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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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I COULD EASILY BE WRONG, but it looks to me as if Batman Begins may be the first live-action film simultaneously released in IMAX. I have no great further insight to lend to this observation, but it interested me as a note as to where we are on this timeline.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

5/31/2005 07:32:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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I'D LIKE A USB DRIVE, AND SOME FRIES WITH THAT. McDonald's is selling this as some revolutionary, unheard of!, unique, thing, but it's really not much more than making a McDonalds into an over-grown cyber-cafe. Still, a bit more follow-on than Starbucks' providing wi-fi, and perhaps a glimpse of where they'll be in a few years. Or not.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 if curious about this as social phenomenon.

5/31/2005 05:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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DON'T YOU LOVE JARGON? It helps to pay attention to the source/site for this headline: Europe home to majority of zombies.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

5/31/2005 05:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BATMAN VILLAINS UNLIKELY TO TURN UP IN A MOVIE. I can assure you that each of these examples is a real foe of Batman's from the early Sixties. It helps to keep in mind that these were mostly from the Mort Weisinger era when apparently LSD was an ingredient found in the water cooler at DC.

Read The Rest Scale: "Police! Hyeee!"

(Ogged, there's a reference at the bottom of the short piece I'm leaving unmentioned just for you -- knowing your love for comics.)

5/31/2005 04:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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CAN I GET A WHITE HOUSE DAY PRESS PASS NOW, PLEASE? Iran and the WTO and, you know, killing babies. Those are two interesting topics President Bush addressed in his latest press conference (gosh, he's gotten suddenly fond of these things of late) that I've not yet noticed anyone talking about.

Q Mr. President, thank you. I wonder if you can explain the administration's decision to allow Iran, in its negotiations with the Europeans, to get WTO status, ascension into the WTO, whether you think that deal, in a sense, has legs. And also, you talked about Iraq being a powerful symbol in that part of the world. One of the things you said going into the war was that it would deter other countries, rogue nations, from developing weapons of mass destruction. And when you think about North Korea and Iran, the opposite is true -- they haven't been deterred at all. Why do you think that is?

THE PRESIDENT: The first part of your question was about our agreement that Iran should apply for WTO. In other words, we said, fine, if you want to apply for WTO, go ahead and apply. That's -- and we did that to facilitate the EU-3 discussions with Iran.


So our decision was to allow them to join the WTO -- or to apply to join the WTO -- which is not ascension to the WTO, it's the right to make an application -- seemed like a reasonable decision to make in order to advance the negotiations with our European partners.
Italics for emphasis mine. This could hardly be plainer: hey, sure, EU, tell the Iranians they can knock themselves out applying to join the World Trade Organization. They can spend the next twenty years applying all they like if they don't play ball on nuclear enrichment.

Now, the baby-killing -- no, the President doesn't use the words, but it's inarguable that's precisely what he's believes he's talking about.
Q Thank you, sir. Last week you made clear that you don't think there's any such thing as a spare embryo. Given that position, what is your view of fertility treatments that routinely create more embryos than ever result in full-term pregnancies? And what do you believe should be done with those embryos that never do become pregnancies or result in the birth of a child?

THE PRESIDENT: As you know, I also had an event here at the White House with little babies that had been born as a result of the embryos that had been frozen -- they're called "snowflakes" -- indicating there's an alternative to the destruction of life.
First, before going on to quote the rest of the President's relevant comments in context, let me note that the above is pretty much only readable as either a) a non-sequitur to the two questions posed; or b) that what the President "believe]s] should be done with those embryos" is to hold a symbolic little White House function for them and then move on; that is, after all, the sum total of his policy, and his own response to the question. But to carry on:
But the stem cell issue, Dick, is really one of federal funding. That's the issue before us. And that is whether or not we use taxpayers' money to destroy life in order to hopefully find a cure for terrible disease. And I have made my position very clear on that issue -- and that is I don't believe we should. Now, I made a decision a while ago that said there had been some existing stem cells and, therefore, it was okay to use federal funds on those because the life decision had already been made. But from that point going forward, I felt it was best to stand on principle -- and that is taxpayers' money to use -- for the use -- for the use of experimentation that would destroy life is a principle that violates something I -- I mean, is a position that violates a principle of mine. And so -- and I stand strong on that, to the point where I'll veto the bill as it now exists.

And having said that, it's important for the American people to know that there is some federal research going on, on stem cells -- embryonic stem cells -- today. There's been over 600 experiments based upon the stem cell lines that existed prior to my decision. There's another 3,000 potential experiments, they tell me, that can go forward. There's a lot of research going on, on adult stem cell research. We've got an ethics panel that has been -- that is in place, that will help us, hopefully, develop ways to continue to figure out how to meet the demands of science and the need for ethics so that we can help solve some of these diseases.

And listen, I understand the folks that are deeply concerned for their -- a child who might have juvenile diabetes. I know that the moms and dads across the country are in agony about the fate of their child. And my message to them is, is that there is research going on and hopefully we'll find the cure. But at the same time, it's important in the society to balance ethics and science.
And people said that Bill Clinton likes to have it both ways?

Now, in fact, Bush's statement, of course, makes no sense whatever as a coherent statement of either ethics or policy. If, in fact, it is morally wrong to "destroy life," human life, and discarding embryos that consist of a few hundred largely undifferentiated cells does that, than it is as bad indeed as mass murder, and obviously shouldn't be legal; the issue, obviously, wouldn't be one of federal funding, or funding at all, if we accept the necessary premise. This seems entirely obvious, but nonetheless, the President states that said federal funding "violates a principle of mine" -- but the actual research is apparently fine with him (as it is with me, but never mind); which damn "principle" does he have in mind?

Read The Rest Scale: oh, there's plenty else worth commenting on, but others are also doing that; as interested.

Oh, on a relatively trivial point (although the fact in question may be all too significant):
Q Mr. President, back to North Korea for a second. Why has the United States scrapped the one link between our militaries when there's been no threat or harm to Americans participating in those missions to recover bodies of Americans killed in action during the Korean War there?

THE PRESIDENT: The Secretary of Defense decided to take a -- what he's referring to is, is that we have -- I wouldn't called it "scrapped" -- is that the verb you used? "Scrapped"?

Q I did say that.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, scrapped. I would use a different verb. I would use "reassess" the mission. See, "scrapped" means that we're not going to do it ever again, I think is what that means. And what the Secretary of Defense has said, let me just take a look and make sure that as we send people into North Korea, that we're fully mindful of them being able to go in and get out. No immediate threat, just an assessment, is how I would put it. But thank you for the question.
I'm just still thinking of this in context, again, of all the (reasonable up to a point) griping about how the present President's predecessor parsed language finely. On the actual fact, what one has to at least tuck away as a datapoint, if not quite necessarily as an undebatable View-With-Alarm sign, is that one way to interpret our "reassessment" of the Korean War remains missions is that we don't want to have any hostages available in the event of a U.S. military strike on North Korea (one part of the protocol specified that our people aren't allow satellite phones or any other manner of communicating outside North Korea during their mission); remember the Pueblo, boys and girls?; of course, a less alarming interpretation would be that it's merely to cut off the millions of dollars the North Koreans had us paying to let us do the investigations; but, nothing says they can't both be true! (Meanwhile, North Korean food shortages apparently grow.)

Two other small points: a) I wish someone had asked a follow-up to the discussion of China, and previous question on Uzbekistan asking what Bush had to say about China's 21-gun salute to Karimov of Uzbekistan and their outright full endorsement of his brutal massacre; b)word most conspiculously not mentioned once: Darfur.

5/31/2005 02:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BUT COULD IT WRITE "DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP"? Wired has put up their summary of some of the projects that will be displayed at NextFest '05. Here's one:
Do androids really dream of electric sheep? Now you can ask P. K. Dick himself. This bust relies on 36 servomotors to mimic the sci-fi legend's facial expressions, and features a polymer called Frubber that looks and moves like human skin. The bot uses motion-tracking machine vision to make eye contact with passersby, and best of all, artificial intelligence and speech software enable it to carry on complex conversations. "It invents new ideas using a mathematical model of Philip K. Dick's mind extracted from his vast body of writing," says David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics. The mechanized tribute to the author is a fitting one: Having grappled with the question "What is reality?" throughout his career, Dick would have delighted in Hanson's efforts to blur the boundaries between humans and their android imitations.
Perhaps. Or perhaps he would have seen it as part of a government plot, or that a pink light with communications from God was emanating from it. Hard to say.

While some of the other inventions seem trivial, and many seem more "next year" than "next decade," more than enough are interesting to make the summary well-worth scanning through.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 unless you can get your underwater VR flying drone dog to do it for you.

5/31/2005 01:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A DOG DOING CALCULUS. I don't know about you, but I think this may be one of the limpest "thumbs up" type reviews I've ever read in my life.

