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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
CRITICS ORIGINATE IN LOVE. This is one of the sweeter love letters to the movies I've ever read.
It's also notable that A. O. Scott, chief film critic of the NY Times, holding as prestigious position as is possible in the field, addresses his love letter to a product of CGI animation. We are indeed in the 21st century.
The moral of “Ratatouille” is delivered by a critic: a gaunt, unsmiling fellow named Anton Ego who composes his acidic notices in a coffin-shaped room and who speaks in the parched baritone of Peter O’Toole. “Not everyone can be a great artist,” Mr. Ego muses. “But a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Quite so. Written and directed by Brad Bird and displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, “Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.
YOU KNOW THIS, but I suppose it can't hurt to canibalize this comment from an Obsidian Wings thread: America will end up leaving Iraq for its own reasons, which is why we ended up leaving Vietnam: because the public doesn't see a good enough reason to stay and keep seeing their children killed for a cause that has, if it wasn't always, long become nebulous, with any other outcome not on the visible horizon for any who are not, for one reason or another, terminally optimistic.
Not having a draft makes this effect less strong than it was during the Vietnam War, but it will still ultimately conquer, absent a drastic change of circumstances.
The 1975 Senate Church Report, aka "Staff Report of the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities," aka the original release of the family jewels in translation.
That in response to the Pike Report; I still recall buying the Village Voice issue with it. This piece tells the story of how all this came about.
WILL WE NEVER KNOW? The underplayed story here is the mystery, awe, and anguish aroused by the question: where are the missing pants now?
The other, although previously reported, aspect comes from this:
[...] Along the way, he rejected offers to settle, first for $3,000, then for $4,600 and finally for $12,000.
Which is to say, if you're a lawyer, or just knowledgeable about legal phrasing and documents, and willing to spend a certain amount of time generating and mailing documents, you can wind up being offered $12,000 if you're sufficiently obnoxious and persistent, no matter how feeble, frivolous, and meretricious your claim is.
That's a well-known, old, story, to be sure, but still worthy of note now and again.
THE SINO-SOVIET SPLIT IS STILL A TRICK. The point can't be repeated enough, for now, so I quote Fareed Zakaria making it again:
[...] Just as the diversity within the communist world ultimately made it less threatening, so the many varieties of Islam weaken its ability to coalesce into a single, monolithic foe. It would be even less dangerous if Western leaders recognized this and worked to emphasize such distinctions. Rather than speaking of a single worldwide movement—which absurdly lumps together Chechen separatists in Russia, Pakistani-backed militants in India, Shiite warlords in Lebanon and Sunni jihadists in Egypt—we should be emphasizing that all these groups are distinct, with differing agendas, enemies and friends. That robs them of their claim to represent Islam. It describes them as they often are—small local gangs of misfits, hoping to attract attention through nihilism and barbarism.
[...] He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.
Which, one might note, mirrors the primary reason most American soldiers fight and re-up, which is the same reason most soldiers have always fought and re-upped: for their mates, because of their bonds.
The broader approach that obviously must be taken, and that no Republican leader yet seems to have a clue about:
[...] Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.”
In the Cold War, most of the U.S.'s most staggering mistakes came from ignorantly assuming or insisting that the Communist Threat was monolithic, and that all communists everywhere were taking primary direction from Moscow; in reality, nationalism and local culture triumphed over interest in slavishly following Moscow in most cases, and because our policies failed to note this most basic of basic points, we often made tragic errors of global proportion, such as not pursuing mutual interests with China, thanks to the demonization by Republicans such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy of anyone who suggested such a thing as "traitors"; the biggest traitors of all, of course, claimed the Republicans, were the China experts who knew better. So they were fired, leaving us perfectly well equipped to deal with Korea and Vietnam and China in vast ignorance.
And thus followed our loss in Vietnam, which is entirely attributable to this insanely ignorant insistence that Russia, China, and North Vietnam were a single monolithic interest. And the examples of such mind-boggling stupidity are everywhere in the history of the U.S. in the cold war.
Now the Republicans have followed, and continue to follow, the same course as regards Teh Islamic Terrorism (of course): it's all One Big Thing, it's all one set of "the terrorists," and so we magnify the threat beyond all reason and proportion, and sacrifice our so dearly-bought freedoms and liberties, and act like crazy people, supporting torture and disappearances and secret prisons and Presidents who claim the powers of King-Emperors, and the like, because it serves the interests of the Republican fear-mongerers who have no other path to retaining power.
Killcullen also has a lot to say about the information war aspects, and other valuable stuff, but, of course, at the bottom is also our need to retain the high moral ground, and do what is right, to regain the respect of the world. That's the only way to "win" and the only kind of winning that matters.
Of course, with the sort of genius approach the Bush Administration has brought us, it's easy to screw up using soft power, too.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5; 5 out of 5 for the old Packer piece. Packer's profile of Kilcullen has been appearing and disappearing from the New Yorker site; I'm glad it's back up again, at least for now.
THAT LITTLE THING YOU DO. So I'm reading along in this piece on "Immigration bill ignites grass-roots fire," which is primarily focused on the organization NumbersUSA, which has been one of the leading groups orchestrating the anti-immigration fervor, and I get to this:
[...] NumbersUSA says population growth is damaging the country — creating urban sprawl, snarling commuter roads, straining schools and hospitals, and diminishing natural resources.
And I'm idly wondering in the back of my head whether there's any practical way to sort out how many of the folks who are so fervid about the dangers and alleged problems caused by illegal immigrants are both sincere and correct when they point to their concern as for benign reasons, such as above, versus how many are in fact more motivated by nativist fears, and simply don't recognize that in themselves simply because for one reason or another they're not capable of that self-recognition.
Until further advances in brain-scanning, and easy access to the tech, there wouldn't seem to be any obvious way to easily, objectively, and definitively sort out the sincere and self-aware from the sincere and self-deluded.
But a glimmering, revealing, fact buried in this story shines out, if you notice it.
First let's look at that previous quote again, but with the next couple of sentences included:
[...] NumbersUSA says population growth is damaging the country — creating urban sprawl, snarling commuter roads, straining schools and hospitals, and diminishing natural resources. They say immigration propels much of this growth and should be restricted.
The United States currently issues about 1 million visas annually for legal permanent residency. The group wants that number to drop to the early 20th century level, about 250,000.
NumbersUSA, let's be entirely clear, isn't just opposed to illegal immigration. They're opposed to immigration, per se. They want current levels of legal immigration to be drastically lowered.
(Given their concern primarily being, according to this story, population growth, period, I assume they must also campaign for birth control, and free distribution of condoms and other forms of birth control; I'm sure I couldn't be wrong in this.)
Having noted that, we then see this:
[...] [President of NumbersUSA Roy] Beck started NumbersUSA in 1997, after working as the Washington editor of the Social Contract, a conservative magazine. Today his group operates out of sleek offices in Rosslyn, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington.
Critics have cited ties between NumbersUSA and controversial right-wing millionaire John Tanton, publisher of the Social Contract and founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That group in the past accepted funding from the Pioneer Fund, a conservative organization that also has funded research into eugenics.
