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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
The Mahablog
Brilliant at Breakfast
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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, November 28, 2004

11/28/2004 09:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Saturday, November 27, 2004
WHO SAYS EUROPE IS BORING? Not Timothy Garton Ash, not of Ukraine.
Yet until Tuesday, many west Europeans probably did not even know that there was a presidential election going on in Ukraine. We were all focused on that other crucial presidential election, in the US. And, shamingly, Americans probably have done more to support the democratic opposition in Ukraine, and to shine a spotlight on electoral malpractices, than west Europeans have. Poles, Czechs and Slovaks have been more actively engaged, understanding how much is at stake.

What's at stake is not just the future of Ukraine: whether it turns to Europe, the west and liberal democracy, or back to authoritarianism and Putin's Russia. It's also the future of Russia itself, and therewith of the whole of Eurasia. A Russia that wins back Ukraine, as well as Belarus, will again be an imperial Russia, as Putin wishes. A Russia that sees even Ukraine moving towards Europe and the west, has a chance of itself becoming, with time, a more normal, liberal, democratic nation-state. But at the moment, under Putin, Russia is launched on a different, worse trajectory, and western leaders have been united in their pusillanimity towards it. We have all been appeasers there.

Of course, there's a global power play involved, too. Georgia, under its new government, has become a closer partner of the United States. Ukraine under Yushchenko might do the same. But above all, it will be turned towards Europe. These days, the most fervent pro-Europeans are to be found at the edges of Europe, and none more so than westward-looking Ukrainians. It's the European Union they hope one day to join, not the United States of America.


It should, however, be our unambiguous position that peaceful civil disobedience is a legitimate, even a necessary response to electoral fraud. And that the use of military or police force to deny people the right to peaceful protest is something we do not accept in 21st-century Europe. Actually, it's in places like Kiev, rather than in Brussels, that you see what a great story Europe has to tell, if only we knew how to tell it. It's the story of a rolling enlargement of freedom, from a position 60 years ago when there was just a handful of perilously free countries in Europe, and virtually the whole continent was at war, to a position today where there are only two or three seriously unfree countries in Europe, and almost the whole continent is at peace. Today, the front line of that forward march is in Ukraine.
We do live in amazing days, the early days of a better civilization, no matter how many setbacks ahead there are (and there are), and how much death, tragedy, and failure will litter the way (it will), but this I believe: freedom continues to slowly -- slowly -- break out around the world, our understanding of our universe grows, and better days are on the way.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5.

11/27/2004 05:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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THEIR PROBLEMS ARE BIGGER THAN MY PROBLEMS, as are those of a vast proportion of people on the globe. I find it useful to remember that, and give thanks.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for more harrowing Fallujah.

11/27/2004 03:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
RICH GEEKS ARE DIFFERENT THAN POOR GEEKS such as thee and me -- well, me, anyway -- they have more Segways. Well, a Segway, anyway. And they play polo on them:

What's become of the fabled Segway Human Transporter? It's the hard-charging steed of Silicon Valley polo geeks. Twice a month, the Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts Group - SEG for short - hosts outdoor matches that pit high school students, software engineers, and celebrity mallet-heads against one another. Players include Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (shown at far left), who owns more than his fair share of Segway's inventory; at last count, he had 10. Let's hope Woz has a few 50,000-mile warranties and helmets to go with them. "During the first couple of games we were crashing and falling off left and right," says Alex Ko, a mechanical engineer at Applied Materials in Santa Clara. "But we're getting a little better."
Anyone ever see the scene in The Wind And The Lion (one of my favorite movies of all time) where the Europeans are playing polo on bicycles in the outdoor court of the Sultan of Morocco for his amusement, crashing into each other and falling off left and right? I am reminded.

Tis a silly sport, but which isn't?

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

11/24/2004 06:26:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I MUST GIVE GREAT THANKS TO THE FIVE PEOPLE who have made donations since my post this afternoon. In chronological order: Tina, Jennifer, especially Andrew, Nicholas, and Timothy and Jennifer. It is a considerable surprise to me (I rarely ever actually believe there's anyone out there reading this thing), and it's a small boost to my spirits.

I can now get some food, and at least some of my scrips filled for at least a couple of weeks; which is to say, further contributions remain most gratefully and thankfully welcome.

Beyond mere conveniences such as food and medicine, I feel a great need to put away enough money for a round-trip ticket to Seattle; plane preferably, but bus if necessary; this is due to the circumstances I refer to in the post below; Anna lives in Seattle. This is probably a fantastic desire on my part, given that so far I'm not able to even pay for my prescriptions, but I thought I'd mention it; I imagine people paying attention can likely figure out reasons why I feel a great need to be able to make such a trip, if I remotely can, come hell or high water (which is here, to be sure); "if I remotely can" being the operative words.

Thanks again to you five, and to all others who have donated in the past (some several times), as well as any who are so kind in the future. It's always good to be reminded that people can be good, and I find such reminders very helpful just now.

11/23/2004 08:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I'M STILL ALIVE, yes. I'm afraid I continue to feel completely distracted from blogging because of events. I don't know what else to say or do. Please forgive me.

I'm reading stuff in an attempt to blog, but am having great trouble re-starting.

I'm also not sleeping much.

I also know I can't reasonably ask for donations while not blogging -- it's pushing it just to ask for donations as much as I have while blogging -- but for the record, I've not bought any food at the supermarket in the past three weeks, haven't been able to afford to fill my prescription for allopurinal for my gout since I was given it a month ago, nor refill any of my other prescriptions, for my heart/blood pressure, or gout, or other stuff, since then, so I'm pretty much out of about everything in recent days. (My prescription costs are close to $200/month now, unfortunately.) Naturally, I've not bought anything else in many months, of course (a second pair of pants would be a good idea). (It also would be a good idea to pay the phone bill.)

Yeah, I should start blogging again. I know.

It's very snowy and grey around here of late. Hope it's better in your neck of the woods.

In response to a request, I've re-adjusted my long-term e-mail link, on the left sidebar as part of the copyright notice, to reflect my temporary work-around e-mail address, which is gary_farber at Be warned that I seem to be checking it rather intermittently, and am rather bad about replying.

Anna Vargo has said that prayers would be appreciated; to quote Kate Schaefer:
For those who pray and who ask for the intercession of saints, the saints Anna has in mind are Mother Cabrini and Dorothy Day. Mother Cabrini is a full-fledged saint; Dorothy Day has only been beatified, and she still needs some miracles to achieve full canonization. Anna would be happy to add to Dorothy Day's credentials for sainthood.
So if anyone is the praying sort, please feel free. Messages may also be left at this last link.

11/23/2004 10:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, November 06, 2004

I said here that I had just turned 47 on November 5th.

But, since I was born on November 5th, 1958, I actually turned only turned 46.

I think it's part of my whole "anticipating" thing, which is why this is Amygdala.

However, apologies for my New Math.

