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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Contents © 2001-2013 All rights reserved. Gary Farber. (The contents of e-mails to this email address of Gary Farber are subject to the possibility of being posted.)

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
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People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost, Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry, Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny. It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out. And She of whom I must write someday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I AM HARI SELDON! And psychohistory enables me to predict that this will suck.

I only hope that Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, like The Mule, will disrupt current trends, and throw this prediction off.
The ousted founders of downsized studio New Line Cinema are producing an adaptation of the Isaac Asimov sci-fi epic "Foundation."

The project marks the first undertaking for Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who set up their own banner called Unique Features earlier this month after exiting New Line when the ailing studio was absorbed by its bigger corporate sibling Warner Bros. Unique aims to make two or three movies annually, with Warners handling marketing and distribution.
Science fiction is a genre in which the duo and New Line had dabbled, most notably in recent years with "The Last Mimzy," which Shaye directed. That 2007 film grossed just $27 million worldwide, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.
Uh-oh. I have a whole essay in my head about how that film took a charming short story classic (whole thing here, probably in violation of copyright, and weirdly with ellipses starting every paragraph) by "Lewis Padgett," and generally screwed it up by adding a heavy-handed environmental theme, "jeopardy," nanotech, and a lot of extraneous crap, rather like what Total Recall did for "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," though not nearly as badly.

But it's long enough since I saw The Last Mimzy (shortly before I moved to Raleigh) that I'd have to watch it again to write the piece, and I'm in no rush to do that.

And the Foundation Trilogy (originally a set of short stories in Astounding, no more a trilogy than the six books of The Lord Of The Rings, also published in three volumes purely as a publishing convention, decided upon by the publisher, not the author) could only be decently told as a tv mini-series of at least six to nine hours, anyway, given the nature of its disparate, galaxy-and-time-spanning stories, with its variety of characters, held together only by the Future History of the collapse of the Galactic Empire, the rise of the Foundations, and the framework of Hari Seldon's psychohistorical predictions.

So they'll recast the story, give it a single plotline, dumb it down, give it a bunch of explosions, a few space battles, and claim it's a valid telling of the story.

Oh, well, couldn't be as bad as that film that still deserves to be made into a movie (or miniseries) someday.

But this, I think psychohistory suggests, foreshadows:
[...] The pair, who recently set up their own production company Unique Features, will guide the ambitious project with Jumper producer Vince Gerardis and studio Warner Bros.
Because unless it has chase scenes and fights, it's not a "sci-fi" movie. No wonder real sf fans think anything called "sci-fi" is crap.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/30/2008 10:09:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
LIGHT IN YOUR LOAFERS. Nice shoulderpads.

On Tuesday, an inventor from New Zealand plans to unveil what he calls “the world’s first practical jetpack” at the EAA AirVenture, the gigantic annual air show here. The inventor, Glenn Martin, 48, who has spent 27 years developing the devices, said he hoped to begin selling them next year for $100,000 apiece.
That'd solve my problem of being unable to get around here without a car in what's effectively a suburb.
[...] With the startling power of its twin rotors and its 200-horsepower engine behind my shoulder blades screaming like an army of leaf blowers, it felt almost as if I were doing the lifting myself, with muscles I did not know I had. It felt like living in the future — and, even better, the future we imagined back when it was something to be hoped for rather than feared.
Also, if you turn it on reverse, it probably makes an excellent vacuum cleaner.

Things a sweetie might do to you:
[...] In June 1997, seven weeks after the birth of his second child, Mr. Martin figured his prototype was now powerful enough to lift its first flier, so long as that person weighed less than 130 pounds. So he turned to his wife. “I said, ‘Hey, Vanessa, what are you doing tonight?’ ”

Mrs. Martin agreed to be her husband’s levitating guinea pig. Mr. Martin yoked the unit to a pole in the garage so it would lift her without moving around, put a kind of brake at the top of the pole in case the engine was stronger than he thought, and strapped her in.
Fly me to the moon.

Fun for your kids:
[...] “Basically, for my whole life I’ve had a jetpack in the garage,” said Harrison, now 16, with a shrug, “so it’s just one of those things you don’t talk about.”
Dad won't confess that he's also working on a pocket submarine, to complete the Thunderbirds set.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 gos out of 5.

7/29/2008 03:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Saturday, July 26, 2008
THE BLACK DOG. I let slip about overwhelming clinical depression again.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/26/2008 05:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, July 24, 2008
[...] But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. “There is only one possibility,” he said. “For us to stand together united until this battle is won…The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty…People of the world, look at Berlin!”

People of the world – look at Berlin!

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.


The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we’re honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth – that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.


That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.


This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.


Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.


But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.


We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.
I'm for all that.


Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

Version soon to appear as translated on various rightwing sites: "We must surrender to Al Qaeda as soon as possible; I call on you all to become dhimmis -- as soon as my civilian national security force of illegal Mexican immigrants is ready to impose this on you, along with mandatory homosexuality, and 300% taxes; now, join me, and my Vice-Presidential running mate, Osama bin Laden Marx, in denouncing my honkie grandmother, you Nazis."

7/24/2008 12:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
MY SPINE LIGHTS UP. Caprica trailer.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Gosh, I just hope we see Boxie's ancestors.

--Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 Webisodes. With the fourth and final season of SCI FI's award-winning series coming to a close, fans can view Galactica Webisodes as they return in the weeks leading up to the final 10 episodes of the show. SCIFI.COM and Universal Cable Production will produce 10 two- and three-minute serialized Webisode chapters, which will complement and enhance the series.

7/23/2008 02:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008
WHY IS IRAQ CALMER? Prime Minister al-Maliki has an opinion
[...] SPIEGEL: In your opinion, which factor has contributed most to bringing calm to the situation in the country?

Maliki: There are many factors, but I see them in the following order. First, there is the political rapprochement we have managed to achieve in central Iraq. This has enabled us, above all, to pull the plug on al-Qaida. Second, there is the progress being made by our security forces. Third, there is the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias. Finally, of course, there is the economic recovery.
Notice anything missing there? (Hat tip to Robert Farley.)

al-Maliki's interview has gotten plenty of attention for a few quotes, but here are a few other less-attended-to bits:
[...] SPIEGEL: Germany, after World War II, was also liberated from a tyrant by a US-led coalition. That was 63 years ago, and today there are still American military bases and soldiers in Germany. How do you feel about this model?

Maliki: Iraq can learn from Germany's experiences, but the situation is not truly comparable. Back then Germany waged a war that changed the world. Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops -- and it should be short. At the same time, we would like to see the establishment of a long-term strategic treaty with the United States, which would govern the basic aspects of our economic and cultural relations. However, I wish to re-emphasize that our security agreement should remain in effect in the short term.