Beck said NumbersUSA started out under Tanton's umbrella but stopped receiving funding from him a few years ago.
So, yeah, clearly there's no cause for concern regarding any possible racial aspects to the concerns of Roy Beck, founder of NumbersUSA. Good to know.
More about the Pioneer Fund here. The founders are quite a bunch of charmers; we get quotes like "...Draper told him he 'wished to prove simply that Negroes were inferior,'" and "[h]e worried about miscegenation and had proposed a research agenda to assist in the enforcement of Southern 'race integrity laws' by developing techniques for identifying the 'pass-for-white' person who might 'successfully hide all of his black blood.' He singled out Jews as a group 'slow to assimilate,'" and the like.
AND YOU'RE NOT TOO BRIGHT, YOURSELF. Following the rule that making a spelling or grammatical correction brings great danger of making an error yourself, Newsweek solemnly reports on "What You Need To Know Now," with the header "Dunce-Cap Nation: We asked Americans about current events, history and cultural literacy. And we got some pretty disheartening results."
Then they include this disheartening gem:
[...] Furthermore, only a small minority (17 percent) correctly chose “greater output from the sun” from a list of items as the lone factor that does not contribute to global warming (with 65 percent mistakenly believing that rice patties are not a contributing factor).
Except that, you know -- as Newsweek doesn't -- that "rice patties" are a food: a pattie -- better known in singular form as a "patty" -- of rice is essentially a rice burger. This is not a little-known fact. ("A patty is a disc-shaped serving of meat or meat substitutes.")
Next article in Newsweek we won't see: "What Newsweek Doesn't Know: Dunce-Cap Magazine."
Anyone who answered the poll by saying that "rice patties" do not contribute to global warming is correct. At the least, anyone answering otherwise -- in what Newsweek proclaims to be the non-"mistaken" answer -- would have an idosyncratic theory to explain (preferably not relying on "to make rice patties we have to grow the rice in rice paddies").
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. Note to Newsweek writers and editors: enjoy explaining how rice patties cause global warming, as you try to grow rice in a pattie, while eating a nice rice paddy.
Also, when you're calling people "dunces," try not to misuse "less" when you mean "fewer." ("Less than half of the poll’s respondents (45 percent) know....") And "twothirds" is not a word, even when you use it repeatedly. Have you guys considered hiring copyeditors?
We at Amygdala corporate headquarters are pleased to be able to highlight this sort of crucial news for our readers (all eight of them). News you can use!
ADDENDUM, 6:19 p.m.: The actual Princeton Survey Research Associates International poll asked about "rice paddies." (Question #23.) It's Newsweek that thinks "rice patties" is correct, while explaining how sadly ignorant Americans are.
These sorts of "woe, how dumb we are" stories are a perennial, of course, and I suspect that the primary reason why is less that people in general are particularly less educated than in times past, and more that these are classic feel good stories: if you're the sort of person who reads a newspaper, or news articles online, you're going to read these stories and feel wonderfully smart and eddicated and elite, because you're not like the dumb hicks in the story.
6/24/2007 04:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
Saturday, June 23, 2007
HE COULD STILL BE A DECIDER, THOUGH. Because You Did Not Know This (I bet): Roger Ebert has restarted his Answer Man column, and tells us:
[...] Q. Since you're a movie critic, I don't suppose anyone will ask you about President Bush's "stolen" watch, will they?
R. Joseph Ebert, Chicago
A. You're right. Nobody did. That's why I had to ask myself, because I can't wait to answer.
Close scrutiny of photographs and research on the Web reveals that the president and I wear the same watch. It is a Timex Indiglo, with great big numbers on the dial, and it lights up real good.
And why does that belong in a movie critic's column?
Because it is the Official Movie Critics' Watch!
Honest. Many years ago, sitting through an endless movie at a film festival, I observed Kenneth Turan, film critic of the Los Angeles Times, light up his watch. I asked him about it. "This is the watch a movie critic needs," he said. "In big, bright numbers, it tells you instantaneously what time it is, even though you're sitting in the dark."
Since then, any number of movie critics have adopted it. It is exactly like Bush's, except that ours do not have the presidential seal.
I know a fair amount about Roger, have exchanged a few e-mails over the years, and share some common background and mutual friends with him, but I was unaware until now of the Official Movie Critics Watch; my life grows ever closer to completion. Almost as crucially, despite once owning a copy of his dittoed teenage fanzine, Stymie, I had forgotten or never known that his middle name was Joseph.
A ninja who had been terrorising farmers in northern Italy has finally been captured by police.
The ninja, dressed entirely in black, would strike at remote farms in the Rovigo region, near Venice in north-east Italy. Moving in the shadows, as silent as nightfall, 32-year-old Russian Igor Vaclavic armed himself with a bow and arrow, and strapped a hunting knife to his leg to carry out his robberies.
Over the course of several months, the out-of-work-labourer-cum-ninja robbed over a dozen farmhouse, stealing money and jewellery from their owners before vanishing into the darkness.
Ninjas originated in 14th Century Japan, where they were assassins or spies. As they are trained for secrecy and stealth, you will never know when ninjas are out to get you until it's too late.
Vaclavic's ninja adventures were finally ended when one elderly couple fought back, and then called the police – who cornered Vaclavic in a nearby abandoned farmhouse, where he gave himself up instead of committing seppuku. Upon his arrest, Vaclavic reportedly told police that he was inspired by Robin Hood.
Robin Hood was not a ninja.
Because you might have been confused about that.
This photo accompanies the story, with the following caption:
How the ninja may have looked, assuming the ninja looked like the ninja from Ask A Ninja
This from metro.co.uk, owned by Britain's Daily Mail, This Is London, and other publications, which are said to be newspapers and magazines.
Hopes that the Squirrel Menace might have receded were dashed, when a squirrel went on a violent rampage in a German town, attacking three people before it was eventually killed.
The demonic rodent first attacked a woman in her home in Passau, and she managed to shake it off her arm after running into the street.
Its next victim was a builder, whom it bit before it attacked a pensioner.
However, the heroic 72-year-old man fought back and beat the squirrel to death with his crutch.
That's the whole story, but I feel so much better for knowing it; don't you? Don't tell me I never do anything for you.
Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5, but the deaf dolphin chatline story is pretty cool. And the swordfish story did give us this little-known famous old adage:
Disregarding the old adage 'never bring a fish to a sword fight', two assailants broke into a man's trailer and attacked him with a swordfish snout in eastern Australia early Wednesday, leaving the victim with cuts to his arms, back and hands, police said.
SNACKING ON YOU AT NSAC. Justin Rood at ABC News reports on FBI datamining:
[...] The National Security Analysis Center (NSAC) would bring together nearly 1.5 billion records created or collected by the FBI and other government agencies, a figure the FBI expects to quadruple in coming years, according to an unclassified FBI budget document obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
Those numbers alone raised concerns from two congressmen, Reps. Brad Miller, D-Calif., and James Sensenbrenner, Jr., R-Wisc., the chair and ranking member of the oversight panel of the House Science and Technology Committee.
Miller and Sensenbrenner asked GAO to determine whether the NSAC will include records on U.S. citizens, and whether there are protections in place to make sure all the data in the program was legally collected.