ADDENDUM: So I'm feeling italic about this and that; back soon, though. Sorry.

11/06/2004 05:46:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 11 comments

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GETTING ZEN. It only just struck me a few seconds ago that, with all my distraction by the election, and other stuff and what not, that I literally never had a thought in the past several days regarding the fact that in the early morning of November 5, I turned 47.

I was vaguely paying attention last month, and then the notion was thrust out of my tiny mind, filled with other thoughts, for the past more than a week.

Funny, given how tied my birthday is to election day. But, hey, now I feel so virtuously less self-centered than usual, so, you know, points to me. (Yes, that's a joke, son.)

11/06/2004 10:01:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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Friday, November 05, 2004
RUSSIAN JUSTICE. I'd like to joke about their not quite getting the "jury" concept quite right yet, but this is no longer a period where one can imagine that Russia is in any way headed towards greater justice and it's no joke any more.
A jury in Siberia convicted a physicist today of spying for China, overturning a previous jury's acquittal after a closed trial that highlighted flaws in Russia's judicial system.

The jury rendered its verdict on the central espionage charge against the physicist, Valentin V. Danilov, even though the court's judges have yet to hold a hearing to decide whether the information he is accused of passing along is even secret, his lawyer said. That hearing is now scheduled for Nov. 10.

"This has no legal or logical justification," the lawyer, Yelena V. Yevlinova, said in a telephone interview from Krasnoyarsk, the regional capital in central Siberia where the trial was held.

Ya think? If you read the rest of the story, it's as bad as you'd expect it to be.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

11/05/2004 04:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THIS IS WHERE I LIVE, for better or worse. This is Boulder.
Nov. 5, 2004 | BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- About 85 high school students upset about the nation's direction were camping out in the school library, demanding an audience with Republican leaders.

Students began their protest Thursday and school officials said they could stay through Friday when representatives of their Democratic congressman, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, and U.S. Senator-elect Ken Salazar, were expected to visit.

The students said they also wanted to meet with their superintendent's representatives along with Republicans Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

Some of the students left telephone messages with Republican leaders.

"We want them to reassure us that our fears are misguided and that the government is doing everything in its power to prevent our futures from being destroyed,'' said senior Brian Martens, who wore a hand-lettered T-shirt which said he was the ``senior executive of the subcommittee on protesting stuff.''

Students said they are not protesting the election, but are worried about the national debt, military recruitment in schools and the environment.
Despite my crap physical condition, I'm tempted to go down to Boulder High, assuming that's the school -- it's not the only high school in town -- and get some interviews. Alas, that would work much better if I had a recorder; I'm also not sure I could get in without some sort of press credential.

But at least I'll keep those things in mind for the future.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

Here's a bit more from the local paper.

11/05/2004 12:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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HOW DO WE WIN? BY TELLING A STORY. Failure to do so is why the Democrats didn't do better in 2000, and why so many of our candidates, including the leader, failed this time.

Policies are necessary and essential, but entirely insufficient. A party, and its leaders, and its followers, need a storyline. That's what people grab onto. That's what people understand. That's what wins an election.

Newsweek has a huge storyline right now: telling the "behind-the-scences" history of the campaigns. One notes here the appearance of Andrei Cherney:
Then came a marked improvement in the candidate. Kerry's speechwriter, Andrei Cherny, had been trying to think of a way to convey that Kerry was ready to go toe to toe with President Bush on national security, the Democrats' weakest front. The expression "Bring it on" popped into his head. He wrote the line into a Kerry speech to be delivered to the Democratic National Committee in October, but Shrum crossed it out. "Bush-type bravado," he sneered—too undignified for Kerry.

But with the press reporting his campaign in meltdown, Kerry needed to do something to change his soporific style, and at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines on Nov. 15, he used Cherny's "Bring it on" line. The crowd loved it. (Kerry later apologized to Cherny for not using the line earlier. "I was wrong," he said. But a few weeks later Cherny was purged by Shrum as a Jordan holdover whose punchy style did not suit the candidate.)
Cherney has an OpEd piece today.
Any time Democrats spend in the coming weeks discussing the merits of our past candidates' personalities or their campaigns' personnel will be time wasted.

The overarching problem Democrats have today is the lack of a clear sense of what the party stands for. For years this has been a source of annoyance for bloggers and grass-roots activists. And in my time working for Al Gore and John Kerry, it certainly left me feeling hamstrung.

Democrats have a collection of policy positions that are sensible and right. John Kerry made this very clear. What we don't have, and what we sorely need, is what President George H. W. Bush so famously derided as "the vision thing" - a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.

For most of the 20th century, Democrats had a bold vision: we would use government programs to make Americans' lives more stable and secure. In 1996, President Clinton told us this age had passed, that "the era of big government is over." He was right - the world had changed. But the party has not answered the basic question: What comes next?

It's not the sort of question that gets answered in the heat of a national election. A presidential campaign feels like running full speed across a tightrope. If you're working on its message, you spend your days sitting around conference tables in poorly lighted rooms, surrounded by spent pizza boxes and buzzing Blackberries, with the clock ticking down on another day and another speech. This is not the place to devise a new thematic direction for the party. What you wind up offering are quips and quibbles, slogans and sound bites, and heaping portions of poll-tested pabulum.

The press also seems to overstate what staff changes can do within a campaign. Much was made of the "who's in, who's out" reports about the Kerry team, with reporters devising narratives about a supposed "shift to the middle" or a "lurch to the left." While new advisers can alter tactics and form new messages, efforts on their part to create a larger vision will fail. That has to happen long before the primaries - and it requires that the party knows where it is going.

Throughout the campaign, voters told reporters and pollsters that they wanted a change, but didn't "know what John Kerry stands for." Our response was to churn out more speeches outlining the details of policies that Senator Kerry would then deliver in front of a backdrop that said something like "Rx to Stronger Health Care." Of course, it turned out that Americans weren't very interested in Mr. Kerry's campaign promises - perhaps because they no longer believe politicians will follow through on their commitments. They wanted to know instead how he saw the world. And we never told them.

Misguided as they may be, the Republicans have a clear vision of America's future. Confronted with their ambitious agenda we have not chosen to match it. Instead, we have adopted Nancy Reagan's old antidrug motto, "Just Say No." As in "Stop George Bush's Assault on the Environment," "Repeal George Bush's Tax Cuts for the Wealthy" and "End George Bush's Policy of Unilateralism." These are good stands. But they are not enough. And the Republicans ended up defining John Kerry because we did not.

I don't pretend to know exactly what the party should do now. But I do know that we better start answering some important questions. What is our economic vision in a globalized world? How do we respond to the desire of many Americans to have choices and decision-making power of their own? How can we speak to Americans' moral and spiritual yearnings? How can our national security vision be broader than just a critique of the Republican's foreign policy? If we sweep this debate under the rug, four years from now another set of people around another conference table will be struggling with the same issues we did. And America cannot afford the same result.

