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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Sunday, October 31, 2004
NICE WOLFIE. If you've been scared by wolves, lately, you shouldn't be.
As everyone knows:
In truth, wolves do not seek to harm humans, said Medwid. “Wolves instinctively fear and avoid humans. There are no recorded cases of a healthy wild wolf killing a person in North America.”

The myth that wolves are rapacious killers inspired a government-sponsored wolf eradication campaign that was active in the United States well into the 20th century. The success of a new public policy on wolf recovery is due in part to an energetic education campaign that has replaced myth with science-based fact.

In the 30-second spot, the voice-over refers to ‘those who are waiting to do America harm,’ while a pack of wolves rises up and moves toward the camera. “It is intended that the wolves frighten the viewer, and the image unfortunately takes the public a dozen steps back into the fear about wilderness and wolves,” Medwid said.

“We’ve received many calls from our members who were concerned about the way wolves were portrayed in this ad. The good news is that many people are not buying it. If you look at the wolf images without the voice message, you simply see wolves walking, and the animal falls back into perspective.
Who's afraid of the big not-so-bad wolf? And are wolves really frightened by bushes?

The main point: Bush is saying that the war on terrorism is a metaphor? What better sign can be seen that his Strengthlyness™ is failing? To hell with the nice wolfy-dogs, Mr. President, regarding Osama bin Laden, why is it that "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him"?; and why is it that "And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him"?

Because bin Laden was only important when he ran a state. Having ridded Afghanistan of Taliban control, we then ASAP attacked a state without WMD or significant connections to al Quada -- because it is a state.

States are all that can threaten the U.S. in the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney worldview. Terrorists only matter if they have state sponsorship; we then respond by going after the state.

Otherwise terrorists are mere fleas. This is the Bush Defense Doctrine. This is their strategic response to the threat.

They Just Don't Get It. They don't get that in the 21st century, that networks of armed, fanatical, educated, suicidal men and women can make massive attacks, such as those of September 11th.

September 11th had nothing whatever to do with state support. It was utterly unnecessary. Very helpful, sure. But the things that Al Quada could do because of ruling authority in Afghanistan weren't things that September 11th relied on, which was coordinated surveillance and planning, and distributed training in small groups, as well as access to communications and money. None of those require a state, or anything closer to it than an ideology, volunteers, and a lot of donations.

This has been the key failing "insight" of the Bush Administration, and they're not going to suddenly get it right, now.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 as fanatically interested. Here is video of the President, in multiple formats, including for dial-up; see for yourself what he says.

10/31/2004 05:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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WHAT'S BLACK AND WHITE AND READ ONLINE? Newspapers formerly owned and managed Conrad Black and Hollinger. A recent exchange between Black and Roger Ebert:
Dear John [Cruickshank, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times],

It would be with a heavy heart that I would go on strike against my beloved Sun-Times, but strike I will if a strike is called.

The recent revelations about Hollinger mismanagement have left me feeling betrayed, and I know they did you, too. There were obviously millions of dollars winging away to the Radler and Black billfolds while we worked in a building where even basic maintenance was ignored.

I realize I am not underpaid. Far from it. I do not anticipate getting a raise under a new contract. But I have been a Guild member since 1967 and I will stand with my fellow Guild members if this comes to a crisis.

I hope a reasonable solution can be found that will prevent a strike at this crucial time in the paper's history.

Roger Ebert

... Lord Black replies ...

Dear Roger,

I have been disappointed to read your complaints about the former Hollinger International management. I vividly recall your avaricious negotiating techniques through your lawyer, replete with threats to quit, and your generous treatment from David Radler, which yielded you an income of over $500,000 per year from us, plus options worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and your own Web site at the company's expense.


As you know, and as Sun-Times management has pointed out, none of the payments that are the subject of the present controversy are related to the compensation levels at the Sun-Times. In the light of these facts, and the many kindnesses David Radler and I showered on you, your proletarian posturing on behalf of those threatening to strike the Sun-Times and your base ingratitude are very tiresome.


... Roger Ebert answers....
...Amusingly, though not devastatingly so. But it's an interesting glimpse.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if apt to be amused.

10/31/2004 04:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, October 30, 2004
I'LL CHECK IT OUT WHEN I CAN, ROGER, since you're so enthused about Primer.
They steal a catalytic converter for its platinum, and plunder a refrigerator for its freon. Their budget is so small, they could cash the checks on the bus. Aaron and Abe, agreeing that whatever they've invented, they're the ones who invented it, subtly eliminate the other two from the enterprise. They then regard something that looks like an insulated shipping container with wires and dials and coils stuff. This is odd: It secretes protein. More protein than it has time to secrete. Measuring the protein's rate of growth, they determine that one minute in the garage is equal to 1,347 minutes in the machine.

Is time in the machine different than time outside the machine? Apparently. But that would make it some kind of time machine, wouldn't it? Hard to believe. Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) ponder the machine and look at their results and Aaron concludes it is "the most important thing any living being has ever witnessed." But what is it?

There's a fascination in the way they talk with each other, quickly, softly, excitedly. It's better, actually, that we don't understand everything they say, because that makes us feel more like eavesdroppers and less like the passive audience for predigested dialogue. We can see where they're heading, especially after ... well, I don't want to give away some of the plot, and I may not understand the rest, but it would appear that they can travel through time. They learn this by seeing their doubles before they have even tried time travel -- proof that later they will travel back to now. Meanwhile (is that the word?) a larger model of the machine is/was assembled in a storage locker by them/their doubles.

Should they personally experiment with time travel? Yes, manifestly, because they already have. "I can think of no way in which this thing would be considered even remotely close to safe," one of them says. But they try it out, journeying into the recent past and buying some mutual funds they know will rise in value.

It seems to work. The side effect, however, is that occasionally there are two of them: the Abe or Aaron who originally lived through the time, and the one who has gone back to the time and is living through it simultaneously. One is a double. Which one?
[snip a passage of Roger not getting that "who is the real one?" is very easily not an answerable question in something approaching intelligent theory on time travel (which is only very rarely seen so discussed or ascribed in any film or tv version)]
[...] The movie delights me with its cocky confidence that the audience can keep up. "Primer" is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who "go to the movies to be entertained," and embraced and debated by others, who will find it entertains the parts the others do not reach. It is maddening, fascinating and completely successful

Note: Carruth wrote, directed and edited the movie, composed the score, and starred in it. The budget was reportedly around $7,000, but that was enough: The movie never looks cheap, because every shot looks as it must look. In a New York Times interview, Carruth said he filmed largely in his own garage, and at times he was no more sure what he was creating than his characters were. "Primer" won the award for best drama at Sundance 2004.
Well, I'd like to see a film story dealing with time travel that is intelligent, and neither cheats on paradozes or poses and solves false paradoxes, and that bears some at least vaguely plausibe compatible to the major elements of contemporary theory (one big Gimme will be allowed).

Read The Rest as curious.

10/30/2004 09:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Kevin Drum asks here:
2000 was pretty polarizing. The Vietnam War was pretty polarizing. But it's hard to shake the feeling that the conventional wisdom is right, and the mood today really is worse than even in the 30s and 60s.
Nah. Where is the string of major politicial assassinations running across the last few years? Where's the incumbent President abruptly making a surprise announcement that he will not run? Where's the massive urban rioting going on through out the past several years? Where are the numerous police and National Guard shootings of political protestors? Where are the regular marches in the streets of hundreds of thousands of people? Where are the construction workers marching en force to beat up anti-war protestors? Where are the Freedom Marchers being attacked by sherriff's dogs, clubbings, and hosings, putting the Presidential envoy in the hospital with a fractured skull? Where are the National Guard troops mobilized against domestic protest? Where are the multiple bombings by student revolutionaries of University buildings and other facilities deemed "pro-war"? Where are the tanks surrounding the White House, and other key spots on Washington streets? Where is the widespread view that a significant portion of the young population sincerely desires a (political, social, evolutionary, emotional, mental, Revolution -- nonviolently! [but sometimes you just have to be a bit understanding, and don't you know what the pigs are doing?]).

Where's the massive draft, and the massive protests it stimulated?

Where are the people being shot down by local law enforcement for engaging in votor registration?

Where's a Chicago 7, and the event that gave them their name?

Where's the massive inflation, and government price-and-wage-controls?

Where are the dead Presidents and Presidential candidates and Nobel Peace Prize winners?

Nah. I gotta say that 1968 and 1972 have it over 2004, hands down, in the "dangerous, violent, frightening, what's-going-to-happen?, polarized," category.

(Since Kevin referred to our lifetimes, I'm not touching on, say, 1860, which is another un-contestable winner.)