Of further concern to the two congressmen are the FBI's stated hopes to "pro-actively" mine the data to find terrorists using "predictive" analysis, according to its budget request, an unproven method according to experts and even the U.S. intelligence chief's office.
In theory, predictive analysis involves mapping a known pattern of terrorist behavior -- for instance, the sequence and timing of such mundane activities as bank transactions and travel purchases -- against a massive collection of such records like the NSAC databases. If an individual's actions match the pattern, they can be considered a suspect, even if they have no known ties to any suspected terrorists or known terrorist groups.
Such a method would help identify "sleeper cells," the FBI claims in its request -- secret groups of terrorists living innocuously within the United States, waiting for a signal from a terrorist group leader to assemble and strike.
But to date the approach has not proven workable. So far, terrorism researchers "cannot readily distinguish the absolute scale of normal behaviors" for terrorists or ordinary Americans, conceded a 2006 document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and obtained by National Journal magazine. In other words, no one can figure out how terrorists act differently from normal Americans.
"We had no idea how on God's earth you would characterize and capture normal behavior," a former researcher for the ill-fated Total Information Awareness (TIA) program told the magazine last October.
The FBI has requested $12 million for its NSAC project. That amount would pay for 90,000 square feet of space and an additional 53 employees, according to its budget request. Whether Congress will approve the funds has yet to be determined.
[...] In addition, resources are needed to transform and leverage the capacities and capabilities of the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force into a National Security Analysis Center that would provide expanded analytical support to all FBI National Security programs by leveraging data and services residing in both the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force and the Investigative Data Warehouse.
That Warehouse sounds interesting, doesn't it? Here is a story from October of '04:
The FBI has bought business intelligence software to mine its Investigative Data Warehouse, an information-sharing system for agents and analysts.
The agency doled out $720,000 for analytic software and related support services from MicroStrategy Inc. of McLean, Va. The software will provide a way for FBI workers to comb through the data warehouse’s counterterrorism material and compile reports, the company said.
The FBI bought the software through the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. According to the solicitation, the agency sought online analytical processing software to work with structured information residing within a 10T data warehouse.
The agency expected that the software would work with 4G data sets, providing service to a 30,000 users, including 2,000 analysts. The software will eventually need to handle 200,000 small queries concurrently, while simultaneously working on larger, more complex queries.
The MicroStrategy buy was not the first for the Investigative Data Warehouse. Last October, the FBI bought RetrievalWare search software from Convera Corp. of Vienna, Va., for $1.5 million.
MicroStrategy’s software will provide tools for manipulating structured data—in which information has been organized in data tables. Convera’s software is primarily used for searching unstructured materials, said Gary Monroe, MicroStrategy’s government sales representative.
The Investigative Data Warehouse was formerly known as the Secure Collaborative Operational Prototype Environment [see GCN story]. Its files are drawn from multiple federal and state agencies.
"Multiple federal and state agencies": sounds like a quite large warehouse. Ever got a ticket of any sort? Bet you're in there.
[...] Called the Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW) computer system, they describe it as "one-stop shopping" for FBI agents. Imagine it as a Google search engine for more than 650 million records. One person even called it "uber-Google."
An FBI agent anywhere in the world can type in any information, such as "Mohammed Atta" and "student pilot," and within five seconds, thousands of documents, FBI cables, memos, analytical reports and case information, with those search terms will appear on the screen. IDW has been online since early 2004, and agents say it works like a charm.
IDW is also very fast. An agent who has to run a search of a thousand names of potential suspects, for example, can now do so in 30 minutes, even with all variations of names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. That same search, through the once-separate 18 databases, used to take 32,000 hours.
The system is also set up so that variations in names and dates, which differ from agency to agency, and country to country, can be searched easily. This means that leaving off the "19" in a year of birth, for example, won't keep the FBI from missing a huge lead.
Zal Azmi, the FBI's chief information officer, described IDW as the central database in the FBI's information-sharing approach in the post-9/11 world. The system is connected to the National Counterterrorism Center and to databases of the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the NSA and the Pentagon.
Those agencies now have to send data to the FBI, but within two years, FBI agents will be able to search those complete databases instantly. The FBI system is also connected to foreign law enforcement partners in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
All Big Brother's cousins are ever-increasingly ever-so-friendlier. Isn't it cozy?
BACK TO THE BASICS. Oh, those wacky extremist liberal conservatives:
A new political group recently asked Mitt Romney to promise not to wiretap Americans without a judge's approval or to imprison US citizens without a trial as "enemy combatants." When Romney declined to sign their pledge, the group denounced him as "unfit to serve as president."
Such rhetoric might be expected from liberal activists. But these critics, who call their organization American Freedom Agenda, are hardly leftists. They represent what they insist is a growing group of disaffected conservatives who are demanding that the Republican Party return to its traditional mistrust of concentrated government power.
"Mitt Romney's ignorance of the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses would have alarmed the Founding Fathers and their conservative philosophy," said Bruce Fein, one of the group's co founders and a Reagan administration attorney, in a press release last month attacking Romney for not signing the pledge.
The American Freedom Agenda, which intends to put all candidates in both parties to the same test, is aiming to revive a strand of conservatism that they say has been drowned out since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The conservative principle of limited government, they say, means not just cutting the budget, but imposing checks and balances on those who wield power.
"Conservatives have to go back to the basics," said co founder Richard Viguerie, a veteran direct-mail strategist and author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How the Republican Party Hijacked the Conservative Cause." "We have to go back and re launch the conservative movement. And for traditional conservatives, it's part of our nature to believe in the separation of powers."
The other two co founders are Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, and David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union.
All four argue that Bush is not a true conservative, and they decided to join forces earlier this year to make the expansion of executive power a topic of debate in the 2008 presidential election. They have applied for tax-exempt status, created a website, and drawn up a 10-point pledge that they intend to ask every candidate to sign.
"I hereby pledge that if elected President of the United States I will undertake the following to restore the Constitution's checks and balances: to honor fundamental protections against injustice, and to eschew usurpations of legislative or judicial power," the pledge reads. "These are keystones of national security and individual freedom."
Other points in the pledge include renouncing the use of presidential signing statements to claim a right to disobey laws; ending threats to prosecute journalists who write about classified matters; and promising to use regular courts rather than military commissions to try terrorism suspects. The full pledge is posted on the group's website, AmericanFreedomAgenda.org.
The group also plans to lobby Congress to pass legislation imposing stronger checks and balances on the presidency. It is urging debate moderators to ask questions of the candidates about their views on the limits of presidential power, and it is planning to host events to raise voter awareness of the issue.
We can take up fighting with each other about other stuff later: once we've protected our freedoms and liberty and our Constitution. That comes first.
I don't care that the following is what it takes: the point is as valid as ever:
[...] "As it becomes more and more clear that Hillary Clinton could be the president of the United States, this is going to get a lot of conservatives' attention in a way it hasn't done before in recent years," Viguerie said.
Good. Wonderful. Just so you finally pay attention to the problems inherent in revoking habeas corpus when there's no rebellion or invasion, and you pay attention to a President who has consistently insisted he possesses dictorial powers to disappear and torture anyone he wants to call an "enemy combatant."
