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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!)
The Mahablog
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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.

Thursday, July 31, 2003
Statistical machine translation - in which computers essentially learn new languages on their own instead of being "taught" the languages by bilingual human programmers - has taken off. The new technology allows scientists to develop machine translation systems for a wide number of obscure languages at a pace that experts once thought impossible.

Dr. Knight and others said the progress and accuracy of statistical machine translation had recently surpassed that of the traditional machine translation programs used by Web sites like Yahoo and BabelFish. In the past, such programs were able to compile extensive databanks of foreign languages that allowed them to outperform statistics-based systems.

Traditional machine translation relies on painstaking efforts by bilingual programmers to enter the vast wealth of information on vocabulary and syntax that the computer needs to translate one language into another. But in the early 1990's, a team of researchers at I.B.M. devised another way to do things: feeding a computer an English text and its translation in a different language. The computer then uses statistical analysis to "learn" the second language.


Today researchers are racing to improve the quality and accuracy of the translations. The final translations generally give an average reader a solid understanding of the original meaning but are far from grammatically correct. While not perfect, statistics-based technology is also allowing scientists to crack scores of languages in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, that traditional methods involved.

A team of computer scientists at Johns Hopkins led by David Yarowsky is developing machine translations of such languages as Uzbek, Bengali, Nepali - and one from "Star Trek."

"If we can learn how to translate even Klingon into English, then most human languages are easy by comparison," he said. "All our techniques require is having texts in two languages. For example, the Klingon Language Institute translated 'Hamlet' and the Bible into Klingon, and our programs can automatically learn a basic Klingon-English MT system from that.''

Dr. Yarowsky said he hoped to have working translation systems for as many as 100 languages within five years.

I do believe they've invented the Universal Translator, ladies and germs.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003
REGARDING THE NEXT WEEK OR SO: Although there are some exceedingly uneasy-making uncertainties involved at the moment, I expect to be moving my residence (across Boulder) on Friday, August 1st. At present it seems far and away most likely that I won't have home internet access restored until at least another week and a half or so from then. So expect no blogging for that period, and be not thee alarmed.

I continue, incidentally, to not have access to my e-mail server, as has been the case for a bunch of weeks now, and at this point I don't expect to resolve that until I have time after I get internet access back. Awfully sorry about that.

Meanwhile, I hope all twelve of my readers have got some slight something or other out of my current spurt of blogging, done in-between packing, discarding, and arranging. Feel free to comment; it does make it feel a bit less like I'm just talking to six people.

7/29/2003 06:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION: Speaking of James Leander Cathcart, as I did below, I did a bit more reading on this fascinating man, and found the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between "Tripoli" and the United States of America.

As you know, Bob, treaties are the highest law of the land, according to the US Constitution. There have been arguments about this treaty, but it remains interesting.

"Article 11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries" (p. 365).
Regarding this:
"Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all others citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfil the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof" (p. 383).
(Some technical notes on the differing translations and arguments.) Timely, in more ways than one, innit?

7/29/2003 05:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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BOARD!: I'd never read any detail of the story of the Philadelphia and Stephen Decatur, Jr. before.
It was February 16, 1804.

By 9:30 P.M. the ketch had reached a strangely stunted vessel, lacking a foremast or sails, anchored directly beneath the castle's guns. This was the U.S. frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured the previous fall when it had run aground outside the harbor. Most of its crew now languished in Tripolitan prisons, working as slaves breaking rocks while surviving on black bread. The Philadelphia had been part of a flotilla dispatched from America to the distant waters of the Mediterranean to wage war on Tripoli, whose warships preyed on American merchantmen. Losing the Philadelphia had been a cruel blow to America's hopes -- and a big boost to the pasha of Tripoli, whose puny fleet had gained a powerful punch by salvaging the U.S. frigate with its 36 cannons.

Read The Rest: for grand drama, and other interesting history, further down. (Note the fascinating tale of James Leander Cathcart.) (Here's more.)

Oh, incidentally, and interestingly:

Today Decatur is remembered, if at all, for coining the phrase, "My country, right or wrong." (What he actually said, in a toast, was: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!")
Which is certainly not remotely as jingoistic and criticizable as the former glossing. It really reverses the common meaning: it fully admits that "our country" may, and implicitly will, at times, be wrong, and says nothing about endorsement of such wrong behavior or judgment; it merely says that it remains one's country, which seems rather uncontroverisal, in the end.

(As example: "our country" was terribly, horribly, criminally, wrong, at My Lai; it's still "our country" that was wrong.) .

7/29/2003 04:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEX CAN BE SO average.

(Via The Sideshow.)

7/29/2003 03:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MOUTHS THAT ROAR: There have been many fine reviews and denunciations of Ann Coulter's latest, just as there were of Michael Moore's. But the eminently sane Anne Applebaum's is one of the best.
I should reveal here that I have spent a great deal of time -- perhaps the better part of the last 10 years -- writing about communism, Stalinism and the West's relationship to both. Yet about halfway through Treason, an extended rant on these subjects, I felt a strong urge to get up, throw the book across the room, and join up with whatever Leninist-Trotskyite-Marxist political parties still exist in America. Even the company of Maoist insurgents would be more intellectually invigorating than that of Ann Coulter. More to the point, whatever side this woman is on, I don't want to be on it.

It isn't very difficult to explain why this book is so bad....


But while some people go mad trying to absorb everything, others seem to go mad trying to eliminate any information that doesn't fit their predetermined stereotypes. And the looniest of all -- they wind up as bestselling authors.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

7/29/2003 01:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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It's so sad.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for empathy.

7/29/2003 12:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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One of the most recognizable voices in the country was silenced Tuesday. Jane Barbe, who recorded messages used by telephone companies across the country, died of complications from cancer at the age of 74.

Over the past 40 years, if you didn't get through to the party you wanted, you probably still got through to Barbe.

She was the "telephone lady" that delivered the message, "We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed."

A drama major at the University of Georgia, Barbe started recording the announcements in 1963.

Twenty years later, she was making even the most disjointed of messages sound smooth as silk.

Messages such as, "The number you have reached has been changed. The new number is …"

Although she largely masked her Georgia accent on her recordings, in person she was the model of Southern hospitality, taking her odd brand of anonymous fame in stride.

"I don't think anybody even knows who I am until somebody says I'm the lady on the phone," she said in a past interview. "Then the others say, 'Oh, really?'"

Barbe said she always did her best not to sound like a machine. Instead, she tried to address her telephone audience one caller at a time.

She said it could be overwhelming if she started to think she was talking to 22 million people a day.

That, of course, would have required a very split personality.

I suddenly have a whole sketch in mind in which one person in a dialogue responds in the tones and manner Ms. Barbe used. But it's entirely dependent upon delivery.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5. (Via A Small Victory.)

7/29/2003 11:20:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Getting a quickie divorce has taken on a whole new meaning in Malaysia after it was decided that a man can divorce his wife with a text message.

The government's adviser on religious affairs, the man who counsels Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said as long as the message was clear and unambiguous it was valid under Islamic Sharia law.

"SMS is just another form of writing," Dr Abdul Hamid Othman was quoted by the New Straits Times daily newspaper as saying.

The decision follows a Malaysian court's ruling on Thursday in favour of a man who served divorce on his wife via a text message.


Mr Shamsudin was said to have sent Ms Azida a text message saying: "If you do not leave your parents' house, you'll be divorced".

Although such a notification of divorce may seem astonishingly brief to some, under Islamic law men are allowed to divorce their wives simply be saying the word 'talaq' - I divorce you - three times.

After all, what I tell you three times is true. Besides, how hard should it be to get rid of a raisin? (Am I being too esoteric and inexplicably allusive?)

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

7/29/2003 10:40:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Doctors said Idi Amin, blamed for the murders of tens of thousands of Ugandans during his bloody dictatorship in the 1970s, was still alive in a Saudi hospital Tuesday.
There ain't no justice.

Can we hope that this is another story Reuters rewrote to be counter-factual?

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

7/29/2003 10:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A POPPY for remembrance.
Britain's oldest surviving first world war veteran, Jack Davis, formerly of the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, has died. He was 108.


Mr Davis, who escaped the battle of the Somme in 1916 because he contracted trench fever, was the oldest survivor of the war, said the World War One Veterans Association.

What seems long ago is never so long ago as you think.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

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Monday, July 28, 2003
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to keep its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo for another year.

It has also agreed to increase the number of troops, observers and political officers by 2,100, taking the total number to 10,800.

As I've pointed out before, the Congo consists of 2,345,410 sq km. As the Factbook puts it, it is "slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US."

I'm sure you'll see that this means that 10,800 troops will easily be able to pacify the land, utterly unlike the 8,700 previously authorized.

(Let's pay no attention to the fact that many of these are "observers and political officers.")

