies since 1915 released its first ever “Best American Comics 2006” this month. Edited by Harvey Pekar, the author of “American Splendor,” the book comprises what he considers to be among the year’s best comics, excerpts, pamphlets and Web items.
There's a rather peculiar reference to "the superheroes who dominated strips in the 1960s and '70s." Strips? And who exactly was dominating comic books in the 1940s (at least until towards the end)?

Anyway, while on the one hand, it's nice to see comics not being laughed at as stuff only for kids, any development that winds up quoting Harold Bloom can't remotely be all good.

(Looking into a parallel universe, it's not remotely as if the quantum leap in popularity of science fiction into "sci-fi" over the last thirty years has been exactly wholly good for the genre, I'd argue [why? Sales declining in proportion to overall book sales; vast proliferation of crap -- along with fine stuff, to be sure; the conflation in the public mind of really bad, dumb, superficial, stuff from movies and tv with "science fiction," the truly spectactularly mind-bending stuff that can be found in print; a vast dumbing down of science fiction conventions as they grew in number and focus, and as the average attendee became less knowledgeable; etc., and so on].)

Still interesting developments in the public image of comis; Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

Oh, and here's another weird quote, found in the gallery:
All minimalism and nuance, Charles Schulz's 'Peanuts' shifted the focus from strapping heroes to underdog whippersnappers--and came to dominate the new smaller comics format provided by newspapers.
Well, um, given that comic strips in newspapers predated comics in comic books by decades, that's quite correct, except for being, you know, all wrong. This from a piece that only a couple of images back was about Winsor McCay and Little Nemo. Why do major magazines post stuff so wildly wrong?

10/24/2006 07:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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THANKS, WISH WE COULD DO MORE. Two small notes on UN official Jan Pronk being expelled from Sudan. One is the proximate cause:
[...] Sunday’s action against him was apparently provoked by an entry he made in his blog (www.janpronk.nl) last weekend that said the armed forces had suffered two major defeats with extensive casualties against rebels in Darfur in the past six weeks. He also reported that generals had been cashiered, morale had sunk and the government had collaborated with the feared janjaweed Arab militias, which are held responsible for pillaging villages and killing and raping their residents.

The Sudanese armed forces on Thursday cited the blog entry in calling Mr. Pronk a threat to national security and asking that he be expelled.

The fact that one of its top officials has put delicate findings in a personal blog has embarrassed the United Nations. When the matter arose Friday, they resisted rebuking Mr. Pronk for the practice for fear that it would appear to be a vote of no confidence in the mission, rather than just a reprimand for his professional lapse.

Questioned Friday over whether the United Nations stood by the statements in Mr. Pronk’s blog, Stéphane Dujarric, Mr. Annan’s spokesman, said the opinions were Mr. Pronk’s “personal views.”

Mr. Dujarric indicated that this was not the first time the problem with Mr. Pronk’s blog writing had come up. “There have been a number of discussions with Mr. Pronk regarding his blog and the expectation of all staff members to exercise proper judgment in what they write in their blogs,” he said.
I know it's long past time to quit marveling at the place blogs have come to hold in present society (though I still keep reading variously that they're just a fad, should be ignored, are irresponsible, etc.), but, still, my fifth blogiversary will be in two months, and who then would have believed how endemic blogs would become, how interwoven with so many aspects of society, and so influential?

The second point inspired the entry title:
[...] At the United Nations in September, Mr. Bashir said the reports of deaths and displacements in Darfur were “fictions” spread by international aid groups and Jewish organizations to raise money to benefit themselves.

And commenting on the international campaign that has arisen to try to end the violence in Darfur, he said, “Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations.”
The insidious conspiracies continue. But my share of the world's banks is never large enough, I tell you!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

Incidentally, parts of Sudan are doing very well:
[...] Here young, rich Sudanese, wearing ripped jeans and fancy gym shoes, sit outside licking scoops of ice cream as an outdoor air-conditioning system sprays a cooling veil of mist. Around the corner is a new BMW dealership unloading $165,000 cars.

“I tell people you only live this life once,” said Nada Gerais, a saleswoman.

