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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
IT SEEMS THAT TED RALL is more offended at mothers whose kids join the military than he is with President Bush's war. Counter-point: will more right-wingers tend to be interested in condemning Rall or C***Y S*****N?

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5.

8/31/2005 06:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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IF YOU'RE MISSING A LOVED ONE, you're highly unlikely to be reading this. But maybe someone you know has someone s/he knows who is trying to find out about someone in the Katrina disaster zone.

So spread the word about the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network. If you can't reach someone in the disaster zone, you can go here, and enter the information, and it will be transmitted by emergency ham radio network to hams inside the zone, and added to a list, and if word comes back, it will be passed back to you.

Something to let folks know about, if you have a blog.

8/31/2005 05:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I'M SO GLAD WE CLEARED THAT UP. In Memoir, Jesse Helms Says He Was No Racist.

Read The Rest Scale: nah; 2 out of 5; I just wanted to mock that bit of non-news. Now, if he had gone the other way....

8/31/2005 03:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Notebook by Caitlin Moran
AS THE ESTEEMED Alan Coren once pointed out — possibly on this particular inch of newspaper, certainly in this typeface, but probably not while wearing this pleasant summer frock with the pink roses on the straps — the Dutch divide, by and large, into two categories. Round, red-faced, jolly Edams, and the tall, watery, more melancholic Goudas.

I’ve no idea which side of the dairy cabinet Jan Krol hails from — it’s possible he could be of mixed parentage; or one of the new breed of Dutch, with their liberalism, spreadability and chopped chives — but he’s certainly something mature, slightly blue and good with crackers. As chief librarian of Almelo public library in the Twente region of the Netherlands, Krol has introduced a scheme to “lend out”, for 45 minutes at a time, people from minority groups, to discover more about their lives. So far on the books are Gypsies, gay men, asylum-seekers, lesbians, non-criminal drug addicts, Muslims, the handicapped and someone living on benefits in poverty. Krol is looking to add Islamic women in full burka and people who are HIV-positive. All will be available, subject to other commitments, to discuss their lives and beliefs over a coffee in the library’s café.

Clearly this is the kind of eccentrically pleasing idea the Dutch excel in — other instances would be serving beer in pina colada glasses, and roguishly insisting that talking like Stanley Unwin should be an internationally recognised language. Convivial chit-chat is the antibiotic to bigotry’s urinary tract infection — although if you are suffering a genuine urinary tract infection, it is inadvisable to spend 45 minutes drinking coffee on a hard café chair with a Dutch homosexual in an Erasure T-shirt.

However, despite the undeniably laudable reasoning behind the scheme they should be calling “The Public Library, But In A Different Way To How One Usually Understands The Term” — or maybe just “LendyFriendy” — I do foresee a few small problems.
Do they hand-stamp them, d'ya think?

Read The Rest Scale: if you were entertained, you'll want to finish; if not, how do you say in your langauge? -- not.

8/31/2005 03:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Read The Rest Scale: as many buns out of 5 as you burn, er, yearn for.

8/31/2005 01:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ISN'T "KLOTHO" A KLINGON? No, it's a life-extending hormone.
The team genetically engineered mice to produce excess amounts of the hormone. They reported that the genetically engineered males lived 31% longer than normal males, and genetically engineered females lived 19% longer than their normal counterparts.

The team found that the hormone produced its effect by increasing the body's resistance to insulin, a phenomenon that has been shown to correlate with extended lifespan.

Low-calorie diets that prolong life, for example, increase insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is also a symptom of diabetes, but the altered mice were not found to have unusually high levels of glucose in their blood, the primary symptom of the disease.

The hormone is also found in humans, and researchers are beginning to look to see if long-lived people have above-average levels in their blood.
If not, at least we can get more life out of our hamster/mice electrical generators.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

8/31/2005 01:17:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EYES STILL ON THE PRIZE. Excellent news about the very best documentary series on civil rights ever done. It's coming back after all.
The 14-part series, which chronicles the history of the civil rights movement in America, has been blocked from television rebroadcast and DVD release by a thicket of copyright restrictions on the hundreds of photos, music tracks and video clips used in its making.

But thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and a philanthropist's $250,000 donation, the process of re-licensing that material has begun.
Everyone should see both series; I can't count the number of times I rewatched them, back when I had my tapes, albeit supplemented by endless books in years past by David Garrow and Taylor Branch and so many others.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if interested in a bunch more detail.

8/31/2005 01:11:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WORRIED ABOUT PEAK OIL? Fear not! Use hamster power!
Peter Ash, of Lawford, Somerset, attached a generator to his hamster's exercise wheel and connected it to his phone charger.

Elvis does the legwork while Peter charges his phone in an economically and environmentally friendly way.

He came up with the idea after his sister Sarah complained that Elvis was keeping her awake at night by playing for hours on his exercise wheel.

"I thought the wheel could be made to do something useful so I connected a system of gears and a turbine," he said.

"Every two minutes Elvis spends on his wheel gives me about thirty minutes talk time on my phone."
How about using some of the energy people expend on pushing buttons on their phone to send text messages to power it? How about electricity from smushing down springier computer keyboard keys?

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5 unless you want to see the rather blurry picture I decided not to run.

8/31/2005 01:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PRINTING YOUR GUITAR. I last wrote about the Fab Labs here, almost a year ago. So, time for a fresh look:
If you could make anything you wanted, what would it be?

For me, that's not a rhetorical question, because right now I'm staring at my own personal fabricator. It's eMachineShop, an application that produces a physical 3-D copy of almost anything I draw. "You know the machine on Star Trek? The replicator? That's what I was aiming for," says Jim Lewis, the guy who created this tool.

The concept is simple: Boot up your computer and design whatever object you can imagine, press a button to send the CAD file to Lewis' headquarters in New Jersey, and two or three weeks later he'll FedEx you the physical object. Lewis launched eMachineShop a year and a half ago, and customers are using his service to create engine-block parts for hot rods, gears for home-brew robots, telescope mounts - even special soles for tap dance shoes. "Designing stuff used to be just for experts," Lewis says. "We're bringing it to the masses."


After a week of experimentation, I settle upon my favorite - a curvy, amoeba-like adaptation of a Flying V guitar. I had originally hoped to have it cut out of pine, like a normal guitar body, but when I explore the options for materials, I find that eMachineShop doesn't stock wood thick enough. The software offers me several possibilities, and each time I swap in a new material, it reprices the entire job, down to the penny. In the end, I opt to have a 3-D milling machine carve my design out of a single block of clear acrylic, with unbuffed raw aluminum for the faceplate. A guitar made of metal and Lucite: This is going to look like something beamed down from a UFO. It'll cost $880 for the two parts and take about a week to make them. Then all I have to do is snap them together and bolt on the neck, bridge, and a few electric components.

At 2 in the morning on a Tuesday, I finally hit the Place Order button. My design shoots off to Lewis' farm of roboticized fabrication machines.

I've just printed a guitar.


Later that day, I get a taste of how weirdly transformative this idea is. I'm hanging out with Dan Goldwater - another Squid Labs cofounder - and admiring one of his inventions. It's a pair of plastic gears that sit on a bike pedal and power a tiny generator. As you ride, you can run LED lights or a radio. I tell him I'd love to have a version of it myself. So a couple of Squid Labs guys go over to the laser cutter, pull up the design, and a few minutes later hand me exact copies of Goldwater's gears. Design once, print often. "Pretty cool, eh?" Goldwater grins.
Yes. Wait until a personal fabricator is a common item, in stores, if not your garage.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for at least a skim; Fab Labs are marching on. And, yes, it will start with hideous designs, and the equivalent of *BLINK* everywhere; but that's the way popular design works. Elegant design wins out. Mostly. Meanwhile, Clive Thompson is rocking.

8/31/2005 12:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE DAY AFTER, YOU RESIGN. That's what you do when you can't abort an indefensible policy.
A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.

Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.

The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."
Meanwhile, a lot more women are going to have unwanted pregnancies, and then abortions, which could have been easily prevented with a pill. Congratulations, anti-abortion activists, for a job well done!

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

8/31/2005 12:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE LOOTERS are in force:
Thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.

Looters also chased down a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.

Officials tried to balance security needs with saving lives.

''We're multitasking right now,'' said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. ''Rescue, recovery, stabilization of looting, we're trying to feed the hungry.''

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she has asked the White House to send more people to help with evacuations and rescues, thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.

''We need to free up the National Guard to do security in the city,'' Blanco said.

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by criminals on the street.

The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the gun section at a new Wal-Mart had been cleaned out by looters.