Read The Rest Scale: better read as a whole than in lines taken out of context; 3 out of 5 if you want an example of a little-celebrated genre of film criticism.

5/31/2005 01:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ROBERT SHECKLEY NOW HOME. Following up news of Sheckley's illness and need for help, he is now back in NYC, at Mt. Sinai hospital, and can, of course, still use donations.

Read The Rest as interested in detail.

5/31/2005 12:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DEEP THROAT OUTED! At last. No shit. W. Mark Felt, long-time suspect, finally gives it up. (Assuming the bugger didn't become a fantasist in recent years, which there seems no reason to presume.)

Follow The Money Scal--, er, Read The Rest insofar as you don't wish to avoid the nattering nabobs of negativism.

ADDENDUM: Vanity Fair piece here. Lots of interesting detail.

UPDATE: Woodward confirms. Tim Noah had an interesting chat on the topic here. The Post has framed many stories here. See also Noah here.

5/31/2005 10:16:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OH, THE CAUDATE NUCLEUS IS CONNECTED TO THE VENTRAL TEGMENTAL AREA, and that's where you get your mad love and new relationship energy.
In an analysis of the images appearing today in The Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers in New York and New Jersey argue that romantic love is a biological urge distinct from sexual arousal.

It is closer in its neural profile to drives like hunger, thirst or drug craving, the researchers assert, than to emotional states like excitement or affection. As a relationship deepens, the brain scans suggest, the neural activity associated with romantic love alters slightly, and in some cases primes areas deep in the primitive brain that are involved in long-term attachment.

The research helps explain why love produces such disparate emotions, from euphoria to anger to anxiety, and why it seems to become even more intense when it is withdrawn. In a separate, continuing experiment, the researchers are analyzing brain images from people who have been rejected by their lovers.


Still, said Dr. Hans Breiter, director of the Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Collaboration at Massachusetts General Hospital, "I distrust about 95 percent of the M.R.I. literature and I would give this study an 'A'; it really moves the ball in terms of understanding infatuation love."

He added: "The findings fit nicely with a large, growing body of literature describing a generalized reward and aversion system in the brain, and put this intellectual construct of love directly onto the same axis as homeostatic rewards such as food, warmth, craving for drugs."

This passion-related region was on the opposite side of the brain from another area that registers physical attractiveness, the researchers found, and appeared to be involved in longing, desire and the unexplainable tug that people feel toward one person, among many attractive alternative partners.

This distinction, between finding someone attractive and desiring him or her, between liking and wanting, "is all happening in an area of the mammalian brain that takes care of most basic functions, like eating, drinking, eye movements, all at an unconscious level, and I don't think anyone expected this part of the brain to be so specialized," Dr. Brown said.


Last summer, scientists at Emory University in Atlanta reported that injecting a ratlike animal called a vole with a single gene turned promiscuous males into stay-at-home dads - by activating precisely the same area of the brain where researchers in the new study found increased activity over time.

"This is very suggestive of attachment processes taking place," Dr. Brown said. "You can almost imagine a time where instead of going to you could have a test to find out whether you're an attachment type or not."
Or, you know, have a vole gene installation.

Although they are still sorting through the images, the investigators have noticed one preliminary finding: increased activation in an area of the brain related to the region associated with passionate love. "It seems to suggest what the psychological literature, poetry and people have long noticed: that being dumped actually does heighten romantic love, a phenomenon I call frustration-attraction," Dr. Fisher said in an e-mail message.

One volunteer in the study was Suzanna Katz, 22, of New York, who suffered through a breakup with her boyfriend three years ago. Ms. Katz said she became hyperactive to distract herself after the split, but said she also had moments of almost physical withdrawal, as if weaning herself from a drug.

"It had little to do with him, but more with the fact that there was something there, inside myself, a hope, a knowledge that there's someone out there for you, and that you're capable of feeling this way, and suddenly I felt like that was being lost," she said in an interview.

And no wonder. In a series of studies, researchers have found that, among other processes, new love involves psychologically internalizing a lover, absorbing elements of the other person's opinions, hobbies, expressions, character, as well as sharing one's own. "The expansion of the self happens very rapidly, it's one of the most exhilarating experiences there is, and short of threatening our survival it is one thing that most motivates us," said Dr. Aron, of SUNY, a co-author of the study.

To lose all that, all at once, while still in love, plays havoc with the emotional, cognitive and deeper reward-driven areas of the brain. But the heightened activity in these areas inevitably settles down. And the circuits in the brain related to passion remain intact, the researchers say - intact and capable in time of flaring to life with someone new.
So, broken-hearted ones, take heart! You can stilll take heart again! (Not that I'm going to hold my breath waiting for someone interesting to look in my direction.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for a bit more detail.

5/31/2005 06:38:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AERO CONTRACTORS is the new "Air America," meeting all your needs for government snatches.

Read The Rest as interested in new details this morning on the classic topic; 3.5 out of 5. 19 years ago, incidentally, I was editorial assistant on Christopher Robbins' book, Air America, the best nonfiction account of the CIA airlines during the "secret war" in Southeast Asia; it's now out-of-print, but still worth reading if the topic and history interests you. (Yes, they later made a goofy, fictionalized, movie out of it with Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr., but the book is nonfiction and reliable.)

5/31/2005 06:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, May 28, 2005
QUICK, PLACE YOUR BETS. How many hours until King Fahd is actually officially declared dead? Longer or shorter than it took for Generalissimo Francisco Franco?

Remember: you decide!

Particularly deep insight:
Fahd's death will impact the succession of the would-be king, Crown Prince Abdullah, who is half brother to the Sudairi Seven.
Gosh, ya think?

(I blame everyone who has chosen in the past twenty years to stop using "affect," as well as "effect," and who replaced them, as well as confusing each, with the entirely differently-meaning verb "impact"; I can believe that this has had an impact, but that no such effect has had such an affect.)

Read The Rest before you are dead.

5/28/2005 04:39:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Friday, May 27, 2005
THE SPACESHIP JUNKYARD. How very Heinlein juvenile! Dead rockets from the Kazakhstan launch site, with a truly nifty slideshow of photos! (Where it says "click here to begin.")

Check out Kazakhstan Gothic!
Does this look like a George Lucas image, or what?
There are twelve pictures.

View The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. (Via Bill Humphries.)

5/27/2005 09:05:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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WHAT TO DO WITH GITMO. One guy has a firm opinion:
Shut it down. Just shut it down.

I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.


Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral, it is strategically dangerous.


I believe the stories emerging from Guantánamo are having a similar toxic effect on us - inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the world and providing recruitment energy on the Internet for those who would do us ill.

Husain Haqqani, a thoughtful Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston University, remarked to me: "When people like myself say American values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get Guantánamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: 'That is not the America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of imprisonment without trial.' "

Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.

"This is not about being for or against the war," said Michael Posner, the executive director of Human Rights First, which is closely following this issue. "It is about doing it right. If we are going to transform the Middle East, we have to be law-abiding and uphold the values we want them to embrace - otherwise it is not going to work."
Who said it? Yes, it's that guy you love to hate, Thomas Friedman. Yet I daresay he's right, anyway.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

5/27/2005 12:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STAND BY YOUR MOUTH. One thing Mahathir Mohamad can't be accused of is inconsistency:
Asked whether he regretted his statement that "Jews rule the world by proxy", which caused an international furore in 2003, Mr Mahathir said he took nothing back.

"US politicians are scared stiff of the Jews because anybody who votes against the Jews will lose elections. The Jews in America are supporting the Jews in Israel. Israel and other Jews control the most powerful nation in the world. And that is what I mean [about Jews controlling the world]. I stand by that view."
Wot. A. Surprise.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 if you want more of his opinions.

5/27/2005 12:12:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, May 26, 2005
IT'S YOUR RECORDS. The bill to expand the "Patriot Act" to let the FBI have to dispense with seeing a judge to get a warrant for records, and let's them just issue it themselves is still in committee. You can still call your Senator and say what you think.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 if you're a U.S. citizen.

5/26/2005 10:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE BEGINNING. Michael Chabon writes about coming to write his first novel. An excerpt:
I was in a state of confusion. Over the past four years I had been struggling to find a way to accommodate my taste for the genre fiction I had been reading with the greatest pleasure for the better part of my life—fantasy, horror, crime, and science fiction—to the way that I had come to feel about the English language, which was that it and I seemed to have something going. Something (on my side at least) much closer to deep, passionate, physical, and intellectual love than anything else I had ever experienced with a human up to that point. But when it came to the use of language, somehow, my verbal ambition and my ability felt hard to frame or fulfill within the context of traditional genre fiction. I had found some writers, such as J.G. Ballard, Italo Calvino, J.L. Borges, and Donald Barthelme, who wrote at the critical point of language, where vapor turns to starry plasma, and yet who worked, at least sometimes, in the terms and tropes of genre fiction. They all paid a price, however. The finer and more masterly their play with language, the less connected to the conventions of traditional, bourgeois narrative form—unified point of view, coherent causal sequence of events, linear structure, naturalistic presentation—their fiction seemed to become. Duly I had written my share of pseudo-Ballard, quasi-Calvino, and neo-Borges. I had fun doing it. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop preferring traditional, bourgeois narrative form.