SPIEGEL: How short-term? Are you hoping for a new agreement before the end of the Bush administration?

Maliki: So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn't the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias. The American lead negotiators realize this now, and that's why I expect to see an agreement taking shape even before the end of President Bush's term in office. With these negotiations, we will start the whole thing over again, on a clearer, better basis, because the first proposals were unacceptable to us.

SPIEGEL: Immunity for the US troops is apparently the central issue.

Maliki: It is a fundamental problem for us that it should not be possible, in my country, to prosecute offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population. But other issues are no less important: How much longer will these soldiers remain in our country? How much authority do they have? Who controls how many, soldiers enter and leave the country and where they do so?

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

'As Soon as Possible'

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.
Okay, you heard about that last one. But it should be unsurprising that anyone would want foreign troops able to kill at will out of their country ASAP.

For those of us interested in Iraqi history before the recent mess:
[...] SPIEGEL: Exactly 50 years ago, the monarchy in Iraq was overthrown and a republic established. But we didn't see any celebration of this event at all. What does that day mean for the history of Iraq?

Maliki: There may have been people who celebrated. But certainly not all Iraqis. On July 14, 1958, and era came to an end, but what came afterwards didn't live up to our expectations and hopes. What came were decades of military putsches and the dictatorship. We are still dealing with the aftermath today.

Robert Farley also points to the straightforward and always loveable John Derbyshire:
We should tell Maliki, loudly and in public, that he owes his job to us, and that further prosecution of our military operations in his country will be conducted with regard only to U.S. interests, as determined in consensus by our established domestic political processes. And if he doesn't like that, he can go to hell.
Don't these people know they were thrown against a wall for a reason?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

Bonus German report: how Barack Obama looks from Germany:
[...] Never before has there been so much excitement in Germany over the visit of a presumed US presidential candidate. Obama may be running for the White House, but judging by the commotion, one would think that he had already advanced two steps further and were the president of the world.

Which is precisely the issue. Obama raises hopes that he will not just change America, but politics as a whole.


It is time for leadership. And only one man inspires the kind of confidence that would enable him to assume this leadership: Barack Obama. Germans, in particular, are pinning their hopes on this man. Whereas just 10 percent favor the Republican candidate John McCain, fully 76 percent consider Barack Obama the better candidate.


"Obama has created a mood that makes it possible to have faith in politics," said Norbert Röttgen, the parliamentary leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Röttgen spoke enthusiastically about Obama, but his enthusiasm was also an indirect criticism of top German politicians, of men and women who seem to be everything but Obama, or at least everything but the image that many Germans have formed of him.
But it's not all about Obama:
[...] For Germany, perhaps the most important thing about the US elections is that they will end in Bush's departure.
Us, too.

ADDENDUM, July 24, 2008, 7:46 a.m.: Foreign Policy interviews McClatchy reporter Nancy Youssef in Baghdad on who deserves credit for what.
[...] FP: There’s been a debate in the media about how much credit should be given to “the surge” for what you’re seeing now. Barack Obama said it was just one of several factors that helped improve the security situation. Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, didn’t even credit the addition of U.S. troops in his recent interview with Der Spiegel. Meanwhile, John McCain gives the surge the lion’s share of the credit. Who do you think is right?

NY: When you ask the Iraqis here, they say that the added U.S. forces were a part of it, but what really turned things around was the Sahwa movement [of former insurgents switching sides], Moqtada’s ceasefires, and in their minds, Basra. Basra was the first Iraqi-led success story, and it really changed the momentum. So, the Iraqis that we talk to see it as a complex equation with the U.S. troop surge as just one factor. And frankly, the situation on the ground suggests that they’re right, because the surge troops have left, and the security situation remains better.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. Via Kevin Drum.

ADDENDUM, July 25th, 12:13 a.m.: I'd seen this mentioned in a few places earlier today, when busy, but Matttbastard's comment reminded me that it would be useful to link to this about Der Spiegel's interview policy.

7/22/2008 10:31:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FIGHT THE POWER. It's never too late.
She's not the messiah, she's the mayor of Aberystwyth and she has a plan.
She's a Cylon.
[...] Sue Jones-Davies is trying to overturn a near 30-year ban imposed by the town on Monty Python's Life of Brian - the film in which she played a role.

Long before she donned her mayoral robes in the mid Wales town, she played Brian's girlfriend in the movie.


A number of areas in Wales banned it, as former Python John Cleese recalled during an interview on Channel 4's Richard and Judy programme on Wednesday.

But nearly 30 years on, the new mayor of Aberystwyth wants the restriction lifted in her town.

"Given what's on TV now I think it's amazing a ban in Aberystwyth still exists," said Ms Jones-Davies.

"I think it should be lifted."


"I got the part because somebody dropped out," she said. "I had the same agent as John Cleese and was recommended for the part.

"I went for an interview at a flat in London and all the Monty Python crew were there.

"It was quite funny really because it wasn't a proper interview at all, as you'd expect with Monty Python.

"They were all chipping in and saying, 'Oh yes, she'll be fine'. I wasn't asked many questions."

It was shot in Tunisia, but part of the crucifixion scene had to be filmed in a sandpit in Kent.

"It was great fun to work on, and we had the odd day off. One day I went with Terry Gilliam to buy a carpet and driving along we came to a river," she added.

"Local people nearby were warning us not to go through it, but Terry just drove on - I thought we were going to sink but we managed to make to the other side."

Recalling her famous nude scene, Ms Jones-Davies said: "It was a part and I just played it, although I did call for a closed set.

'Commercial impact'

"It was filmed in a sort of small tunnel, and wasn't very sensual at all."

It is understood a committee made up of church leaders in Aberystwyth recommended a ban in 1979.

Ceredigion council has the power to lift it, but a spokesman said no-one in the licensing department knew about the ban.

But Michael Davies, the owner of Aberystwyth's Commodore Cinema, said he was sure it was still in place.

"As far as I know the Life of Brian is still banned from being shown at the cinema," he explained.

"My father ran the cinema when the ban was imposed and I suppose it would have had a commercial impact at the time because it was a huge film and made a fortune.

"I don't think lifting the ban now would make much of a difference."
On the contrary, a small child might see it, have it change their life, and fifty years later, lead a revolution. It could be vital to history as we will know it!

Always look on the bright side of life.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 naughty boys out of 5, particularly if you want a picture or two.

7/22/2008 10:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE WORST OF THE WORST. My post on learned helplessness took more than a day to get any links at all, despite my attempts to get some via email.

