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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
MARRAKESH EXPRESS. I must go on the road to Morroco. Someday.
[...] Mr. Jabiri is a storyteller, a profession he has practiced for more than 40 years. Every day, he conjures up a real or imagined past that is filled with ancient battles and populated with sinners and prophets, wise sultans and tricky thieves.

For this he needs few props: he puts down a small stool and some colored illustrations. The rest is performance. His eyes can grow large and magnetic and his voice booms or whispers, depending on the intrigue.

Mr. Jabiri, 71, is one of eight bards still performing publicly in the Marrakesh region of southern Morocco. But most, like him, fear that their generation may be the last in a line that is as old as this medieval city.


And so they did on a recent afternoon, as Mr. Jabiri called out a blessing, raised his right hand and began the tale of the young woman who fell in love with a saintly hermit. But the hermit rejected her as an envoy of the devil, so she decided to lie down with a shepherd who crossed her path, became pregnant and said it was the hermit's child.

As the story unfolded over the next hour, it took on several subplots with unexpected twists and turns. The audience was made up of men only, some sitting on the ground, some leaning on their bicycles. Women are not supposed to stop and listen to wild or bawdy tales.

"Young people like stories from '1,001 Nights' because there is less religion," Mr. Jabiri said later that day as he listed his considerable repertoire.

"Older people like stories about the life of the Prophet and his companions," he said. "They like war stories, battles between the Muslims and the Persians or between the Muslims and the Christians. People also like miracles, like Jesus Christ healing the blind."

Students of local customs say the stories are a great melting pot of religious and folk tales from the region's Berber, Gnawi and Arab traditions.

Mohammad el-Haouzi, a biologist who grew up near the square, said he loved the ever changing spectacle of jugglers, healers, musicians and storytellers. "I may stop by at night when I need some distraction," he said. "You can eat, laugh, have your teeth fixed or your body painted."

Mr. Haouzi has heard uncounted tales here, and even when he knows them, they rarely sound the same. The magic is in the telling, he said, and the mood may change with the narrator's antics, or the shouting or taunting from the audience. The tales may be moralizing or burlesque or may spoof the powerful.

"One man often parodied the bombast of television journalists," Mr. Haouzi said. "He had the crowds howling with laughter."


In a cafe overlooking the square, he spoke admiringly about the "old masters" he has known, their improvisations and pranks, and the tricks they use to capture and hold their audience. Some may start a fake fight to attract listeners. He recalled that "Sarouh, a very strong man who is dead now, would lift a donkey up into the air. As it started braying, people would come running. 'You fools,' he would yell at the crowd. 'When I speak about the Koran nobody listens, but all of you rush to listen to a donkey.' "

Another narrator, seeing the crowd thin, would shout, "All those cursed by their parents must leave," Mr. Goytisolo said with a chuckle. "So of course everybody would stay, and pay."


But now, foreign tourism has brought inflation and, earning two or three dollars per day, he can no longer afford the bus fare to travel or pay for a bed. He sees change all around him. Some of his colleagues are sick and have stopped coming. Two young apprentices working in Marrakesh have a long way to go.

As dusk falls on the square, Mr. Jabiri is still telling his tale and it has reached a critical moment. The pregnant young woman, the hermit and the shepherd have all been summoned to be judged by the king. The king tells the hermit he will be beheaded, but he can make one last wish.

At this point, Mr. Jabiri abruptly stops and suggests that his enraptured audience make a payment so he can continue. He collects his coins, intones a blessing and, his voice rising and his eyes large and wide, he completes his tale, in which the baby speaks and saves the hermit, who falls in love with the young woman. At least this story has a happy ending.
Besides, I love a good kebab. And I've always wanted to visit Morocco.

Of course, it would help a lot if I spoke Arabic. Or at least had a boon companion who did. But I could always watch the jugglers and listen to the musicians.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

2/28/2006 02:33:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Monday, February 27, 2006
WARNING: AVOID LIFE, ESPECIALLY CHILDHOOD. How on earth did my generation, and all those before, survive?
From a school-trip permission form sent in September 2005 to parents of eighth-grade pupils at the Queen Elizabeth Junior and Senior High School, in Calgary, Canada. Originally from Harper's Magazine, December 2005.


Bus travel to and from site: Motion sickness, injury from other person’s motion sickness, injury from being thrown during sudden massive negative or positive acceleration, tripping hazard when entering or exiting vehicle or moving down the aisle, overheating during transit, objects coming through open windows, injuries from vehicle being involved in accident, chill hazard from open windows, injury from student putting head or limbs out of window, injury caused by own or other student’s inappropriate behavior.