I wanted to tell stories, the kind with set pieces and long descriptive passages, and "round" characters, and beginnings and middles and ends. And I wanted to instill—or rather I didn't want to lose—that quality, inherent in the best science fiction, which was sometimes called "the sense of wonder." If my subject matter couldn't do it—if I wasn't writing about people who sailed through neutron stars or harnessed suns together—then it was going to fall to my sentences themselves to open up the heads of my readers and decant into them enough crackling plasma to light up the eye sockets for a week.

But I didn't want to write science fiction, or a version of science fiction, some kind of pierced-and-tattooed, doctorate-holding, ironical stepchild of science fiction. I wanted to write something with reach. Welty and Faulkner started and ended in small towns in Mississippi but somehow managed to plant flags at the end of time and in the minds of readers around the world. A good science fiction novel appeared to have an infinite reach—it could take you to the place where the universe bent back on itself—but somehow, in the end, it ended up being the shared passion of just you and that guy at the Record Graveyard on Forbes Avenue who was really into Hawkwind.

I wasn't considering any actual, numerical readership here—I wasn't so bold. Rather I was thinking about the set of axioms that speculative fiction assumed, and how it was a set that seemed to narrow and refine and program its audience, like a protein that coded for a certain suite of traits. Most science fiction seemed to be written for people who already liked science fiction; I wanted to write stories for anyone, anywhere, living at any time in the history of the world. (Twenty-one, I was twenty-one!)
I don't have any brilliant insights to add value here; but I do find this background unsurprising in Chabon, and enjoyed the entire piece. You may not, but here's your chance to find out.

Read The Rest: as interested. Or not.

5/26/2005 07:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NOT VICTORIAN. Wired takes a look at porn bloggers. Which is to say, blogs by people in the industry, not blogs filled with porn (although the two sets are not entirely discrete).

(Jeez, like I don't already get enough sex-based search hits.)

Read The Rest Scale: oh, yes! Yes, yes, YES, YESSSSS! Okay, maybe only as interested; it's rather cursory, but, yes, has links.

5/26/2005 02:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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THE ART OF SCIENCE exhibited at Princeton. Bootiful pictures here.
Prizes were split according to the mathematical principle, the golden ratio. First place won $250, second place received $154.50 and third place, $95.50.

Second prize winner:
See here to learn what it is. The individually marked ants are pretty funky, and have resonations for me of films such as Them!

View The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5; science can be pretty pretty.

5/26/2005 01:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GET READY FOR A GLOBAL REPLACEMENT on your maps and in your geographical usage: A recommendation that the name of South Africa's capital be changed from Pretoria to Tshwane has been unanimously approved.
The Geographic Names Council took four hours to back the change. Tshwane is the name of a pre-colonial local chief and means "we are the same".
Read The Rest Scale: 1.75 out of 5.

5/26/2005 01:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM: blame big 'ol Jupiter and Saturn for being such bullies! In earlier days:
Jupiter and Saturn form the basis of a "grand unified theory" of the solar system, according to new computer simulations. The research traces three seemingly unrelated phenomena - the giant planets' orbits, craters on the Moon, and the behaviour of certain asteroids - to the motions of the two gas giants nearly four billion years ago.


Gravity pulls the two types of object towards each other, so planetesimals begin to "leak" into the giant planet zone and the orbits of the giant planets gradually change. After 700 million years, Saturn has migrated outward and Jupiter inward to the extent that they reach a "resonance" point. This means they begin to march in lockstep with each other, with Jupiter completing two orbits around the Sun for every one of Saturn's. The resonance allows the pair to greatly disturb the orbits of the other planets.
“Hell breaks loose”

"Basically, everything sits around for 700 million years and then boom - all hell breaks loose," says Hal Levison, a team member at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, US. He says that in the model, Jupiter and Saturn hurl Uranus and Neptune outwards like bowling balls into a sea of planetesimals, which scatter like pins.

This scattering allows Neptune to double the size of its own orbit, bringing it approximately to the distance it is today. But the scattering also sends planetesimals falling towards the Sun, which may explain another persistent mystery, say the researchers.

They believe impacts from these scattered planetesimals can account for large, dark basins on the Moon. Samples of lunar rocks collected by astronauts had dated the impacts at about 650 million years after the formation of the solar system, but astronomers were not sure what caused the so-called "Late Heavy Bombardment" (LHB), which occurred millions of years after the Moon and planets had formed.
Plus, for bonus points, an explanation of the behavior of the Jupiter's Trojan asteroids!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if interested in planetary pinball. (A shame Von Daniken isn't around to play with this. Oh, wait, no, it isn't.)

Also: Jupiter's innermost moon Amalthea is a mass of icy rubble.

5/26/2005 01:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SCIENCE, RACISM, AND US. One of innumerable articles sitting in the "to blog" file is this:
Negative feelings about black people may be subconsciously learned by both white and black Americans, suggests a brain imaging study. The research is among the first to test the brain physiology of racial biases in both black and white subjects.

The new study showed that both white and black people had increased activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala - which responds to fearful or threatening situations - when completing a matching task with images of black faces.

“I think the results are very specific to being raised in this society where the portrayal of African Americans is not very positive, on average,” says Matthew Lieberman at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, who led the study. “It suggests that those cultural messages are not harmless.”

But the amygdala also responds to novelty. The spike in activity upon viewing black faces shown in previous studies with solely white participants could just be the unconscious reaction to seeing an unfamiliar, or “outgroup”, face.

Pervasive cultural cues

So to tease apart the novelty factor, Lieberman and his colleagues conducted a similar experiment - using a functional MRI scanner - with 11 white and eight black Americans. Each participant completed three matching tasks; a visual task where they had to match the race of a target photo to one of two comparison photos; a verbal task where they had to match a target photo to either the words “African American” or “Caucasian American” and a control test where they matched geometrical shapes.

Both black and white people showed increased amygdala activity on the visual matching task with black target photos. The same task with a white target face produced no such activity. Because black faces are presumed not to be “novel” to black subjects, Lieberman concluded they must have learned, through pervasive cultural cues, to associate black people with fear.

The results mimic studies which measure hidden biases using tests called Implicit Association Tests (IAT), says William Cunningham at the University of Toronto, Canada. IATs use subtle tasks, such as the time it takes for subjects to associate ideas of race and positive or negative words, to uncover unconscious attitudes. Many studies have found that black Americans show preferentially positive associations for white people in IATs.

Friends and neighbours

However, Cunningham cautions that increased amygdala activity and IAT scores cannot simply be translated as evidence of prejudice. Furthermore, black Americans often show highly variable responses on IATs, depending on their personal history and the diversity of their friends and neighbours, for example.

“Measuring one's experience rather than the colour of their skin will probably get us closer to understanding what an amygdala response to an outgroup face means,” says neuroscientist and amygdala expert Paul Whalen at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, US.

Interestingly, when the subjects performed the verbal matching tasks, the race-biased amygdala effect disappeared. The scans showed that when word processing, areas of the brain involved in fighting impulses or inhibitory control took over.

“The moment you start thinking about race in words you know you’re thinking about it and can make decisions,” says Lieberman. “In general, putting your feelings into words seems to regulate or dampen those feelings.”

Journal Reference: Nature Neuroscience (DOI: 10.1038/nn1465)
I am utterly unsurprised by any of this, as it confirms my pre-existing beliefs, so it must be true!

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

5/26/2005 12:58:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE MARS MASTER PLAN: Possibilities and scenarios. I'm not fussy; I just want some successes mixed in with the inevitable failures, that the ratio not be too awful (minimum 60/40, though preferably considerably higher), and that progress continues at a reasonable pace. (Oh, and let's keep the bad movies to a minimum, please?)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

5/26/2005 12:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE SEE JOHN MCCAIN'S FUTURE here, using our seer-like powers:
Will McCain’s time in Vietnam be as controversial as John Kerry’s was?

I suppose it’s possible. The hard right, who hate him, will probably charge (as some did in 2000) that he committed treason, because he at one point signed a confession.
Just wait for the run-up to the Republican nomination starts, but you can put your bets down now.

McCain has a wide range of views supporting conservative takes on issues that I don't support, and it's extremely common for many to confuse the fact that he is a pragmaticist who reaches out to find ways of obtaining agreement on certain issues and bills, with being a "moderate," when the two are not, in fact, remotely the same things. He's a pragmaticist, but not, generally speaking, a moderate.

