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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Thursday, July 29, 2004
THE ROBOT SCIENTIST. An AI that's doing useful biology.
For a machine that's changing the world, the device on the lab bench in front of me doesn't look very impressive - it just goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. A contraption about the size of a human hand moves from side to side along a track. At the far right end of its trajectory, a proboscis-like pipette pecks into a foil-covered plastic container and sucks up some liquid; the hand moves a foot or so to the left, and the pipette squirts out the liquid a few drops at a time onto a rectangular plastic platter covered with an array of 96 tiny depressions. Then it repeats the routine. Whirr, plunge, suck, whirr, plunge, squirt - a mechanical counterpoint to the cries of the seagulls outside the lab in this Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth. The effect is oddly hypnotic.


The robot scientist's job was to take a bunch of different strains of yeast, each lacking one gene relevant to synthesizing the three so-called aromatic amino acids - three related chords - and to see which supplements they required and thus work out what gene does what. The machine was armed with a digital model of amino acid synthesis in yeast, as well as three software modules: one for making what might be called informed guesses about which strains lacked which genes, one for devising experiments to test these guesses, and one for transforming the experiments into instructions to the hardware.

Crucially, the robot scientist was programmed to build on its own results. Once it had conducted initial tests, it used the outcomes to make a subsequent set of better-informed guesses. And when the next batch of results arrived, it folded them into the following round of experiments, and so on.

If the process sounds familiar, that's because it fits a textbook notion of the scientific method. Of course, science in the real world progresses on the basis of hunches, random inspirations, lucky guesses, and all sorts of other things that King and his team haven't yet modeled in software. But the robot scientist still proved awfully effective. After five cycles of hypothesis-experiment-result, the automaton's conclusions about which mutant lacked which gene were correct 80 percent of the time.

How good is that? A control group of human biologists, including professors and graduate students, performed the same task. The best of them did no better, and the worst made guesses tantamount to random stabs in the dark. In fact, compared with the inconsistency of human scientists, the machine looked like a radiant example of experimental competence.

Fascinating. Damn it, Jim, I'm a robot biologist, not a doctor!

Captain, the biologist canna tae much more!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as interested.

7/29/2004 01:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS SONG IS OUR SONG. Last I looked, parody was a defense against copyright violation, even if you own the rights to Woody Guthrie.
In the wake of their short's popularity, which began soon after its July 9 Web release and has been punctuated by appearances and mentions on almost every major U.S. news show, the brothers found themselves in a legal skirmish with Ludlow Music, which, Ludlow attorney Paul LiCalsi said, owns the copyright to Guthrie's famous tune.

Ludlow Music is a unit of music publisher The Richmond Organization. JibJab Media, the proper name of the Spiridellises' company, never got permission to use Guthrie's song in This Land, and Ludlow Music is telling them to pull down the short.

About a week ago, the brothers were served with a cease-and-desist order on behalf of Ludlow Music, demanding they remove This Land from their website. LiCalsi said Ludlow has not filed a lawsuit yet against JibJab and hopes to resolve the case without taking that step.
Remember when copyright law used to be a good thing, in its earlier, less funny, days?

(Yes, yes, it's still a good thing, but not at its current elongated length and excessive reach.)

Read The Rest if fascinated.

7/29/2004 12:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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SPACESHIP ONE IS GO. Go, Burt, go (and all the other contenders, as well).
Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, said they will make one launch on Sept. 29 for the Ansari X Prize, offered by a group of private donors to the first team that sends three people, or an equivalent weight, into space, safely returns them, and repeats the entire venture within two weeks.

The second flight is tentatively set for Oct. 4, though Rutan said his team would be ready to make a third attempt if one of the others fail.
Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

7/29/2004 12:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STILL NO RIGHT TO BEAR DILDOS, though there's nothing to prevent them from being elected. That is, according to the 11th Circuit:
Americans do not have a fundamental right to sexual privacy, a 2-1 decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Wednesday.

The split panel upheld an Alabama law -- nearly identical to one in Georgia -- that made the sale of sex toys a crime punishable by up to a year in prison.

The decision extends an emerging division in the court over sexual rights, with Judges Stanley F. Birch Jr. and Rosemary Barkett leading opposing factions.

Birch maintains that although the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a Texas law criminalizing homosexual sodomy, the justices have not decided fully that sexual privacy is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution.

Barkett claims that the court is refusing to apply the sodomy decision to laws that violate people's right "to be left alone in the privacy of their bedrooms."

Last week, the full 11th Circuit split 6-6 in denying reconsideration of a decision that upheld a Florida law prohibiting homosexuals from adopting children. Birch wrote that while he thought the law was "misguided," since there was no "constitutional liberty interest in private sexual intimacy," the court must uphold Florida lawmakers' right to exclude gays and lesbians from adopting.

Barkett wrote that the Florida law violated equal protection guarantees in the 14th Amendment and "substantive due process" rights to sexual privacy established in last year's sodomy case, Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S.Ct. 2472.

Two judges agreed with Barkett that Florida was violating homosexuals' equal protection rights; three other judges said the case was important enough to deserve another look.

This week Birch and Barkett faced off again, with Senior Judge James C. Hill providing Birch the swing vote in favor of Alabama's right to prohibit the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs ... ."
Didn't Griswold used to be relevant here?

Read The Rest if you want fine detail. See also here.

7/29/2004 12:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DON'T CHEW ON THE METRO in D.C., by the way.
About 6:30 p.m. July 16, Willett was eating a PayDay candy bar while riding the escalator from 11th Street NW into the Metro Center Station. Metro Transit Police Officer Cherrail Curry-Hagler was riding up.

The police officer warned Willett to finish the candy before entering the station because eating or drinking in the Metro system is illegal.

Willett nodded, kept chewing the peanut-and-caramel bar and stuffed the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into the trash can near the station manager's kiosk, according to both Willett and Curry-Hagler.

Curry-Hagler turned around and followed Willett into the station. Moments after making a remark to the officer, Willett said, she was searched, handcuffed and arrested for chewing the last bite of her candy bar after she passed through the fare gates. She was released several hours later after paying a $10 fine, pending a hearing.


Metro occasionally has come under fire for what some considered extreme enforcement of its no-eating rules. The best-known example was in 2000, when a transit police officer handcuffed a 12-year-old girl for eating a single french fry on a subway platform.

Chew on that.

Apparently, this is Freudian; in response to people with an oral fixation, the police are anal-compulsive.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 as fascinated.

7/29/2004 11:13:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WONDERFUL THE WAY Florida elections still can't be trusted, isn't it?

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

7/29/2004 11:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ROBYN ASIMOV GIVES A VALIANT, but lame defense of I, Robot, the movie. (Robyn is Isaac's daughter.)

After much meandering, and quotations of the film-maker's good intentions, it boils down to this:

My father did not write for the screen -- but he did appreciate the talent it took to convey scientific ideas in a humanitarian context, something which, to my mind, came through in this movie. There was no greater fan of, say, "Star Trek," than my father. What he liked was that the show introduced these concepts to a far larger and more diverse audience than the small sector of the population that seeks out science fiction. And that's what my father would have liked most about "I, Robot," the movie.
Alas, the true defense seems to be here:
He liked people to buy his books. It would not have escaped him that although this movie will turn many "I, Robot" readers into "I, Robot" viewers, the reverse will also be true.
Because this just isn't good enough:
He cared little for Hollywood, but he was respectful and generous with others who promoted science and science fiction. In that regard, "I, Robot," the movie, succeeds.
That line would excuse any piece of "sci-fi" crap.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested.

7/29/2004 10:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE VISIBLE WOMAN. Jessica Alba comments on being cast as The Invisible Woman, along with Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, and and Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards (if you don't know who they are, never mind).

I have to agree that she's not at all someone you'd naturally think of for the part, but I'll reserve judgment until I see it; I'm still most concerned about the script <

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 as interested.

And no more Brosnan as Bond: did he fall, or was he pushed? Given the money involved, pushed seems a reasonable guess, but once again Amygdala tells you what other blogs won't: I Don't Know.

And London isn't gritty?

To play up Constantine's gritty look and feel, Lawrence transferred the action of the story from the comic's London to Los Angeles, scene of many films noir. "I was referencing the movie Training Day, because we were shooting in L.A., and it's sort of this different side of L.A. you don't see," Lawrence said. "It's a little more ethnic. It's a little more realistic L.A. It's not just sort of the landmarks of L.A. I like the colors of that. The feelings and the textures of that. And I actually worked with the production designer of that film on this as well. If you want a reference for [the film's] look, you can go with that. The 'noir' comes more in the tone of the character and the structure of the story and the way Constantine interacts and deals with people and the world around him."
Fine, but how is it that none of this works in London? When, you know, it provably does on the comic page?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as interested.

7/29/2004 10:37:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TWO YEARS AGO Thom Friedman wrote, and I amplified, on August 18th, 2002 with:
When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there — just ask the Palestinians. But when you're talking about an unprovoked war to dismantle a government half a world away, any road just won't do. You need a clearly focused end, means and rationale.

