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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
"He should not have jurisdiction over people in uniform," Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said of the new official.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/29/2004 01:56:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I AM NINE YEARS OLD watching this.

Just saying.

It's insisted here here:
A test pilot returned successfully to earth today after a foray into space that was marked by a white-knuckle ascent in which his rocket ship rolled at least 16 times in about 16 seconds and he had to fight to regain control.

The white plume behind the rocket ship visibly corkscrewed, and spectators on the ground were gasping and holding their breath as the pilot, Michael W. Melvill, displayed the very highest flying skills.

After he landed he insisted to reporters that the roll was not the fault of the aircraft and that it was probably pilot error. But to many on the ground that seemed like a little bit of spin control on his part.

When Mr. Melvill got to the very top, he said he was able to flip the plane upside down so that he could take photographs of the earth and the sky. "It was a spectacular thing to see," he said.

He added: "I just loved every second of it. Maybe I'm crazy."

"The rocket flew like a dream," he said.

"That was a good ride, a really good ride."

"Right up at the top I got a little surprised," he added, likenening the spin to a victory roll. He said he had been told to shut off the engine when the roll started, which he said would not have allowed him to make the required 100-kilometer height, but that he held on for the extra seconds.

Mr. Melvill, who is 63, also said that he would probably not be flying the plane next time, saying, "I'm too old to be doing this."

Pressed by reporters, who pointed out that the roll was unplanned, he said, "Well, a victory roll at the top of the climb is important for an air show pilot!"

He went on: "Did I plan the roll? I'd like to say I did, but I didn't."

The rocket ship left the ground at 7:12 this morning attached to its carrier jet and detached about an hour later. It then fired its rocket and went into space to an unofficial height of about 330,000 feet above earth, well beyond 100 kilometers.

It landed here at 8:33 a.m.

Confirmation of the height was expected later today.

More, yes more.

9/29/2004 10:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Even as John Kerry struggles to establish national-security credentials nationally, an exclusive WW straw poll shows his campaign dominating one skeptical, warlike demographic: Klingons.

The poll, conducted when the DVD release of the Star Trek fan documentary Trekkies 2 attracted Portland's Klingon community to Tower Records on Southeast 102nd Avenue, may spell trouble for President George W. Bush.

The incumbent has staked his campaign on the war on terror. But those who speak the language of the Trek warrior race--known to disdain dishonor, or quvHa'ghach--seem alienated by Iraq and other issues.

According to the poll of eight local Klingons, a whopping 75 percent support the Democratic nominee.

Two Klingons polled--or 25 percent--said they planned to write in Satan.

Bush scored an abysmal zero percent in the poll.

"A good war is based on honor, not deception," says K'tok (Earth name: Clyde Lewis), a 40-year-old Klingon from Lair Hill. "The first warrior, President Bush, deceived us all with this war."

Portland Klingon speakers are increasingly influential. Last year, Multnomah County's mental-health services opened a search for a Klingon interpreter to work with speakers of the language.* Though the Klingons polled all appeared to be registered voters, they emulate an unfamiliar political system.

"On the home world, if there had been a contested election between Gore and Bush, the honorable thing would be for Gore to kill Bush," explained Khraanik (Earth name: Jason Lewis), a 38-year-old from Southeast Portland. "Or the other way around. And then ascend to the head of the High Council."

It's too early for Kerry to chill the ceremonial bloodwine, but Portland Klingons are clearly warming to the cerebral Massachusetts Democrat.

"Kerry has shown his prowess," says 33-year-old Neqha (Earth name: Eric King) of Tigard. "He saved his fellow warrior under the gun, and has been commended and awarded medals."

Neither the Bush nor Kerry campaigns were immediately available for comment on the poll results.
Read The Rest Scale: out of 5. (Via Avedon.)

Kerry be'-chugh vaj bIHegh
Bush is a Baktag, a BiHnuch, and a K'pekt. What a Toh-pah. One should not worry about that Qovpatlh of a President.

For Kerry, reH bIyIntaHjaj 'ej bIchepjaj.

Of us, tlhIngan maH.

For me, I yISov'egh.

So you know.

(Stimulated, but not much, by Avedon.

9/28/2004 10:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, September 27, 2004
I DON'T KNOW THAT I WOULD HAVE POSTED THIS ON MY OWN, but given the number of hits I'm getting from the site, and the fact that Kos posted it, among others, I duly note that Alan Keyes' daughter is, apparently, in her own words, "queer."

My heart goes out to her and her difficult relationship with her father, and I only hope she survives the publicity and other trials of being her father's daughter.

Note: I don't regard this as verified or proven yet; you shouldn't, either.

Read The Rest as interested.

9/27/2004 05:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, September 26, 2004
THE MYTH BOMB. A succinct explication of the latter days of Saddam's weapons' program.
Another factor in the mothballing of the program was that Saddam Hussein was profiting handsomely from the United Nations oil-for-food program, building palaces around the country with the money he skimmed. I think he didn't want to risk losing this revenue stream by trying to restart a secret weapons program.


In addition, the West never understood the delusional nature of Saddam Hussein's mind. By 2002, when the United States and Britain were threatening war, he had lost touch with the reality of his diminished military might. By that time I had been promoted to director of projects for the country's entire military-industrial complex, and I witnessed firsthand the fantasy world in which he was living. He backed mythic but hopeless projects like one for a long-range missile that was completely unrealistic considering the constraints of international sanctions. The director of another struggling missile project, when called upon to give a progress report, recited a poem in the dictator's honor instead. Not only did he not go to prison, Saddam Hussein applauded him.

By 2003, as the American invasion loomed, the tyrant was alternately working on his next trashy novel and giving lunatic orders like burning oil around Baghdad to "hide" the city from bombing attacks. Unbelievably, one of my final assignments was to prepare a 10-year plan for military-industrial works, even as tens of thousands of troops were gathering for invasion.
And thus the success at the myth bomb. But the fact reminas that if all inspections had been dropped, within a few years Saddam would have been seriously nuclear armed, again.
Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts.
Could encompassing ruthless and thorough inspections have been mained for the next decade and more? It seems unlikely, absent the threat of major military force on his border.

Which tends to send us back to where we were two years ago.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/26/2004 10:27:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT? "The Doomsday Machine," with music. One Of The Best. Bleats. Ever. Alhough it entirely ignores Norman Spinrad, past, future, and context, and pretty much all the other aspects of the episode, that's a valid choice, and it gives us the music, with comments: here. Lots of links to music of the episode, with comments.

Special early bonus: Alistair MacLean! Loved his novels since I was 9-14! (Haven't reread in twenty years or more, of course.)

Geek out more, James. Screw them others. We're all unique, and should play to who we are as unique persons. Happy,happy, joy, joy. (Keeping certain limits in the mass stuff, I suspose, though, Hunter Thompson, Dave Eggers, John Barth, Howard Stern, and various others don't seem to be impoverised.)

Read The Rest if you're not a dunsel. Trekkies only, though, and those who noted the music of The Original Series. You have no Courage in you.

Otherwise, move along; move along; these are not the droids you are looking for.

9/26/2004 09:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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IF YOU SAY SO. Enjoy the "big tent."
The Rev. Jerry Falwell said yesterday that evangelical Christians, after nearly 25 years of increasing political activism, now control the Republican Party and the fate of President Bush in the November election.


Falwell said evangelical Christians are now "by far the largest constituency" within the Republican Party, their route to dominance beginning in 1979 with his founding of the Moral Majority, a precursor to the Christian Coalition.

"I tell my Republican friends who are always talking about the 'big tent,' I say make it as big as you want to, but if the candidate running for president is not pro-life, pro-family . . . you're not going to win," he said.


Falwell expressed confidence in a Bush victory over Democratic Sen. John Kerry, adding, "You cannot be a sincere, committed born-again believer who takes the Bible seriously and vote for a pro-choice, anti-family candidate."


Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said Bush's re-election is critical because "the next president is going to appoint two, perhaps four, Supreme Court justices," making it possible to reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights ruling.

The Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who, in announcing a $1 million campaign to mobilize church-going voters, likened politicians who support abortion rights to people who support terrorism.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who said "preachers must be free to speak out" in favor of anti-abortion office-seekers because liberals are attempting to "eliminate the Judeo-Christian principles upon which this country was founded."
Vote for the Republicans. It's God's Own Party, and God instructs you whom to vote for. Disobey and burn in hell.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

9/26/2004 08:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Saturday, September 25, 2004
I'M SLOW. Who wants to vote for more of this?

I just don't get it.

But, as I said, I'm slow.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

9/25/2004 05:56:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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THOSE DAMN BLOGGERS. Us damn bloggers. But wait! I wasn't invited to the DNC! Those damn bloggers! Yeah, you'll read it everywhere else.

Read the absurd claim, not yet fact-checked by bloggers, that Mickey Kaus started blogging on Slate! (Who remembers I claim coup!