Authorities said an officer was shot in the head and a looter was wounded in a shootout. The officer was expected to survive.

Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sick youngsters and waited in vain for help to arrive as looters tried to break through the locked door, Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher told the newspaper. Neither the police nor the National Guard arrived.

Authorities planned to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.


On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting was in full view of police and National Guardsmen.

The historic French Quarter appeared to have been spared the worst flooding, but its stores were getting the worst of human nature.

''The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked,'' Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. ''We're using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops.''

Sen. Mary Landrieu's helicopter was taking off Tuesday for a flyover of the devastation and she watched as a group of people smashed a window at a gas-station convenience store and jumped in.

At a drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers. Other looters were seen leaving a store with armfuls of tennis shoes and football jerseys.
Looting food and survival equipment (including diapers) is one thing, and understandable; armfuls of tennis shoes, not so much.

475 buses will take upwards of 23,000 people to the Houston Astrodome, where many may live for months. Notable line:
FEMA is preparing to shelter more than a million people if needed.
One hopes it isn't needed.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5, but more for the last two stories.

8/31/2005 11:57:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MIERCOLES. I always find Calvin Trillin on food experiences delightful, and unexcerptable. This time he's in Ecuador, after fanescas.

Read The Rest Scale: give it a little time, and either you'll be charmed or you won't.

8/31/2005 11:35:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TIME FOR THE PENGUIN ON TOP OF YOUR MOON TO EXPLODE. March of a different sort of penguin:
The first lunar colonists may not be a humans but compact robots capable of jumping more than a kilometre in a single bound.

Engineers at US defence contractor Raytheon, in Massachusetts, have developed a robot, dubbed the Lunar Penguin, that could one day bounce across perilous craters and imposing mountains on the Moon's craggy surface using a set of compact rocket boosters.


The robot, in fact, bears no physical resemblance to a real penguin, but looks like a simple, squat, four-legged lunar lander. It is just under 1 metre tall and weighs 104 kilograms.

The design borrows technology from Raytheon's missile systems - the rockets come from a ground-based missile defence system and the guidance system is taken from a Tomahawk cruise missile. Although Raytheon has yet to receive an order to develop the Lunar Penguin further, Seybold says the bot could feasibly be launched as soon as 2009.

"The hopping penguin is an interesting concept," says Max Meerman, a researcher at UK space company Surrey Satellites. "Jumping a mile means that crater edges, like the ones that cause problems for the Mars rovers, are not a big issue."
Of course, landing safely numerous times is a whole 'nother problem. (It was one of the biggest worries of Apollo 11; they simply couldn't be sure what the surface would be like, at all.)

At least they don't have to carry any blubber.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for more tech details, if interested. Sketch the post title came from is here.

8/31/2005 11:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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N'OLA. For a great many years I've noted that New Orleans remained, far and away, the greatest American city I'd not yet visited. I grew up in NYC, and have spent time in Boston, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Portland, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cinncinati, Milwaukee, Madison, Miami, Memphis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Tuscon, New Haven, Kansas City, Providence, Nashville, Albuquerque, Newark, Buffalo, Oakland, Rochester, Charlotte, Sacremento, Spokane, Boise, Tacoma, and more.

But never New Orleans. And I love both creole and cajun food of every kind. I love gumbos and barbeques and jerk ans sausages and shrimp. And baroque architecture, and the Big Easy accent, d'ollin'.

Oh, and I like jazz, and smokey atmospheric places.

I hope I do someday, and it's not too far removed from what it was.

Meanwhile, images we don't associate with America and Americans:
Barefoot women cradling naked, screaming babies limped from a National Guard rescue truck, everything they owned on their backs after 36 hours of watching the floodwaters breach their doors, topple their refrigerators and drive them to the only high ground available - roofs, trees, attics and bridge spans. Behind them, elderly couples in nightgowns and slippers leaned on each other for support as they walked slowly from the helicopter that rescued them. Many clutched garbage bags holding all the possessions they could salvage; many had no more than damp tank tops and shorts clinging to their bodies. Most were hungry, thirsty and alone.

By 11 o'clock, when two schoolbuses from Terrebonne Parish, finished their 50-mile journey to the site, about 200 impatient and desperate refugees swelled toward the buses, some pushing their way in, others banging on the sides of the bus in frustration.
There was a terrible scene of a man on yesterday's tv news (I think it was Fox), weeping as he uttered brief sentences about how he'd lost his grip on his wife in the flood, trying to hold onto their children, as she was swept away, crying out for him to take care of the children.

Read The Rest as you want to take in one story after another, or not.

8/31/2005 10:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PEW! The latest Pew poll on religion in America came out yesterday; I was going to wait to comment until I'd read all the fine detail, but that probably won't happen for a while, so I'll note this depressing aspect:
The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
We really are going to go to hell in a handbasket with such foolish people.
[...] More of those who believe in creationism said they were "very certain" of their views (63 percent), compared with those who believe in evolution (32 percent).

The poll also asked about religion and politics, government financing of religious charities, and gay men and lesbians in the military. Most of these questions were asked of a smaller pool of 1,000 respondents, and the margin of error was 2.5 percentage points, Pew researchers said.

The public's impression of the Democratic Party has changed in the last year, the survey found. Only 29 percent of respondents said they viewed Democrats as being "friendly toward religion," down from 40 percent in August of 2004. Meanwhile, 55 percent said the Republican Party was friendly toward religion.


Survey respondents agreed in nearly equal numbers that nonreligious liberals had "too much control" over the Democratic Party (44 percent), and that religious conservatives had too much control over the Republican Party (45 percent).

On religion-based charities, two-thirds of respondents favored allowing churches and houses of worship to apply for government financing to provide social services. But support for such financing declined from 75 percent in early 2001, when Mr. Bush rolled out his religion-based initiative.

On gay men and lesbians in the military, 58 percent of those polled said they should be allowed to serve openly, a modest increase from 1994, when 52 percent agreed. Strong opposition has fallen in that time, to 15 percent from 26 percent in 1994.
Full poll here.

Read The Rest Scale: study the full poll as God does or doesn't command you.

8/31/2005 09:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Read The Rest as concerned; at least I can't be sued over comments I don't get. Meanwhile, an Op-Ed says companies shouldn't mind employees blogging about their job. (Which, given the number of bloggers fired for so doing, needs to be said.)

8/31/2005 09:46:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MOMENTS IN VIETNAM. Vietnam holds great allure for me, due to my fascination with it since my childhood and the war; here a good travel piece amuses me throughout. (Although the first line, which I don't quote, is unfortunate for anyone familiar with The Deer Hunter.)
As my husband, Tad, and I sat sipping Vietnamese coffee in the courtyard, nuts from the bang trees above us dropped like bombs onto the stone patio. I asked our waiter, Dinh, a slender young man, if they ever hit people. "Yes," he said, pointing to his forearm and shoulder with a shrug. "One broke a table."

If you're not left unconscious, the Morin's terrace can be quite pleasant....


But for every contented Dinh, we discovered, there is an entrepreneur who won't rest until you buy his wares. The night we arrived, we dined at Lac Thanh, a restaurant that we had heard good things about. The moment our pedicabs - cyclos, as they are called - pulled up out front, we were surrounded by waiters from Lac Thanh, as well as two neighboring restaurants, all of them tugging at our arms and imploring us, "Here! Here!" We stuck to our original plan and were whisked upstairs to a balcony with three tables. The walls were painted a swimming pool green and cluttered with the scribblings of bygone diners.

A very short man approached our table holding out a handful of coins. "Hello, where are you from?" he said.

His voice was quick and boyish and he looked remarkably like Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously." "I have nice coins from Vietnam," he continued, adding that his name was Mr. Coin.

"This is Miss Scarlet, and I am Colonel Mustard," Tad said.

Sensing that there would be no sale, he shuffled off. Next came our waiter, who took our order and then returned - not with the beers we had ordered but with a water buffalo painting he wanted us to buy.

Vietnam thrives on this sort of jack-in-the-box capitalism. The Morin's lobby doubled as a cluttered knick-knack shop where you could buy paintings, T-shirts and jewelry. And in downtown Hue, what appeared to be a women's hair salon turned out to provide full-service massages on the side.

(I discovered this when I stepped inside to ask directions and found myself interrupting a male client's special moment. But he very politely gave us a great restaurant recommendation: Chi Teo on Hai Ba Trung street.)

Once we finally got our beers at Lac Thanh, we began to enjoy the circus. When a large table of Australians arrived, Mr. Lac, the owner, swung into action.