Entire trip: Slipping or tripping getting on or off the bus, slipping while climbing stairs or pathway on the trail, exposure to pollens, food, dust, or other materials that might induce allergic reaction, dehydration, exposure to environmental conditions including cold, damp, warm, dry, hot, and sunny, tripping on sidewalk or paved pathways, attack or injury from wild animals, food-borne organisms in own or other students’ lunches, snacks, or drinks, electrical storms including lightning strikes, landslides on hills.

Viewing indoor exhibits at site: tripping hazard on stairs, bumping hazard from other viewers, pinching hazard from doors, slipping hazard on wet floor or pavement, injury from collapsing exhibits.

Viewing outdoor section at site: Slipping on wet ground, excessive dust from dry ground, exposure to various fungi, bacteria, or viruses in the air, soil, or rocks, falling down small hillside or trails, chill from exposure to wet or cool weather conditions, exposure to excessive heat or sunlight, falling in pond and getting hypothermia, falling in pond and drowning, drinking water from pond and developing giardiasis (beaver fever) or ingesting other potentially harmful organisms, rash from touching some plants, infection from skin puncture from some plants, risk of getting lost or harmed if student sneaks away from group, risk of injuring foot, leg, or body by stepping into animal-made or erosion-created holes, risk of tree falling and landing on student.
I wonder if agoraphobia in minors has been on the rise in the past couple of decades or not.

A shame it's too late to sue my parents. I used to ride a bicycle and rollar skate without a helmet, and worse.

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5.

2/27/2006 08:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEATTLE -- Octavia E. Butler, considered the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home, a close friend said. She was 58.

Butler was found outside her home in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park after the accident Friday, and died the same day. She had suffered from high blood pressure and heart trouble and could only take a few steps without stopping for breath, said Leslie Howle, who knew Butler for two decades and works at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle.


Fellow Seattle-based science fiction authors Greg Bear and Vonda McIntyre said they were stunned by the news and called it a tremendous loss, and science-fiction Internet sites quickly filled with posts dedicated to her.
I never had a bit of contact with Butler (she moved to Seattle after I left), but she was a great and important writer, and, of course, a role model as the first prominent African-American female sf writer.

Read The Rest as interested. More. SFWA. More. Steve Barnes.

Addendum, 2/28/06, 3:35 p.m.: A nice little appreciation in the Washington Post, via Tim Kyger. Although this line is typically condescendingly stupid:
Publisher after publisher must have been puzzled. How could science fiction be set on a plantation?
As I mentioned, I never had any contact with Butler, but I did work for Avon Books, who published her first book, Patternmaster, ten years after that fact, and I naturally went through the old files during various late evenings when I was the only one left in the office (lots of stories there; I fondled A. Merritt's original contracts, aged and yellowing from the 1930s), and I read all of the original correspondence with Butler, and of course there was no such idiotic crap, Marcia Davis, nor would there have been.

It turns out that people who work for mass-market publishing companies can actually be smart, and aware of issues such as race and class, almost as much as if they worked for newspapers years later. In 1976, even. Gosh.

The piece also manages to misspell Chip Delany's name:
Black science fiction trailblazer Samuel Delaney, 63, remembers teaching Butler as a 23-year-old student at the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop.
Always with the extra "e." Not a typo, either; it's repeated.

ADDENDUM: 3/01/06, 7:36 p.m.: LA Times.

2/27/2006 10:59:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, February 26, 2006
OLYMPIC CHOCOLATE. The first Olympic-related story I've bothered reading.
Turin's tourism people have created something called a ChocoPass, an expression of gastronomical excess on par with the Caesar salad for 3,000 people, created in Tijuana back in the '80s. For 10 euros, or about 12 bucks, an ambitious eater can go to 10 local chocolate shops and sample their finest goods. The cruel part is the whole thing must be done within 24 hours. Some of the samples can be taken away with you, but who can put a chocolate in his pocket and wait till later?

There is a truffle flavored with cinnamon (tastes like Red Hots) and one flavored with ginger (tastes, um, confusing) and -- the best -- a truffle with cardamom, which has a nutty depth. There is chocolate flavored with limoncello, the sweet lemon liqueur that local restaurants sometimes serve gratis. (Limoncello is great after a meal, but mixed with chocolate, it is cloying, like the U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick, who boasts to reporters about the bigness of his heart.) There is a truffle made with grappa, an abrasive digestif, which tastes like a hangover.