While one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises continues some 600 miles away in Darfur, across Khartoum bridges are being built, office towers are popping up, supermarkets are opening and flatbed trucks hauling plasma TV’s fight their way through thickening traffic.
You might think this would allow some leverage against their government, but key point:
[...] American sanctions have kept many companies from Europe and the United States out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are racing in. Direct foreign investment has shot up to $2.3 billion this year, from $128 million in 2000, all while the American government has tried to tighten the screws.
So long as various countries, most particularly China, either want to buy their oil, or make money off producing the oil, or the money from the oil, the rulers of Khartoum will be just fine.

And anyone who leaps to thinking about the military option might want to consider the many complications, possible repercussions, and if they've learned anything from Iraq.

Unfortunately. Meanwhile, the killing and dying continue. (Always wrap up with a cheery conclusion!)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

10/24/2006 11:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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LESS CHIPMUNK, STILL RECOVERING. To update what I added in update here, this infection turned out to hit me harder than I figured, in general, not just in the direct agony in the mouth.

The mouth is better, the swelling down, the pain at least momentarily down to mild-to-moderate; but I'm still rather knocked for a loop in general, still feeling a lot more overall all/awful than I'd figured I would be (partially due to the synergy of some of my many other ailments: the hypertrophied heart valve, some gastro-intestinal upset hitting, lack of sleep, drug reactions, and so on).

Anyway, I wanted to let people know I'm still alive, even though I probably won't get back to real blogging for yet another day or so -- but I'll definitely be back in not much longer, so please come back!

And, again, thanks hugely to those who have donated, and individual thank-you's will be going out, just mostly not for another day or two. (I've had yet futher crappy financial developments, sigh, which I won't go into just now, if at all, so, please, although the linked hits will mostly finish drying up today, absent new links, if you feel like being generous, and dropping a buck or more in this direction, the need, alas, is still all-too-there.)

Sorry for the delay in return, and thanks for your patience, and for reading me, as always.

10/24/2006 10:34:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, October 21, 2006
 
THESE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. A fair number of my almost forty-eight years (come November 5th, hint, hint) have been spent as a member of a couple, or even a bit more.

But I've also spent more years alone. And reasonably happy. This is nuts. Creepy. Offensive.

I've spent years, as well, living by myself. Decades in and out.

It's never occurred to me that I should shout about it.

Eeuww.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5. (Not to say I don't enjoy meeting people worth meeting, or living with them. Just please don't ask me to start shouting at the sky if it doesn't happen tomorrow, thank you very much.) (The word is introvert; we're quiet people; we don't shout much.)

10/21/2006 03:01:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 7 comments

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Thursday, October 19, 2006
 
RIVERBEND RETURNS. That is all.

Very sad. She also goes wildly dumb in her conclusion:
[...] And what about American military deaths? When will someone do a study on the actual number of those? If the Bush administration is lying so vehemently about the number of dead Iraqis, one can only imagine the extent of lying about dead Americans…
Unlike in her country, we have public records here. Newspapers publish obits. Every night on the PBS Newshour is a list of the dead. Not something anyone can hide. (Yes, there can be a tiny degree of hiding under listings of military accidents; significant in individual incidents, not in overall stats. She's just wrong, there.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

10/19/2006 11:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 7 comments

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BEST. TIME. EVER. See?
Tax-cutters are calling evangelicals bullies. Christian conservatives say Republicans in Congress have let them down. Hawks say President Bush is bungling the war in Iraq. And many conservatives blame Representative Mark Foley’s sexual messages to teenage pages.
Schadenfreude is never something to be proud of.

But I've never claimed to be a truly big person.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. (Gee, I hope that whole thing about vote-stealing by Diebold isn't real.)

10/19/2006 10:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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VARIABLE STAR. I'm of mixed mind about Spider Robinson's writing, but without going into that, I mention that I've belatedly noticed that 8 chapters of his take on a Heinlein outline/notes is here.

I'm rather bothered that there doesn't seem to be any mention of the fact that, in essense, the notes are just a small variant of Time For The Stars, one of Heinlein's mid-range juveniles, and it's presented almost dishonestly as a Whole New Novel, but that's the commercial part of the biz. (While I miss the money, I don't miss being able to speak my mind honestly about this sort of thing. Full Disclosure, Kevin!: I've been paid thousands in the past from Tor [and the other disclosures would take a novel, or possibly a trilogy], and also have connections to people in the Heinlein estate.)

Read The Rest Scale: well, I've read worse; it's mildly entertaining, and I can't say that the whole "my job is making babies" thing that comes up fast isn't genuinely irritating (at best) Heinlein. More flatteringly (maybe): on my current drugs, I'm entertained.