10/30/2004 08:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BLOGGERS ARE EVER SO IMPORTANT, YADDA, YADDA, YADDA. The Independent has another entry in the generic "oh yeah blogs; must say something" category.
"How the bloggers have driven the news agenda."
I say we need a bigger cup-holder. Who's with me?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 if so inclined.

10/30/2004 06:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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COULD IT BE? I'm mostly inclined to not link to this quiz. Like most blog-quizzes-about-blogs, it strikes me as more of an ad to their site and services, since this sort of meme is inevitably widely linked to.

But what I really don't like is that, of the very few questions asked, pretty much all offer only a single choice of answer to a multiple set of possibilities that are almost entirely non-exclusive of each other, and yet frequently there's still no remotely "correct" response for me, at least, to give.

You Are a Snarky Blogger!

You've got a razor sharp wit that bloggers are secretly scared of.
And that's why they read your posts as often as they can!

But I couldn't deny that they're not possibly somewhere in the correct neighborhood, there.


10/30/2004 06:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WELCOME TO SINGAPORE, MR. BOND. Nice look a their Defence Science & Technology Agency.
Lee Shang Ping's radio is dead. So he jogs in place, then jumps up and down for a few minutes. Then he offers up his earphone, now blaring a Mandarin pop song live from a local Singapore radio station. The radio hidden in his camouflage suit runs on energy generated when he steps on cells embedded in the soles of his running shoes, and by the movement of motion-sensitive canisters in his pockets. The hope is to someday operate larger devices like mobile phones or personal-digital-assistant machines this way. Lee is a "human power harvesting" engineer in Singapore's Mixed Reality Lab.


Only the DSTA is much larger, relatively speaking. It controls half the $5 billion defense budget, and sponsors hundreds of research projects every year. The agency came to worldwide attention last year when it took just one day to customize a thermal scanner in order to detect travelers with high fever, helping to stem the spread of SARS.


It devised an air-conditioning system that harnesses melting ice and cool seawater to conserve electricity at the new Changi Naval Base, and could have broad civilian applications. It is working on 3-D virtual-reality projects with the potential to revolutionize videogames and home shopping, including one it calls the "virtual Japanese garden," in which surfers navigate with a paddle in three dimensions, rather than a cursor in two. It has also designed an underground munitions dump that saves surface area on this cramped island, and influenced NATO's redesign of its own dumps.

Singapore can easily afford Western hardware, but off-the-shelf products are often unsuitable for the tropical conditions in Southeast Asia. For example, the DSTA is funding development of an anti-chemical-weapons suit that works not as a shield, but as a sort of weapon. The Singaporean garments, made of a revolutionary plastic-like material that is much lighter and cooler than traditional fabrics, actually degrade suspect substances on contact.


One such program: the Advanced Combat Man System, has produced a lightweight handguard that controls an integrated laser range finder, digital compass and a targeting camera.
Is it just me that suspects "hanguard" got past the spellchecker and should be "handgun"?

But I do want to note that I've always maintained a "Mixed Reality Lab" of my own, and invaluable it is.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 as interested. Singapore itself has always seemed as if it fits very naturally into the Bond universe; Bond should also visit Kuala Lumpaur sometime, and make use of the Petronas Towers, although Pierce Brosnan did visit them in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

10/30/2004 04:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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DO YOU FEEL SAFER? Peter Galbraith, a supporter of the Administration, and of the war, speaks:
IN 2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow.


I also described two particularly disturbing incidents -- one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.

When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere.

There was nothing secret about the Disease Center or the Tuwaitha warehouses. Inspectors had repeatedly visited the center looking for evidence of a biological weapons program. The Tuwaitha warehouses included materials from Iraq's nuclear program, which had been dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War. The United Nations had sealed the materials, and they remained untouched until the US troops arrived.

The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.


I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.

It is my own country that is worse off -- 1,100 dead soldiers, billions added to the deficit, and the enmity of much of the world. Someone out there has nuclear bomb-making equipment, and they may not be well disposed toward the United States. Much of this could have been avoided with a competent postwar strategy. But without having planned or provided enough troops, we would be a lot safer if we hadn't gone to war.
And what we want is four more years of safety like this! We can't trust Kerry to be competent in fighting the terrorists! We have the Bush record to trust in! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

10/30/2004 01:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE IRAQI ARMY: what should have happened.
In a March 2003 meeting with a team of visiting Pentagon officials, General John P. Abizaid, then Gen. Tommy Franks's deputy, expressed concerns that the Americans would arouse resentment if they enforced security in Iraq largely by themselves. He favored a quick turnover of power to an interim Iraqi authority and the use of Iraqi forces to complement and eventually replace the Americans.

"We must in all things be modest," General Abizaid said, according to notes taken by a Pentagon official. "We are an antibody in their culture."


The Bush administration did not just discuss keeping the old army. General Garner's team found contractors to retrain it. MPRI, a consulting company based in Alexandria, Va., and run by Carl Vuono, a retired general and former Army chief of staff, received an initial contract for $625,000. The company sent a nine-member team to Kuwait to begin creating a program to involve former Iraqi soldiers in reconstruction.

RONCO, a Washington consulting company, developed a proposal to screen Iraqi soldiers so they could join a new fighting force or be retrained for other duties. The company drew up a detailed plan for three screening centers in northern, central and southern Iraq.


General Abizaid noted that no Iraqi units were still in place but urged that the United States form a three-division interim Iraqi military using units that had "self-demobilized" as well as members of opposition groups, who would be invited to appear at processing centers.

In Iraq, the American generals were trying to field a new Iraqi military. On May 9, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan and other senior officers met with Faris Naima, a former Iraqi officer, in a meeting coordinated by a C.I.A. official in Baghdad.

Mr. Naima had the professional bearing of a soldier and spoke fluent English. He had been the commander of Al Bakr Military College, a training ground for Iraq's top officers. Suspect politically, but still valued by Mr. Hussein's government, he was appointed as the Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines and then Austria. According to a report by Kuna, the Kuwaiti news agency, Mr. Hussein's son Qusay ordered him and his wife to return to Baghdad after their tour in Vienna, but Mr. Naima refused.

Wearing a frayed business suit at the meeting with the American generals, Mr. Naima pulled out a folded piece of paper from his jacket that outlined his plan for how to proceed.

Because looting had broken out in Baghdad and crime was rampant, he said a show of power was needed. The most important thing, he said, was security. He also said the Americans had to act fast to get the Iraqi noncommissioned officers and the police back to work, according to an officer who was present.

Mr. Naima urged the Americans to establish three- Iraqi military divisions, which would be deployed in northern, central and southern Iraq. An army company would be stationed in each major town to back up the police. Mr. Naima said there were plenty of potential military leaders who were not committed Baathists. The idea, he said, would be to start at the top, create a new Iraqi Ministry of Defense, and then work down. All the officers would be required to denounce the Baath Party.

When the Americans wondered where they would find the officers, Mr. Naima had an answer. I can bring them to you, he told the generals.

He also offered some political advice. The Americans should announce a departure plan so Iraqis did not view them as occupiers. And they had to pay the military, the police and the bureaucrats. Iraq was a nation of civil servants, he said, and they needed their salaries to survive.

The Americans were impressed. They thought they could work from the top down as well from the bottom up to summon Iraqi soldiers to duty, screen them and quickly install a new force.

While the American generals and the C.I.A. were working on reviving the army, General Garner's occupation authority was making parallel efforts. Soon after arriving in Baghdad, one of his top planners, Colonel Hughes of the Army, heard from an officer in the 101st Airborne Division, whose troops were patrolling Baghdad. Some former Iraqi officers had told the Americans they wanted to receive their salaries.

After securing approval from senior officers, Colonel Hughes met with the group at the officers' club of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The men, calling themselves the Independent Military Gathering, said they wanted to cooperate with the Americans. Though many wanted to work outside the military, they were willing to supply names of potential recruits, including lower ranking noncommissioned officials. Before the war, they had had removed computers containing military personnel records from the Iraqi Defense Ministry. Eventually, they gave the Americans a list of some 50,000 to 70,000 names, including the military police.
Instead, what happened, happened. Bremer allegedly made the decision to disband the Army, though it seem almost impossible that no one above him bears responsibility; what's fascinating is that no one above Bremer accepts responsibility for this fateful, cataclysmic, decision.

Would other problems have ensued from the above plan? Surely; various scenarios can be drawn.

But it's darned hard to argue that any would surely have worked out as worse the This lovely reality we find ourselves in.

Oh, and how did we find outselves here? Thank you, President Bush!

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

10/30/2004 01:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.

After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as first-line combat units.

In the fight for Tora Bora, corrupt local militias did not live up to promises to seal off the mountain redoubt, and some colluded in the escape of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Franks did not perceive the setbacks soon enough, some officials said, because he ran the war from Tampa with no commander on the scene above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first Americans did not arrive until three days into the fighting. "No one had the big picture," one defense official said.