And there is a truffle made with hot peppers, which tastes like any other chocolate at first, and then it surprises you, exploding on your tongue with come-from-behind power [....]

The chocolate-hazelnut combination this area is known for -- familiar to those who have eaten Nutella -- was invented as a means of stretching dwindling chocolate supplies in the 1800s. Lots of stores have their own variation on gianduia, often wrapped in gold foil. Some are too sweet, some not creamy enough. Done right, gianduia is as delicate and ethereal as the feeling of waking up from a great dream you can't remember.

There is toffee chocolate. There is hot chocolate, which at a store called Cioccolato Peyrano is made from a melted bar of chocolate mixed with milk. It is as thick as honey. There is something called a sabaudo, combining the chocolate-hazelnut paste with espresso, cream and crushed hazelnuts. This is served in a glass with a spoon and is so rich that even the memory of it could make you feel full.

At the famous Bicerin, there is a cake made of chocolate and coffee, inspired by the cafe's signature drink. There's a slow-moving line of tourists outside and a frazzled hostess who at one point takes to screaming in frustration. Perhaps she has had enough of this ChocoPass thing; we certainly have. Chocolate-eating is not meant to be some sort of cross-country endurance race.

It is better experienced as an aerialist's jump, bold and brief, twirling across your tongue.
ObObvious: Sweet!

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

2/26/2006 08:50:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THINGS PALE-SKINNED PEOPLE TEND NOT TO NEED TO KNOW. Why did your town used to be so untanned? Coincidence.
Anthony Griffin remembers the signs. How could he forget them?

A black lawyer, he grew up in Baytown, Tex. Back in high school in the late '60s and early '70s, he would borrow his mom's car and drive around East Texas, exploring. He saw the signs in a couple of towns.

"I was terrified," he says. "You're driving with your buddies and you say, 'Thank God, it's not dark. Let's get the hell out.'"

George Brosi remembers the signs, too. Editor of Appalachian Heritage magazine, he recalls seeing one sign in southern Kentucky back in the 1990s when he was a college English teacher.

"It was on Highway 461," he says. "It stayed up for about a year and then it mysteriously disappeared. It was probably five feet across and three feet tall. It was off the right-of-way, up on a hillside in an overgrown pasture."

The signs are gone now but once they were a part of America's roadside culture, posted along the highway at the town or county line, a blunt reminder of brutal racism.

"Most read 'Nigger, Don't Let the Sun Set on You in --,'" says James Loewen, the Washington-based author of a controversial new book called "Sundown Towns." But sometimes, he adds, the sign makers tried to get clever. "Some came in a series, like the old Burma Shave signs, saying, ' . . . If You Can Read . . . You'd Better Run . . . If You Can't Read . . . You'd Better Run Anyway.'"

Most of the signs were posted in the first half of the 20th century, Loewen says, but some lingered on long afterward. They were not a Southern phenomenon, he stresses. They were found all over the United States with local variations:

In Colorado: "No Mexicans After Night."

In Connecticut: "Whites Only Within City Limits After Dark."

In Nevada, the ban was expanded to include those the sign-writers term "Japs."

All told, Loewen says, he found evidence of more than 150 sundown signs in 31 states. But he wasn't researching the sundown signs. They were just symbols. He was researching sundown towns, which he defines as "towns that were all white on purpose." He found lots of them -- far more than he expected when he began his research in his home state of Illinois about five years ago.

"I thought I was going to discover maybe 10 such towns in Illinois and maybe 50 across the country," he says. "And I've confirmed 204 in Illinois and, in the country, thousands."


"When I finished [speaking], I said, 'Now I'm working on a new book about sundown towns, and if you know anything about that, would you come down afterwards and talk about it?' " he says.

"To my astonishment, 20 people trooped down and they told me all kinds of stuff about every town around Decatur. Growing up, I knew those towns were all white, but I didn't give it a second thought. But it turns out that almost every one of those towns was all-white on purpose."

After researching a century of census data, Loewen, who is white, concluded that his home state was part of a national trend that he calls "The Great Retreat."

After the Civil War, he says, newly freed slaves migrated all over America. In 1890, African Americans lived in all but 119 of America's thousands of counties. But by 1930, 235 American counties had no black residents and 694 other counties has fewer than 10 black residents.

What happened?