But I do believe he's an honest man, a man you can trust to keep a deal, a man who is not a demagogue and panderer to either big business or the religious fundamentalists, and in short, is not a George W. Bush. I wouldn't support him for President unless he were, say, running against a Cynthia McKinney or a Dennis Kucinich, but I'd certainly rather see him as a Republican nominee than, say, Bill Frist or anyone James Dobson likes. (Talk about damning with faint praise.) (And I won't hold my breath waiting for the Republicans to nominate him.)

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 if you want one journalist's opinions about him.

5/26/2005 12:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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OH! SUPERHUMAN RAPTURE! The Victorian Sex Cry Generator!
Tired of all those boring, predictable shrieks and outbursts you keep using in bed? Wouldn't you like to be able to utter those moving, poetic love cries that you read in all those cheesy Victorian novels?
What floods of bliss! What melting transports! What agonies of delight! [...] Kiss me now and forever, for your thrusts have made me your willing slave! [...] Pray, allow me to feast my eyes with the touch and perusal, feast my lips with kisses of the highest relish!
A reward to the first who uses one of these with me! (Only under appropriate circumstances; offer otherwise void.)

Read The Rest Scale: touch the vitals quickly!

5/26/2005 12:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HARLAN ELLISON is interviewed in three parts by a fellow who focuses on what he calls "Tough Question For Tough Jews here, here, and here. A sample:
ELLISON: Okay. I was a Jew in a world where there were no Jews. The only Jews I knew were my mother and father, and they weren’t all that Jewish. They were High Holy Day Jews. We would go into Cleveland and we would go to the synagogue there, and I would see all these people and they would be mumbling in a language I didn’t know. So I didn’t have that much contact with them. The way I knew I was a Jew was when I first learned that I was a kike, and I learned that at the end of Jack Wheeldon’s fist and feet, and his pals at Lathrop Grade School in Painesville, Ohio.

In my grade school, I was the only Jew for some while. I couldn’t have been any older than four years old when I moved to Painesville, and we lived on Harmon Drive, and there were no Jewish families at that time. Soon thereafter, there were Jewish families, but the kids were not in my class—I was a little bit older than them. And when I went to grade school, which was right around the corner from us, I was the only kid. Now, this was Ohio in the 1940s—‘39, ‘40, ‘41 that kind of thing. And these kids were the products of their parents inbred anti-Semitism. If they believed anything, they believed that Jews had horns and killed Christian babies to make their matzos. Now, you hear people sometimes talking about this, and they say it as a gag. I actually heard it. It was said to me.


I knew I was a Jew because they would not let me forget I was a Jew. We’re talking here about the middle-America version of The Protocols of the Elders of Fucking Zion. And I became a tough Jew because I had no alternative. I was very small and when we were all small, I was able to hold my own and I could brawl pretty good with the best of them. But as they got older and taller, and I stayed a dwarf, they were able to beat on me like a big door. When I got to high school—Champion Junior High School in Painesville—one day I was sitting in an auditorium because there was an assembly, and behind me were Wheeldon and Beckwith and Jividen and the rest of those assholes whose names, of course, are burned into my memory because they were those memories that never leave you, no matter how well-adjusted you get. And people say, “Well, let it go, let it go.” Fuck you, “let it go.” You let it go. I think bad memories are as valuable to a writer as good memories. Pain is a much greater friend to a real writer than pleasure because the pleasure takes care of itself—it’s what sustains you. But what gets you passionate and angry enough to write are the hurtful memories. And one of ‘em behind me called me a kike, and I turned around and I slammed the guy—I think it was Wheeldon, but it may not have been Wheeldon; it may have been another one of his no-neck cronies. I slammed him in the face with a geography book. And when he recovered from being hit, he punched me, and he hit me so hard, he tore the chair out of the floor. It was an old wooden high school, and the chair was pulled straight out of the floor.

So did I have any role models? Yeah. Me. Is that tough enough for you?

© The Kilimanjaro Corporation, 2005
You can read the rest or not as you like, and I hope Harlan doesn't regard this excerpt as going beyond "fair use." The second part has an anecdote about Avram Davidson I've heard before, but you may not have, and the third Harlan's views on the Mideast, which he says got him disinvited from a U.S. Information Agency invitation to lecture in Israel.

I've never shared Harlan's views on revenge and such, but I didn't have his childhood, and I've understood where his views came from for many decades now. Always interesting to me, check him out as you are interested or not.

Oh, and my mom was asked about her horns, on more than one occasion, when she hitch-hiked through the South in 1945 (with a female friend, to visit her brother, my uncle Harry, at an Army training base).

Read The Rest Scale: like I said.

5/26/2005 12:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SENSE, for a change.
UK academics have voted to overturn a boycott of two Israeli universities accused of complying with anti-Palestinian polices.

Members of the Association of University Teachers had previously decided to sever all links with Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities.

The academics' body now says it is time to "build bridges" between those with opposing views and support peace moves.

The debate has caused bitter argument among academics and others worldwide.

The council of the AUT was reconvened in central London after 25 members - the required number under the union's rules - complained about the original vote, held in Eastbourne last month.

Opponents of the boycott had complained that the debate had been curtailed and that the accusations were unfair.

Dr David Hirsh, from Goldsmiths College in London, welcomed the latest vote, saying: "A boycott is a tokenistic gesture which does more harm than good.

"The need for hard work, building links with Palestinian and Israeli academics, is less glamorous but much more important."
Of course, the diehards persist:
[...] Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer at Birmingham University and a leading pro-boycott activist, had predicted a "stitch-up" by opponents.

She said: "The struggle goes on. This is the end of the beginning.

"We are not surprised. We saw people who did not come to earlier meetings there and we knew what the outcome would be.

"We won the moral argument. They just won the vote."
The "moral argument" clearly being that Israel is the worstest government on Earth, the sole country deserving of such a boycott, unlike such non-repressive governments as those of, to pick some random examples, Uzbekistan, Congo, Russia, China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar/Burma, and so on, and that the effective way to bring peace is to boycott academics who are working hard for peace and justice.

But there's nothing anti-Semitic about this! It's just a rational analysis of priorities. Of course. Sure.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

5/26/2005 11:50:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHAT IS TORTURE? Slate has a useful primer on U.S. interrogation technicques, policy, and abuse. (Note: it formatted rather awkwardly with my iteration of Firefox.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5; it's a worthy complilation, though non-exhaustive.

5/26/2005 10:08:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Charlton Heston reading "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" proved a dud, even if it was sandwiched between Jeremy Irons reading "Lolita" and Robert Frost reading his own poems. "You keep waiting for him to announce that Kilimanjaro's been taken over by damned dirty talking apes," Mr. Lipsky said. "Now it's hard to read 'Kilimanjaro' without hearing Heston's voice."
It's probably just me that cracked up at this, but it possibly was also the serious context.

There are a couple of interesting points tossed back and forth in the generally superficial (pretty much wholly anecdotal) article about the pros and cons of audio-books over reading. I do certainly think listening to writing read aloud is a fine thing, indeed. (Okay, I mostly don't like it at all, but that's purely subjective; I think it's intrinsically a fine thing.) I do also think that there's no possible way it should be called "reading" something; reading and listening are profoundly different experiences for almost all of us (I'm making allowances for neurological differences, particularly unusual ones), conscious of it or not, so far as I can, ah, see. But I certainly wouldn't take that as grounds for sneering at someone absorbing a book or lecture or whathaveyou through audio.

(I should probably say for the record that I find it about ten times more difficult to absorb information and flow through listening then through reading, but I stress that I'm entirely aware that that's how I work, and I know perfectly well other people's brains work their own way.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if interested, or, if you like, call me up and I'll read it to you.

5/26/2005 09:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Read The Rest Scale: pretty much only for those who feel a need to know, but clearly and simply explained, with illustrations.

5/25/2005 05:46:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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QUICK, GET LAURA BUSH TO PRAISE THIS. Eqyptian "democracy" in action.
Plainclothes government agents beat protesters and watched as President Hosni Mubarak's supporters punched other demonstrators Wednesday, marring a referendum on whether to let more than one candidate run in presidential elections.


Female protesters in particular seemed to be targeted for beatings by both plainclothes state security agents and pro-Mubarak supporters, according to several witnesses and Associated Press

"This is the first time this sort of beating and humiliation has taken place here in Cairo," said Abdel Halim Qandil of the opposition group Kifaya. He said it had been a problem before in provincial areas.

The government had no official reaction to the violence. Security officials said the clashes were between Mubarak supporters and Kifaya members, and that security officials were not involved. But AP reporters saw plainclothes agents taking instructions from both uniformed and non-uniformed government security officers.


Abdullah al-Sinawi, editor in chief of the Nasserite Party that boycotted the referendum, said the attacks on women seemed to be a "message of deterrence to Egyptian women against participation in political life."