The Bush administration has never acknowledged that bin Laden slipped through the cordon ostensibly placed around Tora Bora as U.S. aircraft began bombing on Nov. 30. Until now it was not known publicly whether the al Qaeda leader was present on the battlefield.

But inside the government there is little controversy on the subject. Captured al Qaeda fighters, interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts describing an address by bin Laden around Dec. 3 to mujaheddin, or holy warriors, dug into the warren of caves and tunnels built as a redoubt against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. One official said "we had a good piece of sigint," or signals intelligence, confirming those reports.

"I don't think you can ever say with certainty, but we did conclude he was there, and that conclusion has strengthened with time," said another official, giving an authoritative account of the intelligence consensus. "We have high confidence that he was there, and also high confidence, but not as high, that he got out. We have several accounts of that from people who are in detention, al Qaeda people who were free at the time and are not free now."
Where does the buck stop? Who sets the priorities? Who is responsible?
[...] "Terror is bigger than one person," Bush said March 14. "He's a person that's now been marginalized." The president said bin Laden had "met his match" and "may even be dead," and added: "I truly am not that concerned about him."
Who lost Osama bin Laden?

Who is honest here?
[...] In Britain, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told BBC radio yesterday that bin Laden's capture "remains one of the prime objectives" of the war.
Who lost bin Laden? And should he be re-hired on the evidence, or fired?

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

10/30/2004 01:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHY MOST FIGURES FOR IRAQI CIVILIAN DEAD are wildly wrong. Something to keep in mind when someone brings forth some numbers. However:
There is one group out there counting civilian casualties in a way that's tangible, specific, and very useful—a team of mainly British researchers, led by Hamit Dardagan and John Sloboda, called Iraq Body Count. They have kept a running total of civilian deaths, derived entirely from press reports. Their count is triple fact-checked; their database is itemized and fastidiously sourced; and they take great pains to separate civilian from combatant casualties (for instance, last Tuesday, the group released a report estimating that, of the 800 Iraqis killed in last April's siege of Fallujah, 572 to 616 of them were civilians, at least 308 of them women and children).

The IBC estimates that between 14,181 and 16,312 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war—about half of them since the battlefield phase of the war ended last May. The group also notes that these figures are probably on the low side, since some deaths must have taken place outside the media's purview.

So, let's call it 15,000 or—allowing for deaths that the press didn't report—20,000 or 25,000, maybe 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed in a pre-emptive war waged (according to the latest rationale) on their behalf. That's a number more solidly rooted in reality than the Hopkins figure—and, given that fact, no less shocking.
And, yes, of course, reliable stats on Iraqi death rates, broken out by causes, for the year prior to March, 2002, would be useful information, though such "reliable" information is unlikely to ever be available.

Read The Rest as interested. And don't take the Lancet's "100,000" as gospel.

10/30/2004 01:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Simi Nischal got a ride with a co-worker to pick up tickets for herself, her husband, Narinder, and their two children. But just as the tickets were about to be placed in her hands, she was escorted from the Yardley gristmill and told to leave, she said.

" 'I deny you the right to attend this rally,' " Nischal said a Bush-Cheney campaign worker told her.

Apparently, Nischal's ride was a Kerry-Edwards supporter. Her car sported a bumper sticker for the Democratic candidates.

Nischal, a computer programmer who is originally from India, said her children wanted to see the president. The family had talked over dinner Tuesday night about attending today's campaign rally at the Broadmeadows Farm in Lower Makefield.

About lunchtime Wednesday, Nischal's co-worker dropped her off at the gristmill to pick up free tickets. When the co-worker returned, rally organizers for Bush and Vice President Cheney apparently noticed the Kerry-Edwards sticker stuck on the car, Nischal said. The organizers asked the co-worker why she was there and she responded, "to pick up Simi." While this was going on, Nischal was in the ticket office finishing paperwork and showing her identification for her tickets.

"The lady came in and said, 'Who's Simi?' " Nischal tearfully recalled Wednesday night, adding that she identified herself and was then refused tickets to the rally and escorted from the building.

Shortly after that, a man wearing a Bush-Cheney T-shirt confronted Nischal in the parking lot and told her to leave.

"He was so rude, he made me feel like a criminal," Nischal said. "I said, 'That's not fair, you are losing a supporter.' [And he said], 'We don't care about your support.' "

Nischal said onlookers cheered and laughed at her as she left the property.

But that wasn't the end of the insult, she said.

She said another co-worker took her back to the gristmill to try to clear up the confusion, but she was again refused tickets.

Multiple calls to Bucks County Republican Party headquarters, several party members and the Broadmeadows Farm were not answered. However, rally organizer Hank Miller said he could not comment on the incident because he was not there and had not heard of it.

Nischal said her daughter has been learning about the political process at school and has been a Bush supporter. She even picked up papers for her daughter to volunteer for the Bush campaign right before she was kicked out of the gristmill, she said.

Nischal said she and her husband had not voted in previous elections, but the couple wanted to set a good example for their daughter by voting this year.

"I was undecided, but we have changed our opinion," Nischal said. "You don't treat people that way."

The first thing her son asked when he got home from school Wednesday afternoon was if they would get to see the president. Nischal said her son did not understand what happened. But she said her daughter said she wasn't going to support Bush anymore.
Tight security and screening at President Bush's campaign events in Iowa has led to at least five arrests, frightened one teenager, and caused several other people to be turned away when they failed to voice support for the president.

While some were protesters, others were escorted out of events or told to leave because they were wearing buttons or T-shirts for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"It appears that the people wanting to control the visual images and the whole tone of these events have become so overwhelming," said Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union. "As a result of this obsession with control, there's been this increased use of screening and eliminating people."


One of the latest incidents came when John Sachs, 18, a Johnston High School senior and Democrat, went to see Bush in Clive last week. Sachs got a ticket to the event from school and wanted to ask the president about whether there would be a draft, about the war in Iraq, Social Security and Medicare.

But when he got there, a campaign staffer pulled him aside and made him remove his button that said, "Bush-Cheney '04: Leave No Billionaire Behind." The staffer quizzed him about whether he was a Bush supporter, asked him why he was there and what questions he would be asking the president.

"Then he came back and said, 'If you protest, it won't be me taking you out. It will be a sniper,' " Sachs said. "He said it in such a serious tone it scared the crap out of me."

Sachs stayed at the event, but he was escorted to a section of the 7 Flags Events Center where he was surrounded by Secret Service and told he couldn't ask questions.


Sachs' situation is the latest in a string of stories in which Iowans attending Bush campaign events said they've been made to feel unwelcome.

Other incidents include five protesters arrested outside an event in Cedar Rapids; black and Hispanic students frisked in Davenport; and two people denied admission in Dubuque because they either didn't support Bush or were affiliated with someone who didn't.

Iowa's stories are similar to those being told around the country. According to media reports, Missouri students were in tears after they were removed from a Bush rally because they were wearing Kerry buttons. Others in Minnesota and Wisconsin were asked to leave Bush rallies because they had Kerry T-shirts or stickers.

Thursday night, police wearing riot gear fired pepperballs at protesters gathered at a hotel in Jacksonville, Ore., where Bush was scheduled to eat and sleep after a campaign speech. No one was injured, but two were arrested on charges of failure to disperse. Participants questioned the police intervention because they said they weren't violent or disrupting traffic.


Those attending an August campaign event for Vice President Dick Cheney in New Mexico were asked to sign a loyalty oath, pledging their endorsement for Bush's re-election, before they received tickets to the event.


Kerry campaign spokesman Colin Van Ostern said the Kerry campaign encourages people from all political parties to attend events, especially undecided voters. No loyalty oaths are required. Because Kerry has been visiting Iowa since before the January caucuses, "he is very comfortable in an environment that is more unpredictable," Van Ostern said.

Thursday's rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds featuring Kerry, Edwards and their wives was free and open to the public, as was Edwards' visit to Newton on Monday. Those wishing to attend had to acquire tickets from the campaign. People said they only had to provide their name, address and phone number to get tickets, which also were available over the Internet.

The Bush campaign was asked to cite any instances where Republicans or others were denied access to Kerry events in Iowa, but declined to provide any examples.
It's been going on and on and on, consistently this entire political season. If you don't sign a loyalty oath to Bush/Cheney, you aren't allowed in viewing distance.

When has an American President and Vice-President been so afraid of the very proximity of a mere ordinary, unthreatening, American, about whom there are no security concerns?

Why are these people so afraid? So desperately, extraordinarily, unprecedentedly, afraid?

And if they're so terrified of meeting a plain old American, why, exactly, does anyone believe they've they're Brave and Strong Against The Terrorists? Does that aake any sense?