Completely different! 2,100 will make all the difference! Why, that makes only 2345.41 sq. kilometers per trooper, "observer and political officer." Piece of cake now!

The Security Council also gave peacekeepers a stronger mandate.

They had been allowed to defend themselves and UN facilities but now they will also be able to protect civilians and humanitarian workers who are under imminent threat of physical violence.

Ever see Barry Levinson's superb film, Avalon? There's a scene in which Armin Mueller-Stahl, as the immigrant grandfather, is utterly unable to understand the elementary school teacher's explanation that she is punishing Elijah Wood because he keeps asking "can I go to the bathroom?" and doesn't understand the teacher's response: "you can go to the bathroom, but you may not!"

Apparently the UN suffers the same lack of understanding of the difference between what a peacekeeping force "may" do, and what they "can" do.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/28/2003 11:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE TERRORIST FUTURES MARKET: This is a much more interesting idea than knee-jerk reaction will have it, but I'll make my own bet that the whole thing will be killed dead by the close of business tomorrow (Tuesday).

7/28/2003 10:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Woo-hoo! We're #1! We're #1! We're #1!

The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002. It also came when a growing number of states facing large budget deficits have begun trying to reduce prison costs by easing tough sentencing laws passed in the 1990's, thereby decreasing the number of inmates.


At the end of 2002, there were 2,166,260 Americans in local jails, state and federal prisons and juvenile detention facilities, the report found.


But in the federal prison system, which with 163,528 inmates is now larger than any state system, 48 percent of the growth in the number of prisoners from 1995 to 2001 was accounted for by drug crimes and only 9 percent by violent crimes.

I feel so much safer now.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/28/2003 04:44:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TIME TRAVEL IS EASY! reveals physicist Michio Kaku. (Just read the fine print.)

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for a nice summary of don't-try-this-at-home methods.

7/28/2003 04:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE SOURCE OF THE NIGER FORGERIES was, apparently, revealed in this Reason story.

It seems odd that it hasn't received more attention.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. (Michael Young's interesting blog from Beirut is here; you'll note a rather familiar looking [though untweaked] blog template.)

7/28/2003 04:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR SUPERPOWERS are here. "Superpowers" is the theme of the entire August Wired issue. Some amusing stuff, but.

Quick: What did you have for dinner on June 17, 1986? You're stumped because of all the protein phosphatase 1 coursing through your brain. PP1 is an enzyme that plays a crucial, albeit little understood, role in memory. The less you have, it seems, the more likely you are to remember your spouse's birthday or the names of your boss's kids.

Or, if you're a mouse, how to navigate a maze. Last year, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich disabled the gene responsible for PP1 production in a number of mice. Compared with their untweaked peers, the engineered rodents performed far better at memory-intensive tasks. If humans could be similarly modified, our corresponding brains might become extraordinarily retentive.The next step is to identify the PP1 gene in humans and find a way to shut it down.

And that might work out very well, but then again, maybe not. I'm not the first person to speculate that it might be quite hellish if one were unable to forget a variety of incidents and experiences, or that one might become overwhelmingly confused if one's head were jammed with Every Single Sense Memory Ever. Maybe not, but: you go first.

An apparent typo:

A human body comprises some 1027 atoms, a seemingly insurmountable number at present.
Rather suspect that slipped from "10 to the 27th power."

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for interesting tech.

7/28/2003 03:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S HARDER TO BE random than you think.

Dept. of Interesting Math And Science. Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for that sort of thing.

7/28/2003 03:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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7/28/2003 03:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Be sure to watch and listen to it all the way through. Even if it seems like it's going to be a long, long, time.

Because you have to, especially, see the dancing that comes about 3:20 in.

Because he's a rocket man.

(Via many, including Lileks. [Sorry, Ogged, but I don't think he's mean.])

Watch The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

Alternatively, view this work of Shakespearean-level thespianism from my childhood. Magnificent! The lyricism! The poetry! The acting! The editing! Thespianism, indeed!

(Via Mitch Wagner.) RTRS: 5 out of 5! Three thumbs up! (A close second is here.)

7/28/2003 02:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | |
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A LIFE LESS EXTRAORDINARY: Nice little profile of Alan Moore, complete with brief commentary on the recent film adaption:
But what does he think of the decision to add Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde's eternally youthful anti-hero) and Sawyer? 'What can you do with Dorian Gray, other than say 'Oh, hello Dorian, you're looking good'?' he scoffs. 'He's just somebody that's got Botox a century before everyone else. That's about as much use as he is. And then you've got [adopts voice of 'that pre-cancerous guy who does the trailers'] 'The Gunman' and there's Tom and I thought -- hold on, I don't actually remember a sequence in Tom Sawyer where we see his abilities as a gunman, but I suppose [voice again] 'The White Picket-Fence Painter' probably wouldn't have the same ring to it.'
The rest is pretty much the usual, but amusing anyway. Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5

(Via MemeMachineGo!.)

7/28/2003 01:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE FIRST ORBITAL BLOG, more or less. Astronaut Ed Lu's periodic accounts of life aboard the International Station are posted as Greetings, Earthlings!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5, unless you're a space buff, in which case 6 out of 5.

(Via Leslie Turek.)

7/28/2003 01:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PAUL KELLY TRIPPLEHORN is better than you.

Read The Rest Scale: or haven't you heard?

(Via Ted Barlow.)

7/28/2003 12:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Opposition lawmakers run amok trying to stop the passage of a bill to send SDF troops to Iraq forced through by ruling party lawmakers in the upper house early Saturday.
Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

7/28/2003 12:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I have no idea. But I hope not. Michael Tomasky calls it an "unimaginably offensive idea." Alas, it is imaginably offensive.

Read The Rest Scale: to be either defensive or on the offensive.

7/28/2003 11:16:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EIGHT GREAT DENVER BLOGS is a piece Denver blogger and journalist Dave Cullen posted a while ago, in which he was kind enough to include yr. hmbl. obt. srvt.

Now he's written an expansion for Denver's local area magazine, 5280, which is vaguely the local equivalent of New York magazine (the name comes from the alleged height of the area).

Dave labels our crack venue's topic, in his list, as "Libertarian politics."

Which should amuse some of my older friends, who can recall many long rants from me on What Pisses Me Off About Libertarians And Libertarianism.

I wrote in his comments:

I generally remain prudently silent when someone plonks a political label on me, but I'll murmur that I'm as amused as ever. I've been, repeatedly, at various times, considered and called, in no particular order, a communist, a conservative, a socialist, a centrist, a radical, a liberal, a libertarian, a die-hard Democrat, an obvious life-long Republican, hopelessly politically confused, and searingly clear-eyed.

Among other labels.

As a rule, people doing this haven't read me for very long.

To be sure, Dave's not the first person to consider me a libertarian, and I am partially libertarian.

Among other streaks.

I'm just a libertarian who also believes in a certain degree of progressive redistribution of wealth and a certain amount of government regulation and interventionism in some areas.

(I'm for as much personal liberty as can be achieved within a context of a certain degree of social and personal justice, and as much social and personal justice as can be achieved within a context of personal liberty.)


7/28/2003 10:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Shaheen Sehbai is a Pakistani journalist who, until last year, edited the News, the largest English-language newspaper in Pakistan. I asked him about efforts by I.S.I. officials to find bin Laden. "I question how hard they're trying," he said. "I think they're not looking very hard, because he'll always remain a bargaining chip." Sehbai attended college in Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province. He speaks Pashto, the local dialect, and said, "I know that area like the back of my hand." He rejects the prevailing argument in Islamabad that the Musharraf government cannot do more because the region is beyond the reach of its laws. "Every tribal chief is in the pocket of the government in Pakistan," he said. "The tribal areas are divided into agencies, and each has an administrator, who is part of the Pakistani civil service." Tribal leaders rarely defy these federal administrators, he said. He has seen suspected murderers and high-profile kidnappers flee into the tribal areas, only to be turned over by the chiefs to local authorities within days. "There would be more resistance in bin Laden's case, because of ideological sympathy," Sehbai acknowledged. "But if the government seriously wanted him they'd know where he is, and under whose protection. In the past, the Army has laid siege to villages and burned them to the ground. I've heard of no such operations with bin Laden."

In America, too, the vigor of Pakistan's efforts has come into doubt. "Bin Laden is their Get Out of Jail Free card," Yossef Bodansky said. "Every time we complain about the heroin production, they say, 'Look, we're helping you with bin Laden,' and we backpedal. When we complain about Pakistan sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, they invoke bin Laden, and we backpedal. 'We're on your side,' they say. But I think there's strong evidence that Pakistan is shielding him." Bodansky also charged that the Pakistanis have produced major Al Qaeda members only when it served their own political purposes.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/28/2003 09:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BILL GIBSON FINDS THAT TYPOS don't spruce up his work.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for amusement. (It rather takes away from the illusion that Bill is actually blogging, though, that most of the past month's posts are published twice, and in all these weeks, no one has bothered to correct this.)