In one protest in Cairo witnessed by an AP reporter, more than a dozen members of Kifaya were beaten by Mubarak supporters. The protesters tried to seek police protection but a high-ranking officer ordered his security men to withdraw, allowing more attacks.

Elsewhere, an AP reporter saw 150 Mubarak backers attack Kifaya members, belting them with sticks. Some demonstrators took refuge in a building.

One woman trying to leave the building was pounced upon by Mubarak loyalists who punched her and pummeled her with batons and tore her clothes, according to an AP reporter at the scene. As police looked on, she screamed, then vomited and fainted.

The woman later told the AP she was stripped of her blouse and her skirt was torn by Mubarak supporters as government security agents watched. She said she tried to file a police report but was denied the right to do so at a nearby police station.

At another clash in Cairo, an AP reporter saw a group of mostly female demonstrators beaten, groped, pressed into a security cordon and verbally harassed by plainclothes state security agents. The AP reporter was grabbed and pulled by the hair.

Outside the capital, 30 political activists in the port city of Ismailiya were arrested as they tried to stage a protest in front of a courthouse, protest organizers in Cairo said. Six members of the outlawed Muslim Brothers group were also arrested early Wednesday, police said.


But another, government worker Ahmed Hussain Mohammed, said he had voted simply because colleagues told him he would be fined if he didn't.

"I voted to avoid any government penalty," said Mohammed, who lives in Sohag, 240 miles south of Cairo.

One who voted against the amendment, 29-year-old art instructor Noha Sayed al-Ahl, said it would not lead to a true multicandidate system.

"It doesn't make any sense for me allowing it to revert to the old system again," she said.
All hail our ally, the Pharoh!

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

5/25/2005 04:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MAKE YOUR OWN BUSH SPEECH. Utterly juvenile, yes, and the same technique would work well with a number of folks, but in America, you know, it's the law to make fun of the President, and I have a quota to fill. Fun for many, and not really even particularly partisan, save by way of having a partisan as the target.

Play The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for a couple of minutes of interactive audio amusement.

5/25/2005 12:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, FORBIDDEN TALK, is no longer being so practically forbidden in Syria. A quite interesting look at Syrian internet debate and political agitation, with a particular focus on Abdel Nour, who is actually a Baathist.
Then he realized the government had blocked his site -- a forum for unprecedented dialogue among groups, parties and thinkers in Syria -- nearly a year after he had inaugurated it.

Abdel Nour, a 40-year-old reformer from within the ruling Baath Party, lost little time.

The same day, he collected the e-mail addresses he had -- 1,700 in all -- and dispatched his daily update. Two days later, the government blocked e-mails from that address from entering the Syrian network. The next day, he changed the address and transmitted another bulletin. Then that address was shut down. Changed again, and blocked. And so it went for nearly a month and a half -- Abdel Nour devising new addresses, the government barring them -- until the censors finally gave up.

"I was always ahead of them," said Abdel Nour, a kinetic multi-tasker fond of reading e-mail, holding a conversation and answering a cell phone at the same time. "They couldn't read my mind. They couldn't ban the addresses in advance."

Since then, Abdel Nour's e-mail list has grown to 15,200 subscribers, including secular and religious dissidents, intellectuals, businessmen, party leaders, ministers and Syrian embassies.
Better to settle as much as can be done via internet argument than with guns. But what do they say about Mac vs. Windows, and Kirk vs. Picard?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

5/25/2005 11:45:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YEAH, I DON'T THINK SO. Speed is of the essence! I say we simply do away entirely with time-consuming, inefficient, "judges," who are all liberal activist, Constitution-hating, gay abortionists, anyway! We must fight terrorism! Eliminate people's freedom in order to save it!
The FBI on Tuesday asked the U.S. Congress for sweeping new powers to seize business or private records, ranging from medical information to book purchases, to investigate terrorism without first securing approval from a judge.

Valerie Caproni, FBI general counsel, told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee her agency needed the power to issue what are known as administrative subpoenas to get information quickly about terrorist plots and the activities of foreign agents.

Civil liberties groups have complained the subpoenas, which would cover medical, tax, gun-purchase, book purchase, travel and other records and could be kept secret, would give the FBI too much power and could infringe on privacy and free speech.

"This type of subpoena authority would allow investigators to obtain relevant information quickly in terrorism investigations, where time is often of the essence," Caproni testified.


Committee chairman, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, noted that other government agencies already had subpoena power to investigate matters such as child pornography, drug investigations and medical malpractice. He said it made little sense to deny those same powers to the FBI to investigate terrorism or keep track of foreign intelligence agents.
Good point. We damn well should make sure no agency can get a subpoena dealing with child pornography, drug investigations and medical malpractice without a judge authorizing it. See how this slippery slope stuff works?
Roberts intends to hold a closed meeting on Thursday, above the objections of some Democrats, to move the legislation forward out of his committee. But the provision still faces a long road before it becomes law, since the Senate Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over the bill, while the House of Representatives is drawing up its own legislation.

Democrats on the committee expressed concerns and pressed Caproni to give examples of cases where the lack of such powers had hampered an investigation.


Caproni said she could not cite a case where a bomb had exploded because the FBI lacked this power, but that did not mean one could not explode tomorrow.
Jeebus, is that great reasoning, or what? Remember, when your name is confused with someone else's on a database list, you're the "terrorist."

(Yes, we need to catch and fight real terrorists; to grant this proposal, though, show me the necessity that balances and justifies our loss of freedom, and that this isn't just an FBI wet-dream.)

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM: Phil Carter takes the serious look at the issues that I do not; his is the analysis you want to read if you're serious, too (as usual).

5/25/2005 10:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TALK ABOUT BIG MEDIA ELITISM! Matt Miller pleads from the Op-Ed page of the NY Times (which, incidentally, doesn't make it an editorial! It isn't! It drives me crazy when people call op-ed pieces "editorials," since they're not at all!) that we should make things better for his wife, and for "society's most talented people" and those in "top jobs."
It's hardly news that the issue vexing talented people is the struggle to balance their professional lives with time for fulfilling lives outside of work. The shock is that after decades of wrestling with these tradeoffs, the obvious answer is the one everyone has been too skeptical or afraid to explore: changing the way top jobs are structured.

In a world where most people are struggling, the search for "balance" in high-powered jobs has to be counted a luxury. Still, there is something telling (if not downright dysfunctional) when a society's most talented people feel they have to sacrifice the meaningful relationships every human craves as the price of exercising their talent.


As a result, talented people throw up their hands.


"If the most interesting and powerful jobs are too consuming, Jody says, then why don't we re-engineer these jobs - and the firms and the culture that sustain them - to make possible the blend of love and work that everyone knows is the true gauge of "success"? As scholars have asked, why should we be the only elites in human history that don't set things up to get what we want?"
Cry me a river for the poor "elites." If Miller were asking that society, jobs, and work, in some way be altered so that people, in general, could better balance their lives, and take advantge of their talents, I'd be out there whistling and marching for him and any sensible proposal.

But aside from a throw-away line, which I've carefully included, he's not. He doesn't give a goddamn about the women who are waitresses, who are service workers, who are carpenters, who are electricians, who are maids, who are teachers, who are police, who are nurses, who are truck drivers, who are copywriters, who are administrative assistants. Are their lives out of balance? Do they get to fully exercise their talents? Do they need their work "redesigned"? No, fuck them.

It's only the "top" people whose lives we have to make better, it's only those with "most talent" who deserve that change for the better.

The rest of you non-top women who don't run companies, who aren't the "elite": fuck you. Life is hard.

This is what the guest "liberal" columnist of the "liberal" Times thinks. Who does he use his bully pulpit to plead for? Those, in his words,"near the top."

What a contemptible piece of slime.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. (Sadly, Matt Yglesias, a smart guy, thinks this stance makes Miller "a pretty hardcore feminist." Even setting aside the apparently utterly unimportant class issue, since when is being for making working life for women better a "hardcore" feminist issue? Myself, I think it's about as softcore, meaning, most folks agree with it, not just hardcore extremists, as it gets; a "hardcore" feminist believes things that, at least as yet, only a few believe -- as the dictionary says, something only someone "intensely loyal" to a cause believes; perhaps the generally invaluable Matt uses these terms the other way around, however, despite common usage and the dictionary definition.)

5/25/2005 09:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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M FOR MAD. Alan Moore, crankier than ever, at DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and Joel Silver. Moore has been talking for some time about the details behind his removing his name from all currently contracted-for movies done from his work, particularly V For Vendetta (directed by the little-known Wachowski Brothers), but now he's really ticked.

Read The Rest Scale: as interested in movies-made-from-comics, and particularly how great ones turn into krep. Interesting, Joel Silver put out a press release announcing that the release of V For Vendetta would be on November 5, 2005 (my birthday!), in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of Guy Fawkes attempting to blow up Parliament. As everyone knows, this was a precursor of WWI, and directly connected to the Japanese defeating the Russians that year.