Read The Rest as fascinated by bloggers, and Atrios and Kos sharing sloppy pizza.

Actually, thinking more, this may be the smartest story I've yet read on political blogging. Read The Rest: 4 out of 5.

9/25/2004 05:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT'S NOW FIT TO PRINT. Things that didn't used to be in the NY Times Book Review (a separate publication from the paper, remember, class):
Urging men to become members of the ''cliterati,'' he deconstructs the female anatomy and arousal cycle and gives men specific, creatively named maneuvers to use in the bedroom: the Elvis Presley snarl and ''Jackson Pollock Licks,'' to name two.


(''An octopus's penis resides on one of his eight tentacles. When it's time to mate, the entire penis arm detaches and tracks down a female. After copulation, the penis dies, but remains attached to the female.'')


She is so determined to inform the reader, her book sounds at times like a randy Consumer Reports: ''When choosing restraints, go with wrist or ankle restraints that are lined and have easy-to-remove binding.''


Who knew, for example, there was a small vibrator (the Audi-Oh) that ''responds to sound, so that any words you utter into its microphone are transmitted as vibrations'' through it? (You can also plug it into your stereo.)
Lots more larnin' there.

Read The Rest Scale: well, it's hard to say.

9/25/2004 04:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MEESA LIKE. The new Star Wars: Battlefront game let's you do this over and over again.

Read The Rest only if you're not fond of Jar-Jar. (Via Ken Layne.)

9/25/2004 02:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MAYBE ALAN KEYES COULD TAKE THIS UP? India remains an inspirational place of wonder.
After more than 1,500 miles, Ludkan Baba, the Hindu ascetic who is rolling across India for peace, suspended his quest after being rebuffed at the Pakistani border.

The holy roller decided Friday to return to his hometown of Ratlam with his 11-member, hymn-singing entourage to wait for India's government to issue passports. Indian border guards turned him back for a lack of valid travel documents.

"I am sure we will be issued passports," said the ascetic, born Mohan Bas, whom admirers call Ludkan Baba, or the Rolling Saint. "I am fully confident I would be able to roll into Pakistan and finish this yatra," or holy journey.

Border Security Force official L.R. Yadav said authorities had no choice. "He does not have the required travel papers. So, quite naturally, we do not have orders to allow him to cross."

However, Ludkan Baba, accompanied by followers, was allowed to roll to the last Indian gate for a better view of Pakistan. He seized this opportunity to kiss the soil and chant, "Long live world peace!" His followers quickly joined in.


The 55-year-old Hindu religious figure, or sadhu, said he began his career in 1973, when he entered a cave and stayed for 12 years, surviving on grass and water.

There, a divine voice told him to lie down and start rolling for peace, he said. His first trip was about 25 miles; his third trip, in 1994, covered 2,500 miles across India. He began his current crusade in January from his home to New Delhi.

As he called it quits for the moment, he said: "My mission is to spread the message of world peace. I am feeling very sad.
I, too, am very sad. But I am inspired to plan a trip from the Arctic circle to the bottom of South America, for the sake of peace. I am only undecided whether to journey by pogo stick, or bouncing on my head.

For peace.

I am convinced it will be equally effective.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/25/2004 10:36:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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"I was, of course, ready to die," says Hamazono, who instead has aged into a bent but dignified 81-year-old. Fate allowed him to see his hair turn wispy and gray. And fate made him part of one of history's strangest and most exclusive brotherhoods: "kamikaze survivors."

Most were still waiting for orders to fly when Japan surrendered to the Allies in September 1945. A few others were spared because they did not reach their intended targets — a failure Hamazono found intolerable at the time. He was on standby to fly a fourth mission when Japan capitulated. Denied the opportunity to redeem his honor, he felt disgraced.

"I wished I had died," he says.


The survivors bitterly resent the world's appropriation of the term "kamikaze" — meaning "divine wind" and originally coined to describe the unexpected typhoons that saved 13th century Japan from invading Mongol ships — as shorthand for suicide bombers of every stripe.

There are the "Al Qaeda kamikazes" who flew passenger planes into office towers, "Palestinian kamikazes" who blow up pizza parlors filled with teenagers in Jerusalem, and "female Chechen kamikazes" willing to detonate explosive girdles in the middle of school gymnasiums crammed with children.

Japan's originals are insulted to be mentioned in the same breath.

"When I hear the comparison, I feel so sorry for my friends who died, because our mission was totally different from suicide bombers," Hamazono says as he strolls through the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots in Chiran, a former air base on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.

The kamikazes attacked military targets. In contrast, "the main purpose of a suicide bomber is to kill as many innocent civilians as they can," Hamazono says. That, he says, "is just murder."

The same distinction is made by other survivors of the Tokkotai, or Special Attack Force, conventionally known as the kamikaze. Its survivors tick off the reasons their goal-line stand against an American invasion was different from the blind lashing-out of suicide bombers today:

• They were ready to die out of love for their country, they say; suicide bombers are driven by hatred and revenge.

• The Shinto religion offers no reward of life after death. Islamic suicide bombers are promised a place in an afterlife.

• They were volunteers, motivated solely by patriotism. Suicide bombers often are recruited by militia leaders who offer money to their families.

Yet the arguments can't prevent those who use suicide tactics today from claiming Japanese kamikazes as an inspiration.

Naoto Amaki, Japan's former ambassador to Lebanon, recalled delivering a polite lecture to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite Islamist militia Hezbollah, in 2001. Amaki said he told Nasrallah that Japan's experience was a lesson in the ultimate futility of violence.

Not so, replied the sheik.

"He told me: 'We learned how to do suicide missions from the kamikazes,' " Amaki recalled. "Nasrallah said the Shiites all commend the Japanese samurai spirit."


Hamazono says that although pilots were asked to "volunteer," they really had no choice. Of 100 or so in his naval squadron who were asked to volunteer, all but three agreed, he recalls, spreading out photographs of himself that show a handsome young man in pilot's gear. "The other three got beaten up."


"I still don't think it was a mistake to send kamikazes," Hamazono says, though he wonders why, if they thought suicide attacks were such a good idea, none of the officers volunteered.


Yet Hamazono says: "I still don't think it was a mistake. I'm proud that I flew as a kamikaze. And I'm glad I came back. We did what we did out of a love for our parents, for the nation.

"Just like suicide bombers," he says, dropping his defenses for a moment. "We did it out of love for something."
I'm more curious what other people make of this than putting forth any ideas of my own, just now.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/25/2004 10:04:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE DECENTRALIZED TERRORIST, what Tom Friedman years ago called "the super-empowered individual," is a huge part of the new terrorist threat, and unfortunately it makes the government's claims of having destroyed much of al Qaeda small comfort at best, as well as suggesting that the invasion of Iraq may have the most effective action we could have taken to create a new ungoverned country, open for importing terrorist-wannabes, training them, and returning them home.
On the contrary, officials warn that the Bush administration's upbeat assessment of its successes is overly optimistic and masks its strategic failure to understand and combat Al Qaeda's evolution.


Intelligence and counter-terrorism officials said Iraq also was replacing Afghanistan and the Russian republic of Chechnya as the premier location for on-the-job training for the next phase of violence against the West and Arab regimes.


"Any assessment that the global terror movement has been rolled back or that even one component, Al Qaeda, is on the run is optimistic and most certainly incorrect," said M.J. Gohel, head of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London think tank. "Bin Laden's doctrines are now playing themselves out all over the world. Destroying Al Qaeda will not resolve the problem."

U.S. and foreign intelligence officials said the Bush administration's focus on the "body count" of Al Qaeda leaders and its determination to stop the next attack meant comparatively few resources were devoted to understanding the threat.
One can't, of course, help but remember that we won the Vietnam War, as proven by the huge body count figures put forth every day, every week, every month, every year. The Viet Cong leadership was decimated. Tet led to the slaughter of the majority of the Viet Cong. Therefore, Q.E.D., we won in Vietnam. Giving long lists of having killed al Qaeda leadership may prove the success of that logic again. Perhaps not; but such lists certainly don't seem conclusive proof of success unless one postulates that such leaders are somehow irreplacable. On the other hand, the elimination of the experienced leadership of Hamas in Israel does certainly seem to have badly damaged the organization; so overall, the situation seems unclear.
Michael Scheuer, a senior CIA official, said in an interview that agents wound up "chasing our tails" to capture suspects and follow up leads at the expense of countering the rapid spread of Al Qaeda and the international jihad.

Scheuer, chief of the CIA's Bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, now plays a broader role in counter-terrorism at the agency. He is the author of "Imperial Hubris," a recent book that criticized U.S. counter-terrorism policy; the interview with him occurred before the CIA restricted his conversations with reporters.

Another counter-terrorism expert who works as a consultant for the U.S. government and its allies said Scheuer's criticism had been echoed elsewhere.