But it's slowly gotten more and more links and hits; it seems to be on the Long Tail, so to speak. Despite that, I don't want this additional Jane Mayer quote to be lost as an addendum (feel free to check out the many addenda I did add, though, please):
[...] Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as “the worst of the worst.” A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. Ms. Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.

“After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”
You knew that, if you'd been paying attention, but most people hadn't.

Most people won't.

Most people wait until they come for someone they know.

Yes, it's depressing to read about. Yes, you want some light reading during your work day.

It won't be less depressing when they come for someone you know.

Someday, later, rather than sooner, if there is any justice, there will be war crimes trials.

And some day, later, rather than sooner, historians will write of the war crimes, and will ask: why did Americans stand by? Why, like ordinary Germans in the Nazi era, did they look away? Why did they not see what was in front of their faces, what was widely reported in magazines and books and blogs, about terrible crimes committed in their names?

Why were they "good Americans" who were indifferent to torture, to illegal detention, to kidnappings, to the dismantling of centuries-old rights?

And someday you may be asked by your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren: what did you do when your moral right to claim to be a good person was put to the test?

Try to be able to look them in the eye.

Do what you can for them, and for yourself, and for your own family, if not your own honor, if you can't bring yourself to do it for the funny foreigners with the funny names who might, after all, be terrorists.

Do what you can because how will, ultimately, you live with yourself otherwise, when the time finally comes to look back, and answer "what did you do when times became evil"?

Don't look away.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for all but the first link.

7/22/2008 08:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, July 21, 2008
I JUST WANTED A CUP OF COFFEE. I find this and this both amusing, and an interesting comment on the intersection of the online and offline world today. My own take: there's never been a separation, save in some confused people's minds.

Washington Post (not, per se)'s take here. The wise and worthy Timothy Burke's take here.

My take: I like good coffee, and I'm enjoying finally grinding beans for the first time in my life.

And people should probably try more of this.

Perhaps fewer threats to punch people in their dick that way. Even with added caffeine.

I recommend this.

For another glancing touch on Chinese culture: Kung Fu Panda as seen from China.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. No more coffee for me tonight.

7/21/2008 04:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A VERY SERIOUS SITUATION. I am very concerned about the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan Border.
I am very grateful to mavericky maverick John McCain for bringing this very serious situation to my attention.

Also, I'm glad to learn that Barack Obama doesn't intend to attack the Pakistani Taliban, but intends to attack Pakistan. Remember: genuine mavericks have mavericky insights of great maverickness.

View The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 3:01 p.m.: Man, Obama is one powerful Senator. He's responsible for high gas prices!

Obama is like Chuck Norris. Wait until his awesome powers are augmented by the Presidency!

Bonus McCain gaffe links: Top Ten McCain Gaffes of just last week. A greatest hit.

66 McCain Flip-Flops on the wall, 66 McCain flip-flops... if one of the flips should happen to flop, well, can we get up to one hundred?

Yes, we can.

ADDENDUM, 3:16 p.m.: Welcome, as always, Pharyngula readers. As always, feel free to see if you might enjoy other posts. And bookmarking and blogrolling of this 'umble site, which has few regular readers of its own these days, is always highly welcome, and in fact I'll strongly consider performing sexual services for you in ord--

[strange noises]

We're sorry. The previous writer has been sacked. Management apologizes for the inappropriate comment. We now resume our normal blogging. In Swedish.

Donations, btw, still really helpful if I'm ever going to move out of this single cramped attic room and into a place of my own again.

7/21/2008 11:01:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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Sunday, July 20, 2008
39 YEARS AGO. Happy Anniversary.

Let's go back, now, please. Because.

Meanwhile, Google Moon. What it was like. Let's do this.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 slices of cheese out of 5.

CORRECTION, July 21st, 6:09 a.m.: Heading corrected from dopey "29 years ago." Numbers are my bane.

ADDENDUM, July 21st, 3:26 p.m.: NASA needs your urine. I say piss on them.

7/20/2008 07:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Saturday, July 19, 2008
ATTENTION K-MART SHOPPERS! YOUR LIFE, MARKED DOWN. Think your life ain't worth shinola? You're wrong!
[...] Last week, it was revealed that an Environmental Protection Agency office had lowered its official estimate of life's value, from about $8.04 million to about $7.22 million. That decision has put a spotlight on the concept of the "Value of a Statistical Life," in which the Washington bureaucracy takes on a question usually left to preachers and poets.

This value is routinely calculated by several agencies, each putting its own dollar figure on the worth of life -- not any particular person's life, just that of a generic American. The figure is then used to judge whether potentially lifesaving policy measures are really worth the cost.

A human life, based on an economic analysis grounded in observations of everyday Americans, typically turns out to be worth $5 million to $8 million -- about as much as a mega-mansion or a middle infielder.

Now, for the first time, the EPA has used this little-known process to devalue life, something that environmentalists say could set a scary precedent, making it seem that lifesaving pollution reductions are not worth the cost.

"By reducing the value of human life, which is really a devious way of cooking the books, the perceived benefits of cleaning up the air seem less," said Frank O'Donnell of the District-based group Clean Air Watch. "That has the effect of weakening the case for pollution cleanup."
But I'm sure there was no ulterior motive. It just so happens that after nearly eight years of the Bush Administration, your life is worth less: this is a surprise?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Graphic.

7/19/2008 11:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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YOU'RE SO GAY. Good news on the public acceptance front:
[...] Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

Changing attitudes on the issue parallel broader swings in public views about homosexuality. In their recent review of 20 years of polling data, the Pew Research Center reported "a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays." In the 2007 Pew data, for example, 28 percent said local school boards should have the right to fire teachers known to be gay; that was down sharply from the 51 percent who said so in 1987.


Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation. Three-quarters of both married and single people support the idea, both significantly higher than in 1993.

Across all three periodic Post-ABC surveys on the issue, women have been more apt than men to support gays in the military. Today, more than eight in 10 women support allowing openly gay soldiers, compared with nearly two-thirds of men. Fifteen years ago, half of women supported this stance; nearly two-thirds of men opposed it.

Furthermore, large majorities across age and education categories now support allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.
Soon, the Master Plan will be complete, and an all-gay military will be mandatory!

(Back in reality):
DM: Gay characters in books don't raise eyebrows nowadays, but you wrote such characters in the seventies. Why?