Long after midnight in November 2000, I stood in the rain in Nashville and listened to the Gore campaign chairman, William Daley, tell us there would be no victory speech. On Wednesday, long after midnight, I stood in the rain in Boston listening to John Edwards tell us the same thing. I'm sick of standing in the rain.
This is exactly right.

The party needs to find a compelling narrative for what we're doing, what we're for, not just what we're against. And then we have to tell that story, and embody it.

And we also tell it with smaller storylines that support the overall narrative, storylines like this one the Republicans used well. (Wade through the Day Pass; sorry.)

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5 for Cherny; Newsweek's novel on the election starts here; Teddy White, it ain't.

11/05/2004 12:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Alan Keyes blamed the media and fellow Republicans on Thursday for his lopsided loss to Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Keyes also said he did not congratulate Obama after the race was called, a tradition among politicians, because doing so would have been a "false gesture" because he believes Obama's views on issues like abortion are wicked.

"I'm supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward the triumph of that which I believe ultimately stands for and will stand for a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country," Keyes said. "I can't do this, and I will not make a false gesture."

The former diplomat and two-time presidential candidate, who lost to Obama by 43 percentage points Tuesday, gave his first post-election interview Thursday to a Christian talk show host.

Keyes said that despite the loss, he thought he did a good job spreading his message of moral values in the short time he had to campaign. Republicans drafted Keyes in August after primary winner Jack Ryan dropped out amid a scandal over sex club allegations in his divorce files. Keyes is from Maryland and had never lived in Illinois.

He also said he was disappointed in what he called the number of "Republicans in name only" in Illinois. An Associated Press exit poll showed that four in 10 Republicans voted for Obama, a liberal state senator from Chicago.

"I had counted on the fact that Republicans would come back home on Election Day rather than vote a socialist into office who stands against everything they profess to believe as Republicans," Keyes said.

Keyes noted that 1.3 million people voted for him.

But Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs pointed out that 70 percent of the vote went to Obama, more than 3.4 million votes.

"The people of Illinois rendered a very clear decision on Tuesday by handing Alan Keyes the greatest election defeat in Illinois Senate history. Barack Obama's attention is focused on the important work he now must do for all the people of Illinois."

Keyes said a major difficulty in his campaign was overcoming the "stranglehold" the media had on trying to define the issues of importance in political campaigns.

"I refused to accept their authority, and I still do," Keyes said.
The deadliest thing "the media" could do to Keyes is what they did: quote him accurately.

Gosh, I simply hope he starts -- tomorrow -- running for some Senate seat somewhere. Don't you?

In the most positive news of all, Ken Salazar is now United States Senator-elect Ken Salazar, and I'm very happy indeed about that. Don't let anyone tell you how Democrats can't win state-wide in the West! (Or anywhere, with the right candidate.)

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5 on Keyes; read all you want about the new Senator from Colorado.

11/05/2004 09:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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SO, WHAT TO DO NOW? Keep on keeping on. What else?

The Democrats did a pretty excellent job with the election. I've never seen the Democratic party so unified. More money than ever before was raised. More people were organized. More people voted for the Democratic nominee than ever before in history.

They just did a little better.

Next time, they'll have even more negatives and more failures to drag them down. Next time they'll have a fight over who their candidate is.

Next time, we'll just do even better. There is no alternative.

Meanwhile: we don't claw ourselves to death; self-examination is necessary and good, but it must be done in a way that preserves our outreach to undecided voters and onetime Bush voters while also maintaining our unity and our base. This requires care, and carefully targeting the energy of our anger outwards, not inwards.

In 1928, the Republicans had been in power for a decade, but the Democrats roared back in 1932. In 1992, the Republicans had been in power for a decade, but the Democrats roared back in 1992.

As it was, it shall be. Onwards.

I was asked a few days before the election for a quote for this article on "what will you do if Bush wins"? by Katharine Mieszkowski. It was a short deadline, and my schedule was screwy, and I didn't come up with anything in time. But it did get me started thinking about the issue.

And, yes, like just about every Democrat, I'm discouraged by what we didn't win in this election, despite the gains in our efforts and numbers we can be proud of. But there are worse things that can happen to people than losing an election. The world won't end when George W. Bush is sworn in for a second term. We're still all here. What's true is still true, and what's false is still false. The way forward is simple: never give up, never surrender. We fight until we win.

We shall return.

11/05/2004 09:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004
WELL. That could have gone better.

(Blogger hasn't let me in to post for many hours, by the way.)

11/03/2004 12:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004
THIS IS A MOMENT, isn't it?

11/02/2004 07:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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SCARE TACTICS. Before I go on, I should mention that I live in Boulder, Colorado, a town whose population is something like two-thirds college students, when they're not on break. I live in a neighborhood not far from the University, and the vast majority of my neighbors are college students.

So here's a transcript of a charming automated phone message I recorded earlier today, delivered by a young woman:
The Democrats have been talking a lot about the military draft, and while the Republican leaders have said there will be no draft, the Democrats haven't pledged the same. What are the Democrats hiding? Is the draft really their secret plan? Only the Democrats have proposed the possibility of a draft in this campaign. On election day, vote Republican and say no to the draft.

Paid for by the Republican National Committee; not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee. On the web at
Obviously, a staunch Republican will assert that the Democrats have just been making up ludicrous charges by suggesting a draft under President Bush's second term is possible, so this is just fair play in turnaround.

Of course, if you believe that a draft is truly likely under President Kerry (and, what, the Democratic Congress we're about to elect?), um, yes, well, that's nice. Otherwise, if you think this message is hunky-dory, the best case you can make is that a lie is well-met with a lie (note: I do not agree with such a characterization).

That's not so nice.

Paid for by the Gary National Committee; not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

11/02/2004 02:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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YES, I'M PETTY WHEN I SEE PEOPLE BEING STUPID, at times. It's a character flaw, I know. Really. But I've never claimed to be anything close to unflawed.

My point? Remember all those countless bloggers who, with utter confidence, assured us that the Administration had bin Laden on ice -- it's provable with logic! -- and The October Surprise Will Be "Capturing" Him Just Before The Elections?

Fill in an acerbic, petty, rejoinder here.

(And let me be clear: was such a thing possible? Yes. Was such a thing a sure thing? Only if you've flown off the plane of reality on the wings of confusing your worst fears of what's possible with what's likely. If someone said "I think it's conceivable that Osama has been captured, and they're holding him until the unveiling," that's within the realm of reasonable debate; those who said "I'm sure that...," well, enjoy how your credibility looks today.)

Only a slightly digressive note, I also find remarkable the endless number of people who confidently predict what the electoral vote, and percentages, will be -- and this is absolutely completely and fully utterly nothing but pure sheer coincidence, to be sure -- and the predicted results just happen, 99% of the time, to be in accord with the predictors' preference.