Chris Suellentrop reports:
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one.


For only the second time, I witnessed a Bush campaign event in full. It wasn't a particularly notable experience, except for the fact that it opened with that weird pledge of fealty, reminiscent of the cultlike cheer that Wal-Mart forces its employees to perform.
One really should stop and think about this bizarre campaign practice the Bush/Cheney has so long engaged in. It's plainly not security-related. The obvious surface answer is that they are so unnerved by the possibility of a few hecklers, or citizens disrupting the tv visuals with opposing t-shirts, that they'll go to this near-totalitarian extreme to prevent mere American citizens being seen by the President. That alone speaks, no, shouts, trumpets, a key approach to way these guys view us, the citizenry -- namely, they're only President of half of the country, and the rest of us are to be kept beyond fences, searched, held temporarily in pens, out of view.

Anyone besides me find that not a good sign of what extensions of that thinking tend to portend with a second term?

But it's for our own good; the President will keep his children, us, safe.

And everyone he sees will tell him what a wonderful job he's doing.

All is as it should be, in this best of all possible worlds.

Tra la. Tra la. Tra lay.

Read The Rest Scale: I'm sorry, you'll have to sign the following form in triplicate, please, and do you have two forms of picture ID? Uh-oh, your aunt once voted for a Democrat. Guards! Guards! Seize this one!

10/30/2004 12:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SUPPORTING THE TROOPS. Who has been sending them into battle insufficiently equipped and armored? Who is still doing it today, after over two and a half years in Iraq?
When the 1544th Transportation Company of the Illinois National Guard was preparing to leave for Iraq in February, relatives of the soldiers offered to pay to weld steel plates on the unit's trucks to protect against roadside bombs. The Army told them not to, because it would provide better protection in Iraq, relatives said.

Seven months later, many of the company's trucks still have no armor, soldiers and relatives said, despite running some of the most dangerous missions in Iraq and incurring the highest rate of injuries and deaths among the Illinois units deployed there.

"This problem is very extensive," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former infantry platoon leader with the Florida National Guard in Iraq who now runs an organization called Operation Truth, an advocacy group for soldiers and veterans.

Though soldiers of all types have complained about equipment in Iraq, part-timers in the National Guard and Reserve say that they have a particular disadvantage because they start off with outdated or insufficient gear. They have been deployed with faulty radios, unreliable trucks and, most alarmingly for many, a shortage of soundly armored vehicles in a land regularly convulsed by roadside attacks, according to soldiers, relatives and outside military experts.


Before the 103rd Armor Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard left in late February, some relatives bought those soldiers new body armor to supplant the Vietnam-era flak jackets that had been issued. The mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, a member of the regiment who was killed in April, bought a global positioning device after being told that the Army said his truck should have one but would not supply it.

And before Karma Kumlin's husband left with his Minnesota National Guard unit in February, the soldiers spent about $200 each on radios that they say have turned out to be more reliable - although less secure - than the Army's. Only recently, Ms. Kumlin said, has her husband gotten a metal shield for the gunner's turret he regularly mans, after months of asking.

"This just points to an extreme lack of planning," said Ms. Kumlin, who is 31 and a student. "My husband is part of the second wave that went to Iraq."

Critics who say that disparities and shortages persist fault the Pentagon for incorrectly assuming that American troops would return home quickly after the war. As a result, they say, little was done to equip and train the thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers who were called to serve in Iraq and who now make up 40 percent of American troops there.

"I am really surprised that planners relied on the best-case military scenario," said Jonathon Turley, a military historian at George Washington University Law School who wrote last year about shortages of body armor. He was then deluged with e-mail messages from soldiers complaining of such shortages, 90 percent of them from the National Guard and Reserve.


"In addition to personnel shortfalls, most Army Guard units are not provided all the equipment they need for their wartime requirements," said Janet A. St. Laurent of the General Accounting Office in testimony before Congress in April. Ms. St. Laurent noted that many Guard units had radios so old that they could not communicate with newer ones, and trucks so old that the Army lacked spare parts for them.

Army officials concede that the old approach to training and equipping the Guard and Reserve did not prepare them for the new realities of Iraq. Progress appears to have been made in providing modern body armor and some other equipment, families and soldiers say.

The Army says it is on schedule to armor all its Humvees in Iraq by April 2005, despite the fact that only one factory in the United States puts armor on the vehicles. Moreover, the Guard is developing a plan to heighten the training and preparedness of its soldiers, under which a given unit could expect to be deployed every six years.

But the glaring problem for soldiers and families remains the vulnerability of trucks. In a conventional war there would be a fixed front line and no need for supply trucks to be armored. But in Iraq, there are no clear front lines, and slow-moving truck convoys are prime targets for roadside attacks.

Gen. James E. Chambers, the commander of the 13th Corps Support Command, to which the recalcitrant soldiers who refused the assignment are attached, told a news conference in Baghdad: "In Jim Chambers' s opinion, the most dangerous job in Iraq is driving a truck. It's not if, but when, they will be attacked."

Of the Illinois National Guard units now in Iraq, none of the 11 units has suffered as many casualties as the 1544th Transportation Company. Of the approximately 170 men and women in the unit, 5 have been killed and 32 wounded since the unit arrived in Iraq in March and began delivering supplies and mail and providing armed escort to civilian convoys.

Three of the soldiers died during mortar attacks on their base south of Baghdad. The other two were killed when roadside bombs exploded next to their unarmored trucks. Soldiers' relatives said that they expected the Army to outfit the trucks better than they themselves could have, after being told by the military that the steel plates proposed by the families would shatter if hit.

But in fact, most of the trucks in the unit have nothing more than the steel plates that the families offered to have installed in the first place, said Lt. Col. Alicia Tate-Nadeau, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Guard.

3 Meanings of Armored

The Army considers the 1544th's vehicles armored, a word that has a broad and loose meaning in the Iraq conflict. There are three categories of armored vehicles, Colonel Tate-Nadeau said. The "up-armored" ones come that way from the factory and provide the best protection for soldiers. Then come vehicles outfitted with "armor kits," or prefabricated pieces, on the chassis. The last option consists of "whatever the soldiers try to do themselves, from large sheets of metal on their trucks to sandbags on the floor of the cab," Colonel Tate-Nadeau said.

"If we're one of the richest nations in the world, our soldiers shouldn't be sent out looking like the Beverly Hillbillies," said the mother of one soldier in the unit, who, like many parents, asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions for their children.

According to figures compiled by the House Armed Services Committee and previously reported in The Seattle Times, there are plans to produce armor kits for at least 2,806 medium-weight trucks, but as of Sept. 17, only 385 of the kits had been produced and sent to Iraq. Armor kits were also planned for at least 1,600 heavyweight trucks, but as of mid-September just 446 of these kits were in Iraq. The Army is also looking into developing ways to armor truck cabs quickly, and has ordered 700 armored Humvees with special weapons platforms to protect convoys.

Specialist Benjamin Isenberg, 27, of the Oregon National Guard, died on Sept. 13 when he drove his unarmored Humvee over a homemade bomb, the principal weapon of the insurgents, said his grandmother, Beverly Isenberg of McArthur, Calif. The incident occurred near Taji, the town north of Baghdad where the 18 reservists refused to make a second trip with fuel that they say had been rejected as contaminated.

"One of the soldiers in his unit said they go by the same routes and at the same times every day," said Mrs. Isenberg, whose husband is a retired Army officer and who has two sons in the military and another grandson in the Special Forces who was wounded in Iraq. "They were just sitting ducks in an unarmored Humvee."
These brave women and men have been killed unnecessarily. Casualties and death are inevitable in war, but not all casualties and death are inevitable. These deaths weren't inevitable. They were preventable. These soldiers were allowed to die because of the poor planning that was the direct responsibility of the Commander-of-Chiefand the Secretary of Defense, and the other civilian leadership responsible for Iraq.

They broke handling the war competently, and in so doing, they broke countless soldiers with wounds great and terrible. They broke them, they can't fix them, and all we can do is ourselves fix the breakage in our leadership. They broke it; we own them. They won't take responsibility. We must.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

10/30/2004 12:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BIN LADEN'S STATEMENT is here. As are all his statements, it's extraordinary.

I can also only imagine how the legions of bloggers and commenters who have kept consistently, endlessly, monomanaically, insisting that bin Laden is dead, based upon that vast stock of wishful thinking that kept issuing out of their rear ends, along with their mandatory conclusion: Osama, the bastard, is dead I tell you! He's dead! You must believe me because I tell you so, and my evidence is that I believe it!

It's a sort of evidence and reasoning we've been seen for years now from another source, a large, inspiring source, so it shouldn't be surprising.