Because we certainly don't want to pick up a newspaper two years from now and read that there was just a heated meeting of Bush advisers about what the war in Iraq was supposed to be about.

And you have to explain your focused end, means, and rationale.
So that didn't work out so well for the Bush Administration.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

7/29/2004 10:31:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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REMEMBER WHEN RICHARD PERLE WAS SUING SY HERSH? Remember "It's all lies, from beginning to end"? Remember Perle's resignation from the Defense Policy Board because of the facts in Hersh's piece? When Jack Shafer of Slate "double-dared" Perle to sue (a very gracious act on behalf of another journalist, to be sure)? (The curious difficulty in finding reliable information on the membership of the DPB?) My theory that the Saudis were involved in setting up Hersh?

I've been meaning to blog for the longest time (a month, anyway), Jack Schafer's follow-up on Perle's dropped lawsuit and promised and posted evidence of Hersh's "lies."

Policy entrepreneur/venture capitalist/former Defense Policy Board Chairman/Conrad Black factotum/talking head Richard N. Perle has finally released the 85 pages of interview transcripts and statements he promised to post on the Web three months ago to prove his claim that Seymour M. Hersh maligned him in a March 17, 2003, New Yorker investigative feature, "Lunch With the Chairman."

Perle originally threatened to sue Hersh for libel (March 2003) but downsized his outrage to a demand for a correction (March 2004) as the statute of limitations ran out and his attorneys advised against a suit. In declining to sue, Perle told the New York Sun that the documents would "make it absolutely clear that [Hersh's] reporting is false. … With the benefit of that information I would expect The New Yorker to make a correction."

Perle released the allegedly damning documents to the Chicago Tribune, which posted them today (June 25, 2004) in PDF form to accompany David Jackson's article about the controversy (and a Sy Hersh profile). Perle prepared the documents for the Department of Defense's inspector general, who commenced an investigation after members of Congress read The New Yorker piece and other press accounts and wanted to know if Perle had violated federal conflict-of-interest provisions by improperly mixing his government duties (head of the Defense Policy Board) with his business interests (homeland security and defense contracts). The IG ultimately ruled that federal conflict-of-interest rules didn't apply to Perle because the provisions don't kick in unless an employee works 60 days in a year, and Perle only worked eight. In this sense, the IG exonerated Perle.


Perle attorney Samuel Abady tells the Tribune's Jackson that the "materials make it absolutely clear that [Hersh's] reporting is false," but Jackson finds otherwise. "A Tribune examination found the materials do not support such a sweeping conclusion," he writes.

One of Perle's three witnesses—the notorious Saudi arms dealer and financier Adnan Khashoggi—contradicted Perle on important points, and said in an [sic] Tribune interview that as far as he knew, Hersh's report was accurate. "There are facts we cannot run away from," Khashoggi said.


Perle has never precisely described how the Hersh article libeled him. At the time of its publication, the New York Sun asked what part of the story was incorrect, and Perle responded, "It's all lies, from beginning to end." If Hersh were the litigious sort, he could probably file a slander suit against Perle for making that statement—and he wouldn't have to go to England to get a court to take it.

But Hersh's piece, read from the benefit of a 15 months removal from it, judiciously avoids libeling Perle. After writing extensively on Perle's dual roles as DPB chair and businessman, Hersh asks Perle if there are any conflicts of interest between his two roles or if they constituted an appearance of a conflict. Hersh never makes the charge. Since when is raising a relevant question of a government employee an action for libel?

And so ends our 15-month saga: A libel allegation has been reduced to a request for a correction, which is a little like a demolition artist placing an order for nitroglycerin but settling for nitrous oxide.

And so Adnan Kashoggi is confirmed as crucially denying an alleged statement that it's easy to believe (though not provable) he gave. And Perle's plaints melt into nothingness.

Wot. A. Surprise.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

7/29/2004 10:12:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MIDDLE-CLASS TAX CUTS OR ELECTION ISSUE? Ted Barlow and others noted the Republicans making their choice.
The White House helped to block a Republican-brokered deal on Wednesday to extend several middle-class tax cuts, fearful of a bill that could draw Democratic votes and dilute a Republican campaign theme, Republican negotiators said.
Michael Froomkin says, “This may be one of the most cynical ploys in US politics I ever read about. And I read a lot.” Paperwight has much more; he makes a good comparison to the Republican refusal to accept a Democratic deal to confirm most of Bush’s judicial appointments. And, he notices that the White House is attempting to soothe tempers by allowing more pork in the budget.
Ah, that changed tone in Washington.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

7/29/2004 10:03:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE TEN BILLION DOLLAR BRIBES FOR OIL scandal investigations are, unsurprisingly, resulting in conflicts between U.S. Congressional investigations, and the Paul Volcker U.N.-appointed investigation. Judith Miller story alert! But the gist of this seems plausible.
The officials and diplomats said that in meetings in Washington on July 13, Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is leading the United Nations' internal investigation, rejected requests from members of Congress for access to review documents and to interview United Nations officials being scrutinized by his panel.

"He wants us to do nothing now while he does what he can, by persuasion, since his panel can't fire or subpoena anyone," said Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, who attended one of the meetings. "But we will press on."

Meanwhile, the House International Relations Committee stepped up its efforts to obtain documents related to the relief program by issuing a subpoena on Friday for financial records from the French bank BNP Paribas. Two other Congressional committees have issued subpoenas to the bank, which managed billions of dollars in oil revenues intended for relief aid through the program.


In addition to Mr. Volcker's panel, which is expected to issue an interim report in August, at least six Congressional panels, the Treasury Department, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Manhattan district attorney are investigating the program. It was established in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil and use proceeds to purchase food, medicine and other relief goods, and it became the world's largest relief program. Congressional investigators have concluded that Saddam Hussein skimmed about $10 billion from the oil profits, and there have been allegations of possible misdeeds by United Nations officials.


But Reid Morden, the executive director of the United Nations panel investigating the program, said the Volcker panel would share information only after its own review was completed. Mr. Morden said that since the investigation "could have a serious impact on both the organization and individuals working there, I think it's very important that the inquiry conduct itself with the utmost respect for due process."

It's rather all too easy to read that as ass-covering.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5; don't expect this mess to be fully untangled any time soon, given the multiple opportuntities for stone-walling by involved parties.

7/29/2004 09:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GETTING WIRED. Nice nitty gritty article on the details of doing such vast amounts of wireless logistics. As someone who spent a number of years on (non-political) convention logistics for conventions of thousands of people and hundreds of events, this sort of tech detail interests me.
With the Democratic delegates in session below and giant red, white and blue sausages of balloons swaying above, Louis Libin has spent much of this week perched near the roof of the FleetCenter, binoculars to his eyes, scanning the crowd for evildoers.

Level 9, where Mr. Libin operates, is more heavily secured than the convention floor and houses vital security operations. But Mr. Libin is not a Secret Service agent. He is not a police officer. Instead, the badge hanging from his neck reads Wireless Enforcement.

Mr. Libin runs the convention's wireless coordination committee, and he enforces his own brand of zero-tolerance justice. Armed with advanced detection equipment, Mr. Libin maintains a lookout for radio pirates.


"One of the big changes this year is that while the control room used to have to be on a truck here on-site, now the control room can be in Atlanta," Ms. Maxwell explained on Sunday evening, leaning forward in an arena seat that would be occupied by the Rhode Island delegation 24 hours later. "There was a time not too long ago when it would have been cost-prohibitive to home-run everything to Atlanta."

But the plunging cost and soaring availability of ultra-high-speed fiber optic links allows CNN to transmit the raw feed from 20 different cameras simultaneously to Atlanta (that's about 200 megabits a second; a T-1 office data line is 1.5 megabits).


Sure enough, around 5:10 p.m. on Monday, he and his floor crew spotted a Swedish television crew near the Massachusetts delegation. At the convention, Mr. Libin always carries a roll of numbered stickers that read Approved Radio, and the Swedes' equipment didn't have them. They were told to wire up or shut down. Less than half an hour later, Mr. Libin's squad apprehended a television crew from Kansas City.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Libin said that his team had taken down about 65 unapproved television operations and around 35 other violators (like merchandise vendors with unapproved walkie-talkies) in the convention's first two days.


Verizon, the convention's official telecommunications provider, established network connections into the FleetCenter that can carry a staggering 4.5 gigabits of information a second, according to Verizon officials - the equivalent of 3,000 T-1 lines.

Read The Rest Scale: out 3 of 5 for more, if interested. (And, y'know, I've read eighty-three thousand tons of convention coverage so far, from the mainstream press, the alternative press, the bloggers, the mainstreamers doing blogging, the bloggers criticizing the mainstreams doing blogging, the mainstreamer bloggers criticizing the bloggers criticizing the mainstream bloggers, and in the end, I've found all of it slightly interesting. None of it worth pointing to. Nice speech by Obama: that's news to you, right? (I could reminisce about how I first heard of Obama while doing polling close to two years ago for -- they'd never tell us who paid for the contract, but my very strong guess is -- the Illinois Democratic Party, during which I asked dozens of questions of Illinois voters about Barack Obama -- few of whom had heard of him -- and other Illinois-related topics. But that's pretty much the whole story....)