WASHINGTON — Sudan has secretly worked with the CIA to spy on the insurgency in Iraq, an example of how the U.S. has continued to cooperate with the Sudanese regime even while condemning its suspected role in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur.
President Bush has denounced the killings in Sudan's western region as genocide and has imposed sanctions on the government in Khartoum. But some critics say the administration has soft-pedaled the sanctions to preserve its extensive intelligence collaboration with Sudan.
"Intelligence cooperation takes place for a whole lot of reasons," said a U.S. intelligence official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing intelligence assessments. "It's not always between people who love each other deeply."
Sudan has become increasingly valuable to the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks because the Sunni Arab nation is a crossroads for Islamic militants making their way to Iraq and Pakistan.
That steady flow of foreign fighters has provided cover for Sudan's Mukhabarat intelligence service to insert spies into Iraq, officials said.
"If you've got jihadists traveling via Sudan to get into Iraq, there's a pattern there in and of itself that would not raise suspicion," said a former high-ranking CIA official familiar with Sudan's cooperation with the agency. "It creates an opportunity to send Sudanese into that pipeline."
As a result, Sudan's spies have often been in better position than the CIA to gather information on Al Qaeda's presence in Iraq, as well as the activities of other insurgent groups.
"There's not much that blond-haired, blue-eyed case officers from the United States can do in the entire Middle East, and there's nothing they can do in Iraq," said a second former CIA official familiar with Sudan's cooperation. "Sudanese can go places we don't go. They're Arabs. They can wander around."
The officials declined to say whether the Mukhabarat had sent its intelligence officers into the country, citing concern over the protection of sources and methods. They said that Sudan had assembled a network of informants in Iraq providing intelligence on the insurgency. Some may have been recruited as they traveled through Khartoum.
The U.S.-Sudan relationship goes beyond Iraq. Sudan has helped the United States track the turmoil in Somalia, working to cultivate contacts with the Islamic Courts Union and other militias in an effort to locate Al Qaeda suspects hiding there. Sudan also has provided extensive cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, acting on U.S. requests to detain suspects as they pass through Khartoum.
Sudan gets a number of benefits in return. Its relationship with the CIA has given it an important back channel for communications with the U.S. government. Washington has also used this channel to lean on Khartoum over the crisis in Darfur and for other issues.
And at a time when Sudan is being condemned in the international community, its counter-terrorism work has won precious praise. The U.S. State Department recently issued a report calling Sudan a "strong partner in the war on terror."
Some critics accuse the Bush administration of being soft on Sudan for fear of jeopardizing the counter-terrorism cooperation. John Prendergast, director of African affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, called the latest sanctions announced by Bush last month "window dressing," designed to appear tough while putting little real pressure on Sudan to stop the militias it is widely believed to be supporting from killing members of tribal settlements in Darfur.
"One of the main glass ceilings on real significant action in response to the genocide in Darfur has been our growing relationship with authorities in Khartoum on counter-terrorism," said Prendergast, a senior advisor to the International Crisis Group. "It is the single biggest contributor to why the gap between rhetoric and action is so large."
PRINCETON, NJ -- The majority of Republicans in the United States do not believe the theory of evolution is true and do not believe that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. This suggests that when three Republican presidential candidates at a May debate stated they did not believe in evolution, they were generally in sync with the bulk of the rank-and-file Republicans whose nomination they are seeking to obtain.
Hard to do biological science if you don't believe in evolution. Hard to do geology, astronomy, oceanography, and plenty of other sciences, if you insist that the Earth is only 10,000 years old.
And when our political leaders (so-called, anyway) believe in this crap: oh my.
Tell me this will get better in a few decades. Before it's too late. Please.
CHICAGO—In a surprising refutation of the conventional wisdom on opinion entitlement, a study conducted by the University of Chicago's School for Behavioral Science concluded that more than one-third of the U.S. population is neither entitled nor qualified to have opinions.
"On topics from evolution to the environment to gay marriage to immigration reform, we found that many of the opinions expressed were so off-base and ill-informed that they actually hurt society by being voiced," said chief researcher Professor Mark Fultz, who based the findings on hundreds of telephone, office, and dinner-party conversations compiled over a three-year period. "While people have long asserted that it takes all kinds, our research shows that American society currently has a drastic oversupply of the kinds who don't have any good or worthwhile thoughts whatsoever. We could actually do just fine without them."
In 2002, Fultz's team shook the academic world by conclusively proving the existence of both bad ideas during brainstorming and dumb questions during question-and-answer sessions.
Now we just need an enforcement mechanism.
One that works better than me making snarky comments in blog threads, and pissing people off. (People don't realize what a truly adorable, cute, huggable, kindly sweetie I am! No, really. Just in a bit of a cranky way sometimes.)
The great American natural history museum could be headed for the vulnerable species list, alongside the polar bear and the redwood tree.
A national survey last year showed nature museums' annual bottom lines sinking chronically into the red by $300,000 on average, while art museums outperformed them by nearly half a million dollars. Some of the leading institutions have winnowed their staffs since the decade began, among them the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Science leaders worry that financial pressures and demands to boost attendance could prompt natural history museums to self-lobotomize, cutting away brain matter — the pure scientific research that's largely hidden from the public — to save the exhibits and educational programs that are the institutions' visible cash generators.
"With some major exceptions, there's been a 20-year retraction" in museum-based natural history research, said Leonard Krishtalka, who directs the museum at the University of Kansas. "We're slowly witnessing, by the whittling of curatorial positions, the extinction of incredible knowledge. For many organisms there are only one or two world experts, and they retire with no one to replace them."
Officials with the American Assn. of Museums, which conducted the 2006 survey that tags natural history as an underperforming sector, cautioned against drawing strong statistical conclusions, because the report was based on median results from 43 institutions over three years, compared with 197 art museums. But there's no shortage of anecdotal woe.
The Milwaukee Public Museum lies fiscally prostrate, its net assets having fallen to minus-$14 million last year, according to its 2006 tax return. The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the deficit-ridden, 195-year-old granddaddy of American natural history museums, sold some of the family jewels to prop up its finances last year, earning $1 million for a chunk of its mineral collection.
The Smithsonian Institution's natural history museum in Washington, D.C., which draws more than 5 million visitors a year and has the nation's largest collection, with more than 126 million specimens, is seen as deeply troubled; the staff has shrunk almost a third since 2000.
"It's a real concern to see continued diminishing ranks of scientists there," said Robert Gropp, director of public policy for the American Institute of Biological Sciences. "We hear routinely from folks who work there that morale is really down."
Even the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which stands with the Smithsonian and the Field Museum in Chicago as the Big Three of natural history exhibits and research, has had to economize. The museum has reduced its staff about 11% this decade, although curators were untouched, spokesman Steve Reichl said.
Universities aren't a strong alternative, scientists say, because many have given up their expensive-to-maintain natural history collections and focused their efforts elsewhere, including biomedical research, genetics and technology.
The L.A. museum, which vies with San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences for fourth place in national rankings, turned to shock therapy in 2003, laying off 7% of its staff to save $2 million and reverse a long string of deficits. Most remaining employees endured a wage freeze that ended this year.