Incidentally, I should probably draw notice to the Heinlein Centential. Note, if interested, link on the left sidebar, please.

10/19/2006 02:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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HOW DOES ONE EDUCATE PEOPLE WHO EQUATE ISRAELIS AND NAZIS?

It turns out it's a long task of education, apparently. The ignorance lies deep.

There are, in fact, many such completely ignorant people out there, people of good faith, but utterly ignorant, nonetheless.

This isn't news to me. I recall a great pal of mine in my teens being equally ignorant. After getting some acquaintanceships with the facts, he grokked them.

I note again that the work must always be done.

Yet it's hard to have the energy.

So many returns to the obvious.

Will they just wear us down?

Possibly.

If only they could educate themselves more on their own.

But we must do what we can. Despite the ignorance. Despite the need to not be killed.

Start: lack of Kristallnach; lack of gas chambers. Therefore: offense. Not a declaration of innocence of Israelis, but a matter of wildly offensive comparisons.

Let's begin from there.

Some things are offensive. Are they not? Calling people Nazis is offensive. Query: why would Jews be particularly bothered by being called Nazis? Why would anyone want to respect that, or not?

ADDENDUM, 10/20/06, 2:36 p.m.: Belatedly, I should doubtless note that this is about this post of Anderson's (a guy I like, which is why this troubles me), and this earlier post, and that I started off the exchanges here.

A further consideration that pains me is that every time I make a post criticizing Israel, I can't avoid the thought: how will the Jew-haters, or more importantly, those well-meaning folk with insufficient knowledge of the difficult circumstances of Israel, and the history, and the context of the struggle to survive, use this condemnation?

Mostly I answer that thought by saying to myself that I can't go that way, that that's the way of the excusers, the justifiers of wrongness, the ones who are silent.

But I wish fewer people would give me less reason for that thought occurring.

I wish I could criticize Israel as a normal country, a country as deserving of criticism over human rights issues as is the United States of America, the Russian Federation, China, France, Britain, and endlessly on, without it being taken by someone as ammunition in the existential struggle of the tiny country of the Jews simply to exist.

Let the criticism simply be normal. That is all.

10/19/2006 04:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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REPUBLICANS ARE VERY CONFUSED PUPPIES. Here's one of their "satires."

Some are dumb enough to take it literally, though, to be sure, some of these folks who are in the party of Pat Robertson, etc., are starting to wonder if that's a great idea.

Great idea, but you only have two weeks left to figure it out! Next week, folks. Next week.

Mostly, they're incredibly confused. Lots of them actually aren't homophobic, and, yet, somehow, haven't noticed they're the party of the religious Christian Right whose chief cause is to persecute homosexuals. Like, your sister and nephew, etc.

Hint: denying it all won't work unless you vote against them. One party stands (wishy-washy, to be sure) for human rights, and the other believes that the Bible declares you should be stoned if you have clothing that mixes cotton and other fiber. Check it out.

10/19/2006 03:40:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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GOOD GOD, SIR, WAS THAT FAIR? I refer to Congress.

Sample:

I do believe you've laid a curse on North America
A curse that we now here rehearse in Philadelphia
A second flood, a simple famine
Plagues of locusts everywhere
Or a cataclysmic earthquake
I'd accept with some despair
But, no, you sent us Congress.
Good God, sir, was that fair?

Of which we learn, buried here:
[...] Voters' approval of Congress has fallen to 16% from 20% since early September, while their disapproval has risen to 75% from 65%.
It's a thoroughly Republican Congress! People are catching on!

And there's such endless good news in this vein that I don't recall having a happier time reading political news since late 1974.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Reprise: happy happy joy joy.

(In early November, I have high hopes of unleashing happy dance and Snoopy feet.)

High hopes: 32-34 House seats, and just managing the 6 Senate seats of Tester over Burns in Montana (yay, West!), Bob Casey over Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania (see, this is why it effing matters), Jim Webb over George Allen in Virginia (couldn't happen to nicer guys), Harold Ford barely pulls it off in Tennesse, there is no doubt at all about Sherrod Brown sinking the putt on Mike DeWine in Ohio, Steve Laffey knocks off Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island [CORRECTION: Sheldon Whitehouse; thanks, guy who won't register, you silly person!] (a shame it's not someone worse, but that's the way it works), and that's all we need, ladies and gentlemen, even if we should all thrill to Claire McCaskill defeating Jim Talent in Missouri, which is very doable, and Ben Cardin bops Michael Steele in Maryland.