JH: Well, it's an interesting thing. I was at Iowa. Iowa City is a very progressive sort of place. It was the center for gay consciousness in the Midwest. I had gay friends and students, and it was important at the time. I suppose it was a little bit daring at time; it was very daring in science fiction. So I had gay characters in The Forever War (1975). That was for a specific purpose. It wasn't about homosexuality. It was about being isolated. I had my character being the only straight in a universe of gays just to show what's "queer" is being different from everybody; there's not a universal set of things that makes one person queer and one person not queer.

And you can be surrounded by people, and feel so isolated and lonely you want to kill yourself to relieve the pain.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 and 3 out of 5. Poll data.

7/19/2008 11:38:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, July 18, 2008
THE DODDSTER. Interesting report from Marc Ambinder on who the Obama campaign is vetting, so far, for Veep nominee:
A simple exercise, based on public statements and some reporting.


Sen. Chris Dodd

Almost certainly being vetted (based on my and other's reporting)

Gov. Tim Kaine
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
Sen. Evan Bayh


Sen. Chuck Hagel
Sen. Hillary Clinton
Sen. Claire McCaskill
Ex-Sen. Sam Nunn
Ex-Sen. Tom Daschle
Ex-Sen. John Edwards

Not being vetted

Sen. Jack Reed
Sen. Joe Biden (yet)
Ex-Rep. Dick Gephardt
Sen. Jim Webb
Ex-Gen. Colin Powell
Powell would be a clincher, if only it wouldn't scare so many pale people. I continue to view Sebelius with great favor; I continue to view Bah, er, Bayh, with great disfavor -- he isn't your father's Bayh.

Daschle would look too much like Obama's Cheney. I could live with Biden, but he's not the best fit with the "change" meme. Still, he'd be a helluva change from Bush/Cheney.

I love me some Doddster.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

7/18/2008 09:28:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, July 17, 2008
NO, YOU'RE THE GODDAMN BATMAN. You could be if you just wanted to enough. You knew that.

A skyintific look at the Dark Knight! E. Paul Zehr wrote a book on it! Neuroscience and kinesiology gone bad!
[...] How many of us do you think could become a Batman?
If you found the percentage of billionaires and multiply that by the percentage of people who become Olympic decathletes, you could probably get a close estimate.
Only one more day.

Some early reviews.

I'm just sad that this key character may not appear.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Some previous posts on the Batman here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Why? He's the goddamn Batman.

But I have this coming from Netflix shortly. Check it out:
Post that may or may not be coming: why you should see Wall-E: cuz it's great!

They still could so totally do Superman vs. Batman, you know.

Digressing to another millionaire unpowered hero, huh, it's Iron Boy.

ADDENDUM, 9:17 p.m.: Watchmen trailer! Yay!

ADDENDUM, 10:44 p.m.: Ten Batman gadgets you can (almost) get today. And, for what it's worth, the trailer for The Spirit, and it must be said that this Spirit very clearly seems to be vastly more "Frank Miller's The Spirit" than it seems to be "Will Eisner's The Spirit," as it's billed.)

Kevin Smith comments on Dark Knight:
Without giving anything away, this is an epic film (and trust me: based on the sheer size and scope of the visuals and storytelling, that's not an overstatement). It's the "Godfather II" of comic book films and three times more earnest than "Batman Begins" (and fuck, was that an earnest film). Easily the most adult comic book film ever made. Heath Ledger didn't so much give a performance as he disappeared completely into the role; I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but he'll likely get at least an Oscar nod (if not the win) for Best Supporting Actor. Fucking flick's nearly three hours long and only leaves you wanting more (in a great way). I can't imagine anyone being disappointed by it. Nolan and crew have created something close to a masterpiece.
It's actually listed as having a run time of 152 min.

Also, on WALL-E:
If you haven't already peeped it, get thee to a theater. It's the ballsiest animated film ever made (right up there with "Persepolis", in terms of untraditional cartoons), yet it'll melt your heart. Seriously - Wall-E's so adorable, he makes E.T. look like Josef Mengele. Alright, maybe not Mengele, but at least Rudolf Hess. Y'know what? Let's drop the Nazi comparisons altogether and just leave it at this: Wall-E (the character) is adorable and "Wall-E" (the film) is a must-see.
Also: perfectly decent, if, of course, unoriginal, sf. But it made me cry; not that that's any great trick, to be sure.

Lastly, Smith remembers George Carlin.

ADDENDUM, July 18, 4:51 a.m.: Hulk vs. Wolverine trailer. Latest Dark Knight trailer. A Caprican diner. Manohla Dargis DK review.
[...] Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind — including “Batman Begins,” Mr. Nolan’s 2005 pleasurably moody resurrection of the series — largely by embracing an ambivalence that at first glance might be mistaken for pessimism. But no work filled with such thrilling moments of pure cinema can be rightly branded pessimistic, even a postheroic superhero movie like “The Dark Knight.”
Four stars from Roger.
[...] The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come to care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. This film, and to a lesser degree “Iron Man,” redefine the possibilities of the “comic-book movie.”


Something fundamental seems to be happening in the upper realms of the comic-book movie. “Spider-Man II” (2004) may have defined the high point of the traditional film based on comic-book heroes. A movie like the new “Hellboy II” allows its director free rein for his fantastical visions. But now “Iron Man” and even more so “The Dark Knight” move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories touch on deep fears, traumas, fantasies and hopes. And the Batman legend, with its origins in film noir, is the most fruitful one for exploration.
Lenny Bailes in comments below points out a lot of clips from Hush.

ADDENDUM, 7/18, 12:25 p.m.: Watchmen trailer also now up here. Go watch it! Go read it!

ADDENDUM, 7/18, 11:33 p.m.: Saw DK. Loved it.

ADDENDUM, 7/22, 4:27 p.m.: Senator Patrick Leahy is Batman!...'s biggest political fan.

ADDENDUM, July 23rd, 12:48 p.m.: One of the better interviews with Nolan and Bale.


7/17/2008 10:15:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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HITTING THE TARGET. Department of How It Works: we point you to Tom Tomorrow, who speaks for me on the vital topic of The New Yorker.

Bonus Dan Perkins link on the Obama Phenonomenon also known -- most originally! -- as Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. I'm goddamn bona fide.

ADDENDUM, July 18th, 12:43 p.m.: Try also Jon Stewart:
After a couple of months of glancing exposure to cable tv news, more or less for the first time in over fifteen years, I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that it melts the brains of those who regularly watch it, and has highly dangerous advanced moron-creating capabilities. Life is too short to listen to such exploitative, IQ-lowering, clowns, people.

Just say no. Don't let your brains be eaten; they're the only brains you have.

Aside from your Amygdala.