The museum's scientists have been studying things like parasitical bee-killing Peruvian flies, or attempting to sort out the evolution and global distribution of gobioids, small ocean fish important to the diet of the seafood humans eat. How can such research fit into what investment company executive Paul Haaga Jr., president of the museum's board, calls "the elevator speech" — the pithy hook, deliverable in the course of an elevator ride, that's needed to recruit donors? And finding big donors is more crucial than ever for an institution that's revving up a $115-million fundraising campaign.
And so on and so on. There should be no need to discuss in detail the vital nature of research, and the role natural history museums have historically played in doing it, while the public largely only sees the exhibits and educational aspects of museums.
I grew up particularly haunting the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art a somewhat distant third, as a child. I love museums, even though I've only seen glimpses behind the scenes, working as a volunteer in my yout. Do us all, particularly future generations, a favor: support your local natural history museum, hmm?
TWO AMERICAS. David Leonhardt, while gushing over Larry Summers, casually mentions:
[...] Summers’s favorite statistic these days is that, since 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It’s as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.
This confirms my prejudices -- but this is a passing mention: is it reliable?
[...] Two professors — Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley — have found that the share of gross personal income of the top 1 percent of American earners rose to 17.4 percent in 2005 from 8.2 percent in 1980.
[...] Aside from corporate compensation policies, public policies have played a significant role in contributing to the growth of income inequality. That’s the argument made in a recent, brilliant National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Professor Levy and Peter Temin, the Elisha Gray II professor of economics at M.I.T. The paper, which is more narrative than quantitative — Professor Temin is a distinguished economic historian — argues that the rise of income isn’t simply a byproduct of the free market working its wonders.
Professor Levy and Professor Temin divide the second half of the 20th century into two periods. In the first, 1955 to 1980, a grand bargain between labor and corporate America involving New Deal-era protections for workers and high marginal tax rates (the top rate was 90 percent in the 1950s) led to what economists have called the Great Moderation. The middle class grew dramatically, income inequality decreased, and corporations generally enjoyed labor peace.
Since 1980, they argue, it’s been a different story, thanks in part to a shifting political environment. Unions have weakened, the minimum wage hasn’t come close to keeping up with inflation, and marginal income tax rates have been cut — the top marginal rate is now 36 percent, down from 70 percent in 1980. A result has been declining bargaining power for workers and the rise of a winner-take-all environment.
“The last six years of federal tax history have involved an inhospitable politics in which winners have used their political power to expand their winnings,” the authors say. In other words, if capital has lately been prevailing in the centuries-long battle with labor, it is doing so with a substantial assist from the government.
To conclude the confirm-all-my-prejudices sweepstakes, Gross ends with this:
[...] Too often, economists have argued that the government can’t — and shouldn’t — do much to reverse the growth of income inequality, beyond exhorting workers to get more skills and education. But given the institutional factors at work, that may be a cop-out.
“The historical evidence suggests that institutions do have some power to modify some of these outcomes,” Professor Levy said.
It is commonplace to hear that the current set of arrangements and policies is the only possible way the economy can work, given trends like the rise of China and global economic integration. As Professor Levy said, “That’s a very convenient argument for people to make if they’re doing very well.”
THEY KNEW. You may or may not have seen news about the discovery of the diary of Rutka Laskier, who was 14 when, living in the Polish city of Będzin in 1943, she wrote her 60 page diary.
It's been compared to Anne Frank's and reads similarly. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, has this month published English and Hebrew editions of Rutka Laskier's diary. The Week In Review has a few excerpts, including this entry:
[...] Feb. 5, 1943
The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter. Next month there should already be a ghetto, a real one, surrounded by walls. In the summer it will be unbearable. To sit in a gray locked cage, without being able to see fields and flowers. Last year I used to go to the fields; I always had many flowers, and it reminded me that one day it would be possible to go to Malachowska Street without taking the risk of being deported. Being able to go to the cinema in the evening. I’m already so “flooded” with the atrocities of the war that even the worst reports have no effect on me. I simply can’t believe that one day I’ll be able to leave the house without the yellow star. Or even that this war will end one day ... If this happens, I will probably lose my mind from joy. ...
Well, Rutka, you’ve probably gone completely crazy. You are calling upon God as if He exists. The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, He would have certainly not permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with butt of guns or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death. ... It sounds like a fairy tale. Those who haven’t seen this would never believe it. But it’s not a legend; it’s the truth. Or the time when they beat an old man until he became unconscious, because he didn’t cross the street properly.
My point is the date: February 5th, 1943: the middle of the war. What was being done to those in the concentration camps was common knowledge to a 14-year-old girl in the ghetto.
That this was true as a generality, and that it was reported in American newspapers at just that time, has always been perfectly well-known to anyone who has studied the issue, but most people still believe that the facts about the Holocaust weren't really known either in Germany or the West until either 1945, or after the war.
That's false -- it was known to the British and Americans by summer of 1941 and this is a vivid, if essentially unnecessary, example.
A closing entry:
[...] Diary entry from February 20 1943
"I have a feeling that I am writing for the last time. There is an Aktion [a Nazi arrest operation] in town. I'm not allowed to go out and I'm going crazy, imprisoned in my own house. For a few days, something's in the air. The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This torment; this is hell.
"I try to escape from these thoughts, of the next day, but they keep haunting me like nagging flies. If only I could say, it's over, you only die once. But I can't, because despite all these atrocities I want to live, and wait for the following day. That means waiting for Auschwitz or labour camp. I must not think about this so now I'll start writing about private matters."
This is her:
Rutka was sent to Auschwitz that August.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Coincidentally, also this week this occurred:
A mass grave holding the remains of thousands of Jews executed by the Nazis during the second world war has been discovered in southern Ukraine by workers digging pipelines.
According to Roman Shvartsman, spokesman for the regional Jewish community, the Nazis established a ghetto near the village. In November 1941 the ghetto was transformed into a concentration camp and at least 4,000 Jews were killed at or near the site between the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942.
"The workmen were laying gas pipes near the centre of the village. They discovered hair, children's toys, skulls and pieces of clothing," Mr Shvartsman told the Guardian last night.
Before the second world war Odessa was the most Jewish city in the Soviet Union, a cultivated home to Jewish intellectuals, scientists and writers. Its pre-war population was one-third Jewish but by the time the Red Army recaptured the city in April 1944 about 60,000 Odessans, most of them Jews, had been either massacred or deported.
Most of Ukraine's 2-3 million strong Jewish population was wiped out. After Ukraine became independent in 1991 its Jewish population was put at 450,000; it has since shrunk to about 250,000. Babi Yar, a ravine outside the capital, Kiev, where the Nazis slaughtered some 34,000 Jews over two days in September 1941, is another powerful symbol of the tragedy.
"This is a depressingly frequent discovery," Mr Shvartsman said last night. "There are unfortunately lots of graves like this. I suspect this will not be the last discovery."
TIRANA, Albania — Ahktar Qassim Basit says he is not angry about the four years he spent as an American prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before his captors mumbled a brief apology and flew him to this drab Balkan capital to begin a new life as a refugee.