Amy Klobuchar defeating Mark Kennedy in Minnesota would be a delight, and I like to think highly of the common sense of Minnesotans; still a "maybe," but put some dollars there, please.

(I couldn't be more happy to see Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona go down to Jim Pederson, but I can't honestly rate it as more than a maybe just now; I hope for better news next week or so.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a sweet map. However it exactly comes off, it's all a win. "Just" the House of Representatives is a win not seen since 1992 for our side. Hello, 14 years of waiting!

And you guys who hate the notion of Speaker Pelosi, etc?

Suck it up. Or whatever. We don't care. We don't have to.

AKA: neener neener neener.

(Yeah, dangerous counting the chickens. Shrug.)

10/19/2006 02:34:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
 
SO NOW I LOOK HALF-CHIPMUNK. Have been going back and forth to the People's Clinic (which is not actually Communist; in fact, the co-pay charge has gone up to $20/visit) the last couple of days.

Am now on antibiotics to reduce the swelling on the left side of my mouth from the two most rotted teeth, which have been causing pain ranging from agonizing to hammer-the-ice-pick-in-harder-please, tending to fluctuate up and down with no rhyme and little reason. (This actually has been slightly ongoing for the past year, but generally, though erratically, growing worse.)

Also collected no less than 9 other prescriptions, none of which I can afford, either right now, or in the future without either increasing my income, or getting donations (about ~$200 worth). It would be particularly nice to get the vicodine ASAP, but the blood pressure and gout meds, as well as the others, are no less indicated.

On the plus side, my new doctor seems very nice, as well as relatively young and attentive.

On the minus side, I'm going to need even more money for dental care, postponed for much more than a decade, and since the People's Clinic doesn't do that, I have no idea how I'm going to afford it, though I still won't find out how much it will cost for some days (they won't even start treating me until the antibiotics [AugmentinXR, or amoxicillin/clavulanate potassium, to be precise] have run their course).

Oh, and as has happened before, I made some remarkably stupid comments on some blogs a few days ago, under the influence of hydrocodone, vicodin, Ambien, and some alcohol; apologies all around.

Anyway, blogging is apt to be light for a few days. And if I get particularly stupid again, here's my excuse.

Meanwhile: owwwwwww!

Oh, and the keyboard and mouse on my backup Pentium 1 computer have died. I'll spare you the rest of my list of woes, since they're as boring, and recurring, as ever.

On the neutral side: first heavy snow of the season yesterday! Boulder blanketed!

How are you?

ADDENDUM, 4:56 p.m.: We now have a single donation, at $20, which means only 10-15 more of those to go (not counting dental work). Don't let the fact that I literally try not to bang the walls of my studio apt. while yelling stop you from making it more! (Yeah, I really love making these requests.)

ADDENDUM, 10/19/06, 3:41 a.m., I write as I can't sleep: another donation came in yesterday, bringing us closer to 1/4 of the first goal of at least buying one round of medications. (I think positive! People are good!)

Otherwise, be sure to remember that wherever you go, there you are. And I loved the snow! Don't you, also?

I'm sorry I don't have a webcam to show everyone how it looks dusting the mountains on the edge of town.

ADDENDUM, 10/19/06, 3 p.m.: Another contribution has come in, but some linkage here would be nice. Friends?

And, oh, jeez, I don't think I've ever blogged, somehow, about how unbelievably spacy antibiotics make me. (I have no idea why: my brain is bacteria?; alien parasites?; it's just always happened, and come to think of it, I've not been on antibiotics in years.)

ADDENDUM, 10/20/06, 12:16 a.m. On the plus side, one other donation; on the minus side, only one other donation. On the plus side, the swelling is down, and it's distinctly less painful and sensitive, for the first time in weeks (arguably months, given that past less pain was more a matter of the nerve going, I expect). This is good, or even great!

On the minus side: ah, who cares?

ADDENDUM, 10/20/06. 5:54 p.m.: The doctor (Dryden is his name) actually looked at me and said: "these are a heck of a lot of prescriptions" and then asked: "how are you going to afford all of this?"

And I said: "either my friends will help me do it, or they won't; there's no other way it will happen."