He arranged five beers in a small semi-circle on their table, and attached one of his homemade bottle openers - a slat of wood with a screw protruding from one end - to each. He clapped to command the diners' attention, and then with a karate chop, he whacked the line of bottle openers. All the bottle caps popped off in unison. The Australians whooped and applauded, and Mr. Lac handed everyone a free bottle opener.


When he was 15, he saw Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, pass through the city in a motorcade. Recalling the moment, he said: "People always wondered whether or not he can shoot. Because he's dressed very civilian. He comes from Ford, so we don't know if he can be any good. The Vietnamese think someone from West Point is maybe better."


...some of Hue's nightclubs have names like "Apocalypse New"....


Tu Duc is one of the few emperors who left a postmortem of his job performance. On a large stone table near his tomb, Tu Duc criticizes himself for losing to the French and for lacking a direction. He did build a lovely tomb, though.


As we returned to our car, a man crossing the street was nearly hit by a man on a motor scooter. Dat shook his head. "People who cross the street without thinking or looking, we call them 'poets,' " he said.


I was more charmed by Xuan, a tailor on Hoang Dieu, who simply posted a sign in English, which read: "Stop looking, you've found the most honest, friendly, non-pressuring + accurate craftswoman in Hoi An. Surpassed all expectations with her creative flair. Gucci move aside!!!"


A group of young men wearing T-shirts that said "Netnam" - the Microsoft of Vietnam - crowded in behind us. They were there to pray to Tan Tai Cong, the tycoon deity who determines people's financial future.


I pointed out how handsome the restaurant's lanterns - made of loosely draped rings - were. "They were designed after grenade rings," Dat said, "the kind that soldiers used to hang on their helmets."
I hope I can someday make a trip for a couple of weeks, before it's all too changed.

Read The Rest as interested; I'm afraid I may have quoted all the best parts.

8/31/2005 09:15:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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I DID NOT SO RECEIVE IT; NEITHER WILL I SO IMPART IT. US News & World Report looks at the Masons and their history in the U.S.

A fairly good piece. Special Amygdala bonus: secret handshakes and passwords of an order of Masons.

Read The Rest depending upon your degree of interest. Ahahahaha! See what I did there?

I really must get a copy of my own of The Man Who Would Be King, one of my favorite movies since it was new.

8/31/2005 08:32:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HOW TO KILL 800 PEOPLE WITH A WORD, or why it's illegal to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. Very terrible:
The death toll rose to more than 800 this morning after rumors of a suicide bomber led to a stampede in a vast procession of Shiite pilgrims as they crossed a bridge on their way to a shrine in northern Baghdad.

Most of the dead were crushed or suffocated, witnesses said, but many also fell or jumped into the Tigris River after the panicking crowd broke through the bridge's railings.


Health Minister Abdul-Mutalib Mohammed said on Iraqi television that there were "huge crowds on the bridge and the disaster happened when someone shouted that there is a suicide bomber on the bridge."

"This led to a state of panic among the pilgrims," he said, "and they started pushing each other and there were many case of suffocation."

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

ADDENDUM: It's worse:
"An hour ago the death toll was 695 killed, but we expect it to hit 1,000," Dr Jaseb Latif Ali told Reuters.

Earlier, an Interior Ministry official told Reuters most victims were women and children who "died by drowning or being trampled" after panic swept a throng of thousands as they headed to a religious ceremony, the official said.
Peace be upon them.

8/31/2005 08:23:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005
KATRINA AID. A developments wiki. Info on donating to the Red Cross here. United Way here.

Lots of good links to sites following post-Katrina matters closely here.

8/30/2005 06:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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KATRINA DAMAGE TO SHUTTLE PROGRAM. Another kind of bad news, though nothing compared to the damage done directly to people's lives.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — When Hurricane Katrina roared ashore it blasted the assembly plant for space shuttle external fuel tanks with 125-mile-per-hour winds, dealing yet another setback to America's troubled space program. The plant, called the Michoud Assembly Facility, is located 15 miles from New Orleans' French Quarter. Those who work there lost their homes as well and today it is being suggested that the tanks be repaired and assembled here at Cape Canaveral, the shuttle's launch site.

If the New Orleans plant is indeed down for weeks, and the tanks cannot be repaired elsewhere, the space shuttle fleet could be grounded for more than a year.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

8/30/2005 05:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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WELL, NOW I FEEL LIKE A SCHMUCK for having been so chipper this morning. The reports then made it sound as if we'd wind up with no more badness than a standard bad hurricane. This is far worse, alas.
A day after Katrina ripped through here, city officials announced that they were moving their government out of town, which they said was 80 percent under increasingly contaminated water, and state officials ordered everyone else except emergency workers to evacuate as well.

Electric power was out, phone service was spotty and the supply of food and clean drinking water was dwindling, officials said. Tens of thousands of people were reported in shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi, the states hardest hit by Katrina.

"The situation is untenable," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said at an afternoon news briefing. "It's just heartbreaking." But, she vowed, "we will recover."

Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans said on CNN that his unique and historic city, which had been jarringly transformed overnight, was "in a state of devastation."

"We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Mr. Nagin said, according to The Associated Press. "They're just pushing them on the side."

Gas fires were erupting throughout the city, looters were raiding abandoned businesses downtown, hospitals were making plans to airlift critically ill patients to other cities, numerous roadways were buckled, and residents who had tried to ride out the storm were frantically waving for rescue from their rooftops. A spokesman for the Coast Guard said that more than 1,200 people had been taken to safety by boat and helicopter on Monday and "thousands today."
This is just awful.

Read The Rest Scale: I'm sure you know.

ADDENDUM: Along with the looting, the flooding, the trapped people, the people being evacuated, the dead body in the street, and everything else, NBC just showed, good lord, a horde of people on a toweringly high elevated highway, seeking safe high ground.

LATER: And an oil tanker on dry land.

8/30/2005 04:34:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CATS IN SINKS. All you need to know, really.

Read The Rest if you want to, you know, see cats. In sinks. (Via Sore Eyes, originally.)

8/30/2005 12:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT WASN'T JUST PRIVATE CITIZENS or Jim Crow in general society. There was endless discrimination in New Deal programs argues Ira Katznelson in WHEN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION WAS WHITE: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, apparently. He apparently makes the case for considering this when considering affirmative action. I'd like to read the book, but the summary here is interesting enough, and plausible on its face, to me.
He contends that those programs not only discriminated against blacks, but actually contributed to widening the gap between white and black Americans -- judged in terms of educational achievement, quality of jobs and housing, and attainment of higher income. Arguing for the necessity of affirmative action today, Katznelson contends that policy makers and the judiciary previously failed to consider just how unfairly blacks had been treated by the federal government in the 30 years before the civil rights revolution of the 1960's.

This history has been told before, but Katznelson offers a penetrating new analysis, supported by vivid examples and statistics. He examines closely how the federal government discriminated against black citizens as it created and administered the sweeping social programs that provided the vital framework for a vibrant and secure American middle class. Considered revolutionary at the time, the new legislation included the Social Security system, unemployment compensation, the minimum wage, protection of the right of workers to join labor unions and the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Even though blacks benefited to a degree from many of these programs, Katznelson shows how and why they received far less assistance than whites did. He documents the political process by which powerful Southern Congressional barons shaped the programs in discriminatory ways -- as their price for supporting them. (A black newspaper editorial criticized Roosevelt for excluding from the minimum wage law the black women who worked long hours for $4.50 a week at the resort the president frequented in Warm Springs, Ga.)

At the time, most blacks in the labor force were employed in agriculture or as domestic household workers. Members of Congress from the Deep South demanded that those occupations be excluded from the minimum wage, Social Security, unemployment insurance and workmen's compensation. When labor unions scored initial victories in organizing poor factory workers in the South after World War II, the Southern Congressional leaders spearheaded legislation to cripple those efforts. The Southerners' principal objective, Katznelson contends, was to safeguard the racist economic and social order known as the Southern ''way of life.''

Katznelson reserves his harshest criticism for the unfair application of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, a series of programs that poured $95 billion into expanding opportunity for soldiers returning from World War II. Over all, the G.I. Bill was a dramatic success, helping 16 million veterans attend college, receive job training, start businesses and purchase their first homes. Half a century later, President Clinton praised the G.I. Bill as ''the best deal ever made by Uncle Sam,'' and said it ''helped to unleash a prosperity never before known.''