It is this new life in Albania, Mr. Basit and other former Guantánamo detainees say, that is driving them to desperation.
The men, Muslims from western China’s Uighur ethnic minority, were freed from their confinement in Cuba after they were found to pose no threat to the United States. They have now lived for more than a year in a squalid government refugee center on the grubby outskirts of Tirana, guarded by armed policemen.
The men have been told that they will need to get work to move out of the center, they said, but that they must learn the Albanian language to get work permits. For now, they subsist on free meals heavy with macaroni and rice, and monthly stipends of about $67, which they spend mostly on brief telephone calls to their families. But some of the men have already lost hope of ever seeing their wives and children again.
“We suffered very much at Guantánamo, but we continue to suffer here,” Mr. Basit said. “The other prisoners had their countries, but we are like orphans: we have no place to go.”
Mr. Basit and four other men here, who spent time at a hamlet in Afghanistan run by Uighur separatists, are still considered terrorist suspects by China’s Communist government. Only Albania’s pro-American government would give them asylum, but Albanian officials have since told the men they cannot afford to give them much else.
Things could be worse, the former prisoners note. At least 15 of the 17 Uighurs who remain at Guantánamo have also been cleared for release, but not even Albania will accept them — and neither will the United States. Instead, American diplomats say they have asked nearly 100 countries to provide asylum to the detainees, only to find that Chinese officials have warned some of the same countries not to accept them.
Many American officials privately describe the Uighurs’ plight as one of the more troubling episodes of the Bush administration’s detention program.
Ya think? But there are so many "troubling episodes," a term that's beyond mild, under the circumstances.
For crissakes, there are still 15 innocent Uighurs sitting in Guantanamo for no good reason save that we imprisoned them without good cause, and the Chinese are tyrannical bastards.
Meanwhile, back in cheery Albania, the other eight Uighurs:
[...] They spend most of their days behind the refugee center’s high, cinderblock walls, reading the Koran, studying Albanian and waiting for a turn on the center’s lone desktop computer. They avoid the gravelly soccer field because it reminds them of one they looked out on at Guantánamo.
Surely someone can set up a fund to buy them a couple more cheap PCs?
BANG YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE WALL SLOWLY. The Bush administration has been following through on their brilliant "pro-democracy" programs in Iran, so naturally we're all in a lot of trouble. But most of all, the Iranian reform movement is.
Scott MacLeod at Time asks "Did the U.S. Incite Iran's Crackdown?"
[...] The Bush Administration had trumpeted its $61.1 million democracy program, including Farsi-language broadcasts into Iran, education and cultural exchanges and $20 million worth of support for "civil society, human rights, democratic reform and related outreach" as an important effort. However, sources tell TIME that several key Iranian reformers had repeatedly warned U.S. officials through back channels that the pro-democracy program was bound to expose them as vulnerable targets for a government crackdown whether they took Washington's funds or not.
Iranian civil rights activists contacted by TIME say that the cases against the Iranian-Americans have fostered the most repressive atmosphere inside Iran in years, making democracy advocates terrified to work or even speak on the telephone. Many are deeply reluctant to leave or re-enter the country, fearing that they will meet the same fate as Esfandiari, who was initially detained while heading to the airport after an eight-day visit to Iran to see her 93-year-old mother. She and at least two other Iranian-Americans were charged with espionage. Esfandiari is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mideast Program in Washington. The Wilson Center has strongly denied that she or the center has received any of the Bush Administration's funds.
TIME's sources, who do not want to be identified for fear of retribution, say that they repeatedly warned about the negative consequences in informal talks that have been taking place for several years between figures in the U.S. and Iran who are close to their respective governments. Similar warnings were delivered to U.S. officials by others, including Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. "We had talks with the State Department and with lawmakers," Parsi told TIME. "We pointed out the dangers. Our advice was not taken into consideration. Things have turned out worse than we expected." Parsi says that, in the past, individual democracy activists have been arrested without a pretext, but that the Bush Administration's program gave the regime an opportunity to go after as many as 10,000 non-government organizations and their memberships. "There is tremendous self-censorship going on," Parsi says. "They know that the money has made them targets." Speaking to TIME, a State Department official explained that because "dictatorships do react against any kind of rule-of-law, or democracy-promoting programs," the U.S. does not make public the names of recipients of program funds, although recipients are aware that the money is coming from the U.S.
Isn't this great? What a fine job of supporting democratic reform in Iran this is!
It certainly shows how well the Bush administration has learned from its history of not listening to experts, preferring ideologists and loyalists instead.
How well, indeed.
[...] Nevertheless, for the last several months, Iranian officials have publicly charged that the U.S. money is pushing for a "velvet revolution" in Iran. Iranian officials seem to believe that Esfandiari's center is a conduit for the U.S. effort. In interrogations of Esfandiari lasting as long as eight hours, the questions focused almost entirely on her activities at the Wilson Center. The other Iranian-Americans on espionage charges are Kiam Tajbakhsh, of the Open Society Institute, financed by the American billionaire George Soros, who was working with Iranian government ministries on urban projects; and Parnaz Azima, a journalist with Radio Farda, which is funded by the U.S. government. Azima has not been jailed. Ali Shakeri, a member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, is reported to be detained but the case against him is unclear.
Akbar Ganji and Emaddeddin Baghi, two of Iran's most prominent pro-democracy activists, who have served long prison sentences for their activities, are among those who protested the U.S. democracy program. In a letter to international human rights organizations after Esfandiari's imprisonment, Baghi denounced the program as morally unjustifiable for effectively putting Iranian activists in harm's way.
Bush's democracy program is opposed even by some exile groups that support a tough U.S. line against the Islamic regime, including a royalist group led by Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah who seeks to reinstate the monarchy. In an e-mailed comment to TIME, Pahlavi said he "would not accept funds from any foreign governments." He said there were ways to support freedom "without such support coming in the form of governmental funds which invariably ends up hurting those it intends to help by unfairly labeling them as foreign agents."
Even the pretender to the throne opposes our program! Apparently no actual Iranians can be found who support the gawdawful thing.
[...] Several mainstream Iranian reformers tell TIME that from the start they transmitted their opposition to the democracy program indirectly but clearly to American officials via the back-channel talks. Besides warning that it could trigger a crackdown, they argued that Iran's reform movement had strong popular support and did not want or require foreign help. Outside backing has been an unusually sensitive issue in Iranian politics ever since a CIA-backed coup d'etat in 1953 installed the former Shah. Instead, many of them argue, Iran's democracy movement would be better served if the U.S. lifted sanctions and improved relations with Tehran, which would enable trade and cultural links to be expanded. "There is no serious individual inside or outside Iran who is going to take this money," an Iranian reformer told TIME. "Anyone having the slightest knowledge of the domestic political situation in Iran would never have created this program."
What's the Administration's thinking?
The Bush Administration has proposed that the program's budget be increased to more than $100 million annually. In April, before Esfandiari's case was made public, Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, likened the program to efforts the U.S. made to undermine Communism behind the Iron Curtain.
And here comes the best part, the crowning jewel of it all:
[...] Asked about the warnings from Parsi and others, a State Department official told TIME that "the warnings simply never came up over the last year or so."