I'm almost there. Several more have come in today. Just a few more will do it.

Thanks more than I can say to those of you so far, and as well to those of you in the future.

UPDATE, 10/23/06, 7:54 a.m.: Although more contributions are certainly more than welcome (I still don't know how much the dental costs will be, but I'm expecting thousands of dollars, given how major the work that needs to be done will be; it also occurs to me that getting replacement eyeglasses for the first time in twenty years (the last pair went missing about 4 years ago, and I've had only reading glasses since then) would be a Wonderful Thing), a fair number have arrived.

I've been sick as the proverbial dog in the past couple of days (and what's wrong that damn dog, anyway?), and spaced on the anti-biotics and vicodin; will be writing individual thank-yous to all, rest assured, but probably not for another day or two.

Thanks again to everyone! (Though feel free to make a donation if you haven't yet, and feel so moved, for whatever wacky reason; or make another in the future! Or sign up for the $5 donation/month option! Or do that five or ten times! I won't stop you!)

Seriously, thanks again, and regular blogging should resume in a couple of days.

10/18/2006 11:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 15 comments

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
 
NOT ACCEPTABLE. This is absolutely not. Security concerns are reasonable, but a blanket ban is an absolutely unacceptable response; this sort of thing fulfills the worst sort of beliefs and accusations about Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Sawsan Salameh, a Palestinian from the West Bank, was thrilled to get a full scholarship from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to begin a doctorate in theoretical chemistry.

But a recent move by the Israeli Army to ban new Palestinian students from Israeli universities for security reasons is keeping her from studying at the campus, just two miles from her home.

“The first time I applied for a permit I was rejected,” said Ms. Salameh, 29, a Muslim wearing a firmly fastened head scarf and a black denim skirt that skimmed the floor. “I was shocked, because I thought there must be some kind of mistake, so I kept trying. I kept hoping.”

Her situation is familiar to many Palestinians whose freedom of movement has been limited in recent years because of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ms. Salameh said that after she appealed six times to the Israeli government agency that handles Palestinian affairs, she decided to turn to the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Gisha, an Israeli group that is an advocate for Palestinian rights, submitted a petition on her behalf to the court, calling the ban illegal.

“Gisha calls upon Israel not to prevent Palestinian students from studying just because they are Palestinian,” said the group’s director, Sari Bashi. “No one should be denied access to education based on his or her national identity.”

The practice of reviewing student permits has been in effect since 2001, the last time any new Palestinian student was granted a permit, officials said. But before the outright ban began this summer, the army reviewed requests case by case, something it says it will not do now. Gisha is asking that individual reviews be restored.
Absolutely, people must be treated as individuals. That's the bare minimum requirement that human rights demands. I certainly hope the Israeli Supreme Court responds appropriately, or perhaps even better, that the government simply withdraw this appalling policy immediately.

More background:
[...] Currently 14 Palestinians, all of whom received permits during or before 2001, are students at Israeli universities, Lieutenant Avidan said. They will be allowed to continue their studies. And university records suggest that a small number of students may have been allowed to trickle in beyond that number, Ms. Bashi said.

Like Ms. Salameh, most of the students came to Israel seeking doctorates because there are no doctoral programs at Palestinian universities.

Palestinians who have money or receive fellowships tend to study abroad for doctorates. But for those without financial support it is an impossible dream, and women who come from traditional Muslim homes are often forbidden by their families to live abroad alone.

[...]

Dr. Raphael Levine, the Hebrew University chemistry professor who accepted Ms. Salameh as his student, said he understood Israel’s security concerns but was baffled by the ban. “I think it is in Israel’s interest to strengthen the Palestinian middle class, and strengthening academic institutions in Palestinian areas is one sure way of achieving that,” he said.

“There is a Jewish tradition in which value is put on learning; Mr. Ben-Gurion said he wanted Israel to be a shining light to all nations,” he said, referring to Israel’s first prime minister. “You have to deliver on these things.”

“Both by sentiment and cold practicality, it is not in our interest to act like this,” Dr. Levine said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is teaching at the University of California.
Allow me to say one more time: absolutely.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

10/17/2006 03:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THOSE WHO LIVE BY THE SURVEILLANCE STATE, DIE BY THE SURVEILLANCE STATE. Lovely Weldon moment:
[...] A grand jury, impaneled in Washington in May, has obtained evidence gathered over at least four months through wiretaps of Washington area cellphone numbers and has scrutinized whether Weldon received anything of value, according to the sources.
If only it turns out that data-mining techniques were used to link Weldon and various corrupt Russian businessfolk and Mafia. Why, maybe we could find someone who claims to have seen Weldon's picture on a chart at the Justice Department months ago....