7/28/2003 09:51:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for poignancy, and understanding of what the effort in Iraq is doing to so many American families.

7/28/2003 09:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CALL IT "DONOVAN". Brain, brain, what is brain?
Meet the latest spaced out modern artist - a picture-drawing robot arm in Australia whose brain sits in a petri dish in the US.

Working from their university labs in two different corners of the world, American and Australian researchers have created what they call a new class of creative beings: "the semi-living artist".

Gripping three coloured markers positioned above a white canvas, a robotic arm churns out drawings akin to that of a three-year-old. Its guidance comes from around 50,000 rat neurons in a petri dish 19,000 kilometres away.

The "brain" lives at Dr Steve Potter's lab at Georgia's Institute of Technology, Atlanta, while the "body" is located at Guy Ben-Ary's lab at the University of Western Australia, Perth.

The two ends communicate with each other in real-time through the internet.

The project represents the team's effort to create a semi-living entity that learns like the living brains in people and animals do, adapting and expressing itself through art.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

Oh, and: eeuuw.

7/28/2003 08:08:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for amusement.

7/28/2003 07:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BRUSH PASS: Some great detail on CIA and KGB operations and personnel here and here.
Run by Jack Platt, a gruff ex-Marine and longtime Soviet targets officer, the six-week course simulated "Moscow Rules." The new case officers had to pass messages and receive documents from "spies" even as they were being trailed through Washington by teams of FBI agents playing the part of a hostile counterintelligence service. The FBI agents played hard-because the course kept them sharp for following real Soviet spies. Still, the best-trained CIA officers in the course could defeat the FBI, often through the use of sophisticated electronic devices, such as burst transmission equipment, that allowed them to pass messages without face-to-face contact.

But the FBI always had a lesson in store. The trainees-often with their spouses in tow-would go out on what they thought was an ordinary operation and walk into an explosive surprise arrest. They'd be roughed up and charged with drug dealing by FBI agents who were totally convincing in making it seem as though the bust had nothing to do with the IO course. After a few hours of questioning, only the most controlled students had the will to hold back their CIA connections. Invariably, some would try to talk their way out by explaining that there had been some horrible mistake: You see, Officer, I was loitering on a deserted street corner late at night with this woman, who happens to be my wife, as part of a CIA training exercise, not to sell drugs.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if this sort of thing interests you. The Main Enemy goes on my Books To Read list.

7/28/2003 07:34:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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In case you were wondering.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a lackluster, poorly detailed, article.

7/28/2003 07:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I had meant to blog about this when I first read about it a few days ago. Better late than never.

What an inspiring, and then terribly sad, story.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/28/2003 07:17:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, July 27, 2003
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Former Czech President Vaclav Havel opened a Rolling Stones concert in Prague's Letna Park Sunday night by wishing Mick Jagger a happy birthday and recalling the mass gatherings that toppled communism.

A day earlier, Jagger celebrated his 60th birthday with a private party in Prague that the former Czech leader attended.

Before he left the party at Duplex, a club on Wenceslas Square, Havel gave Jagger a crystal base by the artist Borek Sipek.

"I congratulate Mick Jagger on his 60th birthday and I thank him for deciding to celebrate it in Prague," Havel told the fans at the concert.

Somehow I don't imagine George W. Bush will ever be doing this.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

7/27/2003 08:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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War is killing.
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/27/2003 05:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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What the two sides disagree on is whether painful memories of traumatic events can actually be repressed -- completely forgotten -- and then ''recovered'' years later in therapy. Many clinicians say yes: it is how we instinctively protect ourselves from childhood recollections that would otherwise be too dire to bear. Most cognitive psychologists say no: real trauma is almost never forgotten; full-blown, traumatic memories dredged up decades later through hypnosis are almost invariably false.

Clancy, now 33, wasn't fully alive to the schismatic politics back then. She simply saw a puzzling, inviting gap in the data. ''You had two groups in opposite camps that were battling each other out'' over the validity of recovered memories, Clancy says. ''But nobody was doing research on the group that was at the center of the controversy -- the people who were reporting recovered memories. Memory function in that group had never been examined in the laboratory.''

So she decided to devote herself to that task, which would end up occupying her pretty much full time for the next seven years.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/27/2003 04:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE GENIUS OF WARREN ZEVON is proclaimed by Brian Linse, after hearing an advance copy of Zevon's new album, The Wind.
Three words: Oh. My. God.

Expectations are naturally very high given the circumstances of this recording, but I'm here to tell you that the work exceeds even my best hopes for a fitting final album from one of my all-time favorite artists.

It is a remarkably joyous and upbeat collection of classic Zevon compositions, tending to be more straightforward and accessible like some of his earlier work, but reflecting the wisdom and irony of an extraordinary life led by one of American popular music's few true geniuses. Zevon's two previous Artemis releases were proof of his comeback as a composer, and though they were darker and more complex than The Wind, they fit perfectly with his final effort and cap a late career surge that most artists could only dream of.

The album boasts an amazing collection of guest artists, but it is 100% pure Zevon. If you never take my word on anything else, do yourself a favor and trust me on this one. Buy it the minute it comes out on August 26th, or you can pre-order it here.

Send money. Lawyers and guns unnecessary.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5, though reading Brian's site is always worthwhile.

7/27/2003 04:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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It was only in December 1996 that Hussein accepted the oil-for-food program, and only in 1997 that it became effective in alleviating some, though not all, of the torments of the Iraqi people.

At the same time, the French and the Russians were pushing hard within the Security Council either for a ratcheting down or an outright lifting of sanctions. Nancy Soderberg states flatly that the French and the Russians allowed their eagerness to develop business deals with Iraq to affect their work on the 661 Committee. ''The French and Russians wanted to make money,'' she told me. ''By the time of the second gulf war, the Russians had $40 billion in prospective deals with Saddam Hussein's regime.'' (As for the French, as the International Peace Academy's David Malone puts it, ''Paris never offered an effective alternative to sanctions, simply grandstanding on humanitarian questions while doing business with Iraq.'')


In many ways, Saddam Hussein became a master at manipulating the sanctions system to his own ends. Under the rubric of the oil-for-food program, the United Nations allowed the Iraqis themselves to publish their list of humanitarian requirements and then to select the foreign companies with which it wished to do business. This provision meant that the Iraqi government was able to set up a well-orchestrated system of kickback schemes in which a contract would be signed at far more than the cost of fulfilling it, with the difference deposited secretly by the selected contractors in Iraqi government-controlled accounts all over the world. As a result, Saddam Hussein and the Baath elite got rich off the sanctions, and a great many international businessmen, notably in the Arab world, in France and in Russia, made handsome profits as well.

''The Syrians, the Jordanians, the Turks -- they all had their own deals,'' Nancy Soderberg recalls.

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein used the pretext of the sanctions to wage a propaganda war -- one that even many American officials would later concede he probably won. Not only did Hussein use the sanctions to rationalize to Iraqis every shortage they were enduring, but he also proved himself a kind of genius at exaggerating and exploiting the effects of sanctions that were already tragic enough when reported truthfully. To rally his population, and probably also in a bid to win support from Western sympathizers and the international media, Saddam Hussein orchestrated a kind of traffic in suffering -- all meant for the television cameras.

One doctor I spoke to who spent several years in a hospital in the provincial city of Baquba, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, told me that the hospital staff had instructions, whenever a child died, to keep the corpse in the morgue rather than burying it immediately as mandated by Islamic custom. ''When a sufficient number of bodies accumulated,'' he explained, ''the authorities would stage a mass funeral, railing against the sanctions, even though as often as not there was no connection between a particular child's death and the sanctions.''

I asked the doctor how a child's parents could possibly have agreed to such a deception.

''This was not a country in which one disagreed,'' he replied. ''And in any case, they got 50 kilos of rice and 50 kilos of flour. Or else they were paid, you know, like the families of the freedom fighters in Palestine.''

I inquired whether there had been other manipulations of the system to make things seem worse than they had really been.

''Of course,'' he replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. ''It happened all the time. For example, we would get a shipment from the Ministry of Health of vaccines provided by the World Health Organization. But then we would be instructed not to use them until they had reached or even exceeded their sell-by date. Then the television cameras would come, and we would be told to lie and tell the public how the U.N. made ordinary Iraqis suffer. You have to understand: this was a system where everyone knew what was expected of them. Most of the time, we didn't even have to be told what to do.''