"I think they're deluged with the immediate stuff and I think their horizons are also very, very short-term," said the consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "One of the biggest complaints I hear when talking to intelligence services around the world is that the Americans are so interested in the short term, preventing attacks and getting credit."

Anti-terrorism experts who fault the administration's strategy and its optimism argue that concentrating on individual plots and operatives obscures the need to address the broader dimensions of Islamic extremism and makes it impossible to mount an effective defense.


Top suspects in the Madrid bombings have long-standing ties to Al Qaeda cells in Spain, Morocco and elsewhere. Still, six months after the bombings, investigators have no evidence that the planners received instructions or money from outside for the attacks that killed 191 people.

The methods used in Casablanca and Madrid illustrate what a senior European counter-terrorism official described as "the most frightening" scenario: local groups without previous experience, acting with minimal supervision from an interchangeable cast of Al Qaeda veterans.

"By now we have no evidence, not even credible intelligence, that the Madrid group was steered, financed, organized from the outside," he said. "So that might be the biggest success of Bin Laden."


Some experts, like Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief, publicly blame the war in Iraq for strengthening the motivation of radical Islamic groups globally. Others still in governments around the world make the point privately, saying that the conflict in Iraq has broadened support for extremism.


The bombers in Casablanca were uneducated slum dwellers between the ages of 20 and 24 with little previous involvement in extremism, religious figures and people who knew them say.

The Moroccan immigrants who spearheaded the Madrid attacks were shopkeepers and drug dealers. They embraced a theology that justified their crimes as part of their jihad.

The sense that an angry young man anywhere could become the next suicide bomber, the absence of training camps and only intermittent contact with any central command structure pose tough challenges for law enforcement.

"Terrorist culture has been disseminated," said Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, director of France's intelligence agency. "Technical knowledge has spread."


French authorities opened an investigation Wednesday into a network involved in recruiting extremists and helping them get to Iraq, but so far the flow of such foreigners does not approach the thousands who went to Afghanistan before 2001.

Still, European investigators are particularly concerned about the increasing movement of North Africans — some from Europe but most from their homelands — to fight in Iraq and what it means for the future.

"Our fear is that they go and become a threat to our countries," said De Bousquet de Florian, the French intelligence chief. "We pay a great deal of attention because once these guys have gone to Iraq to train, they know how to use weapons and explosives. That's the first level: Iraq as a new Afghanistan, a Chechnya."


In unraveling the Casablanca plot, Moroccan and foreign authorities discovered that the bombers had no previous ties to extremism, which meant spotting them in advance would have been almost impossible, even in a country where paid informants lurk in almost every neighborhood.


"The thing about this kind of operation is that it could be repeated just about anywhere," said an Italian law enforcement official who investigated the European links to Casablanca.

Spanish anti-terrorism police who visited Casablanca after the attacks said they were convinced the tactic could be replicated in Europe. The prediction came true 10 months later in Madrid.
There's a lot more, including the likelihood of another attack on U.S. interests in Kenya.

Regardless of the other pros-and-cons of invading Iraq, the fact is that the country has been turned into a semi-anarchy, and no one denies that wannabe terrorists are being drawn to it. Obviously, they then learn the means and methods of bombing and fighting. The pros and cons of that don't seem to be entirely satisfied by the assertion that they're then largely going to stick around Iraq for us to kill them ("flypaper strategy"). The benefits of this approach therefore seem more than debatable, I murmur.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/25/2004 09:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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REFORMING WELFORE REFORM is something that needs to be done, and is not on the radar screen of many people, any more than prison reform is. This is because most people, particularly most educated, middle-class, people, have neither been on welfare or in prison, or in most cases, had any friends or family who have had those experiences.

So for them, it might as well be as of much concern as worrying about the bad effects of the Wicked Witch of the West on the Munchkins; it's something that happens to far-away, distant, strange, people, whom one might only pass on a city street, and shy away from them with disgust or fear.

And the newspapers say welfare reform has been a great success! Fewer people on the rolls! More working! Everything is great!

Who could question that save for dumb ol' liberals, who want to increase their own welfare jobs as bureaucrats, or don't understand that welfare causes dependency, or who believe in income transfer, are stuck in the Sixties, and so on?

Except that in most states, if you look into it, people on welfare are still variously in deep doo-doo, trapped in terrible lives, and the system still helps them stay there. And, of course, others have simply stayed trapped in the under-class, and not on welfare (which is non-existent for many now, anyway).

Which is to say that I'd like to read Jason DeParle's new book, AMERICAN DREAM: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive To End Welfare.
The courageous and deeply disturbing result, ''American Dream,'' confounds the clichés of the left as well as the right about race, poverty, class and opportunity in the early 21st century.


Wisconsin had come early to ''reform,'' in part because of the influx of people like Angie, Jewell and Opal; even before the national program took hold, they were subject to a surreal series of bureaucratic rules and expectations, often imposed and raggedly administered by privatized social service agencies whose managers and employees seem themselves in need of the counseling and remediation they purport to dispense.

As the women battle their way through the rough textures and unending difficulties of their daily lives, what DeParle finds most chilling is how they are hamstrung, not by the liberal litany of social and historical wrongs or the conservative catalog of mistakes made and chances missed, but rather by a deadening circumscription of personal horizon. When Angie, Jewell and Opal talked about themselves, ''they didn't talk of thwarted ambition, of things they had sought but couldn't achieve. . . . The real theme of their early lives was profound alienation -- not of hopes discarded but of hopes that never took shape.''


Angie and Jewell are success stories, but only because the goal of welfare reform -- moving people off the rolls and into work -- was so limited. Angie has worked since 1997 as an aide at nursing homes, performing backbreaking labor paying not much more than the minimum wage; she herself has no health coverage. Her children, at home and unsupervised, are falling into familiar patterns of unwed pregnancy and truancy. As DeParle relates, ''having thrown herself into work, she lost faith that hard work pays.'' Angie feels that she and her family are ''just treading water. Just making it, that's all.''
Some of the criticisms of traditional welfare were entirely correct: the systems were indeed set up to deal, essentially, only with people willing to live long-term, for years, if not decades, on the dole, and pretty much forced people into that life if they wanted/needed to receive help; that was evil. But it's hardly the only way to help people, and simply taking away help, or requiring that people work 40 hours a week for below minimum wage at dead-end jobs like sweeping sidewalks is hardly the only alternative either.

There's endless room in-between those extremes: all sorts of creative ways to lift those capable into the working class in a way that puts them on an upward track, rather than leaving them stuck at working at McDonalds the rest of their lives.

Personal responsibility also has to be taught, and if someone doesn't have it, they're unlikely to ever find it without outside help. And aren't we all better off the more people that we have who understand and practice personal responsibility?

First chapter here.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/25/2004 08:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DOES BLOGGING COUNT AS HEAVY MACHINERY? Be warned that my current mix of medication, since yesterday, has non-stop been making me highly dizzy, kept my head spinning, making me drowsy, spacy, and all around stupid-feeling.

Coffee has not proven at all helpful.

Surprisingly, this actually does not help my blogging, counter-intuitive as I know that is. Instead, it makes it difficult to compose a coherent sentence, and an organized paragraph (not that that's different than normal, eh?; ba-dump-da!).

So if blogging is even less regular than my regular irregularity, or more incoherent than my usual incoherency, or dumber than my usual dumbess, well, I'm going to flog my excuse, and then look up at you with my big, sad, eyes, and sniffle until you say "aw, there, there, that's okay [look, hon, he's so cute]."

Oh, and if I suddenly get very mad at someone and denounce them incoherently, or begin explaining the alien signals being beamed into my knee joints which are telling me I must find Videodrome -- please keep this in mind, too, and see if I stand by that two days later. (That is, if it seems I'm serious, instead of indulging in my general pleasure in sporadically lapsing into manic free-associative surreality, intended to keep you wondering just how serious or loony I am; I hope you can tell the difference, even though I hope you can't tell the difference.)

End of warning.

9/25/2004 08:09:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE HAD TO KILL THEM IN ORDER TO SAVE THEM. It's impossible to know, for now, how inaccurate or accurate, reliable or unreliable the numbers, and assertions, in this story are.

But if it's close to true, one has to wonder how much such damage to "winning hearts and minds" counteracts "stability operations" and whatever you want to consider "success."
Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said.

While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher.

During the same period, 432 American soldiers were killed.

Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Some say these casualties are undermining popular acceptance of the American-backed interim government.

That suggests that more aggressive U.S. military operations, which the Bush administration has said are being planned to clear the way for nationwide elections scheduled for January, could backfire and strengthen the insurgency.
I certainly believe that American forces work hard to take all the steps they can to try to avoid civilian casualties. I also believe such steps are always inevitably insufficient; intelligence is always imperfect, and accidents happen, as well as occasional misjudgments.