But Katznelson demonstrates that African-American veterans received significantly less help from the G.I. Bill than their white counterparts. ''Written under Southern auspices,'' he reports, ''the law was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow.'' He cites one 1940's study that concluded it was ''as though the G.I. Bill had been earmarked 'For White Veterans Only.' '' Southern Congressional leaders made certain that the programs were directed not by Washington but by local white officials, businessmen, bankers and college administrators who would honor past practices. As a result, thousands of black veterans in the South -- and the North as well -- were denied housing and business loans, as well as admission to whites-only colleges and universities. They were also excluded from job-training programs for careers in promising new fields like radio and electrical work, commercial photography and mechanics. Instead, most African-Americans were channeled toward traditional, low-paying ''black jobs'' and small black colleges, which were pitifully underfinanced and ill equipped to meet the needs of a surging enrollment of returning soldiers.

The statistics on disparate treatment are staggering. By October 1946, 6,500 former soldiers had been placed in nonfarm jobs by the employment service in Mississippi; 86 percent of the skilled and semiskilled jobs were filled by whites, 92 percent of the unskilled ones by blacks. In New York and northern New Jersey, ''fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the G.I. Bill supported home purchases by nonwhites.'' Discrimination continued as well in elite Northern colleges. The University of Pennsylvania, along with Columbia the least discriminatory of the Ivy League colleges, enrolled only 46 black students in its student body of 9,000 in 1946. The traditional black colleges did not have places for an estimated 70,000 black veterans in 1947. At the same time, white universities were doubling their enrollments and prospering with the infusion of public and private funds, and of students with their G.I. benefits.

Katznelson argues that the case for affirmative action today is made more effectively by citing concrete history rather than through general exhortations.
Fair enough.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

8/30/2005 11:20:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DON'T KNOW ANY WRITERS, but want your name in a popular work by a favorite writer? Help is available!
Have you ever wanted to be in a Stephen King book? (You must be female in order to die, though.)

Stephen King

What he's offering:
"One (and only one) character name in a novel called CELL, which is now in work and which will appear in either 2006 or 2007. Buyer should be aware that CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I'll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don't give a rip)."

When you can bid:
September 8-18
Or you can bid to be in a book by Lemony Snicket, or any of the following:
September 1-10: Michael Chabon, Amy Tan, Peter Straub, Andrew Sean Greer, Karen Joy Fowler

September 8-18: Stephen King, Lemony Snicket, Dorothy Allison, Jonathan Lethem, Ayelet Waldman

September 15-25: John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman, Dave Eggers, Rick Moody, ZZ Packer
Details at Neil's post or here. All for the First Amendment Project.

Read The Rest as interested, and bloggers, pass it on.

8/30/2005 10:58:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WELCOME TO AMERICA! I didn't get to this wonderful policy earlier in the month:
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.
Isn't that just peachy? It's sure to increase tourism and talented foreigners eager for work and study in the U.S., don't you think?
[...] The case is the first civil suit to challenge the practice known as "extraordinary rendition," in which terror suspects have been transferred for questioning to countries known for torture.

After considering legal briefs, Judge David G. Trager of United States District Court prepared several written questions for lawyers on both sides to address further, including one that focused pointedly on Mr. Arar's accusations of illegal treatment in New York. He says he was deprived of sleep and food and was coercively interrogated for days at the airport and at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn when he was not allowed to call a lawyer, his family or the Canadian consul.

"Would not such treatment of a detainee - in any context, criminal, civil, immigration or otherwise - violate both the Constitution and clearly established case law?" Judge Trager asked.

The reply by Mary Mason, a senior trial lawyer for the government, was that it would not. Legally, she said, anyone who presents a foreign passport at an American airport, even to make a connecting flight to another country, is seeking admission to the United States. If the government decides that the passenger is an "inadmissible alien," he remains legally outside the United States - and outside the reach of the Constitution - even if he is being held in a Brooklyn jail.

Even if they are wrongly or illegally designated inadmissible, the government's papers say, such aliens have at most a right against "gross physical abuse."


But David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University who argued on behalf of Mr. Arar and the Center for Constitutional Rights, contended that the government had denied Mr. Arar a meaningful chance to be heard, first by refusing to let him call a lawyer, and later by lying to the lawyer about his whereabouts.
But, hey, that's just fine! Because it's fighting terrorism.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 for the appallment.

8/30/2005 10:54:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S A FRIGHTENING DAY WHEN Cal Thomas is a voice of reason.

Read The Rest for him slapping Pat Robertson and tv preachers, and people who send them money, upside the head for lack of Christian virtue.

8/30/2005 10:50:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IN YOUR FACE, PAKISTAN. India continues to play the Afghanistan card.
India is among Afghanistan's top donor nations -- it has pledged aid of about $500 million so far -- and holds sway over Northern Alliance groups that helped U.S.-led forces overthrow the Taliban regime.

"Afghanistan is an extremely important country for India," Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said ahead of the visit. "We want Afghanistan to emerge as a democratic, independent, sovereign country fully in mastery of its own destiny."

"We believe that the relationship with India would contribute to that end," he said.

Saran said Singh would announce new aid of about $50 million during his visit and launch projects to help local communities, moving forward from India's involvement so far in mostly infrastructure building.

India is involved in training Afghan armed forces, police and diplomats, building roads, schools, hospitals and power lines, digging wells and supporting trade and services as Afghanistan makes slow progress in recover from two decades of conflict.

Singh is scheduled to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. He is also due to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for a new Afghan parliament building, being built with Indian assistance.

Pakistan, the Taliban's main backer until Islamabad sided with Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has been uneasy about increased Indian influence in Afghanistan since.
Wot. A. Surprise.

There are very few countries, if any, it seems, that wouldn't play power games as a great power, should they have the opportunity. If mid-sized, they merely do what they can. Just saying.

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

8/30/2005 09:52:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I WON'T PUSH MY RELIGION IF YOU WON'T PUSH YOURS. Here's a toast to the host of those Who love the vastness of the sky:
The Air Force issued new religion guidelines to its commanders today that caution against promoting any particular faith - or even "the idea of religion over nonreligion" - in official communications or during meetings, sports events or ceremonies.

The guidelines discourage public prayers at official Air Force events or meetings other than worship services - one of the most contentious issues for many commanders. But the guidelines allow for "a brief nonsectarian prayer" at special ceremonies such as those honoring promotions or in "extraordinary circumstances" such as "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters."
Good. Sounds fine. Now to make sure it's fully understood and enforced, and then more important things can be gotten on with.

Read The Rest Scale: as concerned.

8/30/2005 09:47:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WE'RE ANIMALS. It's been a piece of folklore for $DEITY knows how many millenia that Man Is Above The Animals, not like them in many ways: we use tools, we have morals, we laugh, we learn, we have cultures, and various other claims have long been asserted as to our Unique and Exceptional place. This is, of course, a key tenent of various religious traditions. Another is that only Man engages in the Disgusting Perversion of Homosexuality, which is, as everyone knows, Un-Natural.

But, of course, in recent decades, many of these "facts" have been proven entirely wrong. Hundreds of species of animals engage in homosexual behavior -- "naturally." Animals of all sorts cooperate and act "altruistically."

And, of course, numerous species use tools. And learn, and pass on what they've learned to others. Animals have cultures. Here's some of the latest.
KILLER whales and chimpanzees both pass on "traditions" to other members of their group, according to two separate studies of feeding behaviour. The findings add to evidence that cultural learning is widespread among animals.

One study involved killer whales at Marineland in Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. An inventive male devised a brand new way to catch birds, and passed the strategy on to his tank-mates. The 4-year-old orca lures gulls into his tank by spitting regurgitated fish onto the water's surface. He waits below for a gull to grab the fish, then lunges at it with open jaws. "They are in a way setting a trap," says animal behaviourist Michael Noonan of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, who made the discovery, "They catch three or four gulls this way some days."

Noonan had never seen the behaviour before, despite three years of observations for separate experiments. But a few months after the enterprising male started doing it, Noonan spied the whale's younger half-brother doing the same thing. Soon the brothers' mothers were enjoying feathered snacks, as were a 6-month-old calf and an older male. Noonan presented the research this month at the US Animal Behavior Society meeting in Snowbird, Utah.


Whiten and his colleagues have meanwhile shown in a separate study that when chimpanzees learn a skill from their peers, they tend to stick with that method even if it isn't the most effective. Whiten's team taught two female chimps how to get food from a complicated feeder using a stick to move a barrier. One chimp learned to lift the barrier while the other was taught an apparently more efficient poking method. The chimps' group-mates were then allowed to watch their respective experts at work.