7/29/2004 09:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS IS THE YEAR! Every year I read some declarations that this is when the final, tipping point, seminal shift of Jews towards voting Republican will come. Oddly, these explications tend to universally come from folks voting Republican.

We've particularly seen this assertion in the last decade, and even more in the last three years. How's it coming? Not so well.

American Jews remain faithful and reliable supporters of the Democratic Party and seem poised to overwhelmingly back John Kerry in the Nov. 2 presidential election, a panel at the Democratic National Convention was told on Wednesday.

President Bush won only 19 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2000 election and is working hard to improve his share this time. He has moved U.S. Middle East policy even more in favor of Israel.

But a report issued by Gallup in May found that the Jewish tilt toward the Democrats was more pronounced than for any other religious group with only 16 percent identifying themselves as Republicans.
"There has not been at the grass-roots level any fundamental realignment of the Jewish community. Bush last time got an unnaturally low proportion of the Jewish vote to tell the truth. Could he improve on it slightly? Maybe, but there will not be any substantial change."

Jews make up only about 2 percent of the U.S. population but a much higher proportion of them vote than many other groups. Many are politically active and make campaign donations, and they have a significant presence in several key battleground states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Kerry has been working to match Bush's support for Israel. The Democratic Party platform adopted on Tuesday said Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel, that Palestinian refugees had no right of return and that it was unrealistic to expect Israel to return to its 1949 borders -- all positions espoused by Bush.

Kerry's younger brother, Cameron Kerry, has been the Massachusetts senator's main liaison with the Jewish community. He is married to a Jewish woman and converted to Judaism 21 years ago.

Some Republicans in the past have managed to win a significant slice of the Jewish vote.

In 1980, Reagan took 39 percent of the vote; in 1988, then Vice President George Bush, the present incumbent's father, took 35 percent. But in the past three elections, between 78 and 80 percent of Jews have voted Democrat.
Darn Jews! Why don't they just recognize what's in their best interest, and get with the program? You know, like those "black" people.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5.

7/29/2004 09:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ARE YOU BETTER OFF THAN YOU WERE? Sure, maybe. But lots of us aren't. Billmon points out:

[...] ...the 17% drop in real U.S. wages between 1972 and 1992.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/29/2004 09:16:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HAS ANYONE TOLD CHEVY CHASE? It's the air shark!

Special JATO unit not included.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 as interested.

7/29/2004 09:11:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE OLD FUTURES are the best futures.

The Freedomship! Is longer better? The Nuclear Eel! Frisbies for everyone! The roads must roll.

Train system, or rollar coaster? You decide. It's tubular, man.

And so on.

View The Rest as interested/amused.

7/29/2004 08:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, July 25, 2004
SPIDER-MAN 1 script, by David Koepp is here, and interestingly variant reading for those of us who are fanatics.

Read The Rest as interested.

7/25/2004 07:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, July 24, 2004
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. Once again, since early this morning, I've been alternatining between only being able to maintain a connection for between five minutes and two minutes. As well, outgoing mail failed, and I suddenly got several e-mails from between one and four days ago.

Now, no connection longer than about 45 seconds; I'll let you know when this changes.

7/24/2004 12:55:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW DO YOU SAY "SSH" IN ROBOTIC? The robot librarian.
The robot is a mobile manipulator which means that it is a vehicle with three wheels, Professor Pobil explained.

It has an arm with seven joints, two fingers which form a gripper, and two micro cameras on its wrist.

Four sensors built into its gripper senses the force it is applying.

When it receives a request for a book, its voice recognition software matches the titles with the book's classification code in the database.

It can then search the database to identify which bookshelf stack to go to.

Because the database will only give an approximate location, the robot will navigate its way to the bookshelf, using its infrared and laser guidance system, and scan books within a four-metre radius.

'Hardest part'

"Once it is in there, it starts using its cameras. By moving the arm with the cameras, it takes an image of the bookshelf," said Professor Pobil.

"It can read the labels and the position of the book using its image processing and optical character recognition software," the professor said.

Once the book is located, it has to grasp it and take it off the bookshelf, which is not a simple as it might seem.

For this, the team had to develop special fingertips like nails, with one nail longer than the other.
Obviously it needs to be able to access your individual account so it can make recommendations, the way various software packages can.

And it needs to wear glasses.

Next: a rewrite of The Music Man to take this development into account. Marian the Robot.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as interested.

7/24/2004 12:07:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, July 23, 2004
BACK TO BANGALORE. Highly educated Americanized Indians are returning to India to try to make a difference and make money.

Hardly surprising, but interesting details. It's also yet another part of globalization.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/23/2004 08:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Play rock, paper, scissors with him!

View The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for that old-fashioned Saddam comedy we all love from his earlier, funnier, work.

7/23/2004 07:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CALL A SPECIAL SESSION OF CONGRESS demand Lieberman and Spector.
The Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders called today for swift action on the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, urging a key Senate committee to have legislation ready by Oct. 1.


"The threat of terrorism will be with us for a long time," Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican majority leader, said in a joint statement with Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic minority leader. "It is important we address the problems raised by the commission so that we can make America safer."


"Time is not on our side." Mr. Kean and the commission vice chairman, former Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana, said Congress should begin work as soon as possible, perhaps even in a special session.


Senators Frist and Daschle, who reached an accord late Thursday on how to proceed and seemed more intent on speed than House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, said they have asked the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to evaluate how best to put into effect the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations for reorganizing the executive branch.

This afternoon, the committee's chairman, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said her panel would begin hearings the first week of August. "So no longer is it going to be a sleepy, quiet August around here," she said at a Capitol Hill news conference. She said she was open to the possibility of a post-election, or "lame duck," legislative session. The last lame duck session was late in 2000.


For one thing, two senators on the Governmental Affairs Committee, Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut and the ranking minority member, were among those who called Thursday for a special session of Congress to act on the Sept. 11 commission's findings.

"The status quo failed us on Sept. 11, and it'll fail us again unless we reform and change it in some of the ways that this commission recommended," Mr. Lieberman said.

Mr. Specter agreed. "I think Senator Lieberman hit the nail on the head when he called for a special session," he said. "We haven't done very much in the Senate for a very, very long time because we are gridlocked. And this is one subject, I think, which can even relieve the gridlock in the United States Senate."

Congress can call itself into special session by authorizing its leaders to convene the lawmakers. The Constitution also authorizes the President to summon Congress for special or "extraordinary" session for legislative purposes.

There have been 27 special session of Congress, according to the Senate Historical Office. The last was convened on July 26, 1948, by President Harry S. Truman, who brought the Republican-controlled Senate and House back to Washington in the midst of a bitter re-election campaign. When the lawmakers failed to accomplish much, Truman was able to flail them collectively as the "Do Nothing 80th Congress."

On the House side of Capitol Hill, Speaker Hastert suggested on Thursday that he did not want to be rushed.


Senator Lieberman, who appeared at the news conference with Senator Collins, was asked whether the senators were putting pressure on the House to move more quickly. "With all respect, I hope we do put pressure on them," he replied.


Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, said today, "It's my opinion as a politician that if a campaign chooses to try to politicize this commission and its recommendation, it does so at great risk."

Compare and contrast, and see some politicians acting, in this instance, as statesmen and stateswomen (whether under pressure or not is beside the point), and some acting as partisans.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

UPDATE: Hearings to come in August.

7/23/2004 06:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SMALLER GOVERNMENT. I am a great big man:
Light and his research assistants combed the Federal Yellow Book, a directory of more than 40,000 executive branch officials. They took inventory of top managerial jobs in the 15 Cabinet departments, counting only titles that link directly to the Senate-confirmed positions of secretary, deputy secretary, undersecretary, assistant secretary and administrator.

Comparing the results with previous studies, they charted the birth and proliferation of such titles as deputy associate deputy secretary, deputy associate assistant secretary and principal deputy deputy assistant secretary. The jobs were held by political appointees and career executives.

One of the more notable growth professions was that of chief of staff to a Cabinet secretary. The first such post was created in 1981 at the Department of Health and Human Services. It spread to 10 more departments over the next decade and now exists at every Cabinet agency except Defense.

"People just end up believing from a power and perquisite standpoint that you've got to have a chief of staff if you are to be seen as a credible player," Light said.
Bottom line?
The federal government is top-heavy with more layers of high-ranking bureaucrats than ever before, impeding the flow of information within agencies and clouding the accountability of the officials who run them, according to a study to be released today.

The study, conducted for the Brookings Institution by government scholar Paul C. Light, found that the number of federal executive titles swelled to 64 this year. That's up from 51 in 1998, 33 in 1992 and 17 in 1960.
In 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected, the number was 33; during his terms, eight years, it went up to 51 (possibly a bit more); now, after seven years, it's boomed up to 64.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5; there's a bit more interesting detail.