Even now, doubtless Silver is planning his Fawkes picture, with Mel Gibson as the martyr Fawkes. But this time Parliament explodes! Huge fireballs, shot from every direction and six helicopter views! I can't wait!

5/25/2005 08:39:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
JAW-DROP. I'm channel-flipping, and I suddenly find "Access Hollywood" (bastion of journalistic standards, to be sure), engaging in this flat-out commercial for Scientology. They were pimping L. Ron's "literacy" program as the cure for dyslexia, and, of course, not a word of any doubt or challenge entered the entire report.

I can't say I'm actually surprised to find such a crawlerfish of a tv program engaging in this dangerous trash, but I'll say this: whores.
UPDATED: 4:53 pm PDT May 24, 2005

Tom Cruise is a founding board member of the Hollywood Education Literacy Project, known as H.E.L.P., a community-based literacy and mentoring project providing one-on-one tutoring for students and their families at no cost.

The cause is dear to Tom because he was once diagnosed as dyslexic, a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin and characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

It was a condition he refused to accept. “I hired tutors and things," Tom said. "It just didn’t get better.”

That was until 1986, when Tom discovered the L. Ron Hubbard Scientology Study Tech.

"I always thought there is gonna be a way,” he recalled. “I'm gonna figure this out. And I am gonna fight thru it and I am gonna figure it out and I am gonna make this work.”

Through H.E.L.P., that same learning technology that helped Tom is available to any adult or child at no cost.

According to the technology, having an object you are studying physically in front of you is crucial. This is called “mass” The concept is simple: if you are studying an airplane, have an airplane in front of you if you can.

“Hopefully you get a model, you get pictures,” Tom said.

Or, perhaps, you get the real thing. Because of the technique, Tom mastered flying and today has his pilot’s license.

But his proudest achievement is helping others who may be similarly troubled by a lack of literacy.

“It is definitely the most satisfying feeling ever,” Tom said. “Because I look at these faces and I see these children and adults come in here and you see them change before your eyes. They're learning how to read! But beyond that, they're getting these tools that are going to forever put them in a position where they know that they can learn anything.”

To watch video footage of Tom and Billy at the H.E.L.P. center, plus more from our exclusive interview, click here!
Yep, it's no cult, it's completely legit. I apologize to whores everywhere, by the way, for the association.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

5/24/2005 10:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Total 424,974
Average Per Day 562
Average Visit Length 0:57
Last Hour 124
Today 8,557
This Week 3,932


Total 572,685
Average Per Day 714
Average Per Visit 1.3
Last Hour 150
Today 10,578
This Week 5,000
Possibly the best day yet, if we're talking just about blog count numbers. I'm not sure. Up there, anyway.

Needless to say it was links from others that did this. Thanks, all.

5/24/2005 08:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I CAN'T RECALL the last time the House of Representatives passed something I applauded, by this point. A shame there looks to be no chance of sustaining a veto, but as John Cole (whom everyone should be reading these days) said, quoting, yes, Glenn Reynolds about G. W. Bush:
All the other lousy bills they've passed, and this is the first one he'll veto?
We'll see if he does, of course.

Read The Rest Scale: it's the bill over-turning Bush's stem-cell research ban; there's not actually all that much more to it, so do as thou interest dictates.

5/24/2005 07:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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WHAT ZED SAID. Robert Sheckley can use help.

Donate here. See Zed's post for links to some of the innumerable wonderful stories he's given us for so many decades.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

5/24/2005 07:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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NAVEL. NAVEL, NAVEL, NAVEL. Heh. Moved up to #16, above such uninfluential blogs as TalkLeft and The Washington Monthly, and just under Crooked Timber. Heady.

Also up to #73 in the "Top Blogs" list (as measured by how many blogs link), more than, say, kausfiles, or Jack Balkin. (That last probably isn't right, in the "shouldn't be" sense, by the bye; I don't mind in the least topping Kaus, though.)

Of course, none of this is to be confused with numbers of readers, particularly regular readers. (Although I'll probably give in and post today's numbers when they turn over at 10 p.m. Rocky Mountain Time, since it's been a Good Day, thanks to the Force, and I so enjoy a good gloat. With a pony. [Could be better if a Certain Blogger follows up his e-mail from yesterday morning].)

(I don't delude myself I actually have real "influence" over anything significant, if you're wondering: no.)

5/24/2005 04:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WILD KINGDOM. Without checking, I'm sure Cory Doctorow has gotten to this, but nonetheless:
Every once in a while, you read something in a magazine that just makes you feel better about the whole wide world. The premiere issue of the reborn Radar magazine contains just such a story.

It's called "Wild Kingdom," and it reveals the deliciously tawdry goings-on among the "long-suffering, hard-drinking, cross-dressing" folks who play Goofy and Pluto and Cinderella at Disney World.

As an American parent coerced by hype-induced prepubescent whining to cart my kids to Orlando's money-sucking happiness machine, I'm delighted to report that when some of these "cast members" finish a hard day of hugging your drippy-nosed rugrats, they just can't wait to get stoned out of their minds and have kinky sex.


"Trevor Allen, a former Disneyland Pluto who wrote a play called 'Working for the Mouse,' relates an incident when Winnie the Pooh dropped acid, went on set, literally tripped, and rolled down a flight of stairs onto Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A."

Surely, nobody who reads that sentence could fail to believe in a just and righteous God. Besides, you've gotta love a story that quotes people identified as "one former Pluto" or a "former Mickey and Minnie."

At one point in the article, a "former Minnie Mouse" named Susan Santamauro recounts the tale of a crew of costumed characters riding in a van to a breakfast appearance at Disney's Polynesian Resort when suddenly Goofy and Pluto started to . . . well, we can't report exactly what Goofy and Pluto did because this is a family newspaper.
The magazine's page is here, in case you're wondering. Dan Radosh examines the important question of the nipple slip here, which seems like a typical article. Didn't see the Disney piece on a quick glance, though.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 for a bit more.

5/24/2005 03:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW TO SUCCEED AT EDUCATION. Robert Kaiser pays attention to the Finnish way. Bunch of damn socialists, if you ask me. The fact that they're at the top of pretty much every world ranking is obviously either a conspiracy or a hoax. What else could explain it?

(Yes, they have a different culture and circumstances then the U.S. does; please don't feel obligated to point this out to me.)

One factor: no testing. Another: trying to keep it fun. Slackers! Save for those darn rankings and -- what's the technical term? Oh, yes -- "results."

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 if interested in learning.

5/24/2005 02:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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POGO! I need say no more, need I?

Read The Rest unless you has met the enemy, and he is you.

5/24/2005 11:39:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SINGULAR. Charlie Stross has created A Tough Guide To The Singularity, a wiki site for those coming anew and fresh to the concept.

Read The Rest Before You Become God-like, but need some advance preparation. Charlie usually blogs here, and a fine job he does, particularly with news about his own writing.

5/24/2005 11:34:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FEELING UNSERENE? If you have cable tv and are in the US, and don't have the Firefly DVD, but would like to, be happy:
The Sci Fi Channel has landed the repeat rights to all 15 hours of the short-lived FOX series (and basis of the upcoming "Serenity" feature film). The network's July schedule lists the series as joining its Friday lineup on July 22 at 7:00/6:00c where it will precede original episodes of "Stargate SG-1," "Stargate Atlantis" and "Battlestar Galactica."
Now all I need is cable tv.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

5/24/2005 10:06:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE SITH SENSE. You got it? (Warning: Flash download.)

Play Twenty Questions with the living, breathing, Darth Vader! Did I mention "breathing"?

Play The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for SW fans or you're looking for a few minutes amusement. Not your standard boring text-only quiz.

5/24/2005 10:02:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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GRAY LADY NOTICES SCIENCE FICTION MUSEUM here. Too bad they call Star Wars "science fiction," rather than the science fantasy (Leigh Brackett style) space opera that it is.

In the end, the article pro-museum, though:
But the passion and homage are welcome. For science fiction may really aspire to be more like history than fantasy, not because it aspires to be true, but because it aspires to know what could possibly be true.

So histories of the future really deserve a museum, if only to suggest where they might go next.
No mention of fandom or the history thereof, though.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 if interested. I'm feeling too lazy to link to past posts on the Museum, but you can try the search function on the sidebar if you like.

5/24/2005 09:30:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S HARD TO BE THE MAJORITY. The big tent frays:
John M. Engler, the former Republican governor of Michigan who now heads the National Association of Manufacturers, vowed before the November elections to use his trade association's might to back President Bush's judicial nominees. But as the Senate showdown approaches, the business group is delivering a different message: Judges are not its fight.

NAM's decision to sit out the brawl may be indicative of a broader trend. From Wall Street to Main Street, the small-government, pro-business mainstay of the Republican Party appears to be growing disaffected with a party it sees as focused on social issues at its expense.