The chimps followed the lead of their own expert chimp - the poker's group preferred to poke and the lifter's group lifted (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature04047).

And even when some lifters learned to poke, the majority reverted to the group's original lifting strategy.

Chimpanzees appear to be capable of communicating using sounds that refer to specific objects, according to a study of sounds made in response to different foods. It is the first time this ability has been demonstrated in chimps.

Primatologist Katie Slocombe of the University of St Andrews, UK, recorded the grunts made by chimps at nearby Edinburgh Zoo as they collected food at two feeders. One dispensed bread, considered a high-quality treat, and the other doled out apples, a much less sought-after snack.

Slocombe then played back the recordings and watched the reactions of a 6-year-old male named Liberius. The results were striking. After hearing a bread grunt, Liberius spent far more time searching around the bread feeder, while an apple grunt would send him hunting under the apple feeder. Slocombe presented the work at the US Animal Behavior Society meeting in Snowbird, Utah, this month.

This is the first convincing evidence of "referential communication" in chimps, says primatologist Amy Pollick of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
I am unsurprised. Now if we can just convince large organizations, such as cable companies, phone companies, computer manufacturers, and Congress, to take up "learning."

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for slightly more detail if you're interested.

8/30/2005 09:38:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, August 29, 2005
THE RIGHT NAMES. One learns with tv not to get one's hopes too high, but still:
The creators of Showtime's upcoming Masters of Horror anthology series told SCI FI Wire that they are developing a second show: Masters of Sci-Fi, which will adapt famous SF stories for TV. Producer Keith Addis said that he hopes to get the show on the air by the fall of 2006, though no network has picked up the idea just yet.

Addis said that the SF anthology will begin by adapting some of the best-known short stories of SF, including works by Harlan Ellison, Robert A. Heinlein, Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (author of Solaris) and Ray Bradbury.

Addis and his partners, Brad Mendelsohn and Andrew Deane, picked stories that fit their budget and that "have the potential to be the most satisfying hours of television that can be produced wonderfully without cutting corners," Addis said. He added: "We really want to do the very best material with as much integrity as humanly possible."

Michael Tolkin (The Player) will adapt Heinlein's "Jerry Was a Man." John Milius (Conan the Barbarian) will rework Lem's "The Hunt." Bradbury will adapt his story "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed." Similarly, Ellison will adapt his short story, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the TicktockMan," Addis said.

For his part, Ellison expressed enthusiasm for the project. "Scripts are, in a hundred ways, more difficult and stylistically [demanding] than a straight story," he said in a separate interview. "It takes a conscious paradigm shift in thinking to adapt something from narrative to visual media. With only a half dozen exceptions in my 40-plus years [in Hollywood], I've never allowed anyone else to stir my porridge. And as far as 'Repent, Harlequin!' is concerned, well, even I consider this gig to be a ball-buster. I wouldn't trust it to anyone else. If anyone should fail at the task, it ought to be me, just to be fair."

Ellison added that he's in the process of signing a contract for the show. "I've turned down half a dozen requests to purchase ['Repent, Harlequin!'], one of which came from Michael Jackson," he said. "But Keith Addis seems to be a straight arrow. He's very smart, which is a wonderful sea change from other people I've worked with who have the intellectual capacity of an edamame bean. So I sort of talked myself into it."
High praise indeed from Harlan. And Tolkin, Milius, Bradbury? You can't do better.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

8/29/2005 06:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IF FOX HAD REPORTED KATRINA AS IF IT WERE IRAQ by Stryker (once known as "Sgt. Stryker"):
So Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast, and the damage in New Orleans doesn’t seem to be as bad as Fox was predicting yesterday. My god, they were going on like the Apocalypse was nigh and New Orleans was about to become the new lost city of Atlantis. The tombs would give up their dead and the Saints would come floating into the Superdome along with tons of raw sewage. New Orleans would become a toxic lake that would take months to drain. 50,000 people would die in the carnage. Terrible winds would pick-up cows and toss them hundreds of miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Illegal aliens would use the hurricane as cover to move millions of their countrymen into the area and steal our jobs. The oil would run out and the nation would have to survive on rudimentary tools and weapons. Society would fall apart and the Iraqi National Guard would have to be called in to restore order. But peddling fear is all Fox does, so I can’t blame them for it. CNN tries to be like Fox, but Aaron Brown’s voice is to annoying to listen to for more than a few seconds, so I tend to watch MSNBC, which has the advantage of not being overly dire nor excessively annoying.

If this had been Iraq, I’m figuring the coverage from Fox would’ve been a bit more positive. Instead of a Killer Monster, this would’ve been a Freedom Hurricane coming to liberate the Gulf Coast from the oppressive tyranny of roofing and electricity. The bloggers would be slamming the MSM for reporting only the negative stories in the Gulf and would post emails from friends in Biloxi telling of a house that was only flooded to the first floor as proof that things weren’t that bad. In the end, the devastation, if it were even aknowledged, would be blamed on the media’s coverage.
As has been said from time to time: heh. It's funny because it's twue.

Read The Rest Scale: 1 out of 5.

8/29/2005 04:46:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT IS HEAD-BANGINGLY STUPID, at least. Here is the line Sally Jenkins should have stuck with:
The sports section would not seem to be a place to discuss intelligent design, the notion that nature shows signs of an intrinsic intelligence too highly organized to be solely the product of evolution.
If only that were the whole piece.

Instead, these gems:
Ever get the feeling that they [athletes] are in touch with something that we aren't? What is that thing? Could it be their random, mutant talent, or could it be evidence of, gulp, intelligent design?
No. "Evidence" is a word that doesn't mean what you think it means.
[...] First, let's get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is a form of sly creationism. It isn't.
Second: it is.
[...] But you don't have to be a creationist to think there might be something to it, or to agree with Johnson when he says, "The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that."
Yes, you do. Yes, it can.
Athletes often talk of feeling an absolute fulfillment of purpose, of something powerful moving through them or in them that is not just the result of training. [...] Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be "making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence." It's fascinating thought.
No, it's meaningless mysticism.
And Schwartz would like to prove it's scientifically justifiable.
Good luck with that.

Read The Rest Scale: bang! bang!

8/29/2005 03:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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With lawmakers facing tough questions at home about the war in Iraq, Senator John W. Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says he intends to summon Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld quickly for a hearing when Congress returns next week.

Mr. Warner, a Virginia Republican who is one of the most important Congressional voices on military policy, said mounting numbers of dead and wounded Americans, the contentious process of drafting an Iraqi constitution and the economic cost of the war were adding up to new anxiety in Congress.
Noting the anxiety level is always a useful measure in politics. There's more details on that, if you like, but it's not essential.

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

8/29/2005 02:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER, so much discussed of late, has made it into the NY Times, along with a mention and live link to, which may have given it the most .net publicity.

I'd have more fun with this if I'd not gone through so many Silly Religions in my lifetime, from Foo-foo to Ghu-Ghu, Roscoe, Herbie, The Great Spider, SubGenius, and so on, but that's just me. You go enjoy. And wear your galoshes.

Read The Rest Scale: as interested in parody religions, or parodying Intelligent Design.

8/29/2005 02:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SO WHAT'S NEW ABOUT THAT? That's what people will be saying in a few months, but today this is new (except for you guys who already heard).
A New York stock clerk who had his camera phone swiped from his car this month says he was able to peer into the life of the gadget's new owner. The thief evidently didn't realize the copious photos and videos he was taking with the hot phone were accessible through a web account.

John Clennan, 23, says someone rummaged through his unlocked car while he was working the nightshift at a Long Island convenience store earlier this month. Several days later Clennan realized his Sanyo 5500 was missing from the vehicle, and he called service provider Sprint PCS to have the service cut off.

Because the camera phone can only hold a limited number of images, Sprint lets subscribers upload photos from the device to a web account. "I decided to go and check out the web space and see if there were any pictures uploaded to it, and he had taken almost 40 pictures and five movies and uploaded them all," says Clennan.

Most of the images show the same young man, flexing for the camera in various states of dress, kissing a young woman, posing with apparent friends and family members, and generally having a good time with a new toy.

When Clennan checked the account's e-mail outbox, he found the new owner had forwarded some of the photos to a particular Yahoo e-mail account.

Clennan sent his own message: "Like to steal cell phones and use them to take pics of yourself and make videos.... HA! (G)uess what pal ... (I) have every pic you took and the videos. I will be plastering the town with pics of your face."
There were a bunch of further developments from there. The detective laughed.
It was totally my fault. But after seeing how stupid this guy was, he just had to be caught.
Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 if you like. Yes, I know, I'm always the last to hear about it.