7/23/2004 05:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE SCYTHE OF TIME'S REMEDIAL HARVEST. An update on the perils of trying to publish a newspaper in Zimbabwe.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/23/2004 04:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EVEN TASTIER. What soldier wouldn't want a nice drink of doughnut?
Once the fried dough embodiment of hot and fresh, Krispy Kreme has transformed its original glazed doughnut into a new frozen beverage for summer.

The chain introduced a new line of frozen drinks Wednesday, including frozen original kreme -- a drinkable version of the company's signature doughnut -- raspberry, latte and double chocolate.

Customers can also add coffee to the kreme and double chocolate.


The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company said it currently does not have plans to introduce low-carb versions of the new drinks.

Because the low-carb version is a lot like dehydrated water.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if fascinated for a few more details.

7/23/2004 12:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TRANSISTORS ARE SO TRADITIONAL. But not for quantum computing.

I sure hope this pans out.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

7/23/2004 11:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I ALWAYS SAID THIS TASTES LIKE... A refreshing new military food solution!
Would you eat food cooked in your own urine? Food scientists working for the US military have developed a dried food ration that troops can hydrate by adding the filthiest of muddy swamp water or even peeing on it.

The ration comes in a pouch containing a filter that removes 99.9 per cent of bacteria and most toxic chemicals from the water used to rehydrate it, according to the Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts. This is the same organisation that created the "indestructible sandwich" that will stay fresh for three years (New Scientist print edition, 10 April 2002).

The aim is to reduce the amount of water soldiers need to carry. One day's food supply of three meals, weighs 3.5 kilograms but that can be reduced to about 0.4 kilograms with the dehydrated pouches, says spokeswoman Diane Wood.

The pouch - containing chicken and rice initially - relies on osmosis to filter the water or urine. When two solutions of different concentrations are separated by a semipermeable membrane, with gaps that allow only water molecules to pass through, the water is drawn to the more concentrated side.
Hey, if you're trapped and starving, this is a smart idea; otherwise, don't go with the pee thing, okay?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if interested.

7/23/2004 11:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DARFUR, PT.? UN sanctions threatened.
The United States circulated a Security Council resolution on Thursday threatening sanctions against Sudan if it does not arrest the leaders of marauding militias responsible for a wave of violence in the Darfur region.


The draft resolution, which the United States hopes to introduce formally next week, also urges all states to prevent arms and military equipment from getting to the fighters and calls on other nations to provide more financial aid and to reinforce human rights observers and an African Union monitoring team going into the area.

The measure did not specify what sanctions should be applied, but it said they would become an option if the Sudanese government had not produced tangible evidence in 30 days that it was honoring its commitment to take action against the militias.


Mr. Annan said the Security Council would receive reports on the situation every 30 days from Jan Pronk, the new United Nations special representative.

Back at the end of June, the U.S. Holocaust Museum suspended operations for part of a day to call attention to Darfur, along with a program focused on it. So did the UK Holocaust Centre.

On the 18th, it was reported that the Sudanese rebels walked out of the peace talks, which isn't unreasonable, given that the government wasn't keeping its agreements.

But the rebels, insisting the government fulfill a list of previous commitments first, walked out Saturday without having met the Sudanese government delegation.

"These talks are now finished," Ahmed Hussain Adam said on behalf of his Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Liberation Army. "We are leaving Addis Ababa."

Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim, spokesman for the government delegation, said Sudan was not prepared to accept preconditions.


The rebels' main demand was an internationally supervised timeline for Sudan to make good on its promise to disarm shadowy Arab militias accused of killing tens of thousands of black Africans and driving more than a million from their homes in a systematic campaign of terror.

The insurgents also were seeking government commitments to respect previous agreements, allow an international inquiry into the killings, prosecute those responsible, lift restrictions on humanitarian workers and release prisoners of war. Finally, the insurgents wanted a more neutral venue for future negotiations, arguing that Ethiopia has close ties with Sudan.

Most of the rebels' demands were contained in a widely ignored cease-fire deal signed April 8 with the government.

"There's no progress being made because the government has refused these demands," Adam said.

He said government-backed attacks continued as recently as Thursday, when militia fighters known as the Janjaweed raided the southern Darfur village of Majreia, killing 17 people. His claim could not be independently verified.

Sudan also signed an agreement with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on July 3 calling for disarming the Janjaweed, deploying soldiers, facilitating aid and allowing international troops and monitors into Darfur.

The awfulness continued.
Days after the American secretary of state and the United Nations secretary general ended their tour, witnesses said, gunmen stormed a girls' school in the desert region of Darfur, chained a group of students together and set the building on fire. The charred remains of eight girls were still in shackles when military observers from the African Union arrived on the scene.


On this reporter's third visit since April to government-held portions of Darfur, always accompanied by government officials, the signs of misery seemed more acute than ever, and the camps significantly larger.

At the Nyala hospital, one man writhed on the floor with a gash in his bicep that he said he received in a militia attack days earlier. There were skeletal babies, many of whom no longer had the energy to cry. Outside of town, one boy with burn marks on his face, his arms and much of his body approached a visitor and asked for something to eat. He was burned, he said, when his village was set afire.

Most experts predict that the situation in Darfur will get much worse. The Agency for International Development has estimated a death toll of about 300,000 by year's end, even if the aid response is swift, and up to a million casualties if it is slow. The World Health Organization's estimates are lower, but it projects 10,000 deaths a month if infectious diseases break out.


The health situation is similarly dire across the border in Chad, where several hundred thousand villagers have fled.

A survey conducted in June of 896 children living in desert refugee camps and other settlements in Chad, near the border town of Tine, found that 27 percent of those in the camps and 29 percent of those living outside the camps were severely malnourished.

Tons of relief food are arriving at camps throughout Darfur, but children continue to grow weaker. The lack of clean water is a prime culprit. Diarrhea is now rife in the camps, sapping whatever nourishments people have managed to take in.

"Diarrhea is a beastly killer of the weak," said Dr. David Nabarro, of the World Health Organization.

Sanitation is another challenge. Latrines are scarce in the camps. In all of Western Darfur, with a million people, there are about 4,000.

"That is minuscule," said Ces Adorna, Unicef's representative in Sudan, standing in a Nyala field covered with human excrement.

With sewage out in the open, diseases spread quicker. When the rainy season begins, doctors fear cholera and typhoid. Measles already flared up, but doctors may have contained the outbreak.

In camps, "it's like sitting on a bomb," said Dr. Nevio Zagaria, who works for the W.H.O. in Nyala.

The rains will also prompt an increase in malaria. Crews have begun moving from shelter to shelter in Darfur's camps spraying for mosquitoes.

Mr. Osman, the health minister, scoffs at suggestions that his government created the crisis. While accompanying Dr. Lee Jong Wook, director general of W.H.O., on a tour of Darfur this week, Mr. Osman disavowed any connection between the Janjaweed and the government and singled out the rebels for blame. Outside governments and relief workers question that.

Mr. Osman said he feared that talk about ethnic cleansing in Darfur from the Bush administration is designed to justify an American military invasion.

"They're saying that so they can bring their troops in," he said.

Yeah. Because what we really want is to tie up troops we don't have, so we can conquer the riches of Sudan.

PBS did a major story on the 20th.

The genocide debate continues.

The question is more than academic. The Genocide Convention, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, calls on signers to "prevent" and "punish" genocide. If what is happening in Darfur is genocide, as many contend, the United States and other governments would be compelled to step in and put a stop to it.


An ethnic dimension to the attacks is undeniable. The militias are Arab and the villagers they attacked were, by and large, from black African tribes. Those who survived, now clustered together in camps, reported that they were subjected to ethnic taunts during the violence. The victims say they were called "abid," which means slave, and "zurug," which means black in Arabic.

But when it comes to applying the "G-word," as Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, recently referred to genocide, disagreement is deep. On this issue, even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that more evidence is needed.

The African Union similarly said that the threshold for genocide had not been reached. "Even though the crisis in Darfur is grave, with unacceptable levels of deaths, human suffering and destruction of homes and infrastructure, the situation cannot be described as a genocide," the group of African states said.

Many others, though, including Senator John Kerry, some other members of Congress from both parties and a variety of serious-minded activists, maintain that the standard has already been met. But that is far from clear.


In some cases, the Arabs have lighter skin than the black Africans. But years of intermarriage have blurred that distinction. In general, Arabs tend to speak Arabic as their first language. They are nomadic. The black Africans use African languages as well as Arabic. They tend to be farmers. There are exceptions to that as well. The cloudiness does not stop there. Most of the victims in the conflict have been from the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, all black Africans. But not all Arabs have joined the Janjaweed militias, which are accused of carrying out most of the atrocities. The Beni Hussein, an Arab group, have not taken part in the violence, and the Dorok, another Arab group, have been attacked by the militias. The Tama, still another Arab group, have been found to be attackers and victims.