Starting around 1890, Loewen says, scores of rural towns in the West and Midwest began expelling black people.

Sometimes, the triggering event was violence: In Henryetta, Okla., in 1907, a black man was accused of killing a white man in a dispute. A white mob lynched the suspect, then drove the rest of the town's black residents away.

Sometimes, the triggering event was a labor dispute: When white coal miners in Pana, Ill., went on strike in 1898, the mine owners hired black strikebreakers and the whites rioted, driving all black people out of town.

Sometimes, Loewen says, there was no specific trigger. Whites simply passed ordinances forbidding black people from buying or renting homes and, in some cases, even appearing on the street after sundown. To advertise their actions, the towns sometimes posted sundown signs on the highway or in the railroad station.

"There was a contagion of ordinances," says Loewen. "Many small towns expelled the black population or decreed a policy of not allowing any blacks."

Loewen dug up many examples of towns touting their whiteness. In 1907, Rogers, Ark., published a guide that announced: "Rogers has no Negroes or saloons." In 1936, Owosso, Mich., proudly declared: "There is not a Negro living in the limits of Owosso's incorporated territory." In 1958, the chairman of Maryville, Mo.'s Industrial Development Corp. touted his town to businessmen with this pitch:

"We don't have any niggers here in Maryville. . . . We had to lynch one back in 1931 . . . and the rest of them just up and left."

Driven out of rural towns, many Northern blacks moved to urban ghettos, where they joined Southern blacks who had fled Jim Crow segregation. Meanwhile, the rise of the automobile permitted whites to move to newly created suburbs, most of which, Loewen says, were designed to be all white.

"Almost all suburbs were sundown towns," he says.

He rattles off the names of celebrated American suburbs that once barred black people, and in some cases Jews -- Levittown, N.Y.; Dearborn, Mich.; Kenilworth, Ill.; Edina, Minn. and Darien, Conn., which achieved fame as the model for the town that barred Jews in the 1947 movie "Gentlemen's Agreement."

And, Loewen adds, Chevy Chase.

These suburbs did not post sundown signs. They saved their racist language for their legal documents, adding "restrictive covenants" to their deeds. Chevy Chase, for instance, had a restrictive covenant barring sale or lease to "any person of negro blood" or "any person of the Semetic [sic] race."

Washington Grove, the Montgomery County town, once had a restrictive covenant barring "anyone of a race whose death rate is of a higher percentage than that of the white or Caucasian race."

"It's tied to life expectancy," Loewen says, laughing. "They make it sound as if it's a health measure."

Greenbelt -- one of three model suburban communities built by the federal government in the 1930s -- was originally restricted to whites. In those days, the Federal Housing Administration advocated restrictive covenants, claiming that they "provide the surest protection against undesirable encroachment."


But Loewen found abundant evidence of sundown signs in old newspaper stories.

In 1922, when college students in Norman, Okla., hired a black jazz band to play at a dance one night, a white mob carrying guns and nooses attacked the dance hall.

"Negroes are occasionally seen on the streets of Norman in the daytime, but the 'rule' that they leave at night is strictly enforced," the Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, a black newspaper, reported, and noted, "Several other Oklahoma towns have similar customs."

Among those other towns was Marlow, Okla. In 1923, a mob killed a Marlow hotel owner and the black man he'd hired as a janitor. The Pittsburgh Courier, a black newspaper, reported:

"Marlow's unwritten law, exemplified by prominent public signs bearing the command: 'Negro, don't let the sun go down on you here,' caused the death Monday night of A.W. Berch, prominent hotel owner, and the fatal wounding of Robert Jernigan, the first colored man who stayed here more than a day in years. Marlow, one of the several towns in Oklahoma which has not allowed our people to settle in their vicinity for years, has abided by the custom of permitting no members of the race to remain there after nightfall."

Nearly 40 years later, in 1962, black rocker Fats Domino played a gig in Rogers, Ark., and the Rogers Daily News ran a front-page editorial congratulating the town on its tolerance:

"The city which once had signs posted at the city limits and at the bus and rail terminals boasting 'Nigger, You Better Not Let the Sun Set on You in Rogers,' was hosting its first top name entertainer -- a Negro -- at night!"


It happened during World War II, when Aptheker, a white Jewish Communist from New York, commanded a group of black solders stationed at an Army base near Pollock, La., a town with a nasty sundown sign.

As part of their training, the soldiers were required to complete a 25-mile march. Aptheker and a black sergeant decided to march through Pollock -- at midnight.