8/29/2005 01:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I FUCKING MUST POST. Where you live isn't work-safe.
LONDON, (AFP) - British tourists have left the residents of one charming Austrian village effing and blinding by constantly stealing the signs for their oddly-named village.

While British visitors are finding it hilarious, the residents of F---ing are failing to see the funny side, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.

Only one kind of crimimal ever stalks the sleepy 32-house village near Salzburg on the German border -- cheeky British tourists armed with a sense of humour and a screwdriver.

But the local authorities are hitting back and with the signs now set in concrete, police chief Kommandant Schmidtberger is on the lookout.

"We will not stand for the F---ing signs being removed," the officer told the broadsheet.

"It may be very amusing for you British, but F---ing is simply F---ing to us. What is this big F---ing joke? It is puerile."

Local guide Andreas Behmueller said it was only the British that had a fixation with F---ing.

"The Germans all want to see the Mozart house in Salzburg," he explained.

"Every American seems to care only about 'The Sound of Music' (the 1965 film shot around Salzburg). The occasional Japanese wants to see Hitler's birthplace in Braunau.

"But for the British, it's all about F---ing."

Guesthouse boss Augustina Lindlbauer described the village's breathtaking lakes, forests and vistas.

"Yet still there is this obsession with F---ing," she said.

"Just this morning I had to tell an English lady who stopped by that there were no F---ing postcards."
I'm sorry, but I just had to. I'm really into Fucking.

Read The Fucking Rest Scale: Fucking 0 out of Fucking 5. Besides, Fucking Ogged says I have no Fucking Sense of Fucking Humor.

Who knew I had Austrian blood to go with the Russian/Polish/Rumanian/possibly-some-Hungarian I'm alleged to have?

Yes, in a jar in the fridge, of course.

8/29/2005 01:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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HOW TO WIN IN IRAQ IF IT WERE ON ANOTHER PLANET, one with a different America. The hot article of the past few days has been How to Win in Iraq, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. I see good and bad in it. The good is the military advice, in a vacuum; the bad is the political context that advice is submerged in, which I see as utterly unrealistic, even fantastical. Also, we lack the necessary vacuum.

Is it possible to "win"? Define your terms. I think elements of Krepinevich's might be usefully plucked out for smaller plans, but I don't see the sort of Grand Win he envisions as likely to take place, any more than we still have a thriving naval base at Cam Ranh Bay today. However, the article is definitely worth reading if you're inclined to think about strategy and insurgency and What To Do.
...simply "staying the course," by all current indications, will not improve matters either. Winning in Iraq will require a new approach.
True enough.
[...]The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.

Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress.
All valid points he elaborates on.
[...] Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot.
I think that's generally sound. But it's important to remember another name for this strategy: "strategic hamlets."

Which will mean different things to different people. It actually did have a fair amount of success in strict military terms, in Vietnam; but at the price of furthering the hostility of many South Vietnamese villagers to their own government, such as that collection of corruption could be called such; in Iraq, there might be far less need to move people from where they already live, in order to protect them, but with protection comes restrictions, and they're not always going to be seen in the light of good intentions, no matter how valid those intentions by the authorities, American or Iraqi, are. Morever, it's doubtful the American public would stand for the rise in "short-term" casualties called for, particularly when that "short-term" might stretch for many years, if Krepinevich's plan were to be followed.
[...] If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.

I'll skip past all of his recommendations that I think make sense to get to the problematic.
While U.S. military operations take the form of the oil-spot campaign, political efforts should aim to strike a grand bargain with the Iraqi people. This grand bargain would lay the foundation for the gradual development of the broad base needed to sustain an Iraqi democracy.

The grand bargain would cut across key Iraqi religious and ethnic groups and across key tribal and familial units. Its underlying assumptions would be that there are significant elements of each major ethnic and religious group willing to support a democratic, unified Iraq; that a sufficiently broad coalition can be formed, over time, to achieve this end; and that the United States is willing to undertake a long-term effort, lasting a decade or longer, to ensure the grand bargain's success.


This grand bargain would not seek to win over any one of the principal Iraqi groups entirely, only a substantial portion of each, which combined would provide a critical mass in support of the common objectives mentioned above. Since defeating the insurgency is but one step toward achieving these objectives, each group would have an incentive to have Iraq retain some U.S. forces beyond the insurgency's defeat -- something critical to achieving the United States' broader security objectives. Under the grand bargain, in short, Iraqis may find that although having U.S. "occupiers" offends their sense of nationalism, with the existence of a sovereign Iraqi regime they are willing to tolerate a much smaller force as "guests."
That's one frigging whopping big "may." (Italics mine.) It's the heart of his "grand bargain" idea, and I a) doubt the willingness of the American public to commit to it, and b) doubt the Iraqi willingness to "tolerate" us as the sort of "guests" invisaged; most "guests" I know shoot and torture a lot fewer people. It tends to make them more welcome, but, still, how long do you want to invite Monty Wolley over?

But most crucially: the focus on "to have Iraq retain some U.S. forces beyond the insurgency's defeat -- something critical to achieving the United States' broader security objectives" gives away a lot, and it's the point that would, I expect, anger most Iraqis greatly, and make this plan impossible. I suspect Krepinevich strongly underestimates, for cultural reasons and out of ignorance, the lack of willingness to support these "greater security objectives" of the U.S., and there's no reason they shouldn't; it would be a great blow to their pride, and pride is damned important in their culture; we've been alienating them for bloody and humiliating year after year through insufficient understanding of this, and the constant humiliation of both men in front of their families and of everyone else, including Iraq's political and military leaders. I don't see this as flying, and I think a plan focused around the "greater security objectives" of the U.S. wwould be seen clearly for what it is in Iraq, and rejected, furiously, by most.
[...] To this end, the United States should help the Iraqi government establish an Iraqi Information Service to gather intelligence on the insurgents and penetrate their infrastructure.
A cheap shot, but I have to admire that euphemism: "Iraqi Information Service," indeed.

But, in the end, the tactics won't matter, and the military strategy won't matter, if they're fixed around these "greater" objectives, and if neither the American nor Iraqi public will find them acceptable. And I don't think they will.

Of course, I could be all wrong.

The other article to read Krepinevich in context of is this fine Jason Vest outline of fighting insurgency. It's more directly applicable to smaller goals in Iraq, but I'm afraid I still don't see us staying in Iraq with the force size possibly necessary for the possibly decade-long stay possibly necessary to "win."

Read The Rest Scale: if you're interested in the strategic side: 4 out of 5; otherwise, don't worry about it, but, then, also, your political opinion about What To Do will have less information to support it.

Keep in mind that my track record on advice on Iraq sucks. As I said yesterday here:
I could be all wrong; I've gotten things about Iraq wrong before, he said with chagrin. (In 1991 I advocated containment of Iraq; with the post-war revelation of the WMD, that was obviously wrongheaded of me, because the war became retroactively justified for me by the fact that without it, Saddam would have had nuclear weapons within a couple of years, and I regard that as worth the 1991 war [there are more reasons, but that's the short version]; and, as we know, I gave tepid support to this invasion, despite my utter distrust of President Bush, completely misunderestimating the way he and his appointees would completely screw it up; I made the mistake of assuming they'd leave it to the professionals in the military and State; boy, was I an idiot. So I feel pretty cautious about urging my views on Iraq on anyone at this point: there's pretty good evidence that you should ignore my opinion on the subject.)
So be warned.

8/29/2005 08:35:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BE A WITNESS. The tv commercial the networks won't run criticizing their lack of coverage of Darfur is here. They say here:
NBC, CBS and ABC are refusing to air the Be A Witness campaign TV ad that challenges the networks to do a better job of covering the Darfur genocide.

We need your help to pressure the stations, NBC-4, CBS-9 and ABC-7 in Washington, DC, to change course and air this ad.

Click here to send a message now!


During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
On the plus side, I watched the 60 Minutes broadcast last night, and it was excellent: unstinting in showing the horror of the decomposing corpses shot trying to run, and featuring long passionate explanations of the events by Samantha Powers, my hero, and John Prendergast.
John Prendergast, who was director of African Affairs at the National Security Council for the Clinton White House, says that these tribal blacks have "been subjected to one of the most brutal campaigns of ethnic cleansing that Africa has ever seen."