I have no doubt that excuses are still being spun as to how this tape is a fake, blah, blah, blah. Wishful thinking can work wonders if you just use enough words.

But I think we need more than wishful thinking in this fight. And we need leadership that doesn't just wish that troops will be greated with flowers and sweets. Leadership that doesn't just believe we can do things with no pain, effort, or inconvenience, in a war. Leadership that doesn't value tax cuts over troop strength, leadership that isn't "just not that concerned about bin Laden," leadership that admits mistakes and fixes them.

We need to get these incompetents who have so endangered our lives out of office, for the sakes of our families, for the sakes of those being badly used in the military, and for the sakes of our children and loved ones, and for the sakes of everyone in the world, including those who need to be led away from their ignorant dreams of hatred and killing and into the light of reason and life.

I urge a vote for John Kerry and John Edwards; I urge a vote for Democratic national represenatatives. I urge a vote for America.

Vote your hopes, not your fears.

10/30/2004 10:51:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004
NO WORD YET ABOUT GOLD RINGS, but halflings have been found.
Once upon a time, but not so long ago, in a tropical island midway between Asia and Australia, there lived a race of little people, whose adults stood just three and a half feet high. Despite their stature, they were mighty hunters. They made stone tools with which they speared giant rats, clubbed sleeping dragons, and hunted the packs of pygmy elephants that roamed their lost world.

Strangest of all, this is no fable. Skeletons of these miniature people have been excavated from a limestone cave on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, by a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeologists. Reporting their find in today's issue of Nature, they assign the people to a new human species, Homo floresiensis.
Who knew they were Polynesian?
The little Floresians lived on the island until at least 13,000 years ago, and possibly to historic times. But they were not a pygmy form of modern humans. They were a downsized version of Homo erectus, the eastern cousin of the Neanderthals of Europe.


The carnivorous lizards that reached Flores, perhaps on natural rafts, became giant-sized and still survive, though now confined mostly to the nearby island of Komodo; they are called Komodo dragons. Elephants are excellent swimmers; those that reached Flores evolved to a dwarf form the size of an ox.
Our own world is so strange, and still so only-partially-known (particularly the deep undersea parts, but I digress); imagine what other worlds hold? Even those as near and normal as Titan.

Another hobbit story here.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

10/27/2004 04:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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KERRY FOR PRESIDENT. I cast my "early" ballot on Monday. (Long lines, by the way; much waiting; and that was on October 25th; I hate to think what it will be like on November 2nd.) Following are some excerpted words from some others whom have so decided.

Depending on your point of view, Christopher Hitchens was the brave leftist who saw the danger of Islamic extremism and came to his senses, or the comrade who lost his mind. Here he speaks for himself:
I am assuming for now that this is a single-issue election. There is one's subjective vote, one's objective vote, and one's ironic vote. Subjectively, Bush (and Blair) deserve to be re-elected because they called the enemy by its right name and were determined to confront it. Objectively, Bush deserves to be sacked for his flabbergasting failure to prepare for such an essential confrontation. Subjectively, Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.

The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan's anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry's pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at I can't compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.
Hitchens is a "Kerry For President." So is the author of Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman (see upper left sidebar link):
I'm voting for Kerry, with no great belief that he will be a first-rate president. I cringe a little at where Kerry's line on terror and Iraq has lately ended up. I think that Bush, in his rhetoric about democracy and ideologies of hate, has demonstrated a broader understanding of these matters. But Bush has got to be the most ham-handed president in American history. He is incompetent even at expressing whatever is valid in his larger worldview. The prospect of tumbling down the stairs for four more years has got me scared out of my wits. Better Kerry, then. Besides, I'm not a one-issue voter. On most social and economic issues, I would probably prefer Eugene V. Debs, if he were running and electable. No such luck. So, Kerry, yet again.
Andrew Sullivan is lengthy, but every word must be read:
The phrase "lesser of two evils" often comes up at this time every four years, but this November, I think, it's too cynical a formula. Neither George W. Bush nor John F. Kerry can be credibly described as "evils". They have their faults, some of which are glaring. They are both second-tier politicians, thrust into the spotlight at a time when we desperately need those in the first circle of talent and vision. But they are not evil. When the papers carry pictures of 50 Iraqi recruits gunned down in a serried row, as Stalin and Hitler did to their enemies, we need have no doubt where the true evil lies. The question before us, first and foremost, is which candidate is best suited to confront this evil in the next four years. In other words: who is the lesser of two risks?

Any re-election starts with the incumbent. Bush has had some notable achievements. He was right to cut taxes as the economy headed toward recession; he was right to push for strong federal standards for education; he was right to respond to 9/11 by deposing the Taliban; he was right to alert the world to the unknown dangers, in the age of al Qaeda, of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He is still right that democratization is the only ultimate security in an age of Jihadist terror. And when you see women bravely exercizing their right to vote in Afghanistan, you are seeing something that would not have happened without our current president. That moral achievement can never be taken away from him.

Equally, his presidency can and should be judged on its most fateful decision - to go to war against Saddam without final U.N. approval on the basis of Saddam's stockpiles of weapons and his violation of countless U.N. resolutions. I still believe that his decision was the right one. The only reason we know that Saddam was indeed bereft of such weaponry is because we removed him; we were going to have to deal with the crumbling mafia-run state in the heart of the Middle East at some point; and the objections of the French and Germans and Russians were a function primarily of mischief and corruption. And what we discovered in Iraq - from mass graves to childrens' prisons and the devastating effect of sanctions on the lives of ordinary Iraqis - only solidifies the moral case for removing the tyrant. The scandal of the U.N. oil-for-food program seals the argument.

At the same time, the collapse of the casus belli and the incompetent conduct of the war since the liberation points in an opposite direction. If you are going to do what the Bush administration did - put all your chips on one big gamble; if you are going to send your secretary of state to the U.N. claiming solid "proof" of Saddam's WMDs; if you are going to engage in a major war of liberation without the cover of international consensus - then you'd better well get all your ducks in a row.

Bush - amazingly - didn't. The lack of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq remains one of the biggest blows to America's international credibility in a generation. The failure to anticipate an insurgency against the coalition remains one of the biggest military miscalculations since Vietnam. And the refusal to send more troops both at the beginning and throughout the occupation remains one of the most pig-headed acts of hubris since the McNamara era. I'm amazed by how pro-war advocates aren't more incensed by this mishandling of such critical matters. But even a Bush-supporter, like my friend, Christopher Hitchens, has termed it "near-impeachable" incompetence.

I would add one more thing: Abu Ghraib. In one gut-wrenching moment, the moral integrity of the war was delivered an almost fatal blow. To be involved in such a vital struggle and through a mixture of negligence and arrogance to have facilitated such a fantastic propaganda victory for the enemy is just unforgivable. In a matter of months, the Bush administration lost its casus belli and its moral authority. Could they have run a worse war?

Domestically, the record is horrifying for a fiscal conservative. Ronald Reagan raised taxes in his first term when he had to; and he didn't have 9/11 to contend with. Ronald Reagan also cut domestic spending. Bush has been unable to muster the conservative courage to do either. He has spent like a drunken liberal Democrat. He has failed to grapple with entitlement reform, as he once promised. He has larded up the tax code with endless breaks for corporate special interests; pork has metastasized; and he has tainted the cause of tax relief by concentrating too much of it on the wealthy. He has made the future boomer fiscal crunch far more acute by adding a hugely expensive new Medicare prescription drug entitlement.

He ran for election as a social moderate. But every single question in domestic social policy has been resolved to favor the hard-core religious right. His proposal to amend the constitution to deny an entire minority equal rights under the law is one of the most extreme, unnecessary and divisive measures ever proposed in this country. And his response to all criticism - to duck the hardest questions, to reflexively redirect attention to the flaws of his opponents, and to stay within the confines of his own self-reinforcing coterie - has made him singularly unable to adjust, to learn from mistakes, to adapt to a fast-changing world. In peace-time, that's regrettable. In war-time, it's dangerous.

I know few people enthused about John F. Kerry. His record is undistinguished, and where it stands out, mainly regrettable. He intuitively believes that if a problem exists, it is the government's job to fix it. He has far too much faith in international institutions, like the corrupt and feckless U.N., in the tasks of global management. He got the Cold War wrong. He got the first Gulf War wrong. His campaign's constant and excruciating re-positioning on the war against Saddam have been disconcerting, to say the least. I completely understand those who look at this man's record and deduce that he is simply unfit to fight a war for our survival. They have an important point - about what we know historically of his character and his judgment when this country has faced dire enemies. His scars from the Vietnam war lasted too long and have gone too deep to believe that he has clearly overcome the syndrome that fears American power rather than understands how to wield it for good.