It's one thing when people say "this is my guess," or "estimate," or "hope." But have you noticed how many people are uttering flat-out this-is-the-way-it-will-be-you-stupid-jerk predictions of utter surety?

Man, I am one stupid blogger to not know the future, given how many other people know it. Why do I even bother blogging, given my comparative deficit of seerdom?

I will go very far out on a limb with this, though: Obama beats Keyes. Let no one say I have no boldness at all! Indeed, I am shaking with bolditude as I write this!

When need be, I don't know the meaning of the word "fear"!

Of course, sometimes I don't know the meaning of many other words, as well.

11/02/2004 12:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WEEP FOR YASSER ARAFAT: the BBC West Bank correspondent does.
The world watches the unfolding drama as the man who has become the symbol for Palestinian nationalism seems to hover between life and death. Though full of uncertainties, Mr Arafat's life has been one of sheer dedication and resilience.

To be honest, the coverage of Yasser Arafat's illness and departure from Palestine was a real grind. I churned out one report after the other, without any sense of drama.

Foreign journalists seemed much more excited about Mr Arafat's fate than anyone in Ramallah.

We hovered around the gate to his compound, swarming around the Palestinian officials who drove by, poking our microphones through their dark, half-open windows.

But where were the people, I wondered, the mass demonstrations of solidarity, the frantic expressions of concern?

Was this another story we Western journalists were getting wrong, bombarding the world with news of what we think is an historic event, while the locals get on with their lives?

Yet when the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry... without warning.
Why is it that it's impossible to imagine a BBC correspondent, or one from the Guardian, or most any British news source, writing something in these tones about an illness of Ariel Sharon?

It's not because Sharon is more responsible for the killing of people, of babies, than Arafat, after all. And one might remember that not all the people Arafat is responsible for killing are Jews -- not hardly -- one can remember Black September as merely one of many events in which Arafat butchered Arabs, in that case, in the thousands (please, go read the entry, if you're not completely familiar with those events). Arafat made war in Jordan; he made war in Lebannon. He had planes hijacked, and people (yeah, people who weren't even those perfidious Jews) from around the world, killed in countless acts of terror, for decades. (Though, of course, if they were Jews, they were fair game, neh?; not even worth counting.)

So, to be sure, let us weep for him.

And let us lionize him!
[...] There was his defiant departure from Lebanon in 1982 after the Israeli army had routed his Palestine Liberation Organisation. He promised then he was on his way to Palestine, and, in a roundabout way, he was.

There was his triumphant return to the Gaza Strip in 1994, when the Oslo Peace Accords appeared to open the window to a Palestinian state. Tens of thousands of people cheered his arrival; they were even hanging from the trees!


I remember well when the Israelis re-conquered the West Bank more than two years ago, how they drove their tanks and bulldozers into Mr Arafat's headquarters, trapping him in a few rooms, and throwing a military curtain around Ramallah.

I remember how Palestinians admired his refusal to flee under fire. They told me: "Our leader is sharing our pain, we are all under the same siege."

And so was I.


Maybe that gives me some connection to the man whose presidential compound became a prison.

I know what it is like to stare at the same four walls and find them staring back; to watch tanks swing their turrets outside my window; to scan rooftops for snipers during brief hours of freedom between curfews.

I could understand why Palestinians responded to Mr Arafat then the way they did.


Everyone says Yasser Arafat has made too many mistakes, that he has missed too many opportunities. He did and he has, but look also at what he has been up against.
Indeed. The perfidious Jews.

I won't shed a tear for Arafat when he leaves our mortal coil. I will be grateful that this butcher, the greatest obstacle to the establishment of the State of Palestine, and to peace with Israel, will be gone.

I don't anticipate weeping when Ariel Sharon dies, but, then, I'm still moping about at the tragic end of Hitler in his bunker -- how defiant and brave he was! -- and our loss of Stalin -- his people loved the frail old man!

True symbols of people who suffer hardship should always be properly mourned by an honest, perceptive, journalist, after all. No bias allowed!

Meanwhile, a deluded teenager blows himself up in a market, killing at least three, wounding over thirty people. Response?:
Meanwhile, a group of European Parliament members on a visit to Gaza criticised the Israeli army's actions there as creating the conditions for suicide bombers.
Unvoiced is any thought that possibly bombings "create the conditions" for any Israeli acts.

In other BBC reporting, we read this:
Late on Monday, Israeli undercover troops killed three members of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the centre of Nablus.

Palestinian witnesses quoted by Associated Press said soldiers disguised as veiled Muslim women carrying trays of sweets approached the militants sitting in a coffee shop.

Witnesses said the soldiers opened fire without warning, killing two of the men. A third died in the ensuing gun battle. The army said the militants had drawn pistols before they were shot.
Ah, those "militants." They never "fire without warning," of course. Israel is damned no matter what; if they fire a missile from a helicopter, they're slaughtering innocent bystanders. If they attempt a stealthy, pin-point, attack solely on individuals, face to face, they are unfairly not shouting "halt" first. Naturally, even assuming the story is true, how many believe that if the Israelis had given "warning," that the "militants" would have peacably surrendered? Anyone?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for any of them. It makes me want to vomit, but this sort of reporting helps explain the wildly distorted view so many Britons and Europeans get of Palestine/Israel. (First link via Norman Geras.)

11/02/2004 10:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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THE DOCTOR IS IN. A quite substantial and new check-in with Hunter S. Thompson.
The first time I noticed George W Bush," Hunter Thompson tells me, "was when he passed out in my bathtub at the Hyatt Regency in Houston. He was with a guy who had come to sell..." Thompson, sitting at his desk in a faded-green dressing-gown, stares down at a plate of untouched food: Danish pastries which were warm half an hour ago, smothered in red jam and melted ice-cream.

"Look, I'm not going to put this next sentence on the record. Let's just say that 'a friend of mine' was buying cocaine. I have friends in Houston from all walks of life. Lawyers. Professional men. Bush was hanging around with this crowd of what you might call gilded coke dilettantes."

I've driven up to Owl Farm, the writer's ranch at Woody Creek, just outside Aspen, Colorado, with the artist Ralph Steadman, his long-standing friend and collaborator. It's 2pm - four hours before Dr Thompson usually rises - but we've woken him early, and laid out before him are his usual requirements for breakfast: orange juice, coffee, smouldering hash pipe, Dunhill cigarettes, a half-pint tumbler of Chivas Regal on ice, and a small black bowl filled with what - given certain lively exchanges I had with Thompson after the last time I wrote about him - I can only describe as a substance that some might assume to be cocaine.

"I remember Bush as a kind of a butt-boy for the smart people. This was in the late 1970s, when he was in his drunken-fool period. He couldn't handle liquor. He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer. I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humour. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub," Thompson adds, "then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away."


"I have a friend who was with George W Bush at Yale," Thompson recalls. "Bush branded him with a red-hot coat hanger."