This media campaign was extremely effective. If anything, it was more influential in the West, mobilizing public opinion against sanctions, than it was within Iraq. What began as a campaign of left-wing fringe activists, like Ramsey Clark and the British member of Parliament George Galloway, soon became the dominant opinion. In the late 1990's, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was privately emphasizing to American and British officials his own moral qualms about the humanitarian effects of Iraq sanctions. As another senior Clinton administration official put it to me: ''I still think sanctions were the right policy. But there is no question that in terms of public opinion, as the 90's wore on we were increasingly on the defensive in the sanctions debate.''

Sanctions regimes are a terrible weapon. Much else in this article makes this clear. But are there better alternatives? I've yet to see a good case.

Beyond, that is, the solution we've just implemented, to no small lack of controversy.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/27/2003 03:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE STAN LEE -- HILARY CLINTON CONNECTION: the scandal that brought down Stan Lee Media.

No shit. Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 if you care.

7/27/2003 02:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DUNGEONS AND DREAMERS: a true story. The birth of computer gaming. Check it out.

7/27/2003 02:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FROM HIS EARLY, NON-BLOATED DAYS, Robert Heinlein's long lost, never published, first novel has been found and will be published.
For Us, the Living, the first novel Robert A. Heinlein wrote, has been sold to Scribner's and Pocket Books. All copies of the novel, which is believed to have been written between late 1938 and April 1939, were thought to have been lost or destroyed, but a copy was located recently and passed on to the Heinlein Society, which turned it over to Heinlein's literary estate, and which subsequently sold at auction. No publication date has yet been announced.
Those interested may also check out the Heinlein Society. (Rumor has it that un-armed visitors are welcomed.)

7/27/2003 01:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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7/27/2003 01:17:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Bit late in the day, though, and thus it's difficult to say how much credibility this holds.

Magruder originally testified that he presented Liddy's proposal for the burglary as part of a pared-down, $250,000 "intelligence" operation code-named "Gemstone" for Mitchell's approval during a meeting in Key Biscayne on March 30, 1972.

In his new, more dramatic account, Magruder says Mitchell was reluctant to approve the plan without instructions from the White House. So, as they sat together on the patio of Mitchell's vacation home, Magruder telephoned Haldeman aide Gordon Strachan in Washington, who got his boss on the line.

"Haldeman indicated to me that the president wanted us to go ahead," Magruder recounted. Then, "Haldeman said he wanted to talk to John [Mitchell]. It was a short discussion." After a few moments, Magruder, sitting next to Mitchell, heard a new, distinctive voice from the telephone receiver -- Nixon's.

"I didn't hear every single word," Magruder said. What he recalls hearing Nixon say was: "John, we need to -- we need to get the information on [Democratic Party Chairman] Larry O'Brien. And the only way we can do that is through Liddy's plan. And you need to do that."

Ben-Veniste said Magruder's story, if it is accepted, would settle "one of the nagging questions of Watergate."

"The motivation of the operation being the collection of intelligence information on Larry O'Brien is in fact consistent with other information we have," he said.

Reeves said that nothing in the unpublished pages of Haldeman's often candid diaries supports the story. But one Nixon tape might, the historian said. "It's from a year after the Key Biscayne meeting," he said. "Nixon was talking to Secretary of State William Rogers." It was a long, rambling conversation about Watergate, and Nixon may have been testing an explanation in case Magruder did blame Haldeman or the president himself.

"I think Mitchell authorized it," Nixon said on the tape. ". . . They were supposed to get the intelligence, and then they have this wild-eyed scheme involving Liddy . . . Then, at a later time, they went on and went ahead. . . . So Magruder will probably say that [unintelligible] either that he had pressure from Haldeman, which he will claim . . . I think it was Mitchell."

Ultimately, it may be impossible to confirm the story in the absence of a tape, a "smoking gun," in the vivid parlance of the Watergate scandal. And with the other players in their graves, it may be impossible to disprove.

Magruder laughed ruefully last week when he remembered what Mitchell said after hanging up the telephone that day. "He said, 'Well, Jeb, tell [campaign treasurer] Maury Stans to give Liddy $250,000, and let's see what happens.' "

" 'Let's see what happens,' " Magruder repeated. "In retrospect, that's kind of hilarious."

In the largest sense, I think this makes little difference either way; I've always firmly believed Nixon personally ordered the break-in; I never found it credible that anyone lesser would undertake such an act without explicit Nixonian authorization. Not in that White House.

But there have always, of course, been plenty of people interested in believing otherwise. And this account, unless supported by a tape, will settle nothing.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if you're interested in Watergate.

7/27/2003 01:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TREKKIE MONSTER, AND OTHER DENIZENS of the puppet world, are acting in ways you wouldn't see on Sesame Street.
The show, which is both a spoof of and a homage to "Sesame Street," had an acclaimed run at the Vineyard Theater last spring that made its puppets into celebrities, of a sort. At the party, having earned the right to mingle with guests like Bruce Willis and Snoop Dogg, the puppets hammed it up for their adoring public. "The legless look is very in," the female lead, Kate Monster -- played by Stephanie D'Abruzzo -- joked to a CNN camera. "No legs -- no cellulite." Meanwhile, Rod, the closeted gay puppet played by John Tartaglia, started petting the fuzzy boom mike, calling it "Cousin Larry." Over the course of the night, the "Avenue Q" posse proved to be as popular as -- and often cleverer than -- the award winners who were actual carbon-based life forms.

On Thursday the puppets will be making another very public debut, as they open at the Golden Theater on Broadway. There, larger audiences will have the opportunity to revel in mean-spirited songs like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "Schadenfreude" ("The world needs people like you and me/Who've been knocked around by fate./ Cause when people see us,/ They don't want to be us,/ And that makes them feel great") and off-color characters (Kate Monster has nipples, an onstage orgasm and a buxom rival named Lucy T. Slut). Indeed, much of the fun of the show lies in the chance to see the familiar world of children's wonder dragged into a curse-filled world of Gen-X angst, unemployment and promiscuous, drunken sex.

The musical makes no effort to hide its debt to "Sesame Street." The opening number starts with the line "The sun is shining, it's a lovely day" -- deliberately close to the television show's famous "Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away." After the main characters, Kate Monster and Princeton, have a euphoric, booze-fueled encounter, the silhouette of a male face on a video monitor mouths the word "come" while a female counterpart adds "mitment," offering a grown-up adaptation of the old children's phonics lesson. Cookie Monster's legacy is suggested by the presence of Trekkie Monster, who is addicted to Internet porn instead of sweets; Bert and Ernie are echoed by two male puppet roommates, one of whom is in love with the other.

As Rick Lyon, the show's puppet designer, explains on his Web site,, the question behind "Avenue Q" is: "What if a cozy, familiar kids' television show had to grow up? Not just the characters, but the subject matter, the songs, the attitude."

It's one long, backhanded compliment -- extremely backhanded, you might say, which is interesting given that Mr. Marx is a former intern for the series. And that, in 1999, he was fired. Mr. Lyon also worked on the show, as a puppeteer -- until he, too, was asked not to return just last season. The other three puppeteers -- Ms. D'Abruzzo, Mr. Tartaglia and Jennifer Barnhart -- worked there as well, albeit without incident.


But Mr. Marx acknowledged that he savored the night, last April, when a group of executives from Sesame Workshop came to "Avenue Q." He said he had been fired from "Sesame Street" for being "too pushy" -- trying to write for the show, whereas his bosses "wanted someone to fetch coffee and clean tables." So seeing them in the audience was gratifying, because "now they're coming to see my show."

Mr. Lyon, the puppet designer, would not say why his years on "Sesame Street" came to an end, but he was outspoken on the recent quality of the show that used to employ him. " `Mr. Rogers' is always very honest," he said. "But `Sesame Street' has a general tendency to be condescending, and it's getting worse at it. They've dumbed it down."

It was the television show's characters that first brought Mr. Lopez and Mr. Marx together. They met at the B.M.I.-Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in New York in 1998 (when Mr. Marx was still working as a lawyer) and discovered that they shared a fondness for the Muppets -- a belief in their power to speak to otherwise jaded audiences and a disappointment in their recent films. "Wouldn't it be great," Mr. Marx wondered, "if there were a new Muppet movie that wasn't awful?" So he and Mr. Lopez wrote a musical based on "Hamlet" called "Kermit, Prince of Denmark." It won them the Ed Kleban award for most promising lyricist and $100,000 in 1999.

The Henson Company passed on it. Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son, "just wasn't interested," Mr. Marx said. "It was a period when people weren't making musicals." And then Mr. Marx was fired. "We said, `To hell with writing for other people's characters, let's write our own,' " he said. "Avenue Q" was soon born.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 for further amusing detail.

7/27/2003 11:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SO I'M WATCHING THE NEW MTV SPIDER-MAN EVERYONE (NAMED JIM HENLEY) IS TALKING ABOUT, AND Peter Parker and MJ are walking around their college campus.

Which is plainly Columbia University. Which is all very well, save for the fact that PP went to NYU, downtown. About as easily confusable as the Pentagon is with the Department of Agriculture.