So we have two risks. We have the risk of continuing with a presidency of palpable incompetence and rigidity. And we have the risk of embarking on a new administration with a man whose record as a legislator inspires little confidence in his capacity to rise to the challenges ahead. Which is the greater one?

The answer to that lies in an assessment of the future. We cannot know it; we can merely guess. My best judgment of what we will face is the following: a long and difficult insurgency on Iraq; an Iran on the brink of a nuclear capacity; a North Korea able to distract the U.S. at a moment's notice from the crisis in the Middle East; and an immensely complicated and difficult task of nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. At home, we face a fiscal crisis of growing proportions - one that, if left alone, will destroy our future capacity to wage the war for our own survival.

Which candidate is best suited for this unappetizing ordeal? In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration has shown itself impatient with and untalented at nation-building. Moreover, the toll of the war has left the United States with minimal international support, one important ingredient for the successful rebuilding of nations. If Bush is re-elected, even Britain will likely shift toward withdrawal in Iraq, compounding American isolation there and making it even harder for a new Iraqi government to gain legitimacy. In the essential tasks of building support for greater international help in Iraq - financially, militarily, diplomatically - Kerry is the better choice. No, other countries cannot bail us out or even contribute much in the way of an effective military. But within Iraq, the impact of a more international stamp on the occupation and on the elections could help us win the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis. That battle - as much as the one on the battlefield itself - is crucial for success. I fear Bush is too polarizing, too controversial, too loathed a figure even within his own country, to pull this off.

The president says that he alone can act militarily when the danger is there; and Kerry is too weak for our current crisis. I disagree. The chance of a third forced regime change somewhere in the world in the next four years is extremely low. We don't even have the troops. Bush's comparative advantage - the ability to pull the trigger when others might balk - will be largely irrelevant. That doesn't mean it hasn't come in handy. Without Bush, Saddam would still be in power. But just because the president was suited to fight the war for the last four years doesn't mean he is suited to succeed at the more complicated and nuanced tasks of the next four. In fact, some of the very virtues that made him suited to our past needs now make him all the more unsuited to our future ones. I am still glad he was president when we were attacked. But that doesn't mean he's the right leader for the years ahead. And one of the great benefits of being a democracy at war is that we can change leaders and tactics to advance the same goals. Dictatorships are stuck with the same guy - with all his weaknesses and all the hubris that comes from running successful wars, hubris that almost always leads to fatal errors, hubris that isn't restricted to tyrants.

Does Kerry believe in this war? Skeptics say he doesn't. They don't believe he has understood the significance of 9/11. They rightly point to the anti-war and anti-Western attitudes of some in his base - the Michael Moores and Noam Chomskys who will celebrate a Kerry victory. I understand their worries. But they should listen to what Kerry has said. The convention was a remarkable event in that it pivoted the Democratic party toward an uncomplicated embrace of the war on terror. Kerry has said again and again that he will not hesitate to defend this country and go on the offensive against al Qaeda. I see no reason whatsoever why he shouldn't. What is there to gain from failure in this task? He knows that if he lets his guard down and if terrorists strike or succeed anywhere, he runs the risk of discrediting the Democrats as a party of national security for a generation. He has said quite clearly that he will not "cut and run" in Iraq. And the truth is: he cannot. There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq. And Kerry's new mandate and fresh administration will increase the options available to us for winning. He has every incentive to be tough enough; but far more leeway to be flexible than the incumbent.

Besides, the Democratic party needs to be forced to take responsibility for the security of the country that is as much theirs' as anyone's. The greatest weakness of the war effort so far has been the way it has become a partisan affair. This is the fault of both sides: the Rove-like opportunists on the right and the Moore-like haters on the left. But in wartime, a president bears the greater responsibility for keeping the country united. And this president has fundamentally failed in this respect. I want this war to be as bipartisan as the Cold War, to bring both great parties to the supreme task in front of us, to offer differing tactics and arguments and personnel in pursuit of the same cause. This is not, should not be, and one day cannot be, Bush's war. And the more it is, the more America loses, and our enemies gain.

Does Kerry believe in the power of freedom enough to bring Iraq into a democratic future? I don't know. It's my major concern with him. At the same time, it's delusional to believe that democracy can take root overnight in Iraq; and a little more humility in the face of enormous cultural difference does not strike me as unwarranted at this juncture. Besides, Kerry has endorsed democracy as a goal in Iraq and Afghanistan; he has a better grasp of the dangers of nuclear proliferation than Bush; he is tougher on the Saudis; his very election would transform the international atmosphere. What Bush isn't good at is magnanimity. But a little magnanimity and even humility in global affairs right now wouldn't do the U.S. a huge amount of harm.

Domestically, Kerry is clearly Bush's fiscal superior. At least he acknowledges the existence of a fiscal problem, which this president cannot. In terms of the Supreme Court, I have far more confidence in Kerry's picks than Bush's. In 2000, Bush promised moderate, able judges; for the last four years, he has often selected rigid, ideological mediocrities. Obviously, Kerry's stand against a constitutional amendment to target gay citizens is also a critical factor for me, as a gay man. But I hope it is also a factor for straight men and women, people who may even differ on the issue of marriage, but see the appalling damage a constitutional amendment would to to the social fabric, and the Constitution itself. Kerry will also almost certainly face a Republican House, curtailing his worst liberal tendencies, especially in fiscal matters. Perhaps it will take a Democratic president to ratchet the Republican party back to its fiscally responsible legacy. I'll take what I can get.

And when you think of what is happening in the two major parties, the case for a Kerry presidency strengthens. If Bush wins, the religious right, already dominant in Republican circles, will move the GOP even further toward becoming a sectarian, religious grouping. If Kerry loses, the anti-war left will move the party back into the purist, hate-filled wilderness, ceding untrammeled power to a resurgent, religious Republicanism - a development that will prove as polarizing abroad as it is divisive at home. But If Bush loses, the fight to recapture Republicanism from Big Government moralism will be given new energy; and if Kerry wins, the center of the Democratic party will gain new life. That, at least, is the hope. We cannot know for sure.

But, in every election, we decide on unknowables. When I read my endorsement of George W. Bush of four years ago, I see almost no inkling of what was about to happen and the kind of president Bush turned out to be. But we do the best we can in elections, with limited information and fallible judgment. I should reiterate: I do not hate this president. I admire him in many ways - his tenacity, his vision of democracy, his humor, his faith. I have supported him more than strongly in the last four years - and, perhaps, when the dangers seemed so grave, I went overboard and wilfully overlooked his faults because he was the president and the country was in danger. I was also guilty of minimizing the dangers of invading Iraq and placed too much faith, perhaps, in the powers of the American military machine and competence of the Bush administration. Writers bear some responsiblity too for making mistakes; and I take mine. But they bear a greater responsibility if they do not acknowledge them and learn. And it is simply foolish to ignore what we have found out this past year about Bush's obvious limits, his glaring failures, his fundamental weakness as a leader. I fear he is out of his depth and exhausted. I simply do not have confidence in him to navigate the waters ahead skilfully enough to avoid or survive the darkening clouds on the horizon.

But Kerry? I cannot know for sure. But in a democracy, you sometimes have to have faith that a new leader will be able to absorb the achievements of his predecessor and help mend his failures. Kerry has actually been much more impressive in the latter stages of this campaign than I expected. He has exuded a calm and a steadiness that reassures. He is right about our need for more allies, more prudence, and more tactical discrimination in the war we are waging. I cannot say I have perfect confidence in him, or that I support him without reservations. But not to support anyone in this dangerous time is a cop-out. So give him a chance. In picking the lesser of two risks, we can also do something less dispiriting. We can decide to pick the greater of two hopes. And even in these dour days, it is only American to hope.
Captain Phil Carter, U.S. Army, of Intel Dump:
I'm casting my vote as a referendum on the Bush national security policies since January 2001. When you pour billions into homeland security without achieving a significant net gain in security, I think there's a problem. When you mislead the country about our reasons for war in Iraq, and then fail to plan effectively for military and strategic victory, you simply don't get to keep your job. When you employ lawyers to eviscerate the rule of law and make America into the world's brigand instead of the world's leader, I don't think you should be allowed to keep your office. When you allow al-Qaida to mutate and evolve into a more lethal and survivable global terror network on your watch, you haven't done your job. Sen. Kerry hasn't fully shown that he will improve on all these fronts, but I do believe he will do better than President Bush.
Professor Daniel Drezner summarizes here:
This is a foreign policy election for me, and I've never been less enthused about my choice of major party candidates—it's like being forced to decide whether The Matrix: Reloaded or The Matrix: Revolutions is the better movie. However, for reasons I largely spelled out in my last essay for Slate and fleshed out here, here, and here, I've reluctantly decided to back Kerry. As a Republican, I remain completely unconvinced that Kerry understands the limits of multilateral diplomacy. As a social scientist, however, I can't vote for a president with this track record on foreign policy who doesn't believe that what he believes about international relations might, just might, be wrong.
Drezner elaborates here:
So I'm voting for Kerry.