This is the point at which your host loses his words, and can only say: !!!
This is a huge scandal. It's a disgrace that the Bush administration has engaged in yet another foreign policy initiative that is so damaging to the interests of the United States in genuine democratic reform in Iran.
Heads should roll. They likely won't, but how about some hearings?
MacLeod has a whole lot more here: also a must-read.
One useful point he made in the blog, that he left out of his article, is this:
[...] Another reason is that despite what Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, was quoted saying in my story, the situations in Iran today and the Iron Curtain countries before the fall of Communism are not comparable. Unlike Eastern Europe, Iran is not an absolute dictatorship (like Saddam's Iraq, say) but has a system with multiple and often competing centers of power (albeit the Supreme Leader is first among equals). More importantly, however, is that Iran has a vibrant, homegrown broad-based reform movement that has already achieved much and will achieve more.
Just so. To feed money into Iran, with the goal of helping "reform in Iran" with no regard for its effect upon the actually existing reform movement, as if this were an abstract replay of Eastern Europe, is to ignore reality in the same exact way the Bush administration has ignored reality in the past. As usual, we get destructive results.
I'm keeping an open mind, but it is tempting to see the Bush administration's Iran policy in the same light as the deeply flawed approach that led the U.S. into the Iraq fiasco: seeing the world in black-and-white, acting on the basis of political fantasy, listening to people who tell you what you want to hear, disregarding advice from credible sources, showing scant concern for future consequences. Having failed to reach out to moderate President Mohammed Khatami who was in office during Bush's entire first first term, the U.S. has moved to effectively label President Mohammed Ahmadinejad the new Saddam.
Kinda obvious, but worth saying, in any case. Too bad it's too much an opinion to get into the actual magazine, apparently.
[...] Last week psychiatrist Carlos Schenck and neurologist Mark Mahowald of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center published a review article in the journal Sleep on what they call "sleepsex," or "sexsomnia." Think of it as a more advanced form of sleepwalking. It covers the full gamut of sexual activity, from fondling to intercourse, with one crucial difference. The patients apparently have no conscious awareness of what they're doing and, when wakened, have no recollection of it.
Is this for real? Reported cases are still rare — Schenck and Mahowald found only 31 in the medical literature. But they say that's partly because of the embarrassing nature of the problem and partly because there's so little public awareness of it. Sexsomnia was not even recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine until 2005. Psychologist Michael Mangan at the University of New Hampshire, author of the 2001 book "Sleepsex: Uncovered," believes there are far more cases than the literature would indicate. He maintains a Web site on sleepsex that has registered comments from more than 1,000 sufferers.
See here; the top of the page is currently crammed with requests from various newspapers and tv shows asking for people with the disorder to contact them.
[...] But sleepsex appears to belong to a mental netherworld in which brain regions devoted to higher thought, judgment and reasoning are shut down, while areas governing more primitive functions (such as locomotion, eating and sex) are still active. Put them together, and it can be a bad combination for someone who is already predisposed to sleepwalking or other parasomnias. For such a person, anything that induces more deep sleep — such as excessive alcohol consumption or persistent sleep deprivation — only increases the risk.
The serious side of this is that apparently a number of people are being accused of, or at least considered to be, attempted rapists or gropers -- or at least of being highly inconsiderate -- and it seems that this is an unjust conclusion.
On the not serious side, if you're a horny person, and have a partner who is prone to sleepsex, maybe you're in luck.
But, as the piece concludes:
[...] Seeking help can only work to a sufferer's advantage. After all, if you're going to have sex, you might as well enjoy it.
Clearly there's a need for a union of unconciousess, to speak up for the right of unconcious people to have sex, and to point out how unfair it is for the conscious mind to hog all the fun.
HIS VOLCANO LAIR EXPLODED. Remember Monzer al-Kassar? Of course you don't! He's the James Bond-like villain arms dealer I wrote about last year: go read the full wacky tale!
Now he's been arrested for selling arms to the FARC, the entirely despicable and murderous Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
A suspected Syrian weapons dealer accused of arming militants from Iraq to Nicaragua for decades has been arrested in Spain on U.S. charges of trying to supply Colombian rebels, authorities said on Friday.
The arrest of Monzer al-Kassar "finally brought one of the world's most prolific arms traffickers to justice," U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said.
Kassar has been selling huge amounts of weapons for decades, pretty much with impunity, as you can read about in my old post and link. Why was he taken into custody now?
[...] An indictment unsealed in New York on Friday said the men had agreed to provide the weapons for the FARC "to use to protect their cocaine-trafficking business and to attack United States interests in Colombia."
"They knew the weapons they agreed to sell were destined for a terrorist organization. They knew the arms were going to be used to kill Americans," Garcia told a news conference.
That sounds as if it would be enough to explain it, but we're talking about a guy who used to hug Abu Abbas; maybe his old favors of selling arms to the contras during Iran-Contra became "what have you done for us lately?"; who knows? Me, I'll believe he's convicted after he's convicted.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for color.
ADDENDUM, 6/10/07, 9:35 a.m.: Walter Pincus has more detail here, including this:
[...] In a September interview with the British newspaper the Observer, the Syrian-born Kassar said he had retired from arms dealing and was living peacefully in his 15-room Renaissance palazzo near Marbella on Spain's Costa del Sol.
But his remarks to the Observer may have been untrue, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday in New York. It alleges that Kassar and two associates conspired to provide the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with small arms and ammunition, thousands of machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and possibly surface-to-air missile systems "to protect their cocaine trafficking business and to attack United States interests in Colombia."
According to the indictment, Kassar was taken in by two confidential informants working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who successfully passed themselves off as FARC representatives seeking weapons to be used against American and Colombian units. At a Feb. 6 meeting at Kassar's Marbella home, the two informants provided an initial list that mainly included rifles and grenades. Kassar set a price of $7.8 million to $13.5 million plus the cost of transporting the weapons to Colombia, according to the indictment.
At the same time, the arms dealer offered "to send 1,000 men to the informants to fight with the FARC against U.S. military officers in Colombia," the indictment says.
Over the next few months, the informants sent Kassar so-called end-user certificates, needed to legitimatize international arms transactions, and arranged for the transfer to him of 100,000 euros (about $130,000) for arranging transportation for the weapons, the indictment says.
Early in May, an additional $135,000 was sent to Kassar to pay for a boat that would take the weapons from Bulgaria and Romania, where they were to be purchased.
Along the way, Kassar responded to requests from the informants for surface-to-air missiles and experts to train FARC in the use of explosives, the indictment says.
As in several other recent cases involving informants, many of Kassar's meetings and telephone calls were recorded.
In all, he and his associates were indicted on four separate conspiracy counts including the supplying of material support to a foreign terrorist group; conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, officials and employees; and conspiracy to acquire an antiaircraft missile.
Spanish police arrested Kassar in Madrid. His alleged co-defendants, Tareq Mousa al-Ghazi and Luis Felipe Morena-Godoy, were arrested in Romania.
WHAT IS "THE PROGRAM"? Those of you who have followed some of the convoluted tale of what we know about the NSA eavesdropping and datamining "Program," know that nothing could be more important to beginning to get at the truth of what it is and isn't than issuing subpoenas.