"It was all arranged by the men," Aptheker recalled. "As we approached Pollock around midnight . . . we all began singing 'John Brown's Body' at the top of our voices -- a hundred black men with rifles and one crazy white man in front with a pistol."

Telling the story, Aptheker burst out laughing.

That might be the only comic moment in the long, grim history of sundown towns.
I'd like to hear what Richard Pryor might have had to say.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

2/26/2006 08:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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PIECES OF AWARENESS. Another from the National Journal:
Two of the most important components of the TIA program were moved to the Advanced Research and Development Activity, housed at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., documents and sources confirm. One piece was the Information Awareness Prototype System, the core architecture that tied together numerous information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools developed under TIA. The prototype system included privacy-protection technologies that may have been discontinued or scaled back following the move to ARDA.

A $19 million contract to build the prototype system was awarded in late 2002 to Hicks & Associates, a consulting firm in Arlington, Va., that is run by former Defense and military officials. Congress's decision to pull TIA's funding in late 2003 "caused a significant amount of uncertainty for all of us about the future of our work," Hicks executive Brian Sharkey wrote in an e-mail to subcontractors at the time. "Fortunately," Sharkey continued, "a new sponsor has come forward that will enable us to continue much of our previous work." Sources confirm that this new sponsor was ARDA. Along with the new sponsor came a new name. "We will be describing this new effort as 'Basketball,' " Sharkey wrote, apparently giving no explanation of the name's significance. Another e-mail from a Hicks employee, Marc Swedenburg, reminded the company's staff that "TIA has been terminated and should be referenced in that fashion."


It's unclear whether work on Basketball continues. Sharkey didn't respond to an interview request, and Poindexter said he had no comment about former TIA programs. But a publicly available Defense Department document, detailing various "cooperative agreements and other transactions" conducted in fiscal 2004, shows that Basketball was fully funded at least until the end of that year (September 2004). The document shows that the system was being tested at a research center jointly run by ARDA and SAIC Corp., a major defense and intelligence contractor that is the sole owner of Hicks & Associates. The document describes Basketball as a "closed-loop, end-to-end prototype system for early warning and decision-making," exactly the same language used in contract documents for the TIA prototype system when it was awarded to Hicks in 2002. An SAIC spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Another key TIA project that moved to ARDA was Genoa II, which focused on building information technologies to help analysts and policy makers anticipate and pre-empt terrorist attacks. Genoa II was renamed Topsail when it moved to ARDA, intelligence sources confirmed. (The name continues the program's nautical nomenclature; "genoa" is a synonym for the headsail of a ship.)

As recently as October 2005, SAIC was awarded a $3.7 million contract under Topsail. According to a government-issued press release announcing the award, "The objective of Topsail is to develop decision-support aids for teams of intelligence analysts and policy personnel to assist in anticipating and pre-empting terrorist threats to U.S. interests." That language repeats almost verbatim the boilerplate descriptions of Genoa II contained in contract documents, Pentagon budget sheets, and speeches by the Genoa II program's former managers.

As early as February 2003, the Pentagon planned to use Genoa II technologies at the Army's Information Awareness Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., according to an unclassified Defense budget document. The awareness center was an early tester of various TIA tools, according to former employees. A 2003 Pentagon report to Congress shows that the Army center was part of an expansive network of intelligence agencies, including the NSA, that experimented with the tools. The center was also home to the Army's Able Danger program, which has come under scrutiny after some of its members said they used data-analysis tools to discover the name and photograph of 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta more than a year before the attacks.

Devices developed under Genoa II's predecessor -- which Sharkey also managed when he worked for the Defense Department -- were used during the invasion of Afghanistan and as part of "the continuing war on terrorism," according to an unclassified Defense budget document. Today, however, the future of Topsail is in question. A spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., which administers the program's contracts, said it's "in the process of being canceled due to lack of funds."

It is unclear when funding for Topsail was terminated. But earlier this month, at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, one of TIA's strongest critics questioned whether intelligence officials knew that some of its programs had been moved to other agencies. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and FBI Director Robert Mueller whether it was "correct that when [TIA] was closed, that several ... projects were moved to various intelligence agencies.... I and others on this panel led the effort to close [TIA]; we want to know if Mr. Poindexter's programs are going on somewhere else."

Negroponte and Mueller said they didn't know. But Negroponte's deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who until recently was director of the NSA, said, "I'd like to answer in closed session." Asked for comment, Wyden's spokeswoman referred to his hearing statements.