A certain amount of tragic death of innocents in war is always going to happen; it's one of the reasons war is hell. In that terrible sense, a certain amount has to be "acceptable," unless one is prepared to live only as a Gandhian pacifist (which I believe would lead, if all good-hearted people adopted such a stance, to vast slaughter and genocide across the planet at the hands of the remaining not-so-good-hearted people; this doesn't strike me as an ultimately more humanitarian stance).

But there are limits. There are limits. And there are also limits which, setting morality aside for a moment, are simply strategically self-defeating.

I don't know where we are on that in Iraq, but I can't say that what I read makes me feel anything close to optimistic.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/25/2004 07:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHEN WILL THAT BOOK BE DONE? A nice look at writers who take decades to finish (or not) their book (nonfiction or fiction).
Fortunately, publishers are more forgiving than homeowners; deadlines are routinely extended one, two, even three years. But there is another category of writer, one for whom the laws of space and time seem to disappear altogether. Years bleed into one another as file cabinets bulge with extraneous information. Sentences are committed and retracted. Pages stack up -- or don't. A decade passes, and the end of the tunnel remains dark. Only by scratching away the layers of Liquid Paper on the line of the contract reading ''delivery date,'' as if it were an instant lottery ticket, is it possible to ascertain when exactly the manuscript was first due.


There are two kinds of books: unfinished and finished. When McWhorter finally crossed over from the former to the latter, everything changed. She hadn't been wandering around aimlessly in the woods after all. Nineteen lost years were redeemed overnight: ''Once the book is out you go from 'What a chump she can't finish that book,' to 'Wow, what an incredible journey, ' '' she says.


The fictional Tripp's previous novels had all been exceedingly minor; it can be that much harder to follow a successful book. Harper Lee, the author of ''To Kill a Mockingbird,'' never did. The burden of anticipation for Brodkey's first novel -- his precocious short stories had earned him comparisons to Proust and Wordsworth -- transformed him into a sad caricature of a blocked writer. ''Either I am truly great, or I am a fraud,'' he uttered to one of the many journalists who profiled him along the way. There's a perverse irony here: The longer it takes to finish a book, the higher expectations rise -- and the harder it becomes to deliver.


Letting go is not always easy. Working on a book can provide authors with a sense of security. It confers on them the sense -- illusory though it may be -- of being employed, a comforting thing to someone who wakes up every morning without a compelling reason to put on a pair of pants. And a book is more than a job; it's a colleague, too. After writing the final line of ''History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'' in 1787, a book that had taken him 15 years to complete, Edward Gibbon took a moment to describe the feeling: ''I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion.''
I think there are a variety of reasons for books that take endlessly long years to finish (or never finish). Some are due to the writer simply vastly underestimating the time necessary; when researching nonfiction, this is most understandable, and when one finally finishes, such as Robert Caro, worth the wait.

Fiction is, indeed, a more complex case, because defining what makes the work "done" can arguably only be concluded by the writer, and it may be impossible for anyone else to determine if the novelist's judgment at any given point is apt, or merely deeply neurotic.

In some cases, I'm a bit judgmental about some writers' writing habits and approaches; in a few cases, some spend too much time waiting for inspiration, and simply never learned orderly habits of putting in a certain number of hours per day, or otherwise have set themselves up for delays or failure. But that can also be difficult to judge from the outside. I've known too many "drippers," with lousy attitudes (in my opinion), though, to not have a very faint prejudice against some writers' work methods. It still often remains worth the wait, however.

It's a real privilege to be able to work that way, though. I'm torn between a lack of sympathy for Fran Lebowitz: "for crissake, no one expects you to produce a work of genius, just get it out already!" and sympathy: "obviously, if you can't put out even a small work in all these years, you are deeply screwed up and suffering, and thinking more harshly of yourself than anyone else is, and that's undoubtedly the key factor in why you can't produce, and I'm sorry you're so screwed up and in such pain."

I think the last quote I quoted above, about how some writers don't want to let go, is also spot on.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 as interested.

9/25/2004 06:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, September 24, 2004
THE ARC OF HITCHENS. Doubtless quite of lot of folks who read me have only a curse word for Christopher Hitchens these days. The others who like him tend to have only curse words for the left.

But I'd be dishonest if I didn't say that while I have various disagreements with him, and hardly agree with everything he says, I still find him to be a quite interesting writer and thinker, and I continue to find him very much worth reading, agree with him or not.

This, although containing nothing dramatically new, is one of the most interesting interviews with him I've yet read. That it was by Johann Hari, whom I greatly respect, undoubtedly has something to do with that (the main thrust is trying to understand how Hitchens can politically be where he is).

And, yes, there's a lot here I do agree with.
He is appalled that some people on the left are prepared to do almost nothing to defeat Islamofascism. "When I see some people who claim to be on the left abusing that tradition, making excuses for the most reactionary force in the world, I do feel pain that a great tradition is being defamed. So in that sense I still consider myself to be on the left."


"I first became interested in the neocons during the war in Bosnia-Herzgovinia. That war in the early 1990s changed a lot for me. I never thought I would see, in Europe, a full-dress reprise of internment camps, the mass murder of civilians, the reinstiutution of torture and rape as acts of policy. And I didn't expect so many of my comrades to be indifferent - or even take the side of the fascists."

"It was a time when many people on the left were saying 'Don't intervene, we'll only make things worse' or, 'Don't intervene, it might destabilise the region.'", he continues. "And I thought - destabilisation of fascist regimes is a good thing. Why should the left care about the stability of undemocratic regimes? Wasn't it a good thing to destabilise the regime of General Franco?"

"It was a time when the left was mostly taking the conservative, status quo position - leave the Balkans alone, leave Milosevic alone, do nothing. And that kind of conservatism can easily mutate into actual support for the aggressors. Weimar-style conservatism can easily mutate into National Socialism," he elaborates. "So you had people like Noam Chomsky's co-author Ed Herman go from saying 'Do nothing in the Balkans', to actually supporting[ital] Milosevic, the most reactionary force in the region."
I got no problem with any of this; I'm on board. It's where he goes a bit later than I do not.

But I do try to keep an open mind about Wolfowitz; I'm neither for stringing him up, nor signing up with him. (There; as usual, not a lot of folks will be happy with that sentiment.)

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. (Via Doctor Frank.)

9/24/2004 07:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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MY CONTINUED DECLINE AND FALL. Freshly back from an inspection of my mortal remains, I am pleased to report that after a month of treatment with Enalapril maleate, the wonder drug, my blood pressure, last seen here at 190/122, is now a low, low 220/122! My body remains miraculous. I am now on double the prescription of Enalapril, plus Clonidine, plus various other wonder drugs for various other ailments, at more than triple the price of my last visit to the pharmacy.

The gout cut back immensely after major and regular doses of Indomethacin and a revolutionary diet of cherry-cereal gruel and nothing else (mm!), but then sprang back painfully three or so days ago, though not at full strength; not more than half. More Indomethacin for that.

Plus, results from my cardio-sonogram. There is moderate concentric left ventricular hypertrophy. The left ventricular ejection fraction is normal. There is questionable basal septal wall hypokinesis. There is questionable basal inferior wall hypokinesis. Cannot rule out apical wall motion abnormality. My mitral valve has mild mitral regurgitation.

And so on, and so forth. I am proud that I have raised a bulemic mitral valve. Nothing else in my heart is reguritating. That's probably good, I suspect.

Beyond, that I feel sure you are pleased to be so much better educated on my Enlarged Heart, with which I can give far greater wuv to the world than so many of you people with mere normal sized ventricular heart thingies.

The doctor assures me I am not in immediate danger of congestive heart failure, and have at least another week to live. I'll spare you reports on my eyes, teeth, kidneys, and everthing else that is rotting away.

Luckily, the brain transplant is still on schedule. Consideration is being given to just installing it as an add-on, so I can be The Blogger With Two Brains.

How are you?

9/24/2004 02:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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ALLAWI'S CREDIBILITY. Josh Marshall takes note:
An amazing exchange from Jim Lehrer's interview this evening with Iyad Allawi, which opens and shuts the case on the latter's credibility about anything.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody in the United States who questions whether or not getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth the cost of more than a thousand lives now and billions and billions of U.S. dollars?

PRIME MINISTER IYAD ALLAWI: Well, I assure you if Saddam was still there, terrorists will be hitting there again at Washington and New York, as they did in the murderous attack in September; they'll be hitting also on other places in Europe and the Middle East.
So, if we hadn't invaded Iraq we'd be experiencing repeated 9/11s, with similar events in Europe in the Middle East.
(He obviously meant "and," not "in.") Clearly we should take Iyad Allawi as an unprejudiced, reliable narrator.

However, Josh also commits an obvious howler:
Here we have a US-installed foreign head of state....
Of course, we don't. We have a US-installed foreign head of government. The Iraqi head of state is, of course, President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer. Allawi is Prime Minister. What a very American error. I'd e-mail Dr. Marshall about this if my e-mail were working this morning; would someone like to e-mail him this post, please?