"I'm inclined to support the Republican Party, but the question becomes, how much other stuff do I have to put up with to maintain that identification?" asked Andrew A. Samwick, a Dartmouth College economics professor who until recently was chief economist of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

"I don't know a single business group involved in the judicial nominees," said R. Bruce Josten, an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Nada, none, zip."


But since then, it has become clear the judicial showdown could doom initiatives on taxes, legal liability protections, Social Security and other priorities. Last week, NAM spokesman Darren McKinney said not only would the group stay out of the fight, but "we hope that leveler heads prevail" before the confrontation virtually shuts down the Senate.

Mark A. Bloomfield, whose business-backed American Council for Capital Formation pushes for lower taxes on savings, investment and inheritances, said the business community is no longer the GOP's base.

For social conservatives, the turnabout is fair play. Evangelical Christians had grown leery of a Republican Party that courted their interests in election years, then turned its legislative attention to business and economic concerns as soon as the polls closed, said Gary L. Bauer, a former presidential candidate and president of American Values, a conservative religious advocacy group.


In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week, 57 percent of the people polled said Bush had different priorities for the country from their own. Only 35 percent said he shared their priorities. The poll found the president's approval rating at 47 percent, but Congress's rating stood at just 33 percent. Among Republicans, approval of Congress's performance has dropped 11 percentage points since April.
If you're wondering my stance on the Great Filibuster Battle, I make a bit of an effort to limit my blogging on front page issues and articles I assume you read plenty about elsewhere. But I've had plenty to say on the Filibuster recently in innumerable comments at Obsidian Wings, a generally sensible site where folks from across the political spectrum comment, as well as bloggers such as the god-like Hilzoy; I've specifically commented on the filibuster many times in threads such as this and this, and this.

My verdict: immediate return question would have to be "what was the practical alternative"? If it meant the elimination of the judicial filibuster, including for the expected SCOTUS nominee(s) after the term ends June 27th, would that be a victory?

Armistice is sometimes the only dish on the menu.


I like page 2, although, of course, what 14 Senators "believe" and "encourage" doesn't matter very much.

But I welcome anything resembling any show of sanity on this.


Oh, yes, this is good. I particularly like this part: "You entered into an agreement with a Klansman, a drunk machine hack and a party bag man. You are the Neville Chamberlain of my generation."

Plus links to Malkin and Powerline.

They're this pissed off: it must be a good deal!

I kid about my reasoning. But I'll take a little schandefreude. Read the whole thing. Oh, and don't miss where he calls Frist a "hamster."


I'll take Richard Russell's advice on Vietnam, and declare victory and go home.


Bob, it might be that this is the Battle of the Coral Sea for the Democrats/Republicans (quote for those not up on military history):

On the face of it, the Battle of the Coral Sea appeared to be a victory for the Japanese. The Imperial Navy had sunk one American fleet carrier and damaged another, sunk an oiler and a destroyer, while losing only Shoho and a large number of planes, and suffering severe damage to Shokaku and enough damage to Zuikaku to keep both out of the war for several months. It was a tactical victory for the Imperial forces. However, the battle was a strategic victory for the Americans. The Coral Sea meant the end of Japanese expansion southward. They would never again threaten Australia and New Zealand.

(Hey, incidentally, 18 years ago I was editorial assistant on Edwin Hoyt's book, "Battle of the Coral Sea," accomplishing such thrilling tasks as putting the pictures in the insert into an order and writing captions, writing endmatter, and lightly line-editing the book and cover matter. :-))
Meanwhile, die-harders on both sides invoke Chamberlain. Ah, a visit to the borders of Godwin-land. The Coral Sea analogy is surely an optimistic thought, of course, and not a prediction. But I really don't think a better alternative to this agreement was available.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

5/24/2005 09:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IDIOTS, they are.
Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after apparently trying to make light sabres by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.

A man, aged 20, and a girl of 17 are believed to have been filming a mock duel when they poured fuel into two glass tubes and lit it.

The pair were rushed to hospital after one of the devices exploded in woodland at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

A third person present at the incident had been questioned, police said.

Videotape found

A videotape was found nearby by police called to the scene on Sunday.

A police spokeswoman said the pair were taken to West Herts Hospital before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, in Essex.

They are both said to be in a critical condition.
Sad. Particularly sad when people do such harm out of sheer stupidity.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5 if you want another 'graph.

5/24/2005 08:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, May 23, 2005
BUT I'M STILL GOING TO BUILD MY BLACK HOLE. I call it a blog! Ahahahahahaha! Wormhole 'no use' for time travel.
But the idea of building these so-called traversable wormholes is looking increasingly shaky, according to two new scientific analyses.


But according to a new study by Stephen Hsu and Roman Buniy, of the University of Oregon, US, this method of building a traversable wormhole may be fatally flawed. In a paper published on the arXiv pre-print server, the authors looked at a kind of wormhole in which the space-time "tube" shows only weak deviations from the laws of classical physics.


Calculations by the Oregon researchers show a wormhole that combines exotic matter with semi-classical space-time would be fundamentally unstable.

This result relies in part on a previous paper in which Hsu and Buniy argued that systems which violate a physical principle known as the null energy condition become unstable.

"We aren't saying you can't build a wormhole. But the ones you would like to build - the predictable ones where you can say Mr Spock will land in New York at 2pm on this day - those look like they will fall apart," Dr Hsu said.


A separate study by Chris Fewster, of the University of York, UK, and Thomas Roman, of Central Connecticut State University, US, takes a different approach to tackling the question of wormholes.

Amongst other things, their analysis deals with the proposal that wormhole throats could be kept open using arbitrarily small amounts of exotic matter.

Fewster and Roman calculated that, even if it were possible to build such a wormhole, its throat would probably be too small for time travel.

It might - in theory - be possible to carefully fine-tune the geometry of the wormhole so that the wormhole throat became big enough for a person to fit through, says Fewster.

But building a wormhole with a throat radius big enough to just fit a proton would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 30. A human-sized wormhole would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 60.

"Frankly no engineer is going to be able to do that," said the York researcher.

The authors are currently preparing a manuscript for publication.

Supporting view

However, there is still support for the idea of traversable wormholes in the scientific community. One physicist told BBC News they could see problems with Hsu's and Buniy's conclusions.

"Violations of the null energy condition are known to occur in a number of situations. And their argument would prohibit any violation of it," they commented.

"If that's true, then don't worry about Hawking radiation from a black hole; the entire black hole vacuum becomes unstable."

The underlying physics was not in doubt, the researcher argued. The real challenge was in explaining how to engineer wormholes big enough to be of practical use.
Details! I'm a big picture guy!

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a tad more background if you need it.

5/23/2005 10:32:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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PAT BUCHANAN REVEALS HIS WISDOM. As not-promised here, what Pat Buchanan said about Newsweek:
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me speak to this. I don't care whether it's true or false. This report is seditious. Putting this thing out there means American guys are greater at risk. It jeopardizes the cause for which people are fighting. Things like this took place in World War I. Eugene Debs went to prison. This undermines the war. I don't care whether it's true --

MS. CLIFT: Was reporting about Abu Ghraib also seditious?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's no doubt, you're exactly right, it did. But to put that thing in there, Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: This is nothing compared --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your point, Pat? I don't get the point. Let Pat finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Whether true or false, you do not publish something like that when your country is at war, which incites --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of nonsense is that?

MR. BUCHANAN: It incites and inflames the whole Muslim world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we don't do anything on Abu Ghraib either?

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, you've got a billion Muslims in the world. You antagonize, alienate and inflame them with a report like this. For what? What benefit? MR. PRESS: You want to muzzle --

MR. BUCHANAN: What benefit?

MR. PRESS: You want to muzzle the press, and that is wrong.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. PRESS: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram -- it ought to be reported, because it's wrong.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: In retracting the story, did Newsweek do the right thing? Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Of course, they did. But they should never have published it.


MS. CLIFT: They did the right thing in retracting the story. But Newsweek, like every other publication, is going to continue reporting on the conduct of the war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony Blankley.

MR. BLANKLEY: Not being able to support it, they were obliged to retract it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They weren't obliged at all. They didn't have to retract it. They could have ridden it out.

MR. BLANKLEY: If a news organization admits they're wrong -- that's why we all have correction boxes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, they were under no obligation to retract it.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, you asked me my opinion. I said they are.

MR. PRESS: I think they caved too fast.


MR. PRESS: I do. I don't think they should have retracted. They should have stuck to their guns and they should have sent somebody down there to find out the truth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Newsweek would have been justified in maintaining their original standing on this subject. However, it was patriotic to do what they did.
As "Father John" said: "What kind of nonsense is that?" The answer, of course, is Pat Buchanan-type nonsense!