Documents detailing TIA, Genoa II, Basketball, and Topsail use the phrase "early-warning system" repeatedly to describe the programs' ultimate aims. In speeches, Poindexter has described TIA as an early-warning and decision-making system. He conceived of TIA in part because of frustration over the lack of such tools when he was national security chief for Reagan.

Tom Armour, the Genoa II program manager, declined to comment for this story. But in a previous interview, he said that ARDA -- which absorbed the TIA programs -- has pursued technologies that would be useful for analyzing large amounts of phone and e-mail traffic. "That's, in fact, what the interest is," Armour said. When TIA was still funded, its program managers and researchers had "good coordination" with their counterparts at ARDA and discussed their projects on a regular basis, Armour said. The former No. 2 official in Poindexter's office, Robert Popp, averred that the NSA didn't use TIA tools in domestic eavesdropping as part of his research. But asked whether the agency could have used the tools apart from TIA, Popp replied, "I can't speak to that." Asked to comment on TIA projects that moved to ARDA, Don Weber, an NSA spokesman said, "As I'm sure you understand, we can neither confirm nor deny actual or alleged projects or operational capabilities; therefore, we have no information to provide."

ARDA now is undergoing some changes of its own. The outfit is being taken out of the NSA, placed under the control of Negroponte's office, and given a new name. It will be called the "Disruptive Technology Office," a reference to a term of art describing any new invention that suddenly, and often dramatically, replaces established procedures. Officials with the intelligence director's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Patience is how one completes jigsaw puzzles.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

Previous Program posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, particularly here, here, here, particularly here, emphatically here, here, here, here, here, particularly here, here, immensely emphatically here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

2/26/2006 07:38:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, February 25, 2006
ALL THE KIDS, etc. Our cloud:

2/25/2006 09:45:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Margarete Barthel says she feels guilty for her wartime role as a guard at Ravensbrueck concentration camp. She also says it was the 'most beautiful' time of her life


Ravensbrueck, the only Nazi concentration camp dedicated to the incarceration and murder of women. Sixty years after some 30,000 perished here, those who passed through the camp are incessantly drawn back, braving infirmity and grief to retrace this bumpy road. All of them Holocaust survivors -- until that summer day in 1996, when Margarete Barthel walked into the main exhibition hall.

She was 74 then, still robust, intent as she scanned the photos for faces she might know. The docent who approached her took her for a typical visitor -- a Polish communist, French resistante, Czech Jew, perhaps. Margarete shook her head when asked if she needed help. "No, thank you," she responded. "I know my way around." She took a breath, then said it. "I was a guard here."

The telephone rang almost immediately one floor below, in the office of memorial director Sigrid Jacobeit. Even today, remembering that call raises goose flesh on her arms. Never before had one of the 3,500 young German and Austrian women trained to work as guards at Ravensbrueck or elsewhere returned and openly declared herself.


The testimony of everyday German men and women who perpetrated Nazi horror has almost never come to light. Nazi leaders testified in their own postwar trials; a few wrote memoirs. Soldiers left diaries and letters that historians have since unearthed. But the vast majority of Nazi perpetrators -- the millions of low-level functionaries who did the daily, dirty work of genocide -- took their stories with them to the grave. Few divulged their pasts, even to their own families.

Margarete Barthel, now 83 and housebound by arthritis, is a rare exception. She alone has felt driven to try to explain. Not only how she became an SS guard, but also the perverse paradox of her life: That while today she feels guilt for "all those murdered people," the macabre truth is that, "for me, the time in Ravensbrueck was the most beautiful time."


All she wants is to set the record straight, Margarete says, for others to see her for the manipulated young woman she believed herself to be, not one of the criminal "blond beasts" that female SS are seen as.


Like so many World War II tales, the story Margarete tells started with a summons. Not, though, the brutal knock of the Gestapo -- instead, a summons to the personnel office of Ruhrchemie AG, a chemical company on Germany's western border where she worked as a lab assistant, filling bombs for the Luftwaffe. It was August 1944. Margarete was 21, a cheeky, fun-loving young woman with an eighth-grade education. Her best friend, Leni, had signed up for what the company called a two-week apprenticeship outside Berlin. Margarete stepped forward and asked to be put on the list, too.