9/24/2004 09:52:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE MAIN CHOW. Nice piece on a truly important subject, the history of "Chinese" restaurants in America.
It is an unusual trove of cultural kitsch: close to 10,000 Chinese restaurant menus going back to the late 1800's, filling an array of battered boxes and grocery bags. There is Ying's, a drive-through in Jacksonville, Fla., which describes itself as a purveyor of "Chinee Takee Outee," Jade Garden in Bismarck, N.D., which features the local specialty, "hot and spicy walleye," Brillante, a Mexican and Chinese spot in Paterson, N.J., which offers General Tso's Pollo.


The bills of fare, gathered over the years by Harley Spiller, who has amassed a number of curious collections in his Upper East Side apartment, may be the ultimate road map to the Chinese restaurant's extraordinary trek across the American landscape.


There are now close to 36,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, according to Chinese Restaurant News, a trade publication, more than the number of McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King franchises combined. What began in this country as exotic has become thoroughly American. A study by the Center for Culinary Development, a food product development company, found that 39 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 who were surveyed said Chinese was their favorite type of food, compared to only 9 percent who chose American.
As most connoisseurs know:
Much of what has been served in Chinese restaurants in America is virtually impossible to find in China. Crab Rangoon, chop suey and sweet-and-sour pork are all essentially American inventions. In the late 1980's a Hong Kong entrepreneur imported another one: "genuine American fortune cookies."


A menu from the Hong-Far-Low restaurant in Boston in the 1880's features a picture of a bald man in Chinese dress, with the caption: "This is the first man in Boston who made chop suey in 1879." Also on the menu: French fried potatoes.


A yellowing 1925 postcard in the exhibition depicts the crowded banquet hall of the new Shanghai Cafe in San Francisco, featuring "Chinese and American Dishes" and "Music and Dance Every Evening."


Chop suey references crept into popular culture, often in bizarre ways. Museum visitors can listen to Louis Armstrong's "Cornet Chop Suey" and sing along to a 1925 ditty "Who'll Chop Your Suey When I'm Gone."


By the 1950's and 60's "going for Chinese" had become part of the suburban vernacular. In places like New York City, eating Chinese food became intertwined with the traditions of other ethnic groups, especially that of Jewish immigrants. Many Jewish families faithfully visited their favorite Chinese restaurant every Sunday night. Among the menus in the exhibition are selections from Glatt Wok: Kosher Chinese Restaurant and Takeout in Monsey, N.Y., and Wok Tov in Cedarhurst, N.Y.
But as with the Cantonese food before it, Mr. Schoenfeld said, the cooking degraded over time, as it became mass produced. Today's batter-fried, syrup-laden version of Chinese food, he said, bears little resemblance to authentic cuisine.

General Tso's chicken, for example, originally made with garlic and vinegar, has evolved, he said, into "sweet chunks of chicken with batter in glumpy sauce."


Although old-style dishes like chop suey, chow mein and egg foo yong are almost nonexistent today in New York City and the West Coast, they are surprisingly common in the middle of the country.


"The competition in Chinese communities is cutthroat," Mr. Chen, the co-curator, said. "What people realize is you can make much, much better profit in places like Montana."
There's an exhibit at the Museum of the Chinese In America, and of course the Times doesn't notice their web page here. More on the exhibit here.
“Have you eaten yet,” is a standard Chinese greeting sharing the same connotation as “how are you?”


Visitors will be able to hear vintage radio commercials and excerpts of pop hits that have immortalized Chinese dishes like chop suey and chow mein. Items like menus, glassware and postcards show how Chinese food entrepreneurs have employed exoticism and the ignorance of the curious consumer to attract business. Responding to a call for stories and photographs, families and employees have submitted their own intimate portraits of working in Chinese restaurants and are sharing these revealing narratives in Have You Eaten Yet?
There's also a film.

Like many others, I've become more of an enthusiast of other cuisines, such as the Southeast Asian ones of Thailand and Vietnam, or Nepalese/Burmese/Indian, and whatever interesting new cuisines I can find, although my budget has generally allowed for vastly smaller sampling than I'd prefer, and of late gout has rather cut down on my options.

Read The Rest as interested.

9/24/2004 09:49:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Read The Rest as deeply relieved. (Via Oxblog.)

9/24/2004 12:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BECAUSE IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR POPEYE, so it must be good enough for me. Spinach could power better solar cells.
Previous efforts to integrate the energy harnessing capability of chlorophyll with conventional electronics have failed because it normally requires a watery environment in which to work.
So after there's enough global warming to melt the polar ice caps, and we live in WaterWorld, we're all set! Woohoo! (I yam what I yam.)

Read The Rest as interested.

9/24/2004 12:35:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DR. DAWG. Who knew that there's a good reason for your dog to smell pee?
Now, in a novel experiment, a team of scientists and dog trainers have put this traditional canine behaviour to good use – sniffing human urine to detect bladder cancer sufferers.

The researchers hope that analysis and identification of the characteristic chemical odorants may lead to non-invasive, early-detection screening methods for bladder cancer in the future.


In the final, double-blind experiment, each dog underwent nine separate tests in which they were shown an array of seven urine samples, one of which was cancerous, and told to lie down next to the cancerous one. The dogs correctly identified the cancer sample on 22 out of 54 occasions. This success rate of 41% is much higher than the 14% expected from chance alone.

The researchers suspect that the dogs were detecting a specific profile of aromas linked to the abnormal metabolic products of cancer cells. These volatile organic chemicals may include alkanes and alkenes, they believe.
Alternative theory: Cancer is the real dog's best friend.

Read The Rest as interested.

In related news: Giant rats to sniff out tuberculosis, 16 December 2003. And haven't our doctor's offices changed since that historic development!

9/24/2004 12:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, September 23, 2004
President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

Appearing in the Rose Garden yesterday with Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, Bush said Kerry's statements about Iraq "can embolden an enemy." After Kerry criticized Allawi's speech to Congress, Vice President Cheney tore into the Democratic nominee, calling him "destructive" to the effort in Iraq and the struggle against terrorism.

It was the latest instance in which prominent Republicans have said that Democrats are helping the enemy or that al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents and other enemies of the United States are backing Kerry and the Democrats. Such accusations are not new to American politics, but the GOP's line of attack this year has been pervasive and high-level.

• On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry." On Fox News, Hatch said Democrats are "consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there."

• On Sunday, GOP Senate candidate John Thune of South Dakota said of his opponent, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle: "His words embolden the enemy." Thune, on NBC's "Meet the Press," declined to disavow a statement by the Republican Party chairman in his state saying Daschle had brought "comfort to America's enemies."

• On Saturday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) said at a GOP fundraiser: "I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops." Asked whether he believed al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency, Hastert said: "That's my opinion, yes."

• The previous day in Warsaw, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said terrorists in Iraq "are trying to influence the election against President Bush."
This amazing string of accusations, based upon the well-known mutant mind-reading ability gifted to the Republican leadership by a mysterious cult of Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, or Kang and Kodos (Amygdala researchers are still checking into which), is just a wee tad more important than irresponsible accusations from obscure poets, well-known Hollywood figures, and extremist bloggers.

Or so say some foolish people, who obviously don't realize that the power of these two groups is entirely comparable. Foolish humans! Ha, ha, ha!
The White House and the Bush campaign said they would neither endorse nor disavow the remarks by Hastert, Armitage and others. "Those statements speak to the great concern many people have about John Kerry's consistent vacillation under political pressure on the most significant issues the nation faces with regard to the war on terror," Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan had no quarrel with the remarks. "They are expressing their opinion," he said.
I remain so relieved that we have "grown-up," steady, firm, leadership in the White House and Congress. Thank goodness for the restoration of honor and dignity, and personal responsibility, to the office.

Stay the course!

Or you'll die.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/23/2004 10:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHOSE ISLAM? A good, if short, unsigned Economist piece on the battle for the Muslim heart. I'd excerpt the whole short thing if I excerpted more than this:
Why, demands a former Kuwaiti minister writing in the Saudi daily Al Sharq al Awsat, have we not heard a single fatwa against Osama bin Laden, when Muslims fell over themselves to condemn Salman Rushdie for writing a “vapid” novel? Who has done more damage to Islam? Muslims must no longer remain silent, declares an editorial in the Egyptian weekly Rose al-Yusef; our fear of speaking out has become the terrorists' fifth column.
The speaking out must continue, but it appears it will. (When it becomes deafening, we've all won.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

9/23/2004 10:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE MILITARY VOTE. Many seem to think it's overwhelmingly pro-Bush. It isn't.
Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.

"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."


The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war. Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, and many are. But bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly.

"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush.