"Some fraternity thing. He still has the scar. (The victim, a respected television journalist, later confirms this story. "I couldn't swear that George did the branding himself," he tells me, "because he'd made me put a pillowcase over my head for eight hours beforehand. But he was the one in charge of the ceremony. I was on the front page of Yale News.")
Of course:
[...] Thompson is probably not a man John Kerry would like to have at his side on a daily basis. A few days after this interview, he arrived for a book-signing in Los Angeles on the shoulder of Benicio Del Toro - stumbling, incapable and screaming abuse about George W Bush.
There's much, much, more! (Actual stuff about Thompson's ups and downs of late; it's not all Bush all the time.)

Read The Rest depending upon how you feel about the doctor, and whether you have any good blotter.

11/02/2004 09:19:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. There's too much stuff in my "to blog" folder that I somehow never got to. There always is; it's pointless, I think, to blog more than a certain number of items per day, because people will never read that many, for one thing, and another is that, frankly, I often know I want to say something about an item, but don't feel up to formulating it coherently on command at a given moment; for those, and other reasons, a lot of stuff I intend to blog doesn't make it, and eventually I delete it from my folder as obsolete or now lacking point.

But I can't delete this classic set of Bush flip-flops without noting it. Remember, with George W. Bush, you always know where he stands!

I also want to note these cites of William Saletan's on Bush's Guard service, before deleting it:
Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard on May 27, 1968. The move was well-chosen and well-timed. Only four Air National Guard squadrons were sent to Vietnam, and none was sent after Bush enlisted. All he had to do was fulfill a "statement of understanding" in which he promised to attend 24 days of weekend duty and 15 days of active duty each year.

He failed to do so. Four years into his six-year commitment, Bush "changed his mind" and decided "he preferred to be in politics." That description doesn't come from some phony memo. It comes from retired Col. Rufus Martin, Bush's then-personnel officer, in an interview with the Washington Post. Bush got permission to go to Alabama to help a family friend run for the Senate. A Boston Globe review of Bush's Guard records confirms that he "performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973." The Globe's investigative team, echoing investigators from other publications, reports that "no one has come forward with any credible recollection of having witnessed Bush performing guard service in Alabama or after he returned to Houston in 1973."

U.S. News & World Report notes that the "military service obligation" Bush signed in 1968 required him to attend 44 inactive-duty training drills every fiscal year for six years. He did not fulfill that requirement. Furthermore, when Bush took off for Harvard Business School in 1973, he signed a form pledging "to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position." He never did so.

I've yet to see someone explain this away; the notion that it's just a matter of lost forms doesn't seem to remotely cover it, and that's the only explanation/defense I've yet seen. Of course, Kerry was a KGB agent who didn't actually kill Marlon Brando in Cambodia, so we are grading on a curve. Isn't it remarkable how George W. Bush is always graded on the curve?

Here, from August, the Republican head of the Congressional Budget Office on Bush's borrow-and-spend deficit policy:
Congressional Democrats were deeply suspicious when Republican leaders selected Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin to take over the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in early 2003.

As chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Mr. Holtz-Eakin had helped build President Bush's case that big tax cuts could at least partly pay for themselves by speeding up economic growth.

Democrats suspected that Mr. Holtz-Eakin would undermine the agency's rigorous independence to advance Mr. Bush's tax-cutting agenda by making it look less costly than it was.


Within weeks of taking office, Mr. Holtz-Eakin dealt a big blow to Republicans. Analyzing the impact of Mr. Bush's spending and tax plans together, he concluded they would do little or nothing to stimulate long-term growth or make the deficit any smaller than it would be otherwise.

Last week, responding to questions posed by Democratic lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that Mr. Bush's tax cuts were skewed very heavily to the very top income earners.


Mr. Holtz-Eakin, a former professor of economics at Syracuse University and a prolific author on issues including income mobility and tax reform, acknowledged the firestorm but said it was inherent in running a nonpartisan agency responsible for analyzing polarizing issues.

"The only shield one has in a job like this is your professional credibility," he said. ''If you try to play games with that, you end up in a morass and won't know what to do. It's not workable."


But Mr. Holtz-Eakin is the first director to come directly from the White House and then raise challenges to his former boss.

And he has done so repeatedly. Under his direction, the agency has raised doubts about proposals to partly privatize the Social Security system, one of Mr. Bush's long-term goals.

The agency also calculated that Mr. Bush's tax and spending policies could increase the federal debt by $4 trillion over 10 years.

It recently concluded that abolishing inheritance taxes, another priority for Mr. Bush, would diminish incentives for charitable contributions. Responding to another query from lawmakers, it calculated that allowing gay marriages would slightly increase federal revenues.


Bruce Bartlett, a Republican and staunch defender of deep tax cuts who served as director of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1980's, agreed.

"In general, I think he's been an absolutely excellent C.B.O. director," Mr. Bartlett said. "The C.B.O. serves the entire Congress, not just one party. The C.B.O. is required to respond to any legitimate question from the ranking member or the chairman of the House or Senate budget committees."

Mr. Holtz-Eakin had no doubt whatsoever he would be in the hot seat last week. Congressional Democrats had asked for an analysis of which income groups benefited the most from Mr. Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.


For 2004, the agency concluded, the effective tax rate for people in the top one percent of income earners - with average annual incomes of just over $1 million - dropped by 6.8 percent. Democratic analysts on the Joint Economic Committee calculated more than $76,000 as an average tax cut.

For people in the bottom fifth for annual earnings - with average incomes of $14,900 - the tax rate dropped just 1.5 percent, an average cut this year of $250.

Based on the number of people in each income category, Democratic analysts calculated that one-third of all the tax benefits in 2004 will go to the top one percent of income earners.
Just another one of those bad appointments that Bush regrets having happened, I'm sure. Gosh, he certainly is a great CEO/manager, with his MBA; it's just an accident that he's made so many appointments he regrets, even if they're minor ones, such as the Secretary of the Treasury, his head of counter-terrorism, his next head of counter-terrorism, and so on. Unimportant jobs, to be sure.

So many other unblogged items in my file, but, alas, this post grows over-long; we'll close with this set of little-known pictures of George W. Bush and John Kerry's secret private life.

Read The Rest Scale: go read the first link on Bush's flip-flops, and check out the pictures I just noted; don't bother with the other two.

11/02/2004 08:02:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF BIN LADEN'S latest, hot new vid, the one all the kids are dancing to, is here, as provided by the U.S. government, to be sure.

My favorite line is a return to the classics:
And you can read it in my interview with Abdul Bari Atwan as well as my interviews with Robert Fisk. The latter is one of your compatriots and co-religionists and I consider him to be neutral. So are the pretenders to freedom at the White House and the channels controlled by them able to run an interview with him so that he may relay to the American people what he has understood from us to be the reasons for our fight against you?
Gosh, quite an endorsement, eh?