In my two threads on the subject (here and here), I've been amused to read suggestions by fellow Republicans that I'm overanalyzing things and should just trust my gut. If I had done that, I would have known I was voting for Kerry sometime this summer because of Iraq. To put it crudely, my anger at Bush for the number of Mongolian cluster-f**ks this administration was discovered to have made in the planning process in the run-up to Iraq was compounded by the even greater number of cluster-f**ks the administration made in the six months after the invasion, topped off by George W. Bush's decision not to fire the clusterf**ks in the civilian DoD leadershop that insisted over the past two years that not a lot of troops were needed in the Iraqi theater of operations. No, if I was voting based on gut instincts, I would have planned on voting for Kerry and punching a wall afterwards.
William Saletan, Chief Political Correspondent of Slate:
William Saletan, Chief Political Correspondent: Kerry

Here's what I wrote about Bush when we disclosed our votes four years ago: "He's shallow, obtuse, and proud of it. He's disdainful of reflection and indifferent to work. ... Congress can restrain either of them, but a president can catastrophically botch a foreign policy crisis all by himself. I trust Gore in that situation. I don't trust Bush."

Looks like I was wrong about Congress.
Everyone else at Slate declares here.

CLARIFICATION: In case anyone missed it, Christopher Hitchens makes clear here that he is endorsing neither candidate, and isn't even an American citizen, and thus can't vote. Slate apologized for mistakenly listing him as endorsing Kerry, rather than no one.

10/27/2004 06:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Saturday, October 23, 2004
GIVING THE FINGER. This research claims that ratio of index finger to ring finger can be correlated with estrogen exposure in the womb, and whether you are a researcher in physical science or social science. Color me skeptical.
Levels of hormone exposure in the womb helps determine which academic discipline researchers work in, a new study suggests. Perhaps surprisingly, a "female" pattern of exposure was common in scientists, while a "male" pattern dominated in the social sciences.

The survey compared the length of people's index (first) fingers with their ring (third) fingers. This comparison is thought to indicate prenatal sex hormone exposure, probably because some developmental genes control the formation of both the reproductive system and the digits.

In the general population, men have a “digit ratio” of 0.98 on average - the index finger being slightly shorter than the ring finger. Women have a digit ratio of 1.0 on average, meaning the two fingers are the same length.

However the 107 male and female academics surveyed at Bath University, UK, had very similar ratios - 0.987 for men and 0.984 for women. This suggests the two groups were exposed to the same levels of oestrogen and testosterone in the womb.

Hormone levels also appear to predict which discipline researchers work in. Staff in the departments of chemistry, computer science, mathematics and physics all had average ratios of over 0.995 - close to the female average - despite 81% of those subjects being male.

In contrast, the staff of the social science departments of economics, education, management, social and policy sciences had an average ratio below 0.98, the male average, despite only 66% of this sample being male.
Let's see larger samples. Maybe there's something to it, but it reminds me too much of phrenology for me to leap to believe. Is that because my ring fingers are distinctly shorter than my index fingers?

Read The Rest depending upon, you know, how long your ring finger is.

10/23/2004 10:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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DARLING, THAT FULLERENE JACKET IS ADORABLE! Or: you're so two-dimensional these days.
Researchers at The University of Manchester and Chernogolovka, Russia have discovered the world's first single-atom-thick fabric, which reveals the existence of a new class of materials and may lead to computers made from a single molecule. The research is to be published in Science on 22 October.

The team led by Professor Andre Geim at The University of Manchester, has succeeded in extracting individual planes of carbon atoms from graphite crystals, which has resulted in the production of the thinnest possible fabric - graphene. The resulting atomic sheet is stable, highly flexible and strong and remarkably conductive. The nanofabric belongs to the family of fullerene molecules, which were discovered during the last two decades, but is the first two-dimensional fullerene.


They found that the nanofabric exhibits a remarkable quality such that electrons can travel without any scattering over submicron distances, which is important for making very-fast-switching transistors.
Okay, that fullerene jacket would tear. But as a material for new computer chips....

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for more tech detail as desired.

10/23/2004 10:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ADDING MEMORY TO YOUR BRAIN. Yes, it's really here. Yes, there is now a chip to actually do it.
Professor Theodore W. Berger, director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, is creating a silicon chip implant that mimics the hippocampus, an area of the brain known for creating memories. If successful, the artificial brain prosthesis could replace its biological counterpart, enabling people who suffer from memory disorders to regain the ability to store new memories.

And it's no longer a question of "if" but "when." The six teams involved in the multi-laboratory effort, including USC, the University of Kentucky and Wake Forest University, have been working together on different components of the neural prosthetic for nearly a decade. They will present the results of their efforts at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in San Diego, which begins Saturday.

While they haven't tested the microchip in live rats yet, their research using slices of rat brain indicates the chip functions with 95 percent accuracy. It's a result that's got the scientific community excited.

"It's a new direction in neural prosthesis," said Howard Eichenbaum, director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurobiology at Boston University. "The Berger enterprise is ambitious, aiming to provide a prosthesis for memory. The need is high, because of the prevalence of memory disorder in aging and disease associated with loss of function in the hippocampus."


Berger's team began its research by studying the re-encoding process performed by neurons in slices of rat hippocampi kept alive in nutrients. By stimulating these neurons with randomly generated computer signals and studying the output patterns, the group determined a set of mathematical functions that transformed any given arbitrary input pattern in the same manner that the biological neurons do. And according to the researchers, that's the key to the whole issue.


Dr. John J. Granacki, director of the Advanced Systems Division at USC, has been working on translating these mathematical functions onto a microchip. The resulting chip is meant to simulate the processing of biological neurons in the slice of rat hippocampus: accepting electrical impulses, processing them and then sending on the transformed signals. The researchers say the microchip is doing exactly that, with a stunning 95 percent accuracy rate.

"If you were looking at the output right now, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the biological hippocampus and the microchip hippocampus," Berger said. "It looks like it's working."


The team expects it will take two to three years to develop the mathematical models for the hippocampus of a live, active rat and translate them onto a microchip, and seven or eight years for a monkey. They hope to apply this approach to clinical applications within 10 years. If everything goes well, they anticipate seeing an artificial human hippocampus, potentially usable for a variety of clinical disorders, in 15 years.
Far freaking out. Of course, it's not here quite yet, and perhaps they're over-optimistic, but this is still amazing news. Could this lead to the possibility of transferring memories? Perhaps not, but who knows?

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a bit more detail if you desire.

10/23/2004 10:06:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ZARQAWI AND BUSH. We've been reading and hearing about Abu Musab Zarqawi on a daily basis for a long time now. Since a lot of people missed it at the time, it's useful to look back and ask why did President Bush refuse to attack Zarqawi multiple times because of the political benefit Zarqawi lent to Bush's case for invasion? Isn't that sort of thing betraying your oath to protect America?
By Jim Miklaszewski
NBC News
Updated: 7:14 p.m. ET March 2, 2004

With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.

And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today.
It speaks for itself.

Tell me again how only Bush can be counted on to protect us from terrorists.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

10/23/2004 09:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GRAUNIAD. Salem Pax has been writing a brief and infrequent column for the Guardian for months now. He's recently filed seven short pieces on a visit to Washington, which would be vastly more interesting if they weren't cripplingly short: just a few paragraphs, a few hundred words; you can, nonetheless find the last one here, with links to the earlier ones at the bottom.

More amusingly, the Grauniad has been falling over themselves at the brilliance of their Operation Clark County. The back-up isn't elegant.
Blimey. I think I have an idea as to how Dr Frankenstein felt. By the beginning of this week, a quixotic idea dreamed up last month in a north London pub had morphed into a global media phenomenon complete with transatlantic outrage, harrumphing over journalistic ethics, grave political predictions - and thousands of people from every corner of the planet writing personal, passionate letters to voters in a tiny American district few outside Ohio had heard of 10 days ago.
I can well imagine how, after downing a few in the pub, this seemed like a grand idea: our readers will love it! And it's only fair: we get no vote in the election, and that criminal idiot Bush may be re-elected, putting the world in danger, including British troops, but we have no say! This way we have a say! Yah! Who's for another round?

They're starting to wake up in the morning, slowly.
Even before the Springfield News Sun of Clark County splashed our campaign across its front page (the paper's charming crime correspondent was assigned to the story because, "There was no crime in the county today"), it was pretty clear that we had touched off something bigger than we had anticipated. In the first 24 hours after we published details of the campaign, more than 4,000 people visited our website to be matched with a Clark County voter. A day later the figure had reached 7,000, and by this Sunday, when the site was attacked by a (presumably politically inspired) hacker, we had sent out the names of more than 14,000 undecided voters.