What madness is this?


7/27/2003 12:32:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, July 26, 2003

7/26/2003 11:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I STARTED IN AMATEUR PUBLISHING -- FANZINES -- AT AGE 12. I started in professional publishing -- getting paid by professional magazines -- not that the difference was profound -- at age 15, beginning as an "Assistant Editor" (uncredited, i.e., slush reader), for Amazing Stories(of lineage going back to 1926) and Fantastic Stories, under Lou Stathis (later a longtime comics editor, most notably, eventually, for DC's Vertigo line [a good piece by Lou about Phil Dick is here], until his tragic death from brain cancer, which I've written about) and editor and friend Ted White.

I also started, at age 15, at Teen Beat magazine.

One day in in 1974, Jim Warren, whom I'd previously met at the April, 1973, Lunacon, walked in, and we started to chat....

Read About Jim Warren, if this interests you. Stuff about Forry Ackerman, let alone Heidi Saha, would have to be read or written separately.

7/26/2003 11:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | |
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Friday, July 25, 2003
THE RETURN OF NAPOLEON. First Corsica, tomorrow, Europe!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for amusement.

7/25/2003 06:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, July 24, 2003

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/24/2003 09:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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"I HAVE A DREAM" is being inscribed on the Lincoln Monument.
Del Gallo's tiny memorial within a memorial is a concise, unadorned inscription, 24 inches wide and 10 inches tall:





AUGUST 28, 1963

The words are centered on a wide granite landing 18 steps from the top of the marble chamber. Park Service project manager Glenn DeMarr spent two weeks researching the spot, matching historical photos and video footage of the speech with the features of the exterior stone to "triangulate" a precise location. "We elected to preserve the stone where he stood, and just incise that stone," said DeMarr, 50.

DeMarr said the work, the first major commemorative addition to the memorial since a framed stone recognizing the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii was installed farther down the steps in 1984, did not require officials to close the steps, so tourists have been getting a rare chance to see history etched into stone. "It's pretty phenomenal," said Jean Ellis, 53, of Gainesville, Ga. "To know this is actually where he stood."

For Ellis and the Lincoln Memorial's roughly 4 million annual visitors, the $8,300 project puts an end to a frequent guessing game, as many sought to stand in the very spot where King gave one of the most famous speeches in American history but wondered if they were too low or too high. "I was going to stand on each step and face the direction where he gave his speech, so I knew I wouldn't miss a step," said Anderson, 34.

Good job. Now people won't have to wonder where, only how, and why did it take so long?

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

7/24/2003 09:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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INTERNATIONAL MANDATES: AN OLD IDEA WITH USE: some observations, pros and cons.

I tend to see no solution in some places absent them. Yes, I'm a (within limits) Liberal Interventionist! A species rare since the J.F. Kennedy era, now, after breeding in captivity, slowly let loose in the wild to see if we can manage. Observe our absurd plumage!

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

7/24/2003 09:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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For us, though, it's mostly a case of the inarticulate leading the indecisive on a quest to verbalize the inexpressible, the critical- and self-analysis equivalent of a Jerry Lewis movie where, say, the dog takes the steak and goes from room to room with it while the Jerry character chasing him keeps guessing wrong about the dog's next move, causing more and more chaos till the final scene where the love interest arrives to find him lying in the middle of the living room floor tangled up in the contents of the house, curtains, bedclothes, rugs, clothing, furniture, various foodstuffs, while the dog calmly eats the steak in the foreground. The girl gives him an exasperated, indulgent, demi-smile. Dissolve. (I don't think that's a real Jerry Lewis movie, but it would make a pretty good one. It might be called "She Runs Out when the Money Does.")

"Rockin'" is probably the most-used and least specific of those recording studio words, but there are many, many more. (Kevin Army's word of the day yesterday was "poopy.")

Many folks who have played and recorded with me have expressed mild surprise at my gormless, retarded way of describing my own stuff in terms of analogues to other stuff, often in crazy combinations. Plus, I have a tendency to use negative words as though they described desirable qualities. It's true that quite a few musicians feel that they should downplay or remain silent about the "borrowings" from other, more famous, people, but I've always figured that flagrant incestuous interpenetration (if f.i.i. is the phrase I want) of material and musical idiom is what makes rock and roll great. And even when it doesn't actually make it great, you might as well admit it and get on with your life. It's not "I hope no one notices who I am ripping off here." It's more like, "I hope everyone notices the extremely interesting and cool way I've figured out to rip off x while invoking y and stomping all over z." That said, it leads to some funny, eh, discourse in the control room.

"Hey, you know the Byrds part after the sweet home alabama bit, right before the lead in to the Husker Du-y section where I'm doing the Duane Eddy thing? I want it to have a kind of muted Swell Maps/Peechees effect, but an overall Eagles feel, especially during that Carpenters part because I'm planning to add some Funeral Oration-style reverb to the Styx guitar once we get the pictures of lily thing happening. It should have an overall unpleasant, claustrophic feel. That's what I'm shooting for, anyway. You know the kinda thing I mean?"

"Er, uh, yeah, I think so... But don't you think it should be more rockin'?"

Yeah, well, whatever. You get the idea.

I get the idea.

Read The Rest Of Dr. Frank's blog: 5 out of 5.

7/24/2003 09:03:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOODBYE, LENIN! is a new German comedy film.

No, that's not an oxymoron.

IN THE nest of worker ants that peopled Erich Honecker's nasty regime there were living, loving humans who tried to make life bearable for each other. That is the focus of Wolfgang Becker's “Goodbye, Lenin!”, a film whose humour has succeeded in uniting east and west Germany in a way that no transfer of money or know-how has yet managed.

Alex's single parent, Mum, a staunch Honecker babe, has a heart attack and falls into a coma just before the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989. When she wakes up eight months later, the doctor tells Alex and his sister that any outside shock could kill her. So they cocoon her in her familiar socialist world. They lovingly recreate her bedroom in Stalinist chic; they search rubbish heaps and empty apartments for once-cherished brands -- ersatz coffee, flickering light bulbs, a Russian cassette/radio, whose aerial Alex breaks to block out unwanted news.

When Mum gets more curious, sees Coca-Cola adverts outside her window, and wants to watch TV, Alex and his West German friend Dennis shoot dummy East German newscasts. The newsreader (Dennis in shiny synthetic suit) explains that Coca-Cola was a socialist invention; that the thousands of people seen crossing the border are West Germans, fed up with the capitalist rat-race and wanting homes in the East. “Idiocy,” Mum concludes.

She may have smelled a rat. But she plays along; they all do, including the neighbours and children, who are paid to dress as Marxist Pioneers and sing patriotic songs, because the trip into Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East) has become a common obsession.

The socialist world that Alex and his friends recreate is an idealised one, in which Sigmund J?hn, the country's only cosmonaut, and one of its few popular heroes, becomes head of state. Adversity is met with stoicism. Mum's response to a mass-produced pullover that would only fit a fat dwarf is a long-suffering: “We in the German Democratic Republic must endeavour to become smaller and squarer.”

Easy to laugh at now, but it is as laughworthy as it always was, while it's now a bit more distant in its tragedy. I'd like to see this movie.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

7/24/2003 08:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE POOR MAN quotes and writes:
Dear Andrew,

The Host Committee of _______________ is pleased to
extend you a formal invitation to speak at our conference on ______________,

________________, in its fourth year, is the only writers' conference of its
kind, focusing specifically on the interests and developments in the world
of online journalling and blogging. We are expecting over 100 attendees,
all of whom are writers publishing online; many are renowned in the online
journalling and blogging communities.

And many are big in Japan.

I thought I'd share this nice email I just received, even though I haven't decided if I'm attending. Well, let's be serious. I'm not attending, unless I can somehow find an answer to the question "what am I supposed to say?", and the follow-up question, "who is supposed to care?" And, also, unless I can get someone to pay the fee I think I have to pay in order to show up and share my unique perspective. And unless my car comes back to life. And unless I suddenly like public speaking.

Anyway, this invite clearly marks my entry into the realm of elite webloggers, and clearly shows that the declining number of comments on this site are not due to a decline in readership, but rather because people who are intimidated by my dope commentary skills, and the simultaneous decline in my traffic stats is due to people hiding their presence by spoofing their IP address through the TCP/IP router server database, exactly as I suspected. But, now that it's official, things need to change. Firstly, everyone who used to read the weblog needs to stop reading, and start compaining about how my early stuff was so much better. Mom, this means you especially. Secondly, a higher class of reader needs to replace you, and begin leaving a higher class of comments, and a higher class of irate Scandanavian needs to begin sending me a higher class of endless hate mail about how it's people like me with my ignorance of the Norwegian climate who allowed and encouraged most if not all of history's greatest atrocities, such as Roxette. I hope this transition can all be achomplished with a minimum of acrimony and time-consuming recriminations, because I'm currently negotiating a very lucrative deal to host pop-up advertising for an online ammunition distributor, and I can't afford any distractions. Oh, and before I forget, I'd like to deliver a special message to that person who beat me up, stuffed me in my locker, knocked my books out of my hand, and made every second of my high school career a bruising, humiliating, tear-stained hell on Earth: I am being solicited to give my input on the future of New Media at a very important invitation-only conference attended by people who paid upwards of $45 just to show up. What are you doing with your life? Now I'm a big fucking success who everyone respects and listens to, and you're the big nobody who has to go to bed crying every night. Who's the loser now? Who's the big pathetic whining loser now? How do you fucking like the taste of that shit, Emily Rosenblatt!