7/17/2008 08:51:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
LEARNED HELPLESSNESS. Scott Horton interviews Jane Mayer:
[...] It was completely fascinating to me to learn that Martin Seligman, one of the most esteemed psychologists in the country, a former head of the APA, was connected to the CIA after 9/11. Seligman is known for work he did back in the 1960’s at the University of Pennsylvania in a theory he called “Learned Helplessness.” He and colleagues conducted experiments on caged dogs, in which they used electric charges to shock them randomly. He discovered that the random mistreatment destroyed the dogs emotionally to the point where they no longer had the will to escape, even when offered a way out. Seligman confirmed for me, by email, that in the spring of 2002, as the CIA was trying to figure out how to interrogate its first major high-value detainee, Abu Zubayda, he was brought in to speak about his theories to a high-level confab apparently organized by CIA officials, at the Navy’s SERE School in San Diego. He said his talk lasted some three hours. Seligman said his talk was focused on how to help U.S. soldiers resist torture—not on how to breakdown resistance in detainees.

But, according to numerous sources (who are quoted on the record in The Dark Side), Seligman’s theories were cited admiringly soon after by James Mitchell, the psychologist whom the CIA put on contract to advise on its secret interrogation protocol. Eyewitnesses describe Mitchell as quoting Seligman’s theories of “Learned Helplessness” as useful in showing how to break the resistance of detainees’ to interrogation. One source recounts Mitchell specifically touting the experiments done on dogs in the context of how to treat detainees.

Through a lawyer, Mitchell has denied that these theories guided his and the CIA’s use of such coercive measures as close confinement, psychological manipulation, and calibrated pain. But Mitchell confirmed, when I spoke to him, that he admired Seligman’s work.

Among the U.S. Government’s interrogation techniques that seem to echo these experiments are the uses of random maltreatment—taking away any predictable schedule from detainees so that they have no idea what time it is, no sense of when meals are delivered, no idea if it is day or night, as well as manipulating temperature, sound, sleep, and using isolation, all of which are meant to cause psychic stress that would erode a prisoner’s resistance to being interrogated and foster total dependency upon an interrogator. Perhaps just coincidentally, the detainees have described other ways in which they were treated like dogs—the use of dog cages and of a collar and leash.
Learned helplessness: it's the treatment that has been administered to this country, and its citizens.

We've been subjected to sufficient random mistreatment that we've been destroyed emotionally to the point where we, as a people, no longer have the will to resist.

Learned helplessness.

Our Department of "Justice" has run rampant with crimes:
[...] [Jessica Radack]'s job in the department was to give ethical advice. She was asked whether an FBI officer in Afghanistan could interrogate John Walker Lindh and use his statements against him in any future trial. By the time she was asked this, however, as she knew, Lindh’s father had already hired a lawyer to represent him. So she concluded that it would not be proper for the FBI to question him outside the presence of his counsel.

To her amazement, the FBI agent went ahead and did so anyway, and then the prosecutors in the Justice Department proceeded to use Lindh’s statements against him in their criminal prosecution. She told me, “It was like ethics were out the window. After 9/11, it was, like, ‘anything goes’ in the name of terrorism. It felt like they’d made up their minds to get him, regardless of the process.” Radack believed that the role of the ethics office was to “rein in the cowboys” whose zeal to stop criminals sometimes led them to overstep legal boundaries. “But after 9/11 we were bending ethics to fit our needs,” she said. “Something wrong was going on. It wasn’t just fishy—it stank.”

What happened next was truly scary. She tried to ensure that a judge overseeing the case, who asked for all information regarding the Department’s handling of Lindh, was given the full record, including her own contrary advice. But instead, she said she found that her superiors at Justice sent the judge only selective portions of the record, excluding her contrary opinion. Her case files, she said, were tampered with, and documents missing. Among the senior Justice Department officials who were sent her files, she said was Alice Fisher, a deputy to Michael Chertoff who followed him as head of the Department’s Criminal Division.

Radack complained about what she thought were serious omissions of the record being withheld from the judge. Within weeks of disagreeing with the top Justice Department officials, Radack went from having been singled out for praise, to being hounded out of the department. Radack got a job in private practice, but after her story appeared in Newsweek, with copies of some of her emails, the Justice Department opened a leak investigation. The U.S. Attorney then opened a criminal investigation. Radack has since become an advocate for whistle-blowers’ rights. But the episode served as a warning to anyone in the government who stood in the way of the so-called, “New Paradigm.”
Learned helplessness.

[...] One of the strongest quotes in the book, I think, comes from Philip Zelikow, the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, former counselor to Secretary of State Condi Rice, and a historian who teaches at the University of Virginia. He suggests in time that America’s descent into torture will be viewed like the internment of the Japanese, because they happened for similar reasons. As he puts it, “Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools.”
Learned helplessness.
[...] Helgerson’s 2004 report had been described to me as very disturbing, the size of two Manhattan phone books, and full of terrible descriptions of mistreatment. The confirmation that Helgerson was called in to talk with Cheney about it proves that–as early as then–the Vice President’s office was fully aware that there were allegations of serious wrongdoing in The Program.

We know that in addition, the IG investigated several alleged homicides involving CIA detainees, and that Helgerson’s office forwarded several to the Justice Department for further consideration and potential prosecution. The only case so far that has been prosecuted in the criminal courts is that involving David Passaro—a low-level CIA contractor, not a full official in the Agency. Why have there been no charges filed?
Learned helplessness.

Get used to it.

It's your country. It's your choice. It's your former rights that have been disappearing, while you stood by, good Germans, wrapped up in your own lives, leaving it to others to prevent crimes, to pay attention, to work to prevent torture, spying, law-breaking, war crimes, and the criminally unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

What have you done to stop it?

Learned helplessness. It's a choice. It's a lifestyle.

It's the New Paradigm for America.

Land of the freely chosen learned helplessness.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side. (Click there to purchase, and I get a tiny amount.) My previous posts on the documentary. PBS website with much invaluable material.

Past posts covering Jane Mayer articles are here, here, here. More Mayer. Much More Mayer.

Past post on David Passaro.

Video discussion with Mayer.

End our learned helplessness. It's up to me and you.

Just say no. Impeach. Impeachment after office. After office:
[...] It is possible to impeach someone even after the accused has vacated their office in order to disqualify the person from future office or from certain emoluments of their prior office (such as a pension).
Impeachment means investigation, and unearthing of truth. History.

End our learned helplessness.

ADDENDUM, July 16th, 12:04 p.m.: welcome, Matthew Yglesias readers! Feel free to look around the place and at other recent posts! And feel free to help out Blue Girl and Brian Beutler. Thanks for your consideration!