Not surprisingly, perhaps, politicians are divided on the genocide question. The Bush administration has studiously avoided the term. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said recently that he had experts in the region interviewing victims and trying to determine whether the legal standard of genocide had been met. [Washington called Thursday for sanctions on Sudan if the government does not rein in the militias.]

Senator Kerry hedged awhile but said in July that he had found the evidence he needed to use the term, and in both chambers of Congress, the chorus for a genocide declaration is growing louder, though the final determination is made by the United Nations.

[On Thursday, the House and Senate passed measures declaring that the atrocities unfolding in Darfur constituted genocide.]

Much of the current disagreement centers on how much evidence is necessary to make a determination of genocide, said Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights. Should enough facts be gathered to prosecute a genocide case in court or should the threshold be lower?

"The goal of prevention, which is paramount, cannot wait until a full legal determination is made," she said.


The lone Bush administration official to speak of genocide comes down somewhere in the middle of the debate. "We see indicators of genocide, and there is evidence that points in that direction," said the official, Pierre-Richard Prosper, ambassador at large for war crimes issues.

More investigation is needed to establish whether the killing in Darfur amounts to genocide, Mr. Prosper said. But he is not likely to be the one investigating. He applied for a visa to Sudan weeks ago but the Sudanese, stung by the discussion, show no signs of letting him in.

The bill declaring what's happening in Darfur "genocide" nonetheless passed.
In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, the House of Representatives passed the measure in a unanimous vote, and the Senate then approved it by a voice vote, in their last acts before Congress adjourned for a six-week summer recess.
Small steps continue. Meanwhile, people die.

7/23/2004 02:58:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE HAVE SOME PLANES. This is just too hard to read without weeping.

7/23/2004 01:45:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CONGRESS MUST CHANGE. Chapter 13: How to do it? A Different Way of Organizing the Government
Strengthen Congressional Oversight of Intelligence and Homeland Security

Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important. So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need. The United States needs a strong, stable, and capable congressional committee structure to give America’s national intelligence agencies oversight, support, and leadership.

Few things are more difficult to change in Washington than congressional committee jurisdiction and prerogatives. To a member, these assignments are almost as important as the map of his or her congressional district.The American people may have to insist that these changes occur, or they may well not happen. Having interviewed numerous members of Congress from both parties, as well as congressional staff members, we found that dissatisfaction with congressional oversight remains widespread.

The future challenges of America’s intelligence agencies are daunting. They include the need to develop leading-edge technologies that give our policy makers and warfighters a decisive edge in any conflict where the interests of the United States are vital. Not only does good intelligence win wars, but the best intelligence enables us to prevent them from happening altogether.

Under the terms of existing rules and resolutions the House and Senate intelligence committees lack the power, influence, and sustained capability to meet this challenge. While few members of Congress have the broad knowledge of intelligence activities or the know-how about the technologies employed, all members need to feel assured that good oversight is happening.

When their unfamiliarity with the subject is combined with the need to preserve security, a mandate emerges for substantial change. Tinkering with the existing structure is not sufficient.

Either Congress should create a joint committee for intelligence, using the Joint Atomic Energy Committee as its model, or it should create House and Senate committees with combined authorizing and appropriations powers.

Whichever of these two forms are chosen, the goal should be a structure— codified by resolution with powers expressly granted and carefully limited—allowing a relatively small group of members of Congress, given time and reason to master the subject and the agencies, to conduct oversight of the intelligence establishment and be clearly accountable for their work. The staff of this committee should be nonpartisan and work for the entire committee and not for individual members.

The other reforms we have suggested—for a National Counterterrorism Center and a National Intelligence Director—will not work if congressional oversight does not change too. Unity of effort in executive management can be lost if it is fractured by divided congressional oversight.

Recommendation: Congressional oversight for intelligence—and counterterrorism—is now dysfunctional. Congress should address this problem. We have considered various alternatives: A joint committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy is one. A single committee in each house of Congress, combining authorizing and appropriating authorities, is another.

  • The new committee or committees should conduct continuing studies of the activities of the intelligence agencies and report problems relating to the development and use of intelligence to all members of the House and Senate.
  • We have already recommended that the total level of funding for intelligence be made public, and that the national intelligence program be appropriated to the National Intelligence Director, not to the secretary of defense.
  • We also recommend that the intelligence committee should have a subcommittee specifically dedicated to oversight, freed from the consuming responsibility of working on the budget.
  • The resolution creating the new intelligence committee structure should grant subpoena authority to the committee or committees. The majority party’s representation on this committee should never exceed the minority’s representation by more than one.
  • Four of the members appointed to this committee or committees should be a member who also serves on each of the following additional committees: Armed Services, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. In this way the other major congressional interests can be brought together in the new committee’s work.
  • Members should serve indefinitely on the intelligence committees, without set terms, thereby letting them accumulate expertise.
  • The committees should be smaller—perhaps seven or nine members in each house—so that each member feels a greater sense of responsibility, and accountability, for the quality of the committee’s work.

    The leaders of the Department of Homeland Security now appear before committees and subcommittees of Congress. One expert witness (not a member of the administration) told us that this is perhaps the single largest obstacle impeding the department’s successful development. The one attempt to consolidate such committee authority, the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, may be eliminated. The Senate does not have even this.

    Congress needs to establish for the Department of Homeland Security the kind of clear authority and responsibility that exist to enable the Justice Department to deal with crime and the Defense Department to deal with threats to national security. Through not more than one authorizing committee and one appropriating subcommittee in each house, Congress should be able to ask the secretary of homeland security whether he or she has the resources to provide reasonable security against major terrorist acts within the United States and to hold the secretary accountable for the department’s performance.

    Recommendation: Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. Congressional leaders are best able to judge what committee should have jurisdiction over this department and its duties. But we believe that Congress does have the obligation to choose one in the House and one in the Senate, and that this committee should be a permanent standing committee with a nonpartisan staff.

  • Will they act? Well, today Congress took up the more urgent task: gay marriage, again.

    Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

    7/23/2004 12:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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    Thursday, July 22, 2004
    WHY ARE INDIANS SAYING THEY ARE WORKING AS FORCED LABORERS for the U.S. military in Iraq? Is there anything to this? It seems so. (Initial links and issue obtained from Bob McManus.)
    COCHIN, India – Four Indians said Wednesday they were held against their will by U.S. troops in Iraq to do menial work in an Army camp amid insurgent attacks.

    The U.S. Embassy said it was investigating the report.

    Aliyarkunj Faisal, Abdul Aziz Shahjehan, Haniffa Mansool and Hameed Abdul Hafiz told The Associated Press they signed up in August with a recruiting agency to work for a caterer in Kuwait.

    When they reached the Kuwait airport, a U.S. soldier ordered them to board a bus that took them to a base near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, they said.

    "There were some 20 Indians in the bus. Once we knew that we were inside Iraq, we protested," Faisal said. "But the Americans told us that they had paid a Kuwait agency $1,000 for each man and therefore it was a must that we work for them."

    Shahjehan said the camp, which he could not name, often was the target of missile attacks by Iraqi fighters.

    "Every time the camp was attacked, we took shelter in a bunker. The fear of seeing so many bomb explosions still haunts me," he said, adding that the Army also gave them training on how to remain alert and get into bunkers.

    Shahjehan said the four – all Muslims – were forced to do menial jobs, including washing clothes.

    "When I refused to work and told an officer that I wanted to go back, he beat me up," Shahjehan said.

    Faisal said the men were promised $890 a month in Kuwait but instead made $200 from the Army in Iraq.

    "It was a pitiful life. We lost all our money," he said.
    And here:
    NEW DELHI - India asked the United States for information Tuesday on reports that Indian nationals were being forced to work for contractors in Iraq with little rest and low pay and held "against their will."

    The Ministry of External Affairs asked the U.S. Embassy for details on the number of Indians working in Iraq, a ministry spokesman said.

    The ministry "expressed its concern regarding the disturbing reports about the conditions in which some Indian nationals are being forced to work for contractors active in Iraq," a statement said.

    The embassy was asked about news reports "that Indians who wished to leave were unable to do so, and were being compelled to continue to remain in Iraq against their will," the statement said.
    And what Abu Ghraib and the like have done to us is force us to not dismiss such reports, but look into them.


    While India had turned down repeated US requests for troops to Iraq, a number of former Indian military personnel and others are working with US forces, though not on combat duty.
    Even as the fate of three Indians abducted by militants in Iraq hangs in balance, the government today reaffirmed that India would not send its troops there and said an estimated 5000 Indian nationals are presently employed at various places in Iraq.

    Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha that seven Indians have died and three were injured in various bomb explosions in Iraq.

    He said the government had tightened the emigration control to prevent Indian workers from being misled into employment in Iraq.
    With the Indian diplomatic presence in Baghdad barely extending outside the confines of its heavily guarded offices, it is in a very poor position to monitor hundreds of Indian workers employed by private contractors for a host of support services in Iraq.