Yeah! Me, Too!

Andrew will be in town all week. Check him out.

Read The Rest Scale for his blog: 5 out of 5.

7/24/2003 06:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PLAY THIS and bop to the groove-thang.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for Weird Techno Music thingie.

7/24/2003 02:03:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JUST FOR THE RECORD: It certainly was a good thing to hear about the dear departed Uday and Quesay. The only downside might be the possible intel that perhaps could have been gotten from them. That, and the loss of an opportunity to put them in stocks and let every Iraqi get a chance to slap them.

The rest is all up side, as they head downside.

7/24/2003 01:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003
By the middle of June, the French began using this authority to kick the gun-toting toughs who had made life hell for civilians in Bunia out of town and to seize weapons at checkpoints at town borders. By late June, most of the Hema militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), had left the city limits.

But they will come back, since the supposedly tougher French mission is actually toothless in some respects. While they were loading a Toyota Land Cruiser with Kalashnikovs and driving out of Bunia, I asked one of the UPC members what they would do when the French leave. "What are we going to do after September 1?" he asked. "We are going to come right back into Bunia." And they will return with their guns. Demilitarizing the town, as the French have done, is not the same as disarming the militias. Under the current Bunia mission's directives, as long as they don't point their guns at anyone, the UPC and other militias are free to keep them. Indeed, the French commander, Brigadier General Jean-Paul Thonier, has made clear that his mission does not include disarmament. The problem, Western diplomats told me, is that the French-led force--now just more than 1,100--is not large enough to disarm the militias. The French are reluctant to add more troops, given that they are also policing a cease-fire in the Ivory Coast, and the United Nations has not authorized more foreign soldiers. So the French forces in Bunia have settled on a job they can accomplish.

And that job is to get as few French people killed as possible!


Lotsove Veneranda, a 53-year-old farmer, calmly explained to me how Lendu militiamen blitzed her village at 4 a.m. one day last month and hacked to death the sick and elderly. Her village, Katoto, lies twelve miles from Bunia--outside the French troops' mandate. And it's not alone. Katoto, Tchomia, Aveba, Nyoka, Mahagi, and other villages near Bunia have all been the subject of horrific violence since the French arrived: The expulsion of militiamen from the city limits has pushed them into these villages, where they pillage and murder, stoking tensions that could spark more violence. Indeed, the U.N. headquarters in Congo warned, in an official communication to New York in late May, that the French-led force could find itself "in the invidious position of maintaining a robust presence in only one part of a disaster zone." These fears have come to pass.

Here's that Kafkaesque best part:
Even as the violence moves outside of town and the armed militias wait for their return to Bunia, U.N. officials are trying to create an embryonic provincial government that will find a negotiated solution to Bunia's problems. Colonel Gerard Dubois, the French spokesmen, never tires of telling journalists, "Securing Bunia is intended to allow a relaunch of the political process." Much of the political negotiating takes place in a former Greek restaurant called Hellenique. Here, Congolese drawn from Ituri's various ethnic communities and overseen by U.N. staffers have created an "interim administration" that is supposed to assume the normal functions of a city: police, judiciary, and so on. The interim administration has even created a founding document and official-looking stamps. The United Nations has plowed $300,000 into making the interim administration work, and it pays participants a per diem of $10 to keep at it.

This interim administration, however, rests on the ludicrous assumption that the militias accept it as the province's legitimate authority. Yet the leader of the UPC has promised to dissolve the interim government when the French leave and his forces return.

So the UN is paying a bunch of guys to sit around a Greek restaurant playing role-playing games ("I want to be in charge of water and power!" "No, you are to be minister of sewers." "Close enough. Roll the dice again! How many hit points do I have left?"), and that's the Big Step the UN has taken.

Does one laugh, or weep, or do both?

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Write your federal representatives urging their support for US support for a vigorous and powerful intervention in the Congo. Act soon, if not now.

Now is good.

7/23/2003 08:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation today to block a new rule supported by the Bush administration that would permit the nation's largest television networks to grow bigger by owning more stations.

The vote, which was 400 to 21, sets the stage for a rare confrontation between the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House, because there is strong support in the Senate for similar measures, which seek to roll back last month's decision by the Federal Communications Commission to raise the limit on the number of television stations a network can own. The F.C.C. has ruled that a single company can own television stations reaching 45 percent of the nation's households, but the House measure would return the ownership cap to 35 percent.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 for more detail on the politics and possibilities.

7/23/2003 08:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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It makes sense that Republicans would want to so paint this guy who balanced his state's budget when he was wasn't required to, who is pro-death-penalty in some cases, who calls for sending more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, who supports attacking a state that presents an imminent threat (which is why he supported invading Afghanistan), who favors leaving funding flexibility in education to the states (which the unions hate), who doesn't rule out raising the retirement age to preserve Social Security (goodbye, AARPA), who opposes federal gun control laws, etc., etc., but why do so many other people buy this myth?

In 1996, they [the DLC] hailed the reelection of "centrist Governor Howard Dean" as evidence "of Democratic resurgence under New Democratic leadership."
How quickly they all forget.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5 if you're interested in US presidential politics.

7/23/2003 07:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS is the best explanation I've yet seen for why no significant evidence of WMD has yet been found. (Use "cypherpunk" as both ID and password to get past registration.)

Read The Rest Scale: 6 out of 5.

7/23/2003 06:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

And engage eulogy.

Read The Rest: for trekkies only. Like me.

7/22/2003 07:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YASUKUNI: As noted here:
It is the home to the souls of more than 2.5 million Japanese war dead. Included among these 2.5 million souls are fourteen convicted Class A war criminals, including Tojo Hideki who was the Japanese War Minister during World War II.


The actual physical structure of the Shrine is much like that of any other Shinto shrine. It has a torii gateway followed by a few different buildings that serve different religious or ceremonial purposes at the Shrine. The one significant difference at Yasukuni is the presence of Japan's only public modern military musuem, which opened in 1872. The museum contains many types of war vehicles, tanks, and weaponry. Those who support the Shrine believe this museum is a symbol of Japan's glorious military past. Those who oppose the Shrine say it is indeed a symbol of Japan's past, but it is a brutal and oppressive past.

There is no ambiquity about this. Love it or leave it, it is a symbol of Japanese militarism. No one argues this point.
The fourteen most famous and most controversial souls in Yasukuni are those of the World War II convicted Class A war criminals. These men were secretly enshrined at Yasukuni on April 21, 1979. The public did not find out until the next day when the press broke the story after investigating allegations. The war criminals were given a special designation at Yasukuni as "Martyrs of the Show[a] Era."
Charming, isn't it? But not quite up there with the sushi I love, the cherry blossoms, or endless other truly beautiful and deeply admirable aspects of Japanese culture I love, from the tea ceremony to the art (not to mention Akira Kurosawa).
It is no coincidence that Yasukuni was used as a rallying point for Japanese nationalism in World War II. In fact, Yasukuni was originally established not just as a religious place to pay homage to the dead, but also as a symbol of the newly united nation. It was in 1879 that the Shrine was named Yasukuni, which means "the Shrine for establishing the peace in the empire." The Satsuma rebellion had occurred just two years earlier and after victory the Emperor’s officials wanted some symbol to reunite the country. Yasukuni was that symbol. According to Tsubouchi Yuzo, author of Yasukuni, the Shrine was “a symbol of eradication of all local color under one national identity.” The Emperor and his officials used this Shrine not only as a symbol of the reunification, but also as a symbol of the Emperor’s legitimacy as ruler of the nation.

To establish a new sense of unity, all people in the nation were required to gather either at Yasukuni or one of its local branches and celebrate the Spring and Autumn festivals. At the celebration of these festivals the people would worship those who had died fighting for the Emperor. It is important to remember that only those who fought for the Emperor are enshrined at Yasukuni. Those who fought against the Emperor are not enshrined at there. So by worshiping the soldiers turned national deities at Yasukuni, the people were actually celebrating the legitimacy of the Emperor’s power. As time went on, the Shrine also became a rallying point for military action. After the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War the Shrine was the site of a celebration party.