There's no other way, the administration has made entirely clear.
That's why this is really good news:
Senior House Democrats threatened Thursday to issue subpoenas to obtain secret legal opinions and other documents from the Justice Department related to the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program.
If the Democrats take that step, it would mark the most aggressive action yet by Congress in its oversight of the wiretapping program and could set the stage for a constitutional showdown over the separation of powers.
The subpoena threat came after a senior Justice Department official told a House judiciary subcommittee on Thursday that the department would not turn over the documents because of their confidential nature. But the official, Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel, did not assert executive privilege during the hearing.
Why is this so crucial?
[...] At the same time, the Bush administration is seeking new legislation to expand its wiretapping powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Democratic lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have argued that they do not want to vote on the issue without first seeing the administration’s legal opinions on the wiretapping program.
“How can we begin to consider FISA legislation when we don’t know what they are doing?” asked Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who heads the subcommittee.
No, the public doesn't need to know every technical detail of what the NSA has been doing, to rebut the inevitable claim: but our legislators need to be able to clearly understand what the program entails, and to help determine what information can be made publically available that will allow the public the best information necessary to determine if it's an appropriate program, while not giving away an inappropriate technical details.
And to do that, our legislators have to be able to, as Jerrold Nadler says, know what they [the NSA and the administration] are doing; that's Congress' role. You can't oversight what you can't sight.
So what's going to happen? Some opinions:
[...] On May 17, after Mr. Comey’s testimony, Mr. Nadler and Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, who is the chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, wrote to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales requesting copies of Justice Department legal opinions used to support the N.S.A. wiretapping program, as well as later documents written by top Justice Department officials that raised questions about the program’s legality in 2004. The letter also asked Mr. Gonzales to provide his own description of the 2004 confrontation.
Mr. Conyers said he had not received a response from the Justice Department. “We’re going to give him two more weeks, and then, as somebody said, it’s about time process kicks in somewhere around here,” Mr. Conyers said.
In an interview after the subcommittee hearing on Thursday, Mr. Bradbury said his refusal to provide the documents was not the final word from the Justice Department on the matter.
But Mr. Nadler made it clear that he did not expect the administration to comply and said he thought he would soon have to push for subpoenas.
Bush supporters will predictably object, because it will help Teh Terrorists, infringe on the Leader's power, etc. This will be another political fight: keep an eye out.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an important bill to restore habeas corpus, the sacrosanct Constitutional right to challenge government detention in court, by a vote of eleven to eight.
Habeas corpus was revoked by last year's Military Commissions Act, which has been assailed as unconstitutional and un-American by leaders across the political spectrum. Today's habeas bill was backed by the Judiciary Committee's Democratic Chairman, Patrick Leahy, and its Republican Ranking Member, Arlen Specter. "The drive to restore this fundamental right has come from both sides of the aisle," said Sharon Bradford, an attorney at the bipartisan Constitution Project, in response to today's vote. "Restoring America's commitment to the rule of law is not a partisan cause; it is a patriotic one," she added.
Just so. Who would have thought we'd have to argue to get back to the basic principles of Magna Carta?
Now to get it the rest of the way through Congress.
Ah, well, take comfort in the fact that Dick Armey says that "Technology [...] has been an issue I have followed my entire career...." So he really knows stuff about... technology.
I'm sure you'd be shocked if I noted that Mr. Armey, the former Republican Majority Leader of the House, is a paid lobbyist against Net Neutrality. Thanks, Time, for making sure this little-known POV does not go unheard!
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.
Armey also gives Joe Klein a chance to feel like he's not the worst Swampland blogger. Unfortunately, given even the dumbest Armey comments, Klein manages to respond to "I ask, if Social Security is such a great deal, then why is it mandatory?" with the response that "because, in a democracy, we have this weird concept: the consent of the governed."
THE OTHER IRAQ INTEL ASSESSMENTS. Paul Pillar, former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, writes in this preview of a National Journal article:
What comes to mind when someone mentions intelligence and the Iraq War? Why, of course, the intelligence estimate on Iraqi unconventional weapons programs that was excoriated in a 500-page report that the Senate Intelligence Committee issued with much fanfare in July 2004 [...]
But the weapons estimate was one of only three classified, community-coordinated assessments about Iraq that the intelligence community produced in the months prior to the war. Don’t feel bad if you missed the other two, which addressed the principal challenges that Iraq likely would present during the first several years after Saddam’s removal, as well as likely repercussions in the surrounding region. After being kept under wraps (except for a few leaks) for over four years, the Senate committee quietly released redacted versions of those assessments on its website May 25, as Americans were beginning their Memorial Day holiday weekend.
I initiated those latter two assessments and supervised their drafting and coordination.
In contrast, the other two assessments spoke directly to the instability, conflict, and black hole for blood and treasure that over the past four years we have come to know as Iraq. The assessments described the main contours of the mess that was to be, including Iraq’s unpromising and undemocratic political culture, the sharp conflicts and prospect for violence among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups, the Marshall Plan-scale of effort needed for economic reconstruction, the major refugee problem, the hostility that would be directed at any occupying force that did not provide adequate security and public services, and the exploitation of the conflict by Al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
The assessments support the proposition that the expedition in Iraq always was a fool’s errand rather than a good idea spoiled by poor execution, implying that the continued search for a winning strategy is likely to be fruitless.
[...] But the analysts had no reason to assume poor execution, and their prognosis was dark nonetheless. Moreover, amid the stultifying policy environment that prevailed when the assessments were prepared—in which it was evident that the administration was going to war and that analysis supporting that decision was welcome and contrary analysis was not—it is all the more remarkable that the analysts would produce such a gloomy view.
Given that a lot of folks have now come to regard the war as dreadfully handled, but still think that the execution was primarily what went wrong, or that there's still a a satisfactory way out of this, the evidence that indicates otherwise remains damned important to highlight.
I've been looking through The Italian Letter by Peter Eiser and Knut Royce. There's some amazing stuff in it about Alan Foley, the head of the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC). WINPAC led the CIA's analysis of Iraq's purported WMD, and so Foley is at the very center of what happened.
Here's what Foley believed before the war (p. 125):
There were strong indications that Foley all along was toeing a line he did not believe. Several days after Bush's State of the Union speech, Foley briefed student officers at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. After the briefing, Melvin Goodman, who had retired from the CIA and was then on the university's faculty, brought Foley into the secure communications area of the Fort McNair compound. Goodman thanked Foley for addressing the students and asked him what weapons of mass destruction he believed would be found after the invasion. "Not much, if anything," Goodman recalled that Foley responded. Foley declined to be interviewed for this book.
So why, then, would WINPAC report that Iraq had WMD? Here's the answer (p. 119):
One day in December 2002, Foley called his senior production managers to his office. He had a clear message for the men and women who controlled the output of the center's analysts: "If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so." The directive was not quite an order to cook the books, but it was a strong suggestion that cherry-picking and slanting not only would be tolerated, but might even be rewarded.
Schwarz then points to other authors having previously reported Foley's quote, though only by his title, rather than his name; said authors including longtime expert writer on intelligence James Bamford, and former CIA officer Lindsay Moran.