And do come back again. Consider bookmarking and blogrolling, he pimped himself. Nobody reads me on my own these days! It's so tragic! [author breaks down sobbing and is hauled away]

ADDENDUM, July 16th, 12:57 p.m.: Welcome, also, Sideshow readers. Why, I first met Avedon in 1974, at Discon II. Thirty-four years: that's not too many.

ADDENDUM, July 17th, 12:34 a.m.: Links also from Steam Powered Opinions and Homeless on the High Desert.

ADDENDUM, July 18th, 3:44 p.m.: Fact-esque. Dialog International.

ADDENDUM, July 20th, 12:10 a.m.: Fabius Maximus.

ADDENDUM, July 20th, 7:39 p.m.: Gerry Canavan (boy this guy shares a bunch of tastes/views with me!; lots of good Batman/comics links, too); Long Story Short Pier in a long post delving into comics, bleakness, responsibility, small steps, Joss Whedon, and, yes, political change; excellent post -- go read it! (ADDENDUM, July 22nd, 12:04 p.m: after much reading of Kip Manley's blogs, I have decided I wish to have his babies.)

ADDENDUM, July 22nd, 7:14 a.m.: D-Day.

ADDENDUM, July 22nd, 11:53 a.m.: The Worst Of The Worst.
[...] “After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”
That's who you're so afraid of. Why are you so afraid?

ADDENDUM, August 19th, 2008, 7:58 a.m.: This post is currently #9 on Google for "learned helplessness." :-)

ADDENDUM, August 12, 2009: A follow-up on the psychologists involved in developing the torture program, including Dr. Seligman.

7/15/2008 09:16:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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Saturday, July 12, 2008
A GOOD KIND OF EXTINCTION. Your Amygdala so could use this.
The study of anxiety is fast merging with the science of memory. No longer focused just on symptoms like social isolation and depressed mood, scientists are turning to the disorder’s neural roots, to how the brain records and consolidates in memory the frightening events that set off long-term anxiety. And they are finding that it may be possible to blunt the emotional impact of even the worst memories and fears.

[...] characterized by intrusive thoughts, sleep loss and hyper-alertness following a horrifying experience.
Living in great poverty for many years adds up to a lot of horrifying, and repeatedly terrifying, experiences, of eviction constantly being needed to be staved off the next week, the next day, of struggling to have money for food that week, and so on.

Here the highly estimable Bruce Baugh wrote (the topic being Social Security):
[...] Dread and worry suck. I don't wish them on anyone but my worst enemies. To me, saying that one wishes more people live with avoidable uncertainty is a hallmark of genuine cruelty, or at least of a total failure of a compassion that I regard as basic for civilization. I am proud to stand in support of a program that ably provides a foundation of, well, social security, and that can continue to do so with only very minor adjustments for decades to come. Would that everything in America worked so well.
I glancingly observed:
[...] "Dread and worry suck."

Especially decade after decade. They become reflexes, even when not appropriate, and can warp personalities. They're destructive in themselves.
Back here, we continue:
[...] P.T.S.D. is one of the most worrisome of the generally recognized anxiety disorders. There are four others: generalized anxiety disorder (G.A.D.), obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias and panic disorder. G.A.D. is the most common, but all are familiar complaints in doctors’ offices: more than 20 million Americans will suffer one of these during his or her lifetime.

Genetics and the environment play roles in the development of anxiety disorders, but the point where these influences intersect is clearly the brain. The biology of anxiety has been very difficult to untangle in part because it is so familiar, so integral to our survival.

Most people can and do cope with many causes of anxiety, including demanding jobs, rocky relationships, second mortgages and even combat. Every day uncounted millions are beset by the sudden, heart-pounding dizziness of panic. It is normal, even necessary, to feel fear and stress. The brain’s anticipation of threats is an invaluable survival tool. The question for scientists is: Why can’t some people turn down the voltage?

When mammals sense threat, at least two important brain circuits swing into action. One pathway runs through the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the layer of the brain that regulates consciousness, thinking and decision-making functions.

The other circuit is more primal, running deep into the unconscious brain and through the amygdala, a pair of lozenge-sized nubs of neural tissue (one on each side of the brain) specialized to register threats. This unconscious circuit is “quick and dirty,” a primal survival instinct that increases blood pressure, heart rate and alertness well before the thinking cortex is fully aware of what is happening.

The difference between the two may be crucial to understanding how an irrational fear forms. The amygdala records sights and sounds associated with a harrowing memory, and it is capable of sending the body into high alert before a person consciously processes the stimuli.

Most drugs currently prescribed for anxiety, like benzodiazepines and antidepressants, work to ease the symptoms of anxiety and have little effect on the underlying trigger. But scientists are now taking tentative first steps toward altering the brain’s age-old dynamic.

Researchers have been experimenting with a heart disease drug called propranolol, for instance, which interferes with the action of stress hormones like epinephrine. Stress hormones are central to the human response to threat; they prime the body to fight or run, and appear to deepen the neural roots of a terrifying memory in the brain. When the memory returns, these hormones flood again into the bloodstream.

But in one series of studies, people with P.T.S.D. who took propranolol reacted more calmly — on measures of heart rate and sweat gland activity — upon revisiting a painful memory than did similar subjects who took a dummy pill. By blocking receptors on brain cells that are sensitive to stress hormones, experts theorize, the drug may have taken the sting out of the frightening recollections.

Propranolol has not been proved to reliably ease the effects of trauma, but the investigation of such drugs is only beginning. Another candidate, an antibiotic called D-cycloserine, may help severely anxious patients alter the way they think about and react to current everyday concerns.

In one experiment, 28 people who were terrified of heights received so-called exposure therapy, including computer simulated rides in a glass elevator. The therapy helped all the subjects cope with their anxieties. But the participants who also took D-cycloserine learned to override their fears far more quickly than those who did not.

The drug may speed up a process that researchers call fear extinction, the unlearning of frightening associations. In theory, a successful fear-extinguisher might even complement analytic talk therapy in which patient and therapist work to understand how symptoms might be linked to loss, poisoned relationships or childhood traumas. The anxieties that flow from these events flourish deep in the brain, but now there is evidence that they can be rooted out — a chance for balm in an increasingly harrowing world.
I'd love to find a trial study of these meds, as I've suffered intense anxiety and panic attacks, along with the recurring severe clinical depression, all my life.

Balm would be good. Even a little bit.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for the rest of Bruce. Also, a bit more here and here.

Oh, yeah, your Amygdala is awake because, as usual without sleep meds -- and we're waiting for a voter ID card, so as to get a State ID, so as to be able to get into a local clinic, and it's been several months now of waiting -- there is little sleep.