It goes on. anyone who doesn't understand what Koizumi's annual worship visits mean isn't paying attention.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/22/2003 06:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JAPANESE MILITARISM comes up again, as the movement towards it continues.
Not long ago, Nisohachi Hyodo, the author of a four-year plan for nuclear armament of Japan, was part of the lunatic fringe, his ideas so far from the pacifist mainstream that he was published only in obscure journals.

These days, though, he has his own program on a major Tokyo radio station and is a popular speaker on college campuses. With everyone from the academic establishment to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi advocating that Japan become more assertive militarily, Mr. Hyodo scarcely stands out.

The author takes this at face value, or, worse, slants it as worthy.

But even if Japanese are more comfortable with such assertiveness, their neighbors may not be. Many continue to harbor suspicion of a country that they feel has yet fully to acknowledge the damage done by its militarization last century, or to atone for its colonial past. Relations with China have been strained for two years by Mr. Koizumi's repeated visits to a controversial shrine to Japan's war veterans, including 14 people judged as Class A war criminals.

For completely justified reason. Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine explicitly -- and this is entirely well-known and taken as such in Japan -- endorse Japan's WWII imperialist expansion, and gives its blessings to Japan's imperial aims of military domination of Asia and the Pacific. Americans who lack understanding of Japan's history are blind to this.

When Mr. Koizumi reasserted last month that he would continue his visits, in what has become a summer ritual, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, warned, "Without a correct view on history, there is no guarantee to healthy and stable ties between China and Japan."

The Chinese leadership, whom I have few kind words for, are correct in this.

While it is unclear precisely how much China spends on defense, Japan spent $47 billion on defense in 2002, according to the Center for Defense Information.

By almost any ranking China and Japan are among the world's top five military budgets, and some analysts warn of the dangers of an unmediated military competition in the region, which could include the unpredictable North Korea.

This is a major danger.

Groups within the governing Liberal Democratic Party have yearned for Japan's return to a "normal," militarized status since the 1950's. Today the signs of the change in thinking abound.

Precisely. The same Japanese fascist militarist groups that MacArthur chose to colloborate with, to ease the strain of occupation, rather than confront (much as Patton did the same with unreconciled Nazis in Bavaria during his stay as Military Governor); this was the entire tenor of MacArthur's rule; let off the ruler, and most of the militarists, while making fig-leaf gestures towards punishing scapegoats.

"I cannot conceive of a war in which North Korea, a far smaller, far poorer country, attacks Japan first," said Ryuichi Ozawa, a professor of constitutional studies at Shizuoka University.

"The point here is that there is no confidence that the people of Japan and their government can control a military," he said. "This is a contemporary concern, and not just an issue of our past history."

I can conceive of such an attack, because Kim Jong Il is nuts. But otherwise this is spot on.

But the American leadership, in and out of government, and in the media, will continue to applaud, and call for, Japanese military expansionism.

We never take the long view, whether backwards, or forwards.

This is unwise.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/22/2003 08:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DEAL WITH SYRIA is what Sy Hersh thinks we should do. It's utterly debatable, but it's an interesting argument, regardless of one's take.

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

7/22/2003 08:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, July 21, 2003
RESPECTFULLY, I DISSENT. Also under the "words have meaning" category.

A number of my favorite bloggers, people whom I greatly respect and whose work I enjoy, as well as those whom I do neither, decided a while ago to refer to the Palestinian leadership, people, movement, whatever, as, lower case, "the pals."

I regret this. I regard it as a term of disrespect.

Putting it in the vernacular of modern culture, it is "dissing." It is borderline to a form of mockery.

It is no different than referring to the Nipponese people as "the nips."

This is unworthy.

This is unnecessary.

If one is referring to terrorists, one can call them "murderers." If one is referring to supporters of such, one can call them "supporters of murderers."

If you want to refer to "the crap Palestinian leadership," call them "the crap Palestinian leadership."

If you want to call Arafat a mass murderer, fair enough. It's called for, earned, and justified.

This lends no one any unearned respect.

But without disagreeing with the arguments about the lack of unitary culture of "Palestinian" circa prior to, say, 1967, or earlier date, a Palestinian culture and polity has been created in subsequent decades. To disregard and disrespect that is not a worthy or helpful contribution to present arguments or future solutions.

Dialogue calls for a minimum of politeness, even when discussing war, armistice, or peace. It requires reaching out. It requires careful use of words, which isn't the same as disregarding murderers as murderers or terrorists as terrorists.

But not all Palestinians are any of the above.

I wouldn't respect Arabs or Palestinians or sympathizers who refered to the "J's," "the kikes," "the always victims," or any other form of intentional disparagement.

It's equally harmful and unhelpful and unnecessary to refer to "the pals."

It's, worst of all, impolite.

No, even worse. It is unhelpful.

It is not an endorsement of terrorist murdering killers to refer to Palestinians as "Palestinians."

I'm from Brooklyn. Our culture isn't old, let alone ancient, nor particularly separate from that of our neighbors, and I don't endorse much of it.

We don't have an independent polity.

But you can call me a "Brooklynite."

We have something. We have a culture. Even if, a hundred years before, we didn't. (I'm not going to argue the history now.)

Don't call me a "brookie."


I'm not the only Palestin--, er, Brooklynite, to so feel.

Rational argument, and discussion, and eventual agreement, requires at least a pretense of mutual politeness and respect.

You can't get better than you return.

7/21/2003 06:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HEH DEPT. Gizmodo 1983. I remember when all this stuff was cutting edge, and well before.

My parents spent a fortune (for us) to buy me one of the early Casio calculators when I was in high school; it could add, subtract, multiply and divide; amazing! (I knew then that it was an amazing waste of money, that the same and better tools would be available for a fraction of the price within a year or two, but didn't have the heart, and did have the sense, to not so inform them, and to instead profusely thank them, as I knew they meant the utmost well in this gift.)

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5; it'll just take a few moments to set your Wayback Machine, Sherman.

7/21/2003 05:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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It is as though Chef Boyardee himself had suddenly materialized, wearing a suit and speaking the Queen's English, and trying to buy his own products.

"The cashiers are astonished when they see my cards," Lord Sandwich said. "I think it's quite a good marketing ploy."

Bloody hell.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for amusement.

7/21/2003 04:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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RELAX, DON'T WORRY about terrorism, is a line I see on a number of blogs. Here's a thought for the day:
But according to terrorism experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based policy group devoted largely to world security, the estimates run something like this: about 20,000 jihadic soldiers had graduated from Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan as of October 2001, when the American-led war began there. Up to 10,000 of those were inside Afghanistan at the time. Since then, the coalition campaign has killed or captured around 2,000. Ninety percent of bin Laden's forces, and more than half of his top commanders, remain free. And no one is quite sure where they are. Some of the Arabs among them have probably made their way back to the Middle East. Many of the rest seem to straddle the frontiers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring Iran. Al Qaeda is, the institute judges, ''more insidious and just as dangerous'' as before the 9/11 attacks.
Moreover, we're not winning many hearts and minds.
Here and across Afghanistan, the work of ''humint,'' as the Army calls human intelligence, has been badly frustrated. Christopher Langton, a retired British colonel and military attache in Central Asia, now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, speaks of the attempts to befriend and the attempts to pay. The paying hasn't bought much in the way of trustworthy information, and a psychological operations officer on Vigilant Guardian tells me that the Army has mostly abandoned it. The befriending hasn't worked well either, because, Langton says, the Americans have failed ''to capture the virtual territory, the territory of the mind of the population.'' The troops on missions like Parker's, operations that set out from American bases every two weeks or so, should pick up the kinds of details that form the foundation of military intelligence. But the troops are handicapped, Langton explains, because the people sense a shortsighted American involvement, a powerful wish to be gone.

The Afghans feel that the Taliban, with Al Qaeda behind it, could take hold again in the country as soon as the Americans go home. For the villagers, survival when that happens could depend on keeping their mouths shut now.

And without the help of the people, Langton adds, the beaming from all the satellites and unmanned planes in the sky can be futile. The jagged terrain creates blind spots, and what the high-tech systems can photograph they can't interpret. They can't calibrate for local sympathies or even, as happened in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, determine sheer numbers of bunkered, armed enemy soldiers.

''I'm not optimistic,'' Captain Parker says, thinking forward five years. ''The smart terrorist in Afghanistan will simply wait us out, wait for us to lose interest, lose will.''

Cheering, innit?

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

7/21/2003 01:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ANGEL spoilers:
"Well, Spike and Harmony do have a history," Whedon said, referring to the vampire duo's steamy affair on Buffy. "But that doesn't mean they'll necessarily hook up. It just means we love Mercedes, and we want to see more of her."