Another interesting note is this, regarding Iraq:
So I say to you over 15,000 of our people have been killed and tens of thousands injured while more than a thousand of you have been killed and more than 10,000 injured.
So not even Osama bin Laden buys the notion of "100,000 civilian dead," though most probably he'll have adopted that by his next video.

Closing observation:
[...] And among that which I read in their gestures is a verse of poetry.

Injustice chases its people
And how unhealthy the bed of tyranny
As has been said
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure
And know that
It is better to return to the truth than persist in error
And that the wise man doesn't squander his security, wealth, and children for the sake of the liar in the White House.
For bin Laden's sake, I really, really hope this reads better in Arabic. Because, you know, a stitch in time, saves nine.

Read The Rest Scale: well, yes, it's pretty darned interesting, if one can put aside the mass murdering and all.

11/02/2004 07:43:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, November 01, 2004
EDWARD STRATEMEYER AND THE AMAZING BOOK FACTORY. This is a generally enjoyable look back at the Stratemeyer Syndicate marred by some very peculiar glossings and oddities.

It's not unreasonable that the writer chooses a personal frame of Nancy Drew to begin and end the piece, and the piece is titled "NANCY DREW’S FATHER." However, since the article ends up being only about 5% about Nancy Drew, this is fairly misleading.

What's odd is the way the author, Meghan O'Rourke, jumps in her history of Stratemeyer, cribbed from several acknowledged sources, from his invention of the Rover Boys in 1899 and the Motor Boys in 1906 to discussing his series-in-general, with only the barest mention in passing of Tom Swift, created in 1910. Presumably this is because the author adored Nancy Drew as a child, as she says, and never read Tom Swift in any incarnation (or didn't care for him), as she doesn't say. And the Bobbsey Twins rate one passing mention in a list? Tsk. Not a rounded look at the Stratemeyer phenomenon, to say the least, which is a shame. Still, a couple of bits:
In 1926, ninety-eight per cent of the boys and girls surveyed in a poll published by the American Library Association listed a Stratemeyer book as their favorite, and another survey showed that the Tom Swift books, which the syndicate launched in 1910, were at the top of the list. Thirty-one series were in full swing. Yet Stratemeyer still wasn’t content. He had noticed the growing popularity in the twenties of adult detective fiction and of pulp magazines like Black Mask,which wasfounded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. As the journalist Carol Billman points out in “The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate,” Stratemeyer saw that this detective fiction, grafted onto an adventure story, might appeal to children. In 1926, the year that S. S. Van Dine’s “The Benson Murder Case” introduced Philo Vance to the world, Stratemeyer wrote the outline for the first three volumes of a series that proved more popular than any that had come before: the Hardy Boys.
Entirely unmentioned is the fact that 1926 was also the year the first true science fiction magazine was published, Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories. This is an ancient dynamic, clearly still not yet dead: mystery genre -- respectable, cited as the popular reading of innumerable celebrities; science fiction -- not. Tsk, again.

Another old story, this time noted by the article writer:
[...] Even as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were invading children’s bookshelves, there was one place you couldn’t find them: the library. The Stratemeyer Syndicate came under attack from educators and librarians from the start. As early as 1914, Franklin K. Mathiews, the chief librarian for the Boy Scouts of America, published a damning article, “Blowing Out the Boy’s Brains,” about series fiction. “Parents who buy such books think they do their boys no harm. The fact is, however, that the harm done is simply incalculable,” he argued. The series books would “debauch and vitiate” a child’s imagination.

Early on, librarians condemned the syndicate’s series as tawdry, sensationalist work taking children away from books of moral or instructional value.
Damn the people who debauched those millions of kids by getting them to read! And the stories contained violence! Someone knocked unconscious at least once a book, and usually more! This is what led to World War I! Violence in children's media!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as interested; despite my nitpicking, there are a few unremarkable insights, and some interesting detail if you don't already know much about Stratemeyer (which I do, which is why I'm bothering to blog this, but I dunno about you).

11/01/2004 08:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I DON'T THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. A moderately amusing piece on Penn Jillette's house, but can someone explain to me how TF any of the following are "contradictions"?
In fact, 6-foot-6 Jillette, 49, who along with the mono-named Teller has made a lucrative career of combining magic with the macabre, is a lumbering contradiction:

• Hard-core atheist, but also a talented bass player who worships the power of bebop.

• Loves having his place stuffed with raucous friends but has never once lost himself in drugs or alcohol.

• Partial to art that borders on the pornographic, and yet his prized possession is a shelf-buckling 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary that comes in handy for writing New York Times op-ed pieces and novels such as Sock.
Anyone who thinks any of these things is a "contradiction" is deeply confused. Meanwhile, however, in other amusing details:
Inside, there are enough fascinating and odd touches to fill this entire newspaper. Scanning some of the headlines:

•Guests Line Up for Mug Shots. All visitors must stand against a height chart worthy of a police station and have their digital picture taken. (It's right next to the foyer's prison-issue, stainless-steel bathroom.) The photo shoots over to a lobby computer, which constantly cycles through the 3,000-plus visitors so far, some of them topless.

•Penn Jillette: The New Howard Hughes. The artist gleefully says he never has to leave his sprawling compound, which includes a gym, a beanbag-chair-filled home theater and a state-of-the-art recording studio. "Friends come out for weeks at a time, to write, relax, whatever," he says. "I still love New York, and they bring a bit of the city here to me."

OK, OK, we're getting there.

To the bondage room, Robin. Just off Jillette's leopard-themed bedroom (which he shares with his privacy-preferring girlfriend) is a mirrored walk-in closet whose centerpiece is a harness suspended from the ceiling. There are some whips, and few restraints and a one-way mirror to check for intruders.

"Actually," he adds, "there are a few rooms here I really can't show you at all."

Is he serious? Who knows.
And who knows how to use a question mark? Civilization is falling, I tell you, falling!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you like Penn.

11/01/2004 05:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE HUSH BEFORE THE STORM. In case anyone happens to wonder why I'm not posting a mile a minute with political news, well, frankly, there are plenty of sites you can get that from; you either know where else to go, or haven't cared enough to find out up to now, so you're unlikely to suddenly feel differently this week.

More to the point, I can't delude myself that there's anyone reading me who, suddenly, the day before the election (or even particularly the week before the election), is suddenly going to read some negative points about President Bush that I call to your attention or characterize, at this late point, slap themselves upside the head, and think "Gary, you've stunned me! I'm changing my vote to Kerry!" (If you are so susceptible, just scroll further down, and after you run out of posts, check some recent weeks' archives, okay?)

However, here follows a couple of random election notes that I've not fit in elsewhere.

I mentioned early voting on Monday; I neglected to mention the wacky, hi-tech, method. After getting through all the lines and preliminaries, we were given two huge sheets of paper listing all the candidates and Propositions, and a large envelope to put them in. We went to voting "boothes" -- rows of free-standing alcoves, actually -- and marked an "X" or other mark for each candidate or proposition we were voting for, slipped the two sheets of paper into the envelope, walked a couple of dozen feet to a "box" -- actually a "box" -- and slid the ballot sheets out of our envelope and into a slot in the box. Done.