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

10/17/2006 11:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE WORST OF THE WORST. The rest of this piece on the complications of releasing Guantanamo "detainees" is worth reading, but I just want to highlight this point for the billionth time:
[...] Military tribunals have concluded that about one-quarter of the prisoners are not a security risk, or are otherwise eligible for release or transfer.

Ultimately, Bellinger said, U.S. officials expect 60 to 80 prisoners to face trial by military commission. The rest will be released, though many of them might face charges or other restrictions in their home countries.
They are so dangerous that we can't give them habeas corpus rights, to discover how dangerous they are, but so undangerous that a quarter are no risks at all, and only a few handfuls can't be released.

But we can't afford to let them have actual trials to discover the facts; we have to simply accept the word of the government, which should always be trusted unquestioningly, and which never makes mistakes, even though most of the prisoners, by the government's own account, should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

That is all.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

10/17/2006 10:08:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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BASTARDS. Effing Arlen Specter is the leader of the pack of hypocrites.
[...] The last-minute maneuvering before the Sept. 28 vote remains a hot topic of debate among lobbyists, lawmakers and staff members. They are wondering if Specter, as several Judiciary Committee staff members privately asserted at the time, was pressured into discarding a less extreme and more politically palatable amendment at the Bush administration's request, in favor of an alternative more likely to be defeated.
That's polite American newspaper style, of course, for that's exactly what happened.
[...] The more extreme version would have deleted the bill's suspension of habeas corpus rights. The less extreme alternative, which Specter co-sponsored with Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Gordon Smith (R.-N.H.), would have allowed detainees to file a single habeas corpus petition after a year of detention.

"The compromise looked like it had a strong chance of success," and it would have given detainees at least "a one-chance shot to appeal their innocence," said Jennifer Daskal, U.S. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "Rather than doing the right thing and allowing the amendment to go forward, the strategy seems to have been to put forward an amendment doomed to defeat," she said.

Frist was so determined to help the White House that on Sept. 26, he told a group of GOP lawmakers at a private meeting, in the presence of White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley, that no amendment that could pass would be allowed to come to a vote, according to one person present. Call declined to comment on a private meeting.
The most optimistic possible result is this:
[...] Those interviewed said they doubt a challenge to the new law -- once it is signed by Bush -- could be decided by the Supreme Court in less than a year. That leaves hundreds of suspects now incarcerated without legal recourse during that period, and potentially far beyond it.
And that's assuming you can count on this court, the one with Chief Justice Roberts, who as an Appeals Court judge voted the wrong way on Hamdan, to vote for justice. And that's assuming that nobody dies or resigns before then.

My beloved Dahlia Lithwick (with Richard Schragger) also points to the outrage:
[...] Before that vote, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced, "I'm not going to support a bill that's blatantly unconstitutional . . . that suspends a right that goes back to 1215," and the Magna Carta. He added, "I'd be willing, in the interest of party loyalty, to turn the clock back 500 years, but 800 years goes too far."

Specter's justification for then voting for a bill he deemed unconstitutional? "Congress could have done it right and didn't, but the next line of defense is the court, and I think the court will clean it up."

There is some irony in this congressional willingness to see the Supreme Court as a kind of constitutional chambermaid -- an entity that exists to clean up after Congress smashes the room. It is especially ironic when it is articulated by members of Congress who like to invoke judicial restraint as a constitutional value. But it is beyond ironic, and approaching parody, when Congress asks the court to clean up a bill it knows to be unconstitutional, when the bill itself includes a court-stripping provision.
I think it's beyond parody, and on the road to fascism, myself.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 for both. And, meanwhile, we are led by morons:
[...] At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.”

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. “The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following,” he said. “And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following.”

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”

[...]

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
And those are just typical quotes, says Jeff Stein.

That last one, let's repeat, was from the vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

A lot of people expressed doubt that George W. Bush could be ignorant of the distinction in 2002; does it still seem so unlikely?

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 11:24 a.m.: More doubt about the SCOTUS overturning the Military Commissions Act. (Via the excellent Lawyers, Guns And Money, whom I 'umbly wish would consider blogrolling me.)