    Even though Indian ambassador B B Tyagi has reported good coordination with the US authorities, what it means is that the Indian establishment is not capable of independent action. In fact, Indian diplomats recently had to request the coalition authorities and the US military liaison office in Jordan to verify reports of Indians working against their will in various establishments.


    The Indian authorities have just no idea of how many Indians are working in Iraq. Indian diplomats in Kuwait and Jordan, two nations which maintain land links with Iraq, have been instructed to periodically visit the border and look for stranded Indians. The Indian who were rescued from the Fallujah camp a couple of weeks ago were flown back from Jordan.

    The estimates vary, but it is supposed that at least 1200 ex-servicemen are present in Iraq doing security-related jobs. Large US companies carrying out contracts in Iraq have engaged Indian manpower firms to engage Indian labour and it is understood that in one instance some 400-odd persons were recruited for jobs in Basra and Erbil.


    The 18 persons rescued from Fallujah fell in a different trap. They were told that they were being sent to Kuwait but landed up in an US facility in Iraq.

    Not a story you've read about in U.S. papers, have you?

    Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

    7/22/2004 09:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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    WHAT MUST BE DONE, PT. II. Chapter 12: What to do? A Global Strategy.

    I'm extracting the barebones summary recommendations, and in only a couple of cases providing a bit of attendent text; you'll absolutely want to read the entire chapter yourself, of course, to find out why these make sense and how they might be, up to a point, implemented.

    What is needed is a broad political-military strategy that rests on a firm tripod of policies to
  • attack terrorists and their organizations;
  • prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism; and
  • protect against and prepare for terrorist attacks.


    Recommendation: The U.S. government must identify and prioritize actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries. For each, it should have a realistic strategy to keep possible terrorists insecure and on the run, using all elements of national power. We should reach out, listen to, and work with other countries that can help.


    Recommendation: If Musharraf stands for enlightened moderation in a fight for his life and for the life of his country, the United States should be willing to make hard choices too, and make the difficult long-term commitment to the future of Pakistan. Sustaining the current scale of aid to Pakistan, the United States should support Pak-istan’s government in its struggle against extremists with a comprehensive effort that extends from military aid to support for better education, so long as Pakistan’s leaders remain willing to make difficult choices of their own.


    Recommendation: The President and the Congress deserve praise for their efforts in Afghanistan so far. Now the United States and the international community should make a long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan, in order to give the government a reasonable opportunity to improve the life of the Afghan people. Afghanistan must not again become a sanctuary for international crime and terrorism. The United States and the international community should help the Afghan government extend its authority over the country, with a strategy and nation-by-nation commitments to achieve their objectives.


    This is an ambitious recommendation. It would mean a redoubled effort to secure the country, disarm militias, and curtail the age of war-lord rule. But the United States and NATO have already committed themselves to the future of this region—wisely, as the 9/11 story shows—and failed half-measures could be worse than useless.

  • NATO in particular has made Afghanistan a test of the Alliance’s ability to adapt to current security challenges of the future. NATO must pass this test. Currently, the United States and the international community envision enough support so that the central government can build a truly national army and extend essential infrastructure and minimum public services to major towns and regions.The effort relies in part on foreign civil-military teams, arranged under various national flags. The institutional commitments of NATO and the United Nations to these enterprises are weak. NATO member states are not following through; some of the other states around the world that have pledged assistance to Afghanistan are not fulfilling their pledges.

  • The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is overwhelmingly oriented toward military and security work. The State Department presence is woefully understaffed, and the military mission is narrowly focused on al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in the south and southeast.The U.S. government can do its part if the international community decides on a joint effort to restore the rule of law and contain rampant crime and narcotics trafficking in this crossroads of Central Asia.15

    We heard again and again that the money for assistance is allocated so rigidly that, on the ground,one U.S. agency often cannot improvise or pitch in to help another agency, even in small ways when a few thousand dollars could make a great difference.

    The U.S. government should allocate money so that lower-level officials have more flexibility to get the job done across agency lines, adjusting to the circumstances they find in the field. This should include discretionary funds for expenditures by military units that often encounter opportunities to help the local population.


    Recommendation: The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly. The United States and Saudi Arabia must determine if they can build a relationship that political leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend—a relationship about more than oil. It should include a shared commitment to political and economic reform, as Saudis make common cause with the outside world.

    It should include a shared interest in greater tolerance and cultural respect, translating into a commitment to fight the violent extremists who foment hatred.


    The small percentage of Muslims who are fully committed to Usama Bin Ladin’s version of Islam are impervious to persuasion. It is among the large majority of Arabs and Muslims that we must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity, even though our own promotion of these messages is limited in its effectiveness simply because we are its carriers. Muslims themselves will have to reflect upon such basic issues as the concept of jihad, the position of women, and the place of non-Muslim minorities. The United States can promote moderation, but cannot ensure its ascendancy. Only Muslims can do this. The setting is difficult.The combined gross domestic product of the 22 countries in the Arab League is less than the GDP of Spain. Forty percent of adult Arabs are illiterate, two-thirds of them women. One-third of the broader Middle East lives on less than two dollars a day. Less than 2 percent of the population has access to the Internet. The majority of older Arab youths have expressed a desire to emigrate to other countries, particularly those in Europe.

    In short, the United States has to help defeat an ideology, not just a group of people, and we must do so under difficult circumstances.

    How can the United States and its friends help moderate Muslims combat the extremist ideas?

    Recommendation: The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.

    America and Muslim friends can agree on respect for human dignity and opportunity. To Muslim parents, terrorists like Bin Ladin have nothing to offer their children but visions of violence and death. America and its friends have a crucial advantage—we can offer these parents a vision that might give their children a better future. If we heed the views of thoughtful leaders in the Arab and Muslim world, a moderate
    consensus can be found.


    Recommendation: Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not respect these principles, the United States must stand for a better future. One of the lessons of the long Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most repressive and brutal governments were too often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America’s stature and interests.


    Recommendation: Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values. The United States defended, and still defends, Muslims against tyrants and criminals in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.

  • Recognizing that Arab and Muslim audiences rely on satellite television and radio, the government has begun some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan. These efforts are beginning to reach large audiences. The Broadcasting Board of Governors has asked for much larger resources. It should get them.
  • The United States should rebuild the scholarship, exchange, and library programs that reach out to young people and offer them knowledge and hope. Where such assistance is provided, it should be identified as coming from the citizens of the United States.


    Recommendation: The U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund. Funds will be spent directly for building and operating primary and secondary schools in those Muslim states that commit to sensibly investing their own money in public education.


    Recommendation: A comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter terrorism should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future.


    Recommendation: The United States should engage other nations in developing a comprehensive coalition strategy against Islamist terrorism. There are several multilateral institutions in which such issues should be addressed. But the most important policies should be discussed and coordinated in a flexible contact group of leading coalition governments.This is a good place, for example, to develop joint strategies for targeting terrorist travel, or for hammering out a common strategy for the places where terrorists may be finding sanctuary.


    Recommendation: The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. New principles might draw upon Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict. That article was specifically designed for those cases in which the usual laws of war did not apply. Its minimum standards are generally accepted throughout the world as customary international law.


    Recommendation: Our report shows that al Qaeda has tried to acquire or make weapons of mass destruction for at least ten years. There is no doubt the United States would be a prime target. Preventing the proliferation of these weapons warrants a maximum effort—by strengthening counterproliferation efforts, expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative, and supporting the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.


    Recommendation: Vigorous efforts to track terrorist financing must remain front and center in U.S. counterterrorism efforts.The government has recognized that information about terrorist money helps us to understand their networks, search them out, and disrupt their operations. Intelligence and law enforcement have targeted the relatively small number of financial facilitators—individuals al Qaeda relied on for their ability to raise and deliver money—at the core of al Qaeda’s revenue stream. These efforts have worked. The death or capture of several important facilitators has decreased the amount of money available to al Qaeda and has increased its costs and difficulty in raising and moving that money. Captures have additionally provided a windfall of intelligence that can be used to continue the cycle of disruption.


    Recommendation: The U.S. border security system should be integrated into a larger network of screening points that includes our transportation
    system and access to vital facilities, such as nuclear reactors. The President should direct the Department of Homeland Security to lead the effort to design a comprehensive screening system, addressing common problems and setting common standards with system-wide goals in mind. Extending those standards among other governments could dramatically strengthen America and the world’s collective ability to intercept individuals who pose catastrophic threats.


    Recommendation:The Department of Homeland Security, properly supported by the Congress, should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit screening system, including a single system for speeding qualified travelers. It should be integrated with the system that provides benefits to foreigners seeking to stay in the United States. Linking biometric passports to good data systems and decisionmaking
    is a fundamental goal. No one can hide his or her debt
    by acquiring a credit card with a slightly different name.Yet today, a terrorist can defeat the link to electronic records by tossing away an old passport and slightly altering the name in the new one.