To be sure, broader surveys of US military personnel and their spouses in recent years indicate they are more likely to be conservative and Republican than the US civilian population - but not overwhelmingly so.

A Military Times survey last December of 933 subscribers, about 30 percent of whom had deployed for the Iraq war, found that 56 percent considered themselves Republican - about the same percentage who approved of Bush's handling of Iraq. Half of those responding were officers, who as a group tend to be more conservative than their enlisted counterparts.

Among officers, who represent roughly 15 percent of today's 1.4 million active duty military personnel, there are about eight Republicans for every Democrat, according to a 1999 survey by Duke University political scientist Peter Feaver. Enlisted personnel, however - a disproportionate number of whom are minorities, a population that tends to lean Democratic - are more evenly split. Professor Feaver estimates that about one third of enlisted troops are Republicans, one third Democrats, and the rest independents, with the latter group growing.


Whether representing pockets of opposition to Bush or something bigger, soldiers and marines on Iraq's front lines can be impassioned in their criticism. One Marine officer in Ramadi who had lost several men said he was thinking about throwing his medals over the White House wall.

"Nobody I know wants Bush," says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, "This whole war was based on lies."
I am outraged at the American troops who aren't supporting the American troops!

Who do they think they are? Don't they know that our boys in Iraq need supporting? And don't they know that in America, the only way to support our troops is to vote for the Republican? Don't they know that a certain Democratic U.S. Senator is a traitor? Even more than all Democrats are traitors! (They never support our troops!)

Voting to support a traitor is traitorous!

These traitorous U.S. troops must be rooted out for the sake of supporting out troops!

It's the only way to be sure. It's the only way for America to be safe.

The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. (Via Avedon Carol.)

9/23/2004 10:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MY E-MAIL. Yes, my e-mail account seems to have disappeared in the past couple of days. No, I don't know what's going on.

The whole account is glitchy enough, yet problems are always spontaneously fixed after several days (with no notice or explanation from the company), that I'm used to waiting several days before checking with my contact; after all, it is a free and generously donated account, so I'm hardly going to complain.

And the online account is obviously still working; it's just the e-mail address that is presently inaccessible, and I'm told e-mail is bouncing.

If you need to reach me urgently, leave a message here. I hope to get this fixed within a few days (or I'll soon open a temp web-mail account).

Apologies for the any inconvenience. It's certainly inconveniencing me.

9/23/2004 08:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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MANCHUKO REMEMBERED in an unwonderful, but utterly predictable way, in present-day Japan. Another in my endless series on why I oppose encouragment of renewed Japanese militarism until such time as a generation has passed after their fascist, racist, imperialist history is fully and popularly acknowledged, and adultation of it has ceased to be a major thread in their polity and leadership. They've still not really even begun.

(America, and Douglas MacArthur, bear some responsiblity here for covering over Imperial responsibility for the war, and not carrying out a serious purging of fascist elements during the Occupation, even remotely to the extent de-Nazification, itself problematic, took place in Germany, since it was far more convenient to rule through continued Imperial authority. Admittedly, it would have been difficult to do otherwise, but the long-term result is that we still have problems, often still unacknowledged, ignored, or overlooked.)
In Japan, the romanticizing of the Manchurian occupation reflects an ascendant conservative view in academia, the media and publishing that the country must get over its self-loathing about its imperial past and hold its head high. For his part, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi regularly pays his respects at Tokyo's most controversial landmark, Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto temple dedicated to the war dead, including some notorious war criminals.


Among the Japanese today who have written sympathetically of this experiment is the popular author Natsuo Kirino, who is writing a novel about Manchuria. She compared the experience there to the rapture over Japan's economic rise in the 1980's, when "anything seemed possible" and Japan seemed 10 feet tall. "Manchuria was a land of illusions, and I want to see what happened to those people, and to their dreams," she said in an interview.

Told what their Japanese counterparts are writing, Chinese intellectuals who study the same period express deep resentment, even disgust.

"If Japan wanted to build a utopia to pit yellow people against white people, why not build it in their land?" said Chi Zijian, an author of 40 books, including a novel called "The Bogus Manchurian State." "Why build it in our land? When they set out to build their utopia here, how many people got killed?"

A Chinese historian who specializes in Manchuria was even more indignant, after being asked if there was not an echo in Manchuria in the 30's and 40's of the South African experience under apartheid. Japan did build a relatively sophisticated economy in Manchuria, with modern railroads and proper sanitation and central heating in many buildings, albeit with a repugnant racial ideology.

"If you want to compare Japan's behavior in Manchuria to something, it was most similar to Hitler in Poland and Romania," said Liu Zhaowei of Shenyang Normal University. "The Japanese effort here was fascist."

Cui Renjie, a 79-year-old retired prison guard who grew up under Japanese rule, put it this way: "You look at the forced labor in the coal mines. There wasn't a single Japanese working in them. There were great railroads here, but the good trains were for Japanese only. "

It is true that Japan enforced racial segregation in Manchuria, differentiating among Chinese, Manchu, Koreans and the more than one million Japanese settlers living there by 1940. It is also true that Japan's war against Chinese resisters was built on scorched-earth tactics and free-fire zones that caused broad devastation.
Maybe in another thirty years or so, Japan will have truly moved past romanticizing and desiring a return to their centuries as a militant, military, society. To have truly acknowledged their past, and have a leadership and overwhelming majority that is truly repentant, and truly understanding of their crimes.

And then after a new generation comes of age, it will be time to believe it's safe for them to be a "normal" military power. So I'd give them perhaps as soon as sixty years from now, if all goes well. If.

It's not enough that a significant portion of the population truly has made the change; the roots are too deep, and still healthy, strong, and unacknowledged.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/23/2004 07:59:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I CAN STOP ANY TIME, I TELL YOU! The shakes ain't nuthin'.
Participants in the human experiment were deprived of the web for 14 days, and found themselves quickly succumbing to "withdrawal and feelings of loss, frustration and disconnectedness". The reason for the rapid collapse of their universe is - say the researchers - because "internet users feel confident, secure and empowered. The internet has become, to some, the ultimate symbol of modernity to the point that participants were hobbled without convenient access to routine information like maps and telephone numbers. The pervasive nature of the internet is such that participants often forgot or lost the desire to use 'old fashioned tools' like the phone book, newspapers and telephone-based customer service."


"This is true to the extent that it was incredibly difficult to recruit participants for this study, as people weren't willing to be without the internet for two weeks."

The chilling effects of the cold turkey on those who were willing to risk all in the name of science are recounted thus: "I haven't talked to people I usually talk to and have been tempted to go on instant-messenger because I feel out of the loop," sobbed study participant Kristin S. Penny C was likewise suffering: "I'm starting to miss emailing my friends - I feel out of the loop," she said unloopedly. Worse still was this sobering proof of how a temporary lack of an internet connection could reduce one's life to ruins in days: "We couldn't plan a weekend getaway," confirmed Kim V, presumably from the house in which she had been imprisoned since the web embargo.
I can do it, but I have to use the computer-game/DVD/VCR player patch.

Drugs would doubtless help.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/23/2004 07:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE ARE WINNING. You can tell. John F. Burns writes:
Visiting Dr. Allawi at his sprawling residence is a short course in just how bad the situation has become for anybody associated with the American purpose in Iraq. To reach the house is to navigate a fantastical obstacle course of checkpoints, with Iraqi police cars and Humvees parked athwart a zigzag course through relays of concrete barriers. An hour or more is taken up with body searches and sniffing by dogs, while American soldiers man turreted machine guns. A boxlike infrared imaging device can detect the body heat of anybody approaching through a neighboring playground. The final security ring is manned by C.I.A.-trained guards from Iraqi Kurdistan. If Dr. Allawi were Ian Fleming's Dr. No, no more elaborate defenses could be conceived.

This is the man who has been chosen to lead Iraq to the haven of a democratic future, but he is sealed off about as completely as he could be from ordinary Iraqis, in the virtual certainty that insurgents will kill him if they ever get a clear shot.
In fairness, at least the fact that he's an Iraqi is bound to give him a vast advantage in understanding Iraq better than Americans sealed off in the Green Zone.

But, then, Ngo Dinh Diem and Madame Nhu were Vietnamese. (Albeit minority Catholics.)

(Burns preferes a Kerensky comparison.)
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/23/2004 07:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EVERY SIMS TELLS A STORY. This somewhat elderly story from 2003 that I missed the first time around picks up on the, to me quite fascinating, though utterly predictable, fact that people have (quite unexpectedly to Maxis) been using the "album" feature in The Sims to tell their own dramatic stories -- little novels or movies or what-have-you -- but also tell stories of their own life, or model abusive relationships they've lived through.

Anyone familiar with the fanfiction phenomenon could have told them this would happen, but that these sort of story-telling purposes would come out in any medium that allows expression is a human trait I fascinating; we are all compulsive story-tellers, of one sort or another.
Service, known in the Sims community as nsknight, has created several albums that are highly ranked by her peers. Among them is her six-part Vanderbilt series, which took her months to write and stage and which revolves around the story of three sisters separated by the murder of their mother.