A more ordinary girl from a more typical German family can hardly be imagined. Her household was neither ardently Nazi nor resolutely opposed. Her father, a left-leaning miner, refused to hang the Nazi banner, while her mother, devout and authoritarian, quietly placed little swastika flags in the flowerpots. Both brothers served in Hitler's army; one deserted and was jailed and later compensated as a victim of persecution by the regime. "I came from a social democratic household," Margarete will insist repeatedly, years later. "We had nothing to do with the Nazis."

Within days, Margarete and her girlfriends Leni and Friedchen were on a train headed east, away from the Ruhr Valley, which was being carpet-bombed by the Allies day and night. They were lighthearted and delirious with joy at getting out. Margarete had curls in her brown hair, red polish on her fingernails.

Their first inkling about the true nature of their "apprenticeship," Margarete says, was the barbed wire. "We got out, and we knew it was a concentration camp. We were furious." Entering the SS cafeteria, "we saw the prisoners out the window," she recalls, her dark eyes hardening. "My God, it was awful."

Konzentrationslager Ravensbrueck was completed in 1939 to incarcerate Hitler's political enemies, but within a few years it had evolved into a brutal exemplar of Nazi "extermination through work," a slave labor camp where "undesirable" women -- first German opponents of the regime and prostitutes and criminals, then Gypsies, Jews and resisters -- toiled for the Nazi war machine. By mid-1944, the camp -- a high-walled, barbed-wire hellhole in which 40,000 starving, disease-ridden prisoners were crammed into barracks built for one-fifth that number -- supplied slaves to dozens of satellite camps and factories locally and across Germany.

The camp also served as the training ground for female SS guards, who, like notorious war criminal Irma Grese, then went on to serve in death camps such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Maidanek. Several dozen, with whips and dogs, ran the barracks alongside armed SS men, and more than 400 others marched the prisoners to their grinding work each day. Historians have shown that virtually all these female SS guards were simple German-speaking women from either the surrounding Mecklenburg region or Austria; most, like Margarete, were under 30, unattached, and had little schooling. Early in the war, many joined of their own initiative, applying for jobs that paid twice what they could make as maids or waitresses. But as demand for labor skyrocketed in 1943, more prisoners were jammed in, and the SS ordered defense contractors whose factories benefited from their slaves -- like Margarete's employer, Ruhrchemie -- to provide the women to guard them. Margarete and her friends had been requisitioned for the women's auxiliary of the SS.

In that hot and beautiful August of 1944, Margarete says, the young women from Ruhrchemie swore to stick together. After being photographed and assigned uniforms -- different, she says, from those of "those other, volunteer guards" -- the three of them signed up to supervise various outside work details: a crew that made wooden shoes in a neighboring village, one that sewed military uniforms, others that grew vegetables for the camp or built roads and landing strips farther afield. Eventually Margarete -- armed with a whistle, should a prisoner bolt -- oversaw a crew in a factory run by the electronics firm Siemens AG, where prisoners made parts for Nazi aircraft and submarines.

At the beginning, Margarete says today, she and her girlfriends had no idea gruesome things were going on. A brief lecture was the extent of her training. Then they were put to work. Each day at 6 a.m., she and several other guards met a small group of prisoners at the front gate and marched them away. At lunch they returned, and in the afternoon she awaited a new assignment or went out again with the same crew. At first, she told Jacobeit, she was homesick and tearful, but it developed into a tedious routine.

The Ruhrchemie girls were afraid from the start of the tougher, veteran guards, according to Margarete. In fact, scores of survivor accounts document the guards' brutality toward the prisoners. The most sadistic guards, in the barracks, forced women to stand barefoot for hours in subfreezing weather, kicked and beat them, and goaded German shepherds to maul their legs. Deputy head overseer Dorothea Binz personally whipped those sent to the camp jail; one survivor recalled Binz, who was later executed for war crimes, forcing her to eat mud-soaked bread "like a dog." Meanwhile, beatings were also common among the guards on work detail, delivered to anyone who slowed production.

Prisoners do recall a few kind young women who took risks trying to make life easier for them, and Margarete, while not claiming any heroism, says she did her best to be kind. She never struck a soul, she says. And, most importantly, at no time, she has insisted from the start, did she actually enter the prisoners' compound. By night, she lived in an SS barracks beyond the camp walls.

"We didn't know, not until the very end," she told a German TV interviewer in 1999, echoing the evasion offered by most Germans of her generation. "We had no choice."