7/12/2008 03:08:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, July 11, 2008
NOT THE BEST BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin has had endlessly better moments than this:
Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. told SCI FI Wire that fantastic space science fiction shows and movies are, in part, responsible for the lack of interest in real-life space exploration among young people.

"I blame the fantastic and unbelievable shows about space flight and rocket ships that are on today," Aldrin said in an interview during an ice cream party held by the National Geographic Channel at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., this week. "All the shows where they beam people around and things like that have made young people think that that is what the space program should be doing. It's not realistic."

The second man on the moon praised real-world films such as Apollo 13. "And Tom Hanks' series From the Earth to the Moon," Aldrin added. "They were fascinating, because it was reality history, and reality fiction can be good if you stick to reality. But, if you start dealing with fantasy and beaming people up and down and traveling seven times the speed of light, you are doing damage. You're not helping. You have young people who have got expectations that are far unrealistic, and you can't possibly live up to the expectations you have created in young people. Why do they get bored with the space program? That's why."
This is just too dumb to even bother to refute, given the endless number of scientists and pieces of real science, and endless imaginations, inspired and stirred by science fiction.

But Buzz is still one of my heros. Even a hero can have an off day, or subject. In that light, we also mention:
Aldrin is hosting a show on the National Geographic Channel called Unseen Moon, which uses a high-definition camera on a satellite to explore the same area where he walked during the Apollo 11 flight to the moon in 1969.
Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

And From The Earth To The Moon is an awesome series, that made me cry several times, and everyone should see it!

Would have been improved with more beaming, though.

Back on that nasty fantasy stuff, and speaking of heroes, a new Heroes web show: announced that Going Postal, a Web series tied to its hit SF show Heroes, will go live on July 14 at 3 p.m. ET.

In Going Postal, users will get an early glimpse of a new character with special powers and watch his destiny begin to unfold. The fast-paced, twist-filled series of short "webisodes" sets fans on a path that leads to the third-season premiere of Heroes on NBC this fall.

The first webisode, "A Nifty Trick," centers on Echo DeMille, an everyday mailman, who discovers a startling ability that quickly makes him a target.

In the second webisode, "The Houseguest," posting on July 21, Echo races home to protect his girlfriend Gina and finds deadly uses for his new ability.

In the third webisode of this installment, "Let's Talk," which posts on July 28, Echo sends Gina off to safety while he confronts his enemies, but the tables turn with an unexpected twist.
And for extra thrills: "integrated" commercials, oh, joy. Or: how to drive me postal.

And a touch more on the likely-unneeded remake of The Prisoner:
[...] Collier wouldn't reveal much more about how the show is being updated, but he offered one big spoiler: The giant white ball, Rover, will be part of the new show.

Rover was a big part of the TV series; it will be part of it. We can't talk about it extensively now--it will get me in trouble," Collier said.

The Prisoner, AMC's second original miniseries, combines espionage, thriller and science fiction and will star Jim Caviezel as Number Six, a part originated by Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan served as the creator, producer, writer and director of the 1960s series. Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen will play Number Two, Six's boss and the man who apparently controls the mysterious Village in which he is trapped.

"We got Jesus and Gandalf!" Collier said. "What better cast could we get for those two characters than Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel? It will be a limited series, that's how we could get those guys. But it is extensive; it is six hours."
I remain dubious -- I've yet to see the remake of The Andromeda Strain, but it sounds fairly bad -- but this way perhaps I can be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be at all good, after all. If not, Collier should be sent to the Village.

Amygdala is not #1, but we try harder. Also, we're all with the noes on being a number, but yeses on being the free guys. And we're always all about wanting the information. Information! INFORMATION!

Karate chop! I'd settle for being #6!

ADDENDUM, 3:41 p.m.: And here's intriguing news:
Charlie Collier, general manager of the cable network AMC, told SCI FI Wire that he is actively looking to mine classic genre TV shows and SF movies for miniseries, movies and remakes that would appeal to viewers in their 40s or 50s, a la AMC's upcoming Prisoner miniseries.

"There's a wealth of old TV shows and sci-fi movies to look back at and see if we can take them and update them and reintroduce them to the public," Collier said in an interview after he introduced his cable TV channel's lineup at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on July 9.


"We are having a ton of fun looking into the acquisitions of past science fiction, both movies and television," Collier said.
There's very little real science fiction ever been done as either movies, or on tv, of course, but if they're making new stuff, that could possibly open some doors, particularly if they try, you know, adapting some actual science fiction text stories.

I have a little list, I have a little list.

7/11/2008 11:23:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AUTHENTICITY is our theme for this morning: what's "real," and when does it matter?

Folks have been talking for years about how Photoshop and similar tools have rendered photographs even less reliable a measure of authenticity than they ever were -- "the camera doesn't lie" was never true, pictures could always be faked, but it used to be much more difficult -- and now much of the world is atwitter over this image that Iran released of their past week's missile tests:

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a point that had not emerged before the photo was used on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and many other major news Web sites.

Agence France-Presse said that it obtained the image from the Web site of Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on Wednesday. But there was no sign of it there later in the day. Today, The Associated Press distributed what appeared to be a nearly identical photo from the same source, but without the fourth missile.

As the above illustration shows, the second missile from the right appears to be the sum of two other missiles in the image. The contours of the billowing smoke match perfectly near the ground, as well in the immediate wake of the missile. Only a small black dot in the reddish area of exhaust seems to differ from the missile to its left, though there are also some slight variations in the color of the smoke and the sky.


For its part, Agence France-Presse retracted its four-missile version this morning, saying that the image was “apparently digitally altered” by Iranian state media. The fourth missile “has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test,” the agency said. Later, it published an article quoting several experts backing that argument.
From the linked piece:
[...] After being shown the photograph by AFP, Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said: "It very much does appear that Iran doctored the photo to cover up what apparently was a misfiring of one of the missiles.

"The whole purpose of this testing was to send a signal so Iran both exaggerated the capabilities of the missile in their prose and apparently doctored the photos as well."


But Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official, said: "In terms of capability, they claimed the Shahab-3 could travel 2,000 kilometres carrying a one-tonne warhead. This is very unlikely.

"The Shahab-3 normally has a range of 1,300 kilometres and the range can be extended to 2,000 kilometres but it would require a much lighter warhead.

"This is typical of Iran to exaggerate the accomplishments of the missiles and its nuclear programme."
Ah, public diplomacy and deceit: who could imagine not being able to trust an official governmental claim!?

Thank goodness we at your Amygdala live in a country that would never deceive you about anything serious, year after year after year, something as serious as a cause of war.