Prendergast is now with the International Crisis Group, a human rights organization documenting the disaster in Sudan and neighboring Chad.
The CBS link above has other good links to photo-essays, a transcript of the broadcast, and so on. You can find out more about helping and donating to the International Rescue Committee here.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

8/29/2005 08:13:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE. But not a good war to cover.
BAGHDAD -- More journalists have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March, 2003, than during the 20 years of conflict in Vietnam, media rights group Reporters Without Borders said yesterday.

The latest casualty was a Reuters Television soundman who was shot dead in Baghdad yesterday while a cameraman with him was wounded and then detained by U.S. soldiers. That brings to 66 the number of journalists and their assistants who have been killed since the United States and its allies launched their campaign in Iraq on March 20, 2003.

The death toll in Iraq compares with a total of 63 journalists killed in Vietnam, which was over a period of 20 years from 1955 to 1975, the Paris-based organization that campaigns to protect journalists said on its website.

During the fighting in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995, 49 journalists were killed doing their job, while 57 journalists and 20 media assistants were killed during the civil war in Algeria from 1993 to 1996.

Iraqi police said the two Reuters employees hit yesterday, both Iraqis, were shot by U.S. forces. A U.S. military spokesman said the incident was being investigated. The cameraman was being held and questioned because of "inconsistencies in his initial testimony," he added.

Waleed Khaled, 35, was hit by a shot to the face and at least four to the chest as he drove to check a report, called in to the Reuters bureau by a police source, of an incident involving police and gunmen in the western Hay al-Adil district.

"A team from Reuters News Agency was on assignment to cover the killing of two policemen in Hay al-Adil; U.S. forces opened fire on the team from Reuters and killed Waleed Khaled, who was shot in the head, and wounded [cameraman] Haider Kadhem," an Interior Ministry official quoted the police incident report as saying.

Mr. Kadhem, 24, who was wounded in the back, told colleagues at the scene: "I heard shooting, looked up and saw an American sniper on the roof of the shopping centre."

The only known witness, he was later detained by the U.S. troops. For 10 hours, U.S. officers said they could not trace him. Finally, a spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Whetstone, said he was being held at an unspecified location. His "superficial" wound had been treated "on location," he said.

Two Iraqi colleagues who arrived on the scene minutes after the shooting were briefly detained and released: "They treated us like dogs. They made us . . . including Haider who was wounded and asking for water, sit in the sun on the road," one said.

A U.S. statement on the incident said: "Task Force Baghdad units responded to a terrorist attack on an Iraqi Police convoy around 11:20 a.m. . . . which killed and wounded several Iraqi police. One civilian was killed and another was wounded by small-arms fire during the attack."

Asked about the incident at a news conference marking the adoption of a draft constitution for Iraq, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said: "Sometimes mistakes are made."
Call me cynical, but it seems as if, if you look Western, Iraqis and foreign insurgents will shoot you, and if you look swarthy, there's an alarming chance Americans will shoot you.

But sometimes mistakes are made. Doubtless by roving passive voices armed with M-4s. Sometimes guns are fired.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for a few more grotty details, if you like.

8/29/2005 08:01:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MY SINGLE GREATEST FEAR. This is it: Alone in Illness, Seeking Steady Arm to Lean On. Bar none, none even in the same race. I had considerable trouble bringing myself to read this.

And I can't say much now. But I think about this a great deal. Setting aside my present health, which fluctuates a lot, sooner or later, we all suffer grave illness, whether earlier or later. I got no support structure, and no family structure, to lean on. If I fall down the stairs tomorrow and break a hip, or have a heart attack, or whatever, I have no one. And I don't know what I'll do. And I better figure something out before it happens, because sooner or later, it will.

Meanwhile it scares me a lot.
Every time Grace McCabe is handed a form in a doctor's office asking for an emergency contact, the blank space makes her shiver.

It is such a simple question for anyone with a spouse, partner or children. But Ms. McCabe, 75, has always lived alone. Who would stand by her in a crisis? Who would be there for her in the worst of times?

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

8/29/2005 07:51:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE INTER-RADIO/TV/NET WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING! Excellent set of quotes on how new communications tech will change the world!!!
Velimir Khlebnikov, Russian poet, "The Radio of the Future."

The Radio of the Future - the central tree of our consciousness - will inaugurate the new ways to cope with our endless undertakings and will unite all mankind.

The main radio station, that stronghold of steel, where clouds of wires cluster like strands of hair, will surely be protected by a sign with a skull and crossbones and the familiar word "Danger," since the least disruption of radio operations would produce a mental blackout over the entire country, a temporary loss of consciousness.

Bruce Bliven, "The Ether Will Now Oblige," in The New Republic.

There will be only one orchestra left on earth, giving nightly worldwide concerts; when all universities will be combined into one super-institution, conducting courses by radio for students in Zanzibar, Kamchatka and Oskaloose; when, instead of newspapers, trained orators will dictate the news of the world day and night, and the bedtime story will be told every evening from Paris to the sleepy children of a weary world; when every person will be instantly accessible day or night to all the bores he knows, and will know them all: when the last vestiges of privacy, solitude and contemplation will have vanished into limbo.
Slightly more sinister-seeming is this one:
J. M. McKibben, "New Way to Make Americans."

Today this nation of ours is slowly but surely being conquered, not by a single enemy in open warfare, but by a dozen insidious (though often unconscious) enemies in peace. Millions of foreigners were received into the country, with little or no thought given to their assimilation. But now the crisis is upon us; and we must face it without a great leader. Perhaps no man could mold the 120 million people in a harmonious whole, bound together by a strong national consciousness: but in the place of a superhuman individual, the genius of the last decade has provided a force - and that force is radio.
Then there's film:
[...] 1915
The New York Times, from an interview with D. W. Griffith.
The time will come, and in less than 10 years, when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again.
Imagine a public library of the near future, for instance. There will be long rows of boxes of pillars, properly classified and indexed, of course. At each box a push button and before each box a seat. Suppose you wish to "read up" on a certain episode in Napoleon's life.
Instead of consulting all the authorities, wading laboriously through a host of books, and ending bewildered, without a clear idea of exactly what did happen and confused at every point by conflicting opinions about what did happen, you will merely seat yourself at a properly adjusted window, in a scientifically prepared room, press the button, and actually see what happened.
But you get the idea. There are a bunch more of these, and I loved it to bits. I've always loved old futures, which is why I spent so many childhood weekends in the Main Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, particularly including in the microfilm old periodicals section, reading stuff like this, as well as Twenties and Thirties science fiction.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for perspective; it's wacky!

8/29/2005 07:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BACKLOG. Another roundup. Iraqi reality tv: amusing. The world's most expensive hotel room at $34,000/night. Scottish police chief claims CIA planted Lockerbie evidence. Cult of the Cycads: fascinating tale of these rare prehistoric plants, the cult of collecting them, and the undercover operation to catch illicit dealers; good stuff. Where do baby names come from?: a fascinating set of observations on trends, influences, and dynamics; some stuff I'd never known, by Steven J. Levitt. A short history of mobile computers; adequate job. New York's super-rich: how the economics of their wealth affects the economics of NYC; brother, can you spare a dime? The boardwalks of New Jersey; I grew up with Coney Island, myself, and Brighton Beach and Riis Park, so it's hard to say why this interested me; something about bygone days of summer seems universal, even if you've never been there, but Bruce Springsteen was. The proposed Iraqi Constitution.

Okay, that's enough of that for now. Keep those fingers exercised by clicking. (And you can always click on the top of the page if you know what I mean and I think you do.)

8/29/2005 07:23:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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2004 ELECTION CARTOGRAMS. A great job by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman. Here's one, by way of example, showing the state results with the map scaled by population per state, rather than the normal projection:
There are a number of other quite interesting views.

View The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for some different ways to look at things.

8/29/2005 07:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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STRAIGHT OUT OF WODEHOUSE is this report on British judges:
A SENIOR judge used to dealing with complicated criminal and immigration trials has been bamboozled by the vocabulary of a typical family home.

Judge Seddon Cripps interrupted a fraud trial last week in St Albans, Hertfordshire, to ask what a sofa bed was.

When a witness replied with a brief description, Cripps, who lists “walking slowly” as his hobby in Who’s Who, replied: “How can a bed be turned into a sofa?”

Amid titters from barristers and jurors, the witness had to spend several minutes explaining how some sofas can be folded out to form makeshift beds.

The judge had earlier told the court he was unfamiliar with the word “futon”, the thin mattress of Japanese origin popular in Britain since the 1980s.

Cripps, 63, joins a long list of judges whose ignorance of popular culture has reinforced the judiciary’s reputation for being out of touch.