Other users have conjured up such storylines as a young woman's drug addiction and recovery; an African-American girl's adoption by a white family; and, naturally, poor girls falling in love with rich guys. Andrea Davis, known as VioletKitty, uses the albums to build narrative Sims tutorials. "Since my Sims weren't 'acting,'" she explained, "it (is) more like reality TV."

To Wright, one of the most memorable albums told the story of a woman's abusive relationship and how she eventually got out of it. But a search on the Sims Exchange of the word "abuse" reveals that Sims albums have become a common therapeutic tool. All told, 63 albums deal with abuse issues.


Players "go to a lot of trouble to get the Sims to do things they don't want to do," Wright says, explaining that players must keep their would-be actors fed, clean, rested and happy before they will even consider playing their parts. "So in that sense, it's almost like they're a director.... It's almost like a real movie shoot."

Asked about that, Service laughed and agreed. "I suspect real people would be easier to direct," she said. "There is nothing like trying to get two Sims to kiss when they are both not in the mood. Actors would at least pretend."
I'm confident there are innumerable Mary Sues, unbeknowest (as always) to the authors. I predict that if therapists haven't already started using The Sims (I and II), they will be, at least in some successor incarnation. Also: criminal investigation versions (when will the first one be seen in court?). (It's just a lead-in towards the holosuite, after all.)

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

9/23/2004 07:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE THING. I tend to spend too much time writing comments on other blogs, at times. Sometimes stupid comments, if I'm in the wrong mood, sometimes good ones.

I was going to post the following here, in response to an offhand comment by the very fine blogger "hilzoy," an excellent recent addition to Obsidian Wings, when it occurred to me that although it's not the most organized opinion, even on the topic, I've ever written -- I suspect if I googled for some past writings by me on Usenet on the subject, I'd find better explications of my opinion -- but on the grounds that I don't do all that much writing of my own opinions on my own blog, which is silly, herewith:

Just incidentally, these arguments are precisely why I'm opposed to amending the Constitution to elminate the Electoral College. The arguable benefit of said proposal is far too partisan and both limited, yet unpredictable, to be worth changing a Constitutional system that has, overall, served us well, in my views.

Arguments simply based upon increased pure "democracy" never make headway on me; democracy is not, actually, the greatest virtue that trumps everything, in my view. Pure democracy is a lynch mob. And the founders knew that very very well, which is why we, thank them, don't live in one.

Yup, the Electoral College gives more voting weight to large rural states with smaller populations than urban states. This is not the most pressing problem facing us, much as it ranks faintly higher than the Pledge of Allegiance. It's not in the top thirty, nor the top fifty. Possibly the top one hundred. We don't need to make it that much easier to make other changes to the Constitution by making that one. It's not worth it.

It would also drastically change the balance of power in national politics in unforseeable ways; Presidential candidates would have little or no motivation to pay any attention in the slightest, suddenly, to endless local and state concerns. Why should they when they can now win the office by campaigning only in California, NY, Florida, Michigan, and a smattering of other states Is that a great thing? Not if you don't live in those states. As a follow-on, all sorts of issue politics change balance. Some of that would be good; some would be bad. But it would be pretty damn radical, if you play out the consequences, and, again, I'm not inclined to tinker so drastically for what is, essentially, a trivial change that actually loses demonstrable, if flawed, benefits.

9/23/2004 05:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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TORTUROUS REPORTS. Here are two examples of difficult reading: one from the LA Times by Craig Pyes and Mark Mazzetti,on a case in Afghanistan; the other in The New York Review of Books, by Mark Danner, on Abu Ghraib.

In Afghanistan, the "Gardez 7" were Afghan Army troops suspected of involvement in selling weapons; kept by American Special Forces, allegedly tortured until one died, they were then handed off to Afghani authorities:
Alleged American mistreatment of the detainees included repeated beatings, immersion in cold water, electric shocks, being hung upside down and toenails being torn off, according to Afghan investigators and an internal memorandum prepared by a United Nations delegation that interviewed the surviving soldiers.

Some of the Afghan soldiers were beaten to the point that they could not walk or sit, Afghan doctors and other witnesses said.


In July, an investigation of detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, disclosed 94 cases of alleged abuse, including 39 deaths in U.S. custody — 20 of them suspected homicides. The report said the inspector general had found "no incidents of abuse that had not been reported through command channels."

No Documentation

But Naseer's death was not among those counted. The absence of documentation appears to undermine findings that all abuse incidents were properly reported through the chain of command.

Witness accounts provided to Afghan military investigators suggest the possibility that U.S. military officials at Gardez tried to distance themselves from the incident almost immediately after the death. All seven survivors and Naseer's bruised corpse were turned over to local police later the same day, after American officers sought assistance from the governor and local security officials, according to the Afghan military report and interviews.

The Afghan soldiers were transferred to police custody on the governor's orders — with no arrest warrants, no criminal charges filed and no documentation of Naseer's death, Police Chief Abdullah Mujahid acknowledged in a letter to the provincial governor.
It's hard for the Army and others to offer convincing evidence that their inquiries into this sort of thing are full and open, when they don't seem to be full and open.

In the NYRB review of a couple of those reports, Danner notes:
The new reports not only decisively prove what was long known, widening the circle of direct blame for what happened at Abu Ghraib to nearly fifty people, including military intelligence soldiers and officers—although subsequent disclosures suggest the number is at least twice that. More important, the reports suggest how procedures that "violated established interrogation procedures and applicable laws" in fact had their genesis not in Iraq but in interrogation rooms in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba—and ultimately in decisions made by high officials in Washington.
The details make painful reading. But not, you know, painful the way people described therein experienced "painful."

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

9/23/2004 04:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STILL NOT KOSHER. We won't really know until after the election, of course, but as I expected, most of those exaggerated predictions from the right of Jews swinging towards Republicans were wishful thinking, often, of course, from those Jews who have been so persuaded, to whom it makes perfect sense that their POV is the only "sane" and sensible one. A bisle of this goes a long way.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is gaining support among Jewish voters as growing numbers disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, according to a poll commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.

If the election were held today, 69 percent of Jewish voters would support Kerry, 24 percent would back Bush and 3 percent would give their votes to Ralph Nader, the survey found. That's an increase of 10 percentage points for Kerry since December, when the previous AJC poll showed him with 59 percent of the Jewish vote.
Mazel tov. Yes, Bush will get more Jewish votes on this go-round than in 2000, but the percentage change will be small by any normal definition. (Jews remain about 2% of the voting population of the U.S.) In 2000 Bush got 19% of the Jewish votes (despite all those hordes of insidious neo-conservatives); 5%, 10%, more is not exactly an overwhelming shift of Jews to the Republican Party.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

9/23/2004 02:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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THE EIGHTIES WITCH HUNTS. Although a very familiar story to me, this tale of the "ritual sex abuse" that never was is still one of the more appalling stories I've ever read. Because this happened so many times in the American justice system, and you don't like to believe that.
The testimony of Sampley and five other boys was the prosecution's key evidence in a trial in which four defendants were convicted, with John Stoll, a 41-year-old carpenter, receiving the longest sentence of the group: 40 years for 17 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.

Now for the first time in 20 years, Sampley is back in the driveway of that small white house. ''It never happened,'' he tells me. He lied about Stoll, an easygoing divorced father who always insisted the neighborhood kids call him John rather than Mr. Stoll and let them run in and out of his house in their bathing suits, eat popcorn on the living-room floor and watch ''fright night'' videos.

Last January, Sampley and three other former accusers returned to the courthouse where they had testified against Stoll. This time they came to say Stoll never molested them. They are in their late 20's now. They have jobs in construction, car repair, sales. A couple of them have children about the same age as they were when they testified. Although most of the boys drifted apart after the trial, their life stories echo with similarities. Each of them said he always knew the truth -- that Stoll had never touched them. Each said that he felt pressured by the investigators to describe sex acts. A fifth accuser isn't sure what happened all those years ago but has no memory of being molested. During the court hearing to release Stoll, only his son Jed remained adamant that his father had molested him, though he couldn't remember details of the abuse: ''I've been through many years of therapy to try to get over that,'' he told the court.


Then there are other kids -- kids like Sampley who have always known nothing happened and have spent years tormented by it. Linda Starr, the legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law, which represented Stoll in his hearing this year, is a former sex-crimes prosecutor and was surprised to see how much the events of 20 years ago had affected the children. ''Before I met them, I didn't appreciate that these kids, who had not been sexually abused, would have experienced trauma comparable to kids who had been,'' Starr says.