What a weird method! Who came up with this incredibly complicated technological solution?!

On a separate note, I'd like to thank Ed Koch for his personal phone call (recorded though it was), on behalf of the Republican Jewish Something-Or-Other, urging me in chipper fashion to vote for President Bush. Good targeting, Ed! And I'd really like to thank Kirsten Dunst, on behalf of Spider-Man-Babes-For-Kerry, or somesuch, for her call urging me to vote for John Kerry, because with great power comes no greater power than voting, or words to that effect. (Really, I'm fairly curious: who is it that thinks "dude, I was going to vote for Bush, but Kirsten Dunst likes Kerry, so I'm so totally changing my vote!" and who is it that thinks there are a lot of college-age (or whomever) voters who think that way?)

Now, could we just have some damn results already, please?

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

11/01/2004 04:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FAITH OF THE HEART. This piece makes me uncomfortable, because it brings up certain conflicts in my beliefs. Although essentially a "secular humanist," I'm not in the camp of those who are knee-jerk hostile to religion or religiosity. I believe that historically much that religion has brought humanity is good, along with considerable bad; I believe that many religious figures have been great contributors to civilization; I think that many people's religiosity today, as always, has brought them much wisdom and goodness, not just comfort; lastly, of course, I believe in freedom of religion.

But the sort of society envisioned by many in this article creeps me out, perhaps at least partially for some of the following reasons:
Then again, the idea of corporations dominated by a particular religious faith has a hint of oppressiveness, a ''Taliban Inc.'' aspect. As it is, Christian holidays are the only official religious holidays in 99 percent of American workplaces surveyed by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. Religious-discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have increased 84 percent since 1992 and 30 percent since 2000. Georgette Bennett, the director of the Tanenbaum Center, attributes the rise in part to the influx of workers from Asian and African countries and an overall aging of the largely Christian homegrown workforce, leading to a clash of traditions. ''Added to that is the way in which religion has entered the public square and been politicized,'' she says.

Some friction may come from the insistence of marketplace Christians on seeing offices and factories as arenas for evangelism. Converting others, after all, is what being an evangelical Christian is all about. One tenet listed in the Riverview Community Bank's first annual report is to ''use the bank's Christian principles to expand Christianity.'' If that wasn't clear enough, Ripka put it in even starker terms for me: ''We use the bank as a front to do full-time ministry.'' Ken Beaudry, a marketplace pastor whose heating-oil company is just down the road from the Riverview bank, takes the same view. ''It's all about understanding that your business has a cause,'' he says. ''It's about recognizing that we exist as a company not just to make profits, but to change society. And our employees are on board with that.''
Now, the idea that companies, and any other kind of conglomerating entity, can recognize motivations other than profits is one that, as a rule, I completely favor, and encourage. And, naturally, if one believes in freedom of religion, it's impossible to deny the reasonableness of evangelicals of whatever religion their right, and self-seen duty, to evangelize, up to whatever point is compatible with a free society (and a separation from government endorsement).

But I also don't therefore automatically agree with any given person's or group's belief system, or any sort of mindless worldview-equivalency that implies that any one person's or group's belief system is automatically as objectively valid, or subjectively preferable to me, as any other person's, or group's.

Where I wind up, figuratively speaking, is a place where I'd prefer to have a great deal more clarity of thought, and position, than I actually possess at the moment. What I do know is that while I fully support freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and thus the right of every private group and person to speak their mind as much as they like so long as they don't attempt to grasp the instruments of government to do so, I also don't want to be constantly, or even frequently, proselytized to by anyone, whether they're Lubavitchers, Salifists, Christians, Scientologists, or rabid atheists.

My personal wish would be for God to speak up and tell everyone to let everyone else find Her/Him/Them/It/The-Non-Existenceship themselves.

So I'm going to pray on that, okay?

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5; if you're not part of that evangelical Christian culture, you may find it very weird, and perhaps even disturbing; if you are, you may find it a piece of crap, I suspect; I, at least, found myself thinking about it far more than I can articulate here and now.

11/01/2004 03:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE WISDOM AND GUIDANCE OF AARON MCGRUDER doesn't actually impress me; the Observer helpfully quotes him in a piece full of oddities, as much from the writer as McGruder.

We begin:
American etiquette rule No 1: try not to insult government ministers in public.
Okay, that's a sort of tranlation into British, one might say, deeply bizarre as it is, referring to Condoleeza Rice. We can pass on, despite the immensely misleading things it would imply if taken literally, such as that Rice was elected to our non-existent Parliament (and with the greatest of respect to my many British friends, quite of few of them turn red in the face and grit their teeth as they angrily explain that it's the "Labour Party," not "the Labor Party," or otherwise catch an American casually using such an equivalency, with "you bloody American git" beaming out of their telepathic lobes).
[...] 'Man, that was boring.' McGruder is talking about a gruelling lunch with Fidel Castro on a trip he made to Cuba with a relief organisation. He's full of admiration for what Castro has achieved, flinging statistics around with professorial earnestness, about the education system and infant-mortality rates. But still, 'It was a one-hour talk stretched into, like, four hours.'
Gosh, Castro talked for hours? Who could have predicted that? And, by the way, what I just quoted is the entirety of both what the Observer quoted McGruder as saying about Castro, and the entirety of what the writer, Phil Hoad, had to say about that wonderful Castro, and all that he has "achieved."

How does one react to someone so blind and stupid as to be "full of admiration" for Castro, and who doesn't have a clue what would happen to him as a cartoonist in Cuba characterizing Castro as he does Bush? Overlook it? Sorry, no.

Here's an interesting sentence:
[...] An ultra-bright, blinding admission of how traditional left/right polarities are meaningless in an era when bottom-line merchant Harvey Weinstein whips up a 'coalition of the willing' to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11, after Disney bottled it, and Nike-wearing twentysomethings go to see documentaries like the forthcoming (and very good) The Corporation for their anti-corporate lifestyle tonic.
Can someone explain how that is an actual sentence in English? Diagram it?

As it happens, if you repunctuate the entire paragraph that sentence is from, you can make sense of the intent. However, last I looked, readers were not supposed to be required to copyedit major news publications to grasp intended meaning.

On the justice of our economic and political system, take what guidance you can from this:
[...] And he's getting rich without qualms. 'I always wanted to get rich. I wanna live very, very well. The world sucks when you're poor. It's fucking deplorable. But I don't think it means you have to be part of the fucked-up system of oppressors and leaders just by virtue of making a lot of money.'

Can he stay principled? He's already turned down offers to rope Huey and co into commercials.
Clarity, indeed.