    Recommendation: The U.S. government cannot meet its own obligations to the American people to prevent the entry of terrorists without a major effort to collaborate with other governments. We should do more to exchange terrorist information with trusted allies, and raise U.S. and global border security standards for travel and border crossing over the medium and long term through extensive international cooperation.


    Recommendation: Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses. Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.


    Recommendation: Hard choices must be made in allocating limited resources. The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based prior-ities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective ways of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget, and funding to implement the effort. The plan should assign roles and missions to the relevant authorities (federal, state, regional, and local) and to private stakeholders. In measuring effectiveness, perfection is unattainable. But terrorists should perceive that potential targets are defended.They may be deterred by a significant chance of failure.


    Recommendation: Improved use of “no-fly” and “automatic selectee” lists should not be delayed while the argument about a successor to CAPPS continues. This screening function should be per-formed by the TSA, and it should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government. Air carriers should be required to supply the information needed to test and implement this new system.


    Recommendation: The TSA and the Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. As a start, each individual selected for special screening should be screened for explosives. Further, the TSA should conduct a human factors study, a method often used in the private sector, to understand problems in screener performance and set attainable objectives for individual screeners and for the check-points where screening takes place.


    Recommendation: As the President determines the guidelines for information sharing among government agencies and by those agencies with the private sector, he should safeguard the privacy of individuals about whom information is shared.


    Recommendation: The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate quate supervision of the executive’s use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use.


    Recommendation: At this time of increased and consolidated government authority, there should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties.


    Recommendation: Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities. Now, in 2004, Washington, D.C., and New York City are certainly at the top of any such list.We understand the contention that every state and city needs to have some minimum infrastructure for emergency response. But federal homeland security assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing. It should supplement state and local resources based on the risks or vulnerabilities that merit additional support. Congress should not use this money as a pork barrel.


    Recommendation: Emergency response agencies nationwide should adopt the Incident Command System (ICS).When multiple agencies or multiple jurisdictions are involved, they should adopt a unified command. Both are proven frameworks for emergency response. We strongly support the decision that federal homeland security funding will be contingent, as of October 1, 2004, upon the adoption and regular use of ICS and unified command procedures. In the future, the Department of Homeland Security should consider making funding contingent on aggressive and realistic training in accordance with ICS and unified command procedures.


    Recommendation: Congress should support pending legislation which provides for the expedited and increased assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes. Furthermore, high-risk urban areas such as New York City and Washington, D.C., should establish signal corps units to ensure communications connectivity between and among civilian authorities, local first responders, and the National Guard. Federal funding of such units should be given high priority by Congress.


    Recommendation: We endorse the American National Standards Institute’s recommended standard for private preparedness. We were encouraged by Secretary Tom Ridge’s praise of the standard, and urge the Department of Homeland Security to promote its adoption. We also encourage the insurance and credit-rating industries to look closely at a company’s compliance with the ANSI standard in assessing its insurability and creditworthiness. We believe that compliance with the standard should define the standard of care owed by a company to its employees and the public for legal purposes. Private-sector preparedness is not a luxury; it is a cost of doing business in the post-9/11 world. It is ignored at a tremendous potential cost in lives, money, and national security.

  • Congress should be immediately called back into a special session to turn these proposals into law. Congress should be called back now. Campaigning while this job is not done is irresponsible, and a reason any member who is not for a special session should be voted out of office.

    Read The Rest Scale: 6 out of 5.

    7/22/2004 08:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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    WHAT MUST BE DONE? Again, from the press conference:


    This strategy must be balanced. It must integrate all the elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, homeland defense and military strength.


    We need to play offense, to kill or to capture the terrorists, deny them sanctuaries and disrupt their ability to move money and people around the globe. We need to ensure that the key countries, like Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are stable, capable and resolute in opposing terrorism.

    HAMILTON: We need to sustain a coalition of nations that cooperates bilaterally and multilaterally with us in the counterterrorism mission.

    We need a better dialogue between the West and the Islamic world.

    We also highlight the need to restrict and roll back the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons.

    We need to put forth an agenda of opportunity -- economic, educational, political -- so that young people in the Arab and Islamic world have peaceful and productive avenues for expression and hope.

    We need to join the battle of ideas within the Islamic world, communicating hope instead of despair, progress in place of persecution, life instead of death.

    This message should be matched by policies that encourage and support the majority of Muslims who share these goals.

    At home we need to set clear priorities for the protection of our infrastructure and the security of our transportation. Resources should be allocated based upon those priorities, and standards of preparedness should be set.

    The private sector and local governments should play an important part in this process.

    We need secure borders with heightened and uniform standards of identification for those entering and exiting the country, and an immigration system able to be efficient, allowing good people in while keeping the terrorists out.

    If, God forbid, there is another attack, we must be ready to respond. We must educate the public, train and equip our first responders, and anticipate countless scenarios.

    We recommend significant changes in the organization of government. We know that the quality of the people is more important than the quality of the wiring diagrams. Good people can overcome bad structures. They should not have to.


    HAMILTON: A critical theme that emerged throughout our inquiry was the difficulty of answering the question, Who is in charge? Who ensures that agencies pool resources, avoid duplication and plan jointly? Who oversees the massive integration and unity of effort necessary to keep America safe?

    Too often, the answer is no one.

    Thus we are recommending a national counterterrorism center. We need effective unity of effort on counterterrorism. We should create a national counterterrorism center to unify all counterterrorism intelligence and operations across the foreign and the domestic divide in one organization.

    Right now these efforts are too diffuse across the government. They need to be unified.

    We recommend a national intelligence director. We need unity of effort in the intelligence community.

    We need a much stronger head of the intelligence community and an intelligence community that organizes itself to do joint work in national mission centers.

    We need reforms of the kind the military had two decades ago. We need a Goldwater-Nichols reform for the intelligence community.

    The intelligence community needs a shift in mindset and organization so that intelligence agencies operate under the principle of joint command, with information sharing as the norm.

    We need to reform the United States Congress. We need unity of effort in the Congress. Right now authority and responsibility are too diffuse.

    HAMILTON: The Intelligence Committees do not have enough power to perform effectively their oversight work.

    Oversight for homeland security is splintered among too many committees. We need much stronger committees performing oversight of intelligence. And we need a single committee in each chamber providing oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.

    We need reform in the FBI. We need a stronger national security workforce within the FBI.

    We do not support the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency. What the FBI needs is a specialized and integrated national security workforce consisting of agents, analysts, linguists and surveillance specialists.

    These specialists need to be recruited, trained, rewarded and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture with deep expertise in intelligence and national security.

    We need changes in information sharing. We need unity of effort in that task.

    The United States government has access to vast amounts of information, but it has a weak system of processing and using that information. "Need to share" must replace "need to know."

    HAMILTON: And we need a better process for transitions between one administration and another for national security officials so that this nation does not lower its guard every four or eight years.

    These and other recommendations are spelled out in great detail in our report. We have made a limited number of recommendations, focusing on the areas we believe most critical.

    We are acutely sensitive to the need to vigorously protect our liberties as we secure and guard our security.

    We endorse many of the actions taken in the wake of 9/11 to facilitate government action and information sharing. But we stress that these measures need to be accompanied by a commitment to our open society and the principle of review, safeguards that are built into the process and accompanied by vigorous oversight. We must, after all is said and done, preserve the liberties that we are fighting for.

    KEAN: Thank you, Congressman Hamilton, one of the most decent and thoughtful men I've ever had the pleasure to know.


    ROEMER: We have looked in the intelligence area and, as Lee and Tom have said, made some very dramatic changes, revolutionary changes with a national counterterrorism center and with a national intelligence director.

    But we also have stressed the importance of transforming our capability of training people in languages, in rebuilding our human intelligence, in making sure that when we're recruiting people in the front end that we get the right kinds of people for the CIA.

    We have done the same thing in the FBI. While we have not picked an MI5 and not endorsed the Directorate of Intelligence Reform that the FBI is currently doing, we picked a third option, a national security intelligence service, concentrating on the people and the skills, concentrating on making sure, again, linguists and analysts are trained properly, that they have career tracks within the FBI that will award that intelligence and counterterror service.

    And finally, in Congress, we have said dramatic change is needed, but the people in Congress that are so instrumental for us to tackle this problem have to do their oversight better, more appropriately and more diligently.

    This is not only about structure and reform of systems and organizations. It is also about the people in those roles that are so dramatically important to getting this done right. Both must be reformed.


    QUESTION: Speaking about New York specifically for a moment, you heard a good deal in the hearings about radio failures and technical problems. And while you make reference to it in the report, you mention that your recommendation is to create a signal corps. What exactly does that mean and how would that solve the radio problems that we experienced?

    LEHMAN: We uncovered a fairly significant range of command, control and communications problems. Now, specifically, your question refers to the communications problems.

    The military has struggled with this for a long time. Now, today, the normal order of military operations involves all services, integrated, working together. Radios that are designed to work at sea don't necessarily work in intense land environments: in cities, in buildings.