They include Lord Irvine, the former Lord Chancellor, who surprised a parliamentary committee in 1998 when he appeared not to have heard of B&Q, the DIY chain. In 2003, Judge Lewison perhaps understandably admitted defeat in the face of rap music lyrics in a trial that included terms such as “shizzle my nizzle” and “mish mish man”.

This weekend a spokesman for the department of constitutional affairs said Cripps readily accepted he had not heard of a futon or the concept of a sofa bed, adding: “He was trying to establish how big a piece of furniture it was. I don’t think he had come across a futon before.”

The department has recently announced a programme to try to broaden the social mix of Britain’s judges beyond its traditional dominance by public school men from Oxbridge.
Perhaps a good idea. And maybe a program to get them out of chambers, and around town a bit every few months, might be in order. Some pop culture and life guides leading a tour now and again?
In his summing-up, Cripps, an old Etonian who is a circuit court judge and president of the immigration services tribunal, confessed that others in court appeared to be “ahead of the game” when it came to modern furniture.

One court source said Cripps, who is a great-nephew of Sir Stafford Cripps, the post-war Labour chancellor, was well respected. “Judge Cripps is highly regarded by colleagues on the bench. Nonetheless, everybody was astonished by his questions.”

Other judges who have shown their lack of grasp of contemporary culture include Judge Hubert Dunn, who told a court in 2001 he had never heard of Pele, the Brazilian footballer. Two years earlier Judge Francis Aglionby asked what a Teletubby was.

In 1990 Mr Justice Harman asked: “Who is Gazza?” in a hearing at which he refused to grant an injunction to Paul Gascoigne, the footballer, to halt publication of an unauthorised biography. He later admitted he had not heard of the pop group Oasis.

In 1998, Mr Justice Popplewell failed to grasp the meaning of the “lunchbox” of Linford Christie, the Lycra-clad athlete.
Okay, these are very British, but one would expect the judges to know their own country and cultural references. And even I have heard of Gazza, although admittedly probably because it's the nickname I found applied to me by some when I visited Britain in 1996. On the other hand, I'm another Popplewell as regards Ms. Linford.

So clearly I'm qualified to sit on the British bench. Fetch my wig!

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5; I ate the whole thing.

8/29/2005 07:03:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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50,000TH FLOOR: LADIES UNDERGARMENTS AND ORBIT. Excellent news on the space elevator front.
Then, in 1991, Japanese researcher Sumio Iijima discovered carbon nanotubes. These are long, narrow, cylindrical molecules; the cylinder walls are made of carbon atoms, and the tube is about 1 nanometer in diameter.

In theory, at least, carbon-nanotube-based materials have the potential to be 100 times as strong as steel, at one-sixth the density. This strength is three times as great as what is needed for the space elevator. The most recent experiments have produced 4-centimeter-long pieces of carbon-nanotube materials that have 70 times the strength of steel. Outside the lab, bulk carbon-nanotube composite fibers have already been made in kilometer-long lengths, but these composite fibers do not yet have the strength needed for a space elevator cable.

However, we think we know how to get there.


The result is a preliminary design for a simplified, cheaper, and lightweight elevator.

This design calls for a ribbon instead of a round cable.
It's an excellent article, and if it seems fantastic, well, you may not be aware just how fantastic the idea of putting a satellite into orbit seemed to most people in 1955, let alone landing men on the moon and safely returning them within 15 years.

I like to think I may see the space elevator at least begun before I'm a senior citizen. I can hope.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

8/29/2005 06:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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SHAMELESS. You'll likely have seen this by now, or you'd see it anyway, but still: Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted. They're not even bothering to be subtle here, so clearly they're not afraid of any repercussions. I suppose they feel that the rank and file has been immunized into Pavlovianly responding "Michael Moore!" when the H-word is mentioned, and then laughing.

But, you know, just because anti-war teens of all ages have been yelling "Halliburton" for years while barely knowing what they're talking about, doesn't mean that there hasn't been a massive and corrupt misallocation of taxpayer funds. Taxpayer funds: wasn't that something Republicans used to say they cared about? Ah, but that was in the old days.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5. Someday a Truman Committee. And ye shall know the difference.

8/29/2005 06:48:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MEANWHILE, IN COLORADO, here on the Front Range, in Boulder, it's a bright and sunny morning. It sounds as if things in New Orleans and the region aren't going nearly as badly as feared, which is certainly extremely good news; let's just hope that holds. 150 miles per hour gusts? Well, better than 200. Pray the levee holds, and the crick don't rise.

Blogging to come, but this ain't the place for NOla or weather coverage. That's down the hall. Our assignment teams will be doing the usual: politics, news, weird science, science fiction, history, whatever strikes my fancy.

8/29/2005 06:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, August 28, 2005
TASSEL-WRASSLE Different strokes.
A pile of thousands of woollen tassels symbolising chastity has been set on fire in Swaziland to mark the end of a sex ban imposed by King Mswati III.

The secret ceremony took place at the crack of dawn. Men were banned.

After the tassels were burnt, some 30,000 Swazi girls danced in the national stadium in front of the king, before feasting on slaughtered cattle.

The ban was started by the king in 2001 to fight the spread of HIV/Aids. Some 40% of Swazi citizens are HIV positive.

However, the ban was ended a year early amid strong criticism. No official reason was given.

Just two months after imposing the ban, the king fined himself a cow for breaking the ban by taking a 17-year-old girl as his ninth wife, sparking unprecedented protests by Swazi women outside the royal palace.


New figures released by the health ministry last week show that 29% of Swazi citizens aged 15-19 are HIV positive.

For pregnant women, the figures are 42%: the highest infection rate in the world.


If propositioned by a man, the girls were supposed to throw the tassels outside his house and his family would have to pay a fine of a cow.

But many Swazis were unhappy that King Mswati's daughters were rarely seen wearing the tassels.
It does seem as if common human tropes -- resentment of authority for not abiding by rules enforced amongst the masses, for instance -- still express themselves, no matter the specific issue. The figures on HIV are awful. However, I fine myself one cow for considering in future fining myself one cow whenever I deserve it.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for more detail and a couple of colorful pictures. (Via Norm Geras.)

ADDENDUM: Joe Gandelman has a different part of the story:
The king of Swaziland's daughter was whipped by a palace official at a party of teenage virgins ahead of a festival where more than 50,000 maidens are available to become her father's 13th wife, media said on Sunday.
See there for the rest, if you're interested.

8/28/2005 08:42:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, August 27, 2005
LIFE IN THE KINGDOM. Same as it ever was.
JEDDAH - Paper cups with Hebrew writing disturbed both employees and medical staff at King Khaled National Guard Hospital on Saturday. The catering subcontractor for the hospital coffee shops began using them on Saturday after their usual supply ran out.

"We were shocked and angry," said an employee. "How can Israeli products be allowed and how did they enter this hospital?" he asked.

The Filipino employee who works in the Al-Musbah coffee shop asked: "Why is everybody mad about the cups?" He was told: "Because they are made in Israel!"

According to hospital officials, the matter is being investigated and action will be taken.

Saleh Al-Mazroi, executive director for operations at KKNGH, said the matter had been referred to authorities in Riyadh and was being dealt with.

On the bottom of the paper cup was a website address and a telephone number. When Arab News looked at the website - - it was found to be in Hebrew though there were a few words of English: "Israeli disposable paper, plastic and foam dinnerware supplier for restaurants."

Arab News contacted Ibrahim Al-Musbah, manager and owner, who said, "I thank you for informing me. I will look into it personally and the offending articles will be disposed of." He added that the company has a supplier in the Kingdom from whom they buy restaurant supplies. According to Al-Musbah, the supplier might be unaware of the problem.

Al-Musbah later contacted Arab News and said that the paper cups had come to his company by mistake. The cups were in a cardboard box that looked exactly like the ones his company normally receives and so the employees did not notice any difference. Al-Musbah added that the supplier was named "Jeelani" and that he would supply Arab News with his contact numbers today.

The paper cups were quickly withdrawn from use but might there not be other, less obvious, Israeli products in our shops and marketplaces?
One certainly hopes not!

Whenever I consider Saudi Arabia, I don't forget that it's a country where I'm forbidden by law to enter. It's not the sort of thing one tends to forget. (Pet peeve: please, most kindly, don't call it "Saudi." "Saudi" is an adjective here, it's the name of the family modifying the noun that is the name of the land, which is "Arabia." Saying "I'm going to Saudi" -- yes, I know it's standard military lingo -- is like saying you're going to "North," when traveling to North Dakota. End of pet peeve.)

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

8/27/2005 08:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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