In part, Sampley, now 28 and a worker for a commercial-sign maker, is haunted by his own role. ''Why couldn't I withstand the pressure?'' he says. ''I didn't smoke when I was pressured by my friends. But when I was pressured by the investigators, I broke down. I still search for that moment I gave in.'' He is also haunted by how the investigation distorted his trust. Several years ago, he realized that each time his stepdaughter, then 6, invited friends to the house, he shut himself in his bedroom; he didn't want to play with strangers' kids or even be around them. For a year, he also wouldn't give his own daughter, now 3, a bath. ''I'm afraid of somebody saying something that isn't true.'' A child or an angry ex-girlfriend might twist the truth into a lie. A tickle becomes molestation; a hug is lechery. He knows firsthand that children do lie.


...the longtime district attorney, Ed Jagels, a subject of the book ''Mean Justice,'' by Edward Humes, is considered one of the toughest prosecutors in the state. (Jagels declined comment for this article.) ''You have to understand the power of Ed Jagels,'' says Michael Snedeker, an attorney who helped overturn 18 convictions of Bakersfield defendants in sex-ring cases and co-author of ''Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt'' with the journalist Debbie Nathan. ''He is more important than the mayor in that city. He's more feared than J. Edgar Hoover on his best day.''

In three years during the 1980's, Jagels and his predecessor prosecuted eight sex rings involving 46 defendants. Consider the example of Scott Kniffen, who agreed to be a character witness for his friends Alvin and Deborah McCuan, accused of molesting their own children. Within weeks, Kniffen and his wife, Brenda, were under arrest for supposed involvement in the same sex ring. They were subsequently convicted. (Their convictions were reversed 12 years later). Or consider Jeffrey Modahl. He was a single dad of two daughters who suspected two relatives had molested his girls. After Modahl asked Velda Murillo for help, Murillo's suspicions turned to him. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison for running a family sex ring that included tying his preadolescent daughters to hooks in a bedroom. (No evidence of hooks was ever found.) ''Velda said, 'Tell us what happened and you'll go home,''' remembers Carla Jo Modahl, who was 9 when she testified against her father and subsequently tried to commit suicide several times after his conviction. ''I didn't understand what would happen. I didn't realize it until everyone was in prison.'' Carla was scared that if she recanted her testimony, she, too, would be imprisoned. Still, when she was 12, she told a judge she'd lied on the witness stand. The judge didn't believe her, and her father remained in prison for a dozen more years -- until his conviction was finally reversed.
All these people sent off to rot in prison for decades -- at least one still locked in a mental institution, having completed his sentence -- because of what seems quite clearly to have been prosecutorial and investigorical madness. "Satanic rituals," indeed.

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5 for the terrible details of this Bakersfield case. Consider again how many innocent people lay in the tormentful hells that we still often call a "penitentiary." Who should be penitent, and for what?

9/23/2004 02:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A PASSAGE TO IRAQ. The story of Fern Holland is a story of American idealism meeting Iraqi reality. It's extraordinarily well-told by Elizabeth Rubin.
Since her arrival in Iraq, she and her Iraqi assistant, Salwa Oumashi, had fertilized a broad swath of the middle Euphrates region with ideas of change. She organized human rights groups, opened women's centers and acted as a strong advocate for Iraqi women's rights. She was working 18-hour days, seven days a week, and still, she wrote to a friend: ''I wish I had more hours in the day. . . . It's crazy and is driving me crazy because I really love these people and I see the potential and I just can't give enough to do them justice.''


What is ''it''? ''Making herself perfect,'' Vi says. Fern got straight A's while working at Tastee-Freez and Radio Shack. She was the family's peacemaker, comedian and natural athlete. She was pretty and popular, a friend to the ostracized, class salutatorian and homecoming queen. She was an honor student in psychology at Oklahoma University, then flew off to see the world, which to her meant saving it. She tended children dying of nuclear-disaster-related diseases in a Russian hospital. She taught kids in a squatter camp in South Africa. She thought about medical school but concluded that the law, as she wrote in her law-school application, was the best means to ''create the most equal and just global society obtainable.'' She got her law degree in Tulsa, then began handling medical malpractice suits while helping Vi take care of her mother, who was dying of emphysema. It was all preparation. A year after she buried her mother in the Bluejacket cemetery, she gave up her partner-track position, joined the Peace Corps and found herself in the Namibian bush not far from the Angolan border.

But if she sometimes did saintly things, she was a hard-living saint. In high school she loved to drive fast, blasting the Violent Femmes, and stay out late at the lake with a bottle of vodka and her best friend, Angie. Her vacations were on the wild side: jumping out of planes, diving with sharks, hiking alone in the snowy Himalayas with a busted knee and summer clothes.


Who killed Holland, Oumashi and Zangas? As I drove around the region, I met many women and men who wept when they remembered Holland. But I was discovering that there were plenty of people who wanted her and Oumashi out of the south. Zangas, it seems, was simply in the wrong car. The Karbala police chief, a portly and friendly man known as General Abbas, told me one morning in May that the police officers accused of killing Holland had been released from Abu Ghraib prison two days earlier. Ballistics tests done by the F.B.I. didn't produce a match, so the men were presumed to be innocent.

In Hindiya, a notoriously seedy crossroads town where Holland stopped shortly before being killed, I met some farmers from the same tribe as the arrested policemen. At first they denied knowing anything, but later one of them said: ''Don't think it was some spontaneous decision made that day. Everyone knew those 'journalists' were spies. A lot of special groups were watching them for a long time before they planned and killed them.'' In Hilla, the special police told me a small clique connected to Sadr's sharia court in Najaf ordered Holland's killing. An investigative lawyer in Najaf told me that her death was ordered by a 27-year-old self-proclaimed ayatollah in Hindiya, whose fanatical followers had killed American M.P.'s in Karbala and who has since disappeared. A judge in Baghdad told me it had to be Sciri or Dawa, the two most organized religious parties; Holland was becoming too successful at organizing women in Najaf, he said, and the clerics and political parties there had some bizarre notion that she was a Jew trying to create an espionage base for Israel. An American lawyer told me that the F.B.I. suspected her killing was connected to Kifl. It appeared that the woman who had chiefly instigated the bulldozing was a cousin and sister-in-law to the man whose house was destroyed. There were also rumors in Kifl -- whose Jewish population fled to Israel in the 1950's -- that Israel was sending agents to collect information on formerly Jewish properties. ''Imagine you put your finger in that ball of fire?'' Adly Hassanein said.

Americans working in Iraq blamed the occupation. The Shiite south was initially expected to be quiet. For Washington's political reasons, and out of an unwillingness to bring in more U.S. troops, the south was mainly handed over to a coalition of the least enthusiastic nations, who have demonstrated above all else a talent for conflict avoidance. ''Everyone in Najaf will tell you that this was the second great betrayal of the Shia by the Americans,'' said Rachel Roe, the Army legal adviser working with marines in Najaf.

A State Department official in Washington told me: ''We're responsible for her death. When you push someone with a greater sense of urgency to get their good-news stories done, and when you bring down Jerry Bremer for high-profile ceremonies with helicopters and bodyguards so he can take credit for liberating Iraqi women, after he flies off, the person caught in the crossfire is Fern. And we had a responsibility to protect her. We didn't.''
There's a great deal more to to this story, both about Fern Holland, and about America in Iraq. As always, keeping in mind the difference between the idealistic goals, and the reality, is absolutely crucial.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

9/23/2004 12:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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SIDE-BY-SIDE SCREENSHOT COMPARISONS of Star Wars revisions. Jabba definitely looks much better now. Making the Emperor be Ian McDiarmid is also good. Actually, in every case, these changes, unlike the last go-round, seem to be for the better, save for the issue of Han and Greedo's shoot-out, which is a least an improvement on the last go-round.

Read The Rest Scale as interested; there are just two small pages.

9/23/2004 09:58:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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RESIDUAL AND EMERGENT, global to local. Nice buzz words, but interesting from the right people. John Shirley talks to Cory Doctorow, Pat Murphy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Norman Spinrad, Bruce Sterling and Ken Wharton about the near-term social future.

Unsurprisingly, they mostly tend to see nails that fit the hammer they presently use (which you can see reflected in their fiction). Cory Doctorow sees copyright as the defining issue before us. Norman Spinrad blanches at "the rise to dominance of the American Christian fundamentalist far right." Pat Murphy thinks it's health issues. Bruce Sterling says "These days I spend a lot of time looking at Brazil, China, India, and Europe. Japan and Russia, interestingly, are even more moribund than the USA." Who knew?

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in the cliche-to-insight ratio of this discussion, but it's still mildly interesting.

I'll give a short answer to one of Shirley's questions:
To sort of top off a previous question: Is a real world government possible and could it be a good thing, on balance?
Yes, but the second part is a meaningless question absent postulating what kind of government we're talking about.

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

Perhaps more entertaining are Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person nitpicking and praising Sky Captain. Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

9/23/2004 09:12:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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