ADDENDUM, 11:06 p.m.: Although I certainly hope everyone reads Balkinization regularly, it's still not an 'alf-bad idea to link to this, on how although torture remains technically illegal, there's now no remedy for it beyond a decision by the Executive; which was precisely the point, of course.

As Professor Balkin notes:
[...] It is a travesty of law under the forms of law. It is the accumulation of executive, judicial, and legislative powers in a single branch and under a single individual.

It is the very essence of tyranny.

10/17/2006 09:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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L'AMOUR. I'm a bit reluctant to make a post that confirms such a blatant stereotype, but not reluctant enough to not, when it's about French attitudes towards affairs, demonstrated in this case as regards politicians.
Did President Jacques Chirac have a child with a Japanese mistress? Did the Socialist politician and would-be presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn attend a sex soirée? Did former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing really have as many mistresses as the salons of Paris have claimed?

[...]

Now, “Sexus Politicus,” a 390-page tell-all book on the subject, has catapulted to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists, a reflection of the erosion of privacy in French public life and the appetite for a gossipy read.

The authors, Christophe Dubois and Christophe Deloire, are veteran investigative reporters who have written books about the murder of the prefect of Corsica in 1998 and the rise of Islamic extremism in France.

About 150,000 copies are in print in France, a remarkable number here for a work of nonfiction.

“It’s a rather serious book based on interviews, not just hearsay,” said Patrick Jarreau, one of the editors of Le Monde, though the book does circulate old rumors that the authors say cannot be confirmed. “Sex and politics seven months ahead of a presidential election — that’s a pretty good recipe for success.”

The book’s central premise is that in France, a successful politician is also a seductive politician. Sex, the authors say, is a civic imperative. “Far from being a flaw, to cast yourself in the role of seducer is without doubt an important quality in our political life,” the book claims.

Certainly, power attracts. When Edgar Faure became prime minister in the 1950’s, he gained the lofty title of “president of the Council,” and that apparently made all the difference. “When I was a minister, some women resisted me,” he once was quoted as saying. “Once I became president, not even one.” (He died at age 79 in the bed of his half-clothed mistress).

De Gaulle was the only post-World War II French leader to maintain a strict military discipline over his personal life, the book asserts. More recently, it adds, Mr. Giscard d’Estaing, Mr. Mitterrand and Mr. Chirac juggled the demands of the state, their families and their extracurricular activities with aplomb.

They understood, according to the authors, a fundamental rule of French politics: Good politicians love and are loved.

“When I was president of the republic, I was in love with 17 million French women,” Mr. Giscard d’Estaing said in an interview taped for the television show “Private Life, Public Life” to be broadcast Wednesday. He added, “When I saw them in the crowd, they felt it and then they voted for me.”

[lots more examples excised for reasons of space]
Here's a cute part of the story -- blackmail! (implicitly, kinda):
[...] To avoid being prosecuted under France’s tough privacy and anti-defamation laws, the authors of the book withheld the names of some of the lovers, and made sure they kept ample ammunition in their files — from interviews and from police and intelligence reports. Sometimes the book knocks down rumors, but it also cites public reports the authors could not confirm. For instance, the unsubstantiated story about Mr. Chirac fathering a child with a Japanese mistress was told in a book by Guy Birenbaum in 2003.

“We haven’t been attacked because, to be really honest, often we knew more than we wrote,” Mr. Deloire said. “No politician wants to run the risk that more stories will come out in court.”
Then you get to the standard differentiation with America:
[...] A January poll by TNS Sofres for the newspaper Le Figaro found that most French voters wanted their next president to be around 50, multilingual, honest and willing to listen. Only 17 percent said they would not vote for those who had extramarital affairs.
Of course, this sort of story is, as almost always, entirely superficial; what would be far more interesting, at least in my mind, would be a deeper study of the actual attitudes: how much of the French mindset regards extra-marital relationships with genuine tolerance, and how much simply see it as "cheating" and regards it with understandable pain? How much of it is sexist mistreatment of women, and how much is not? How, if they do, do the genders differ in attitude? How much of this is sex and how much is love? Is any of it any sort of what a tiny minority of Americans regard as "polyamory," or is that a wholly different concept? And so on.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 ooh-la-las out of 5.

10/17/2006 08:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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