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 if you want the earlier part of the discussion, pre-Pat, unless you want to read the other segments, which are disposable.

ADDENDUM: More "treason" unearthed, this time by a Congressman:
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., takes issue with remarks on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, first aired May 13, in which Maher points out the Army missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent in April.

``More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club,'' Maher said. ``We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies.''

Army Reserve Pfc. England was accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

``I think it borders on treason,'' Bachus said. ``In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country.''
Good to see the GOP returning to its grand traditions in the Fifties, save that then, the President, although wishy-washy for a long time, eventually, finally, after others wounded the beast, failed to support Senator Joe McCarthy. This Admin, however, tells people to watch what they say, watch what they do.

ADDENDUM: Having seen this on Friday, I should emphasize that when McLaughlin uttered his "What sort of nonsense is this?" line, he exploded (figuratively) when he uttered it, shouting: "What sort of nonsense IS this?"

5/23/2005 09:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE AGENDA. Jim Henley unloads on the pseudo "neolibertarians":
This is the agenda self-styled neolibertarians end up advancing. I don’t believe they mean to, but when they decide that “the war comes first” and worry more about being anti-left than anti-state, when they oppose torture in the abstract but Democratic-Party opposition to torture in practice, they become volunteer auxiliaries of an expansive notion of the government’s police power.

I am leaving aside the entirely justifiable conclusion that what Hewitt calls “anti-Christian” reporting includes skeptical coverage of attempts to use state power to give the beliefs of certain Christian sects the force of law.

This is why neolibertarianism is not “realistic” if one defines “realistic” as “having a sober appreciation of how to attain libertarian goals.” Three and a half years after the atrocities of September 11, the government pushes for yet further expansion of its internal security powers. It wages the drug war more zealously than ever - early dreams that since “everything changed” on that day, our rulers would reprioritize resources away from its cruel and impossible attempt to thwart the age-old human desire to recreationally alter consciousness have been dashed. Instead the government targets the sick and their healers with unprecedented zeal. It’s not that most neolibertarians have gone along with these mendacities. Rather, nobody in power cares what they think about them. When they play their parts and savage Newsweek or CBS News or amplify Presidential campaign talking points, they get indulgent pats on the head from the real powers-that-be. When they hem and haw about the demonization of gays, or the ruin of lives by the DEA or the capriciousness of airline security, they are ignored. For all that some neos sneer at the ineffectual “half percent” of libertarians who decline to work within the Republican coalition, they themselves have neither achieved nor look to achieve anything beyond fitfully effective volunteer public relations for the State. In wrestling terms, they are marks who think they are smarts.
Hey, I got nothing to add.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

5/23/2005 09:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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24 BLOGGING. "Don't bother to trace the call; it's scrambled."

Kewl. Who knew you could scramble one side of a phone conversation, and have no trouble being understood?

5/23/2005 06:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE INSANITY is pointed out by the sensible Reid Stott, regarding this:
Speaking to 280 fellow soldiers before they boarded a chartered DC-10 at the start of their marathon flight from Savannah to Kuwait City earlier this week, King was thunderous, blunt and well armed with an M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder.


King, who in civilian life is the Doraville police chief, rolled his eyes at the FAA regulation that requires soldiers — all of whom were armed with an arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and pistols — to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters.

"If you have any of those things," he said, almost apologetically, "put them in this box now."
Because a rule is a rule.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

5/23/2005 05:25:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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XERO. While it's still available for sale, and still a current Hugo nominee, I'm finally getting around to plugging The Best Of Xero.
From its modest beginnings to a 1963 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, Xero was a fascinating and often controversial convergence of writers, artists, and a burgeoning fan community. Collected here from Pat & Dick Lupoff's legendary fanzine Xero are an array of excellent essays, memoirs, and ongoing debates on science fiction, mysteries, comic books and popular culture, as well as the revolving letters of comment (locs) that are virtual forerunners of the Internet.

Highlights of The Best of Xero include Harlan Ellison’s prescient take on the movie Psycho; Donald Westlake's humorous denouncement of the science fiction field; James Blish's nostalgic look back to his scriptwriting stint for the Captain Video serial, Lin Carter's hilarious parody of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels; and Don Thompson’s detailed analysis -- of the origins of ultra-powerful and mysterious comic book heroes Dr. Fate and The Spectre. The Best of Xero also features original comics and illustrations from Xero and an introduction by film critic and Xero contributor Roger Ebert.


"We live in the world that fandom made, and Xero helped invent fandom as we know it. This collection is a delight: nostalgic, poignant, informative, still provocative, and still, above all, a reliable source of fun."
-Michael Chabon, award-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Summerland.

Fandom grew out of and fed a world-view that was dubious of received opinion, sarcastic, anarchic, geeky before that was fashionable. In those years it was heretical to take comic books or “Captain Video” seriously. Pop culture was not yet an academic subject.... For that matter, we were online before there was online . . . fanzines were web pages before there was a web, and locs were message threads and bulletin boards before there was cyberspace. Someday an academic will write a study proving that the style, tone and much of the language of the online world developed in a direct linear fashion from science fiction fandom--not to mention the unorthodox incorporation of ersatz letters and numbers in spelling, later to influence the naming of computer companies and programs. Fanzines acted uncannily like mimeographed versions of Usenet groups, forums, message boards and Web pages -- even to such universal design strategies as IYGTFUI (If You've Got the Font, Use It).
-Roger Ebert
I used to have a complete run, until it was lost with so many other classics in the fire that burned most of my apartment building in 1991, sigh. I've not seen an issue since, nor this collection (feel free to send me one), but it was certainly Very Fine Indeed.

Roger was an active fan for a time in the Fifties, in case you didn't know, back in his high school and college days, when active science fiction fans numbered a couple of hundred people in the US and another couple of hundred around the world, max. I also used to have a (photocopied) copy of one of his zines from those days, and also a number of other fanzines with stuff by him, as well as a picture of him at a Midwestcon in the Fifties showing him with a lampshade over his head, taken by Bob Tucker. Of course, you'd have to take my or his word that the guy under the lampshade was him. What cards they were!

Buy The Rest if you have an interest in this sort of thing while you can; I'm sure there wasn't a very large printing. You can also find, by now, most of the nominated short fiction Hugo work fully online at the above Hugo nominee link, by the way, as is now traditional, if you'd like to get a glance at the current field.

5/23/2005 03:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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UN PEACEKEEPERS are both keeping more and less peace lately by kicking more ass.
It is most obvious in Congo, which commands by far the largest deployment of United Nations troops in the world. Peacekeepers in armored personnel carriers, facing enemy sniper attacks as they lumber through rugged dirt paths in the eastern Ituri region, are returning fire. Attack helicopters swoop down over the trees in search of tribal fighters. And peacekeepers are surrounding villages in militia strongholds and searching hut by hut for guns.

"The ghost of Rwanda lies very heavily over how the U.N. and the Security Council have chosen to deal with Ituri," said David Harland, a top official at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York.

A turning point came in 2000 after rebels in Sierra Leone killed some peacekeepers and took hundreds more hostage. The United Nations commissioned a review, headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, which called for troops to be deployed more rapidly in peace enforcement operations. "No amount of good intentions can substitute for the fundamental ability to project credible force," the so-called Brahimi Report said.

Recently a commander in eastern Congo, a Bangladeshi colonel named Hussain Mahmud Choudhury, pointed at a huge map in his office in Bunia, the regional capital, to show a reporter where his troops had been chasing the militias. "Here, here, here," he said, banging on the map.

"If we hear they are somewhere, we move in," he said. "We don't get them all the time, but they have to run. Their morale is shattered, and from a military point of view, that is everything."

The peacekeepers in Haiti, as well, are using Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which allows them to protect their soldiers or innocent civilians by using force. Peace missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Burundi and Ivory Coast - each with its own rules of engagement - have also moved well beyond the traditional notion of peacekeeping in which blue helmets occupy a neutral zone between former combatants.
It's easy to applaud this as good, and, in fact, I do.

But it's also important to realize that the more UN forces are drawn into waging war to defend innocent people and hunt out and seek those who would harm them -- and they should!; they should! -- the more the UN not just risks, but becomes further drawn into local wars, civil or otherwise, and this will mean more and more support for UN fighting forces, and more and more establishment of more permanent UN fighting forces. This, too, is good, but we also need to build both the formal mechanisms for it, such as a standing UN military peace-keeping force, integrated with political negotiators, logistics, and humanitarian aid efforts. All this needs to be done in the context of UN political reform, increased coordination of a Democracy Bloc, and changes in the mechanisms of the Security Council and General Assembly.

A tall order, but inevitably necessary, sooner or later, and better sooner, as we should move faster and faster to intervene far more strongly in hellholes such as Darfur, the Congo, and the Congo region. Let "never again" mean something.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

5/23/2005 09:33:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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