    LEHMAN: The military learned long ago that you need a systems approach to radios and to connectivity.

    In cities like New York, especially, that is one of the -- remains one of the most important, valuable targets of our enemy, we have to be able to ensure the connectivity between the commanders, the civilian commanders on scene, the mayor and the civilian authorities, the fire department, the fire departments of adjacent areas, police departments, and in totally different environments -- tunnels, skyscrapers, in the port areas, and so forth.

    There's no one radio you can buy to fix that. And so you need a systems approach like the military uses.

    Every military unit that deploys to an operational area has a signal corps-type unit with it that has the robust communications of different kinds that can keep the different units connected together and communicating, whether it's in a ship-to-shore or an air-to-ground or a ground-to-ground environment, and with the people trained on how to ensure a fail-safe connectivity.

    That does not exist in New York or most other cities today. And with the assistance of the Pentagon and the federal government, it is a very high priority that this kind of connectivity be established to deal with threats in the future.

    This Commission has been the most important of my lifetime. It has done the most extraordinary work I have ever read. Its research has been prodigious and unprecedented. Its reports have been clear, concise, and information-packed.

    Our entire history of what happened on September 11th has been re-written by it. Our entire understanding of what went wrong has been changed by it. Our entire knowledge of what must be done differently has been reconsidered by it.

    I urge everyone to read the final report, and to be grateful that these fine people have so dedicated themselves to finding out the facts and informing us of what we did not know before.

    Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

    7/22/2004 06:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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    GOVERNOR KEAN AND OTHERS speak. Will you listen, or will you be partisan?
    As we said at the outset, we look back so that we can look forward.

    Our goal is to prevent future attacks. Every expert with whom we spoke told us an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable. We do not have the luxury of time. We must prepare and we must act.


    Put simply, the United States is faced with one of the greatest security challenges in our long history. We have struck blows against the terrorists since 9/11. We have, we believe, prevented attacks on the homeland. We do believe we are safer today than we were on 9/11. But we are not safe.


    As in every four years in this democracy, we are in the midst of a presidential campaign. Our two great parties will disagree, and that is right and that is proper. At the same time, on this subject we must unite to make our country safer. Republicans and Democrats must unite in this cause.

    The American people must be prepared for a long and difficult struggle. We face a determined enemy who sees this as a war of attrition; indeed, as an epical struggle. We expect further attacks. Against such an enemy there can be no complacency.

    This is the challenge of our generation. As Americans, we must step forward and we must meet that challenge.

    We have reviewed as a commission 2.5 million pages of documents. We've interviewed over 1,200 individuals, including experts and officials past and present. Our work has been assisted by superb staff. Each one of these professionals has provided dedication and expertise that has often exceeded our very highest expectations.


    On that beautiful September day, we felt great hurt but we believed and we acted as one nation. We united, as Americans have always united in the face of any common foe.

    Five Republicans and five Democrats have come together today with that same unity of purpose. We file no additional views in this report. We have no dissents. We have each decided that we will play no active role in the fall presidential campaign. We will instead devote our time, as we have, to work together in support of the recommendations in this report.

    You see, we believe that acting together as Republicans, Democrats, we can make a difference, we can make our nation safer, we can make our nation more secure.




    Our reform recommendations are urgent. We have come together with the families to agree on that.

    If these reforms are not the best that can be done for the American people, then the Congress and the president need to tell us what's better. But if there is nothing better, they need to be enacted and enacted speedily, because if something bad happens while these recommendations are sitting there, the American people will quickly fix political responsibility for failure and that responsibility may last for generations and they will be entitled to do that.

    Everyone was caught unaware by September 11th: the president, the Congress, the American people, law enforcement agencies. Blame, if there is blame, has to be spread all across the people because the American people never demanded more or better.

    But now we've been warned -- specifically warned. And now we've been told by everyone from the president of the United States on down it's going to happen again. And if it happens and we haven't moved, then the American people are entitled to make very fundamental judgments about that.


    KEAN: Thank you, John.

    And I must say, as far as New York City goes, I personally feel one of our important recommendations is that money for homeland security should not be given out of as a revenue-sharing program, but should be given largest amounts, by far, to the areas of greatest need and the most prominent targets. And that would, I presume, give most of that money to New York City, with Washington equal or a close second.


    We read those other reports. There are a number of commissions who made first-class recommendations. If they'd been implemented, this country would have been better and safer. They were not implemented. They were ignored. The Hart-Rudman commission comes to mind. The Lockerbie commission is another on. All commissions which made good recommendations.

    We have determined as a commission not to let that happen.

    Now, these are tough recommendations. These are not easy to implement. One of the reasons some of the ones haven't been implemented yet that have been made already is because they're tough, they're not easy to do. A lot of these recommendations require changing around the United States government in ways that take power away from some people and reorganize in other ways. That's tough in this town. Very hard to change government agencies. But we think it's essential and we think it's necessary and we have absolute determination to make the tough recommendations if they were right.


    KERREY: If I could disagree slightly with that, I would call myself hopeful but not optimistic that these changes will be enacted prior to another terrorist attack on the United States, regrettable though that may be.

    These are significant changes we're recommending. John Diamond (ph) asked earlier -- he described it as restructuring. It is -- this is not a private sector company we're talking about restructuring here. These are changes in law that we're asking for, changes in law that would give those who apparently have responsibility the authority necessary to carry out their job.

    And it will require members of Congress in some cases to give up committee assignments that they currently have that they love. It will require in the government people to give up authority that they currently have over hiring, over budgets. The Department of Defense most notably will be asked to give up substantial authorities, though they will get substantial new authorities.

    And in experience in politics, when somebody is asked to give up something, they will come up with all kinds of reasons, other than the most important one, which is they don't want to surrender authority, to cite for why they don't want to do it.

    And I am hopeful that the circumstances surrounding this commission will cause Congress to act differently, but I am not optimistic.


    ROEMER: The eyes of history are on our backs, the claws of Al Qaida are on our shoulders, and the grief of 9/11 is still in so many Americans' hearts.

    I think those indicators and reasons are all going to come together and compel members of Congress and others to pass what's in this report and to act on this.

    We don't have time to waste with another attack coming.


    And furthermore, with the American people as agents of change, I think they will compel the elected officials and policy-makers in this country to make the significant changes, to make this a country that is safer and more secure in a bipartisan manner. We must take those actions today.




    I think after our discussions, the answers that we came to, and the reason you see the recommendations we have, is -- the question is: If not now, when?


    KERREY: Let me add to this. Part of the problem here is that it's very difficult to imagine something if the facts are withheld from you. And let me lead with one and use our vice chairman's novelist as the example.

    In order to have a debate in this country about how much should we spend on intelligence, here is how it has to go. According to Tom Clancy, we will spend $40 billion this year on intelligence. If Mr. Clancy is correct, I believe that's an insufficient amount. Or I'll have to say, according to Tom Clancy, we spend $6 billion on the National Reconnaissance Office and we spend less on the DCI than we do on the Environmental Protection Agency. And if Mr. Clancy is correct, I believe we spend too little.

    We can't have a public debate because the American people aren't entitled by law to know how much money we're spending on all of these agencies. By law. And in the old world, it was because the Soviet Union knew, we didn't want them to know.

    Well, we tell everybody how big our Navy is, we tell everybody how big our Army is, we tell them about everything else having to do with national security, but for some reason, how much we spend on intelligence is withheld, and it creates a tremendous problem.

    Note for the record that 75 percent of what we knew about -- found out about Osama bin Laden after 9/11, we knew in 1996. Ninety percent of the facts that we knew about Osama bin Laden, we knew in 1998. But the full story wasn't delivered until after 9/11. It was held in classified, compartmentalized sections.

    KERREY: And it produced a tremendous problem. How, in God's name, are you supposed to imagine a threat if the facts are being withheld from you?

    This is the gravest issue facing how the United States relates to the world today. It is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of life and death.

    So I want to say to those who wish to use this issue for partisan causes: shut the fuck up.

    Just shut the fuck up.

    You are hurting our country when you are partisan about this.

    This is not an issue to score points over. This is not an issue to win elections over. This is an issue to protect the lives of your fellow citizens, others in the world, and your country. Act like it. Grow up. Get some perspective. Don't be a fool. Don't act against your country for the sake of your party.

    When you feel the urge to make partisan points about the reforms that need to be made, stifle it. Shut up. Think. Find a way to express yourself so that you can reach agreement with your fellow citizens of the other party. Find a way to come together. Find a way to help, not to hinder. Find a way.

    The life you save may be your own.

    Imagine that it's WWII, if it helps, and think about whether or not your goal should be to score points on Those Assholes In The Other Party, or to fight back against those people who seek to kill us. Which is more important? Which must be most important in your heart, your eyes, and your head?

    And if Those Assholes In The Other Party are provoking you? Turn the other cheek, so that your eye is on the real enemy.

    Be an American, not a partisan.

    Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

    7/22/2004 06:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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