As a writer, McGruder is not only clear, but precise in his choice of words:
[...] You just have to know how to walk the tightrope ... If you're not disciplined, it can be dangerous. You're literally dancing with the devil.'
Scary! Does the devil cha-cha, polka, or break, or what?, is my question. And who does his hair?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

11/01/2004 02:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S A NICE THOUGHT, but I'm not counting any chickens. However, feel free to examine the as-yet uncut entrails here.
If we just look at the most recent poll in every state, John Kerry will be elected the 44th President of the United States tomorrow with 298 votes in the electoral college vs. 231 for George Bush, with New Mexico and New Hampshire exact ties. However, even in Bush carries both of these states, Kerry still wins 298 to 240. But again, a caution is in order, Kerry's margin is razor thin in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. Pennsylvania will probably go to Kerry. Ohio is more iffy. Bush won it in 2000 and stands a decent chance of winning it in 2004 although he trails by 2% using the average of the Zogby and Gallup polls taken Oct. 28-31. Thus after 4 years of campaigning, more money spent on attack ads than the gross national product of small countries, and an exhausted electorate, what do we have? In the immortal words of Yogi Berra: "It's deja vu all over again." The whole thing comes down to Florida. where Kerry currently holds a tenuous 48% to 47% lead according to the most recent poll, from Zogby. The reality is that everything depends on turnout, how many voting machines fail, and how much monkey business happens. Oh, yeah. And there are those 10,000 lawyers ready to do what lawyers are trained to do--file lawsuits.

If Bush picks up Florida and the two states that are tied (NH and NV), then Kerry wins 271 to 267, the same margin Gore should have lost by last time. Actually, he lost 271 to 266 because one Gore elector from D.C., Barbara Lett-Simmons cast a blank ballot in protest of D.C.'s not having representation in Congress. It could be to be a long night, especially if Bush picks up either Florida or Ohio and a couple of small Kerry states in the East or Midwest, so everything depends on New Mexico.
Maybe Kerry should have asked Bill Richardson to be the Veep nominee, after all.... (Would Bob Graham really have helped in Florida?)

Read The Rest insofar as you prefer doing that to working to get out the vote.

11/01/2004 01:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT CAN AN INAUGURATION PORTEND? The irreplaceable Louis Menand describes:
Catholics in the Washington, D.C., area were relieved of the proscription against eating meat on Friday, January 20, 1961, by special order of His Holiness Pope John XXIII, in recognition of the inauguration, that day, of the first Roman Catholic President of the United States. John F. Kennedy took advantage of the papal dispensation by having bacon for breakfast. He was a man accustomed to the discreet aid and succor of the intelligent, the beautiful, and the well-placed.


There was plenty of press around in 1961, and lots of cameras, but it was still only the dawn of the era of the unblinking media eye, our own panoptic regime, in which every twitch of the celebrated is monitored and made instantly available for mass titillation. Not all of the celebrated had made the adjustment in 1961, and there was some amusing leakage around the borders of the official script. Frank Sinatra (a well-placed friend if you happened to be interested in making the acquaintance of compliant young actresses) responds to a reporter’s query at the entrance to a pre-inaugural party by snapping, “Where are you from? Bulgaria?” In the car on the way to the inauguration, Mamie Eisenhower makes conversation with Jackie Kennedy, who is the wife of a man about to become the first Irish-American President, and who is seven-eighths Irish herself, by remarking, “Doesn’t Ike look like Paddy the Irishman in that hat?”

At the inaugural ceremony, Cardinal Cushing, of Boston, delivering the invocation, notices smoke issuing from the lectern. Believing it to indicate the presence of an assassin’s bomb, the Cardinal slows down what is already being regarded as an interminable address, in the hope that, when the bomb goes off, his body will shield Kennedy from the blast. (The smoking stopped when an electrician yanked, more or less at random, one of the wires running under the lectern.) Congressman Howard Smith, Democrat of Virginia, walks out before Marian Anderson sings the national anthem. (Smith later led the opposition in the House to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The opposition in the Senate was led by that cynosure of senatorial rectitude Robert Byrd, of West Virginia.) As Kennedy repeats the oath of office, his left hand nervously slips off the Bible, leading some Protestant divines to argue, afterward, that he had never really been sworn in. Robert Frost, before reciting his poem “The Gift Outright,” as a prelude to Kennedy’s speech, refers to “the President-elect, Mr. John Finley,” apparently confusing Kennedy with the master of Eliot House, at Harvard. As Kennedy gives his speech, Lyndon Johnson, sitting behind him and in the view of a television audience of sixty million, notices a piece of paper on the floor, picks it up, retrieves his reading glasses, puts them on, examines one side of the paper, turns it over and examines the other side, and places the paper in a pocket of his suit. The chair in Row B in the stands reserved for Kennedy’s brother-in-law Peter Lawford is empty, because Lawford has a hangover and is back at the hotel, watching the ceremony on TV with Sinatra.

There was also, as Clarke, like other historians, enjoys pointing out, an almost comic web of dislike and suspicion uniting the dignitaries assembled on the platform to hear Kennedy’s speech. Eisenhower referred to Kennedy as “Little Boy Blue.” Truman despised Kennedy, because he despised Kennedy’s father, Joe, whom he had once threatened to throw out a hotel window. Eleanor Roosevelt, another enemy of Joe’s, had campaigned to prevent Kennedy from getting the nomination and declined to sit on the platform with the other grandees. Jackie called the Johnsons “Colonel Cornpone and his Little Porkchop.” Johnson called Bobby Kennedy “that little shitass”; Bobby described Johnson as “an animal in many ways.” Adlai Stevenson resented the Kennedys for naming him Ambassador to the United Nations, and not Secretary of State, the job to which he believed he was entitled, and the Kennedys resented Stevenson for pouting about it, which he was, quite blatantly, doing. And practically no one liked Richard Nixon, not even, when all was said and done, Nixon—a man who, during the campaign, had insisted that “America cannot stand pat,” apparently forgetting the name of his own wife.


It is a little disheartening to learn that the headmaster of Kennedy’s prep school used to say that it’s “not what Choate does for you, but what you can do for Choate.” On the other hand, Clarke reminds us, the phrase “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” in Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, probably came from a department-store ad in a newspaper. And who remembers the department store today? It’s not where you got it; it’s what you do with it.


But it is a sad speech to read today. This is only partly because, as Clarke rightly says, that was a time of civic faith and optimism, and a time when it gave Americans pleasure to think of the President as someone special, a different breed from the rest of us, and not a man who has to constantly pretend to be one of the guys. The speech is also sad because it articulates, in the noblest terms, the Cold War aspiration of winning the hearts and minds of the decolonizing world—the aspiration that came to grief in Vietnam.
And soon, in January, will come the new inauguration. What will our President do to win the hearts and minds of the world? How much will he succeed or fail?

Sooner than January, clues will arrive.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5 if you're at all interested in JFK and his writings.

11/01/2004 12:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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