Then came the backlash. We had expected it, of course. Fox-viewing America was never going to embrace our modest sortie into US politics and we knew full well that any individual voter might take exception to the idea of a foreigner writing to offer some advice on how they should vote - our website explicitly urged participants to "imagine how you would feel if you received a letter from an American urging you to vote for Tony Blair ... or Michael Howard." But you couldn't fail to be a little shocked by the volume and pitch of the invective directed our way. Most of it was coordinated by a handful of resourceful bloggers - the ringleader of whom is fittingly published on a site called "spleenville" - and much of it was eye-wateringly unpleasant.
Tim Blair and Andrea Harris should be feeling good. Of course, the Grauniad still almost entirely fails to get it. It doesn't take Fox News, or "right-wingers," to resent a foreign newspaper directing a campaign of thousands of foreigners to write letters to tell people they're too stupid to know how to vote without foreign advice. Simply imagine the most well-meaning campaign from a French newspaper doing this in Britain, and it should be clear. And it's obvious that the few American letters of positive feedback weren't saying "oh, thank you for supporting my voting for John Kerry; I was unsure!" No, with respect to my fellow Kerry supporters, not all of whom are geniuses, these people are actually all saying "oh, I'm going to vote the right way, but thank you for supporting me against my stupid neighbors!" Not really any more productive than the negative reactions, that.

But here's the amazing part:
[...] Or, as Sharon Manitta, spokeswoman in Britain for Democrats Abroad, put it with preternatural confidence: "This will certainly garner more votes for George Bush." Yikes.

It's not as if we didn't consider the possibility that our project might have precisely the opposite effect to that intended. The feature introducing the project included notes of caution from Manitta's colleague, Rachelle Valladares, and a University of Columbia professor. It's just that we didn't believe it.
The only explanation for that must be that you are fucking morons, not to mention arrogant beyond belief in your patronization of those stupid Americans who need your help.
[...] For another, it seemed spectacularly patronising to suggest that the people of Clark County would be so volatile that they would vote one way simply because an individual several thousand miles away had suggested they do the opposite.
To be sure, one can't imagine, say, a Scouser turning away helpful outside advice, can we? What Briton doesn't enjoy un-asked-for foreign electoral direction?
[...]'s true, too, that one or two residents of Clark County may get a letter from a cheese-eating surrender monkey, but I would still bet my last €10 that none of them will make their election decision by reversing whatever our long-distance lobbyists suggest.
I doubt it will be a huge number, but I'd take that bet if I could. Idjit.
[...] Yes, because I can't see any qualitative distinction between what newspapers have always done without controversy - attempt to sway the few foreign readers they have with leaders urging them to back one candidate or another - and our Clark County project. Some time in the next 10 days or so, the Guardian will run one urging its American readers - several million of them now, thanks to the long arm of the internet - to back John Kerry. In what way is Operation Clark County any more than an inventive way of empowering individuals to do the same?
Instead of desperate attempts to rationalize -- and I won't even bother to point out the difference, save to note that in a section I'm not bothering to quote, the writer complains about the flood of e-mails the paper and its writers have received in response -- "sorry, we were idiots, and fucked up" would be useful words.
[...] Puleeeese, because we're in danger of taking all this too seriously. It's always tricky, and usually disingenuous, to suggest when something has been taken very seriously indeed, that actually it was all a bit of a joke. Operation Clark County was not a joke, but neither was it entirely po-faced - it was a lighthearted attempt to make some quite serious points. There were plenty of clues to its intended spirit in the feature which launched it. The cover, among other things, featured a bumper sticker "Kentish Town for Kerry" - a gentle joke at our own expense, given the London district's reputation as the heartland of Britain's liberal chattering classes.
Yes, that's completely visible on the Internet we're reading this on, you moron, just as much as the "cover" to Amygdala is. You also claim this has something to do with your print publication, and what "section" all this has been in. This, too, is completely non-existent online and in the mail; you might as well be explaining that you printed it all, but in your offices stood about saying "but don't read it." Hint for the future: people online read online; that you say something else offline matters fuck-all.
[...] Somewhere along the line, though, the good-humoured spirit of the enterprise got lost in translation. It's easier perhaps for British readers to recognise that a project launched in G2 - the same section which sought to save Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith by persuading him to pose in front of a poster which read, "It rained less under the Conservatives" - was not to be taken in deadly earnest.
And I'm making a gesture right now, here in my apartment; it should be easy to recognize the spirit I make it in; do you recognize it?
[...] Nevertheless it feels as if the time has come to let the good people of the county make their minds up in peace.
Ya think?
[...] We set out to get people talking and thinking about the impact of the US election on citizens of other countries, and that is what we have done.
Not so much. Has anyone seen blogs discussing this? People in Clark County? Nice try.
[...] For the Guardian to have experienced such a backlash to an editorial project is extraordinary, but the number of complaints are thoroughly outdone by the number of people who engaged positively with the project. What other lessons can we draw from Operation Clark County? I guess we will have to wait till November 3 to find out for sure, but here's a provisional stab: there are a huge number of people around the world who are profoundly dismayed by the prospect of another four years of a Bush White House and who are desperate for a way to do something about it; Guardian readers are a reassuringly engaged, resourceful and largely charming bunch; parts of America have become so isolationist that even the idea of individuals receiving letters from foreigners is enough to give politicians the collywobbles and, perhaps, in the digital age little acorns can turn into big trees very, very quickly.
Yes, it's only isolationists who find your sort of brilliance annoying. Keep telling yourself that. Great way to learn from your mistakes.

Over here, the "reader's editor," Ian Mayes, is not very much less stupid and stubborn:
The features editor of the Guardian, in a piece in G2 on Thursday, explained that in the few days that the site operated before it was hacked into and disabled, the Guardian had sent out the names of more than 14,000 Clark County voters.

By my calculations well over 5,000 emails, predominantly condemnatory of the exercise, had been poured into various Guardian queues by the middle of this week. Emails received by individual journalists accounted for about 3,000 of those.


The majority of emails received up to Thursday, whether from supporters of George Bush or John Kerry, were critical (only about 1 in 10 voiced support). It was clear that a "spamming" campaign was involved. One Guardian journalist, with dual American and British nationality - a strong supporter of the exercise - believed the reaction illustrated the intimidatory tactics of the angry right. The response of Democrats, fearing that their cause would be harmed, showed that the intimidation worked. The intention was to smother free speech. The G2 exercise sought to open up debate.
Yes, you're terribly idealistic for that last sentence. Clearly, there is no free debate taking place in America today; it's all suppressed by fear of fascism; that is why people campaigning against Bush and for Kerry are so invisible; it is only with plucky foreign help from the Guardian that we can be freed to find our arse from our brain. It is only because we are "intimidated" that we point out that you are being fucking stupid in thinking you are not helping.

Here's the sane part, though:
Having read through many of the emails, and while acknowledging the letters of thanks and support among them, my own view is that the paper in carrying out the exercise through the intrusive use of the voters' list, has prejudiced some of the goodwill it has built up in America and unnecessarily excited its enemies. It has sought to intervene in the US election, with unpredictable consequences.

In a poll I conducted among Guardian staff who had been following the story, of 71 respondents, 13 thought it a legitimate and worthwhile exercise, 14 were undecided and 44 were against it. Among the reasons given by the latter, reflecting complaints coming from the US, were that intervention in the democratic processes of another country was not "legitimate newspaper behaviour"; and that it was arrogant and self-aggrandising.

Several were dismayed that the internet effect had apparently not been anticipated, one saying that the speed with which links to the Guardian story spread showed that "this perceived insult has legs". Another commented: "It seems a shame that, in this interactive age, with email and weblogs all around, we rejected any attempt to have a real conversation with US voters." Several mentioned that the buoyant and jaunty nature of G2 journalism, marking a cultural distinction from the broadsheet, was not apparent on the website.
But somehow these paragraphs float in uncompared isolation to the previous idjit justifications and excuses.
The editor of the Guardian, defending the exercise, said it was a crucially important election in the face of which many felt a sense of impotence. "What we did was simply to invite personal acts of communication from one individual to another. Most of the letters sent by Guardian readers, those I have seen, have been responsible and heartfelt."
Bottom line: this wasn't about affecting the election, and insofar as it was, it was improper, offensive, and completely stupid. But what it was actually about was making Grauniad readers feel good, to let them have an outlet to tell those stupid Americans in Ohio who need help seeing how evil George Bush how stupid they are, and to help drive up Grauniad circulation with a populist, feel-good, feature.

Thanks a lot for your help. It's done so much good over here.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

10/23/2004 08:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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