As for how Marsters' character -- who met a fiery end in the Buffy series finale last May -- comes back, Whedon remained silent. "I can't really give you much of a hint [as to how Spike will be integrated into the show], except that badly would be the word," Whedon said. "Because he sticks out like a sore thumb, which is exactly what we always hire him to do. I see him not fitting in. And that's exactly what they need right now. Because, although they all have their separate agendas, to an extent, they're a team. And when you're a team, you need somebody to come in and f--k up the team."

In the coming fifth season, Angel will move out of its hotel set into a swanky, new set representing the Wolfram & Hart law firm, where Whedon said to look for West-Wing style camera movements. Whedon added that big changes are in store for the character of Charles Gunn, played by J. August Richards -- a transformation that was foreshadowed in last season's finale. "Yeah, he's going to go through some interesting changes," Whedon said. "And again, we'll find out early on what it is, but not exactly what it means. But, yeah, you know, Gunn is somebody that we felt was a little underutilized. J.'s an amazing actor. And we thought Wolfram & Hart would be the perfect venue to find a new side of him. So we're shaking it up."

I managed to miss most of the episodes of this past season, due to the network's having switched the show to being opposite West Wing and my continual inability to remember this. So I'm pretty much ignorant of most recent plot developments, for the time being.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.


Joss Whedon, creator of Fox's canceled SF western series Firefly, told SCI FI Wire that he is close to a deal to write and direct a feature film based on the short-lived show. "What's happening with that is that I'm writing a script," Whedon said in an interview. "And I have some interest. But I won't know really until I finish a draft whether or not it's genuine. ... We have a pretty decent shot. It's not a crazed pipe dream."

Whedon said that any deal for a Firefly movie would be contingent on getting the original cast back as the crew of the space transport ship Serenity.


Whedon added, "I couldn't go so far as to jinx [the deal] and say it's in the bag. It's not. I still have to write it really well [groans]. But there's no pressure."

In the meantime, Whedon said that the upcoming DVD of Firefly will include three unaired episodes, plus "the gag reel, interviews with everybody, commentaries on most of the episodes by cast members and writers and directors and me. ... It's a huge package. It's b-lls-out deluxe, which I'm really proud of."

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/21/2003 12:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ this. (Yes, you do.)

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. (But you won't.) (But you should.)

(Via Ken Layne.)

7/21/2003 12:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HERE IS WHERE I LIVE, though I'll be moving a bit across town in a few weeks. A more distant view is here.

The Acme Mapper is immensely kewl. Go find yourself! (In a purely metaphysical sense, of course.)

7/21/2003 11:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Executives at are negotiating with several of the largest book publishers about an ambitious and expensive plan to assemble a searchable online archive with the texts of tens of thousands of books of nonfiction, according to several publishing executives involved.

Amazon plans to limit how much of any given book a user can read, and it is telling publishers that the plan will help sell more books while better serving its own online customers.

Together with little-publicized additions to Amazon's Web site, like listings of restaurants and movie showings, the plan appears to be part of a strategy to compete with online search services like Google and Yahoo for consumers' time and attention. Providing a searchable online database of the contents of books could make Amazon a more authoritative source of information, drawing additional traffic to its online retail store.


But Look Inside the Book II would let online browsers search by terms like "Caravaggio," "sans-culottes," or "Osama bin Laden," and then see a list of books mentioning the term along with the sentence that contains it. Browsers could then choose to see several pages around that citation.

But to see those pages Amazon would require users to register, and it plans to limit the amount of any single book a browser can view.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

7/21/2003 11:00:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FANFICTION IS NOTICED by the Boston Globe starting with Harry Potter and the Internet, and proceeding backwards in vaguely clueful fashion.
Fan fiction, or "fanfic," didn't start with Harry Potter or the Internet, but that combination has brought it as close as it's ever been to the mainstream. On the way, fanfic is raising a host of legal, moral, and creative questions that only promise to become more entangled as the remainder of Rowling's Harry Potter books is released (seven are planned in all).
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for a mildly long article. Say, anyone seen any Karl Rove/George Bush slash?

7/21/2003 10:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Volumes have already been written about real life, the most accessible and most widely accepted massively multiplayer online role-playing game to date. Featuring believable characters, plenty of lasting appeal, and a lot of challenge and variety, real life is absolutely recommendable to those who've grown weary of all the cookie-cutter games that have tried to emulate its popularity -- or to just about anyone, really.

Real life isn't above reproach. In one of the stranger design decisions in the game, for some reason you have no choice in determining your character's initial starting location, appearance, or gender, which are chosen for you seemingly at random. However, over the course of your character's life, you have tremendous opportunity to customize and define a truly unique appearance for yourself--not only can you fine-tune your hairstyle and hair color, but you can also purchase and wear a seemingly infinite variety of clothing and influence your body type using various in-game mechanisms. For example, if your character exercises frequently, you will appear fit and muscular. You may also choose from a huge variety of tattoos and body piercings, and later you can even pay for cosmetic surgery, though this is expensive and there's a small chance that the operation will backfire. At any rate, real life offers a truly remarkable amount of variety in determining your character's outward appearance, and this depth isn't only skin deep. The only problem is you're relegated to playing as a human character, though the game does randomly choose one of several different races for you (which have little bearing on gameplay and mostly just affect appearances and your standing with certain factions).

The gameplay itself is extremely open-ended, though it's structured in such a way that you'll have a fairly clear path to follow when you're just starting out. Real life features a great system whereby newbie players will automatically be guided along through the early levels by one or more "parent" characters who elect to take newbie characters under their wing. This is a great system, as these older, more-experienced characters reap their own benefits from doing a good job of guiding the newbie character along. The system does have some problems, though....

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5; there's a lot more to say about this intriguing game system. Personally, I find far too many of the characters entirely unbelievable, and implausible plot situations abound, just to mention two of the many major flaws I've found while beta-testing the game.

7/21/2003 01:04:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Know who the guy in the center is? Or the guy just to his left?

Hint: they bear more than small historic relevancy to events of today.

7/21/2003 12:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, July 20, 2003
THE BIOLOGICAL SOLUTION for Cuba. That evil left-wing rag, the Grauniad, has begun a three-part series on repression in Cuba, and the Cuban dissident movement.
The questions from the women - all wives of men arrested and jailed in what Amnesty International has denounced as the biggest crackdown against dissidence since the early years of Fidel Castro's revolution - fly backwards and forwards.

How do you tell a six-year-old they will not see their father for up to 20 years? Should you allow yourself to be strip-searched before visits? How can you get proper medical care for a sick husband?

Claudia Marquez Linares, wife of the Cuban Liberal Democratic Party leader, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes, is still bemused by his public "confession" of guilt, later broadcast on state television, during the April trials.

"He told me they had threatened to arrest me too if he didn't do it. They wanted him to say the Americans gave him cash, but he told them that was crazy," she explained.

Claudia and the other women have come together at the house of Gisela Delgado "for some mutual support".

When police came for Gisela's husband, Hector Palacios, in March they blocked off the street and set up floodlights. "It was like a Hollywood film, as though they were coming for a group of terrorists rather than just one man," she said.

They took stacks of documents, computer equipment and several thousand books - part of a so-called "independent libraries" project which stocked the works of exiled authors such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Zoe Valdes. The books were, eventually, returned, but Mr Palacios, who had already spent two shorter periods in jail, never came back.


The jailing of the 75 coincided with another event that shocked people abroad and in Cuba. On April 2, a group of 10 armed people hijacked the Cuarto Congreso ferry as it crossed Havana Bay with 50 passengers. They set a course for Florida where, under US legislation for Cuban exiles, they could have expected a warm welcome. But they ran out of fuel.

They were placed before a Cuban court, and three of the hijackers were shot at dawn three days later. Their families were only told afterwards.

"This represents a return to extreme repressive measures in use decades ago which cannot be justified, and which, ultimately, harm the Cuban people," Amnesty said. It was not enough, however, to deter others. Last week three would-be boat-hijackers reportedly committed suicide after being cornered.

And here I thought that the only repression in Cuba was the American trade embargo or at Guantanamo Bay. Shucky-darn.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/20/2003 11:56:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The boom in history programmes on television is undermining university study by encouraging students to believe that the subject is an exercise in storytelling rather than a rigorous intellectual discipline, academics complain today.


Rosemary O'Day, professor at the Open University, said the programmes had "the unfortunate effect of making students think that history is a narrative, descriptive subject".


Yes, they have a point. Yes, there is far more to the academic discipline of history than narrative. Yes, said discipline requires mastering many skills other than narrative, most particularly analytic skills.

But people are wired to learn things from narrative. It's an invaluable educational technique. As another quote puts it:

John Charmley, professor at the University of East Anglia, agreed. "One of the skills of the historian ought to be telling a story - not that you would know it looking at some history books. It is a little ungrateful of professional historians to bite a hand that is helping to feed them."

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/20/2003 11:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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