No, that could never happen. Other governments will lie, but not ours! Always trust your government! Believe what you are told! You'll never go wrong that way!

Unlike those who believe the foolish Iranians!

Elsewhere on the authenticity beat, well, grant me the serenity to learn that:
Generations of recovering alcoholics, soldiers, weary parents, exploited workers and just about anybody feeling beaten down by life have found solace in a short prayer that begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

For more than 70 years, the composer of the prayer was thought to be the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, one of modern Christianity’s towering figures. Niebuhr, who died in 1971, said he was quite sure he had written it, and his wife, Ursula, also a prominent theologian, dated its composition to the early 1940s.

His daughter Elisabeth Sifton, a book editor and publisher, wrote a book about the prayer in 2003 in which she described her father first using it in 1943 in an “ordinary Sunday service” at a church in the bucolic Massachusetts town of Heath, where the Niebuhr family spent summers.

Now, a law librarian at Yale, using new databases of archival documents, has found newspaper clippings and a book from as far back as 1936 that quote close versions of the prayer. The quotations are from civic leaders all over the United States — a Y.W.C.A. leader in Syracuse, a public school counselor in Oklahoma City — and are always, interestingly, by women.

Some refer to the prayer as if it were a proverb, while others appear to claim it as their own poetry. None attribute the prayer to a particular source. And they never mention Reinhold Niebuhr.


Mr. Shapiro, who edited “The Yale Book of Quotations,” said in an interview, “Reinhold Niebuhr was a very honest person who was very forthright and modest about his role in the Serenity Prayer. My interpretation would be that he probably unconsciously adapted it from something that he had heard or read.”
I think that's plausibly right, and, of course, the question matters not at all one way or another, save to those who care extremely deeply as to whether Niebuhr deserves full credit for reshaping the words into precisely those that we know, or less credit, and really, unless you're related to Niebuhr, or did your thesis on him, what's it matter much to anyone else?

Words, in particular, are malleable, and in questions of plagiarism, where credit is deserved, due, and not given, it becomes a matter of ethics to claim something as yours something not substantively your own: deliberate dishonesty should never be tolerated or we'll only get more of it, sez me, and damn, but I hate dishonesty over something serious, something that matters -- but whether you've precisely invented the exact wording of something, or merely unconsciously paraphrased something long in folklore: not such a big deal, so long as you're not trademarking it, writing a scholarly work, or getting royalties.

I have the serenity to accept that.

And the serenity to not care if there's an intelligence to the universe, or not.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5. It's the governmental lies that lead to millions of deaths that make me a tad grumpy. And I'll rage, rage, before I go gentle into that good night, before I stop fighting against that, even if it means I don't have the wisdom to know how little I can do to change it, or not.

Your Amygdala's motto for the day: Stand back! I'm armed with a blog!

And we live one day at a time.

ADDENDUM, 7:19 a.m.: Elsewhere on the authenticity beat, Photoshop of Horrors!: When Fox News Attacks! Vanity Fair does unto others. It couldn't happen to nicer lying creeps. (Background.)

ADDENDUM, 11:37 a.m.: Welcome, Pharnygula readers. As always, please feel free to look around the joint, to check out the other posts since last time you came by. Archives can be found on the lower left sidebar, way way down. Also, Brian Beutler and Blue Girl can use your help.

The bar is in the rear. Y'all come back now, heah?

ADDENDUM, July 12th, 10:26 p.m.: Belated welcome, also, to any remaining Crooks and Liars readers!

ADDENDUM, July 13th, 11:38 p.m.: Check out this great new photoshopping of the Iranian missiles, When Kittens Attack, or LOLMissile. Via Hilzoy. There are several other nice ones at the Are We Lumberjacks? post, as well.

ADDENDUM, July 17th, 11:57 a.m.: Tom the Dancing Bug comments with visuals.

7/11/2008 03:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 6 comments

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008
HELP IS ON THE WAY. Want to be patriotic after the Fourth of July?

Support the troops:
[...] Toward the end of his remarks, Obama vowed to protect military families "who are being stretched thin because of repeated moves and long deployments."

Families, he said, who "are being preyed upon by predatory lenders. If you're protecting America, America should be protecting you from unfair bankruptcy laws."

He said he would create a "fast-track bankruptcy practice" for military families, which would ease restrictions against declaring bankruptcy, eliminate "unnecessary" paperwork and "let them keep a greater share of the value of their home."

Obama said he would work to help seniors keep their homes when emerging from bankruptcy. Their homes, he said, "are the cornerstones of a secure retirement," and also promised a larger homestead exemption for seniors.


"It's not so much tailored toward a particular electorate as it is my sincere assessment of what's happened in our economy," he said.

Plus, he added, the mortgage and credit crisis facing the country has seen that "pain trickles up," hurting companies and individuals to reaped the rewards of a questionable decade of banking.

"Our economy has gotten out of balance," he said. "The American people don't resent wealth, they want to be rich. America has historically rewarded innovation and accomplishment and free enterprise, and I want to ensure we continue to do that."

But Obama's critics have painted him as not just wanting to raise taxes on upper-income earners but on those lower-income individuals he claims to want to help.

Obama addressed that criticism head on during Tuesday's town hall. Specifically, he acknowledged the GOP claims that his own tax proposal would raise rates on those who make as little as $32,000 a year.

Not true, Obama said.

"If you are a family making $250,000 or less, we will not raise your taxes," he said. "Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax. Not any tax. We will cut your taxes. So I'm happy to have a debate about taxes with John McCain."
Let's dance.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 bankruptcies out of 5.

Incidentally, have you gotten this scary email?
There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American’s PATRIOTIC DUTY to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times, even in the shower. One time he DROPPED THE PIN down the drain, and he PATRIOTICALLY disassembled his entire plumbing to retrieve it.

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag, and he has an American flag in EVERY ROOM in his house. Some days it takes him OVER 45 MINUTES to get out of his house. He also ends every sentence by saying, “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.” On the INTERNET there is video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It’s upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups. He does FIFTY SITUPS every morning, which is the same number as OUR FOUNDING FATHERS did to commemorate our FIFTY STATES.

Barack Obama take his daughters HUNTING every weekend — HUNTING LIBERALS, that is. Liberals are ALWAYS IN SEASON.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic, which is the language JESUS SPOKE before he learned English. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.


And there's more! Spwead the twuth!!!!!

And why don't you know who is behind Obama?!?

ADDENDUM, July 11, 8:20 a.m.: I need to find more time to blog about the awful turn Obama took with FISA, but let me quickly say that I completely agree with Hilzoy and with these folks. Read some good coverage here.

7/09/2008 12:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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