She had just one goal, she said -- to keep her head down and stay out of trouble. It was advice her father gave, when, later that autumn, she was sent to guard a transport of prisoners back to the Ruhr. He was furious to learn where she worked, she said, but she and her friends had been cowed, afraid of the camp Kommandant's order to stop crying or they'd wind up in the camp themselves.

Still, by February 1945, the girls from the Ruhr had taken a step up the SS ladder: Leni and Friedchen were assigned to one of the coveted chalets overlooking the lake, and, after a bout of typhus, Margarete squeezed in a bed, too. "It was a real nice little house," she recalled, while showing Jacobeit through it on her first visit, pointing out the spots where the wardrobes had been, the beds. The rooms were all decorated "with rugs and curtains, and such, from the storehouses -- thick and very modern rugs." On moving in, she was surprised to find a silk comforter waiting on her bed. Each of the guards had one -- looted, like the rugs, from the goods stripped from incoming prisoners. "They had just hauled in all the Jews from France," Margarete recalled in a videotaped interview with Ravensbrueck historians in 2004. "And they always brought their best things, didn't they?"

On the videotape, she smiles, then falters. "I didn't like it -- I always folded it down," she hastily adds.

Nonetheless, she admits grasping eagerly at the perks allowed by the SS leadership: nightly outings to the cinema in nearby Fuerstenberg or the SS theater outside the camp gate, dinners in town, flirting with the SS men and, later, the Siemens engineers. "Dancing was not allowed," Margarete says, with a little giggle, "but we all had boyfriends. The men were allowed to come over in the evenings."

Most of Margarete's memories glitter with the energy of that long-ago youth. She was always bold, a little reckless, she concedes. She didn't make curfew, she chatted with German-speaking prisoners and her friends; she exploited a swollen leg to beg off work. "But there was always this fear, this fear at the back of your neck," she says.

Still, when ordered to accompany the Ruhr transport to the Buchenwald concentration camp in late 1944, for example, she balked. "I was afraid of being stuck with all those tough guards," she said. "I just wanted to be with my friends." So she staged a hunger strike, then faked a pregnancy and, at last, won the return to Ravensbrueck she sought. When she was ordered to explain, she conveniently burst into tears. More than anything, she says today, she wanted to have fun.

"It was my youth, you see, even if it wasn't much of a youth, and we didn't know the worst of what was going on. Truthfully -- we felt so free! The landscape was beautiful, the weather was heavenly."

Margarete felt sorry for the prisoners, she has said, but could not help them. "You had to put your life on the line," she says. "And I wanted to live." Yes, she'd seen the deep wounds on the prisoners' legs, seen other guards hit them. But she did not dwell on it; she shied from "this fear, this threat, which came from the camp." She told the TV reporter in 1999, "You could turn your brain off, if you tried."

When she is asked on camera about the prisoners, her face goes blank. She struggles, then inevitably launches into a happier anecdote: How the prisoners shared their food with her. How much fun they all had roasting potatoes in a field. The times they lied to cover for her, when she had to go to the toilet. "I had a lot of sympathy for them," she murmured in 1999. "And they had a lot for us, too!"

Yet for all these happy memories, the nine months Margarete Barthel worked at Ravensbrueck were the most hideous in the camp's history. While more than 1,000 women a month were dying from the inhuman conditions, skeletal Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz and other eastern camps arrived in waves, evacuated ahead of the approaching Soviet army. With them came the Auschwitz executioners. In short order, Ravensbrueck shifted to the systematic murder of "excess" prisoners unable to work. Kommandant Fritz Suhren ordered a gas chamber built, and the barracks guards began selecting the sick and injured for transfer to the adjacent Uckermark death camp, where as many as 6,000 were gassed or shot.

It was then, Margarete says, that she began to understand what was really going on inside the walls. The executions that began in February 1945, historians say, were carried out in utmost secrecy. But in the morning the work detail guards would see the main gate open, the pavement wet. "From washing down the blood, we assumed," Margarete said. "Sometimes Leni would say, 'Did you hear the shooting last night?'" Later that warm spring, from their chalet, the closest to the camp wall, they'd see flames shooting out of the crematorium chimney. "My friend at the office said they were burning files, but it was a sweetish smell, nauseating. I said to Leni, 'Smell that. You know what, they're burning people in there,'" she recalls. "I'd tell Leni, 'Shut the window, it stinks.'"


Margarete wanted to forget; all of German society wanted to forget. And this vow of silence succeeded for a time. Then, in the 1960s, historians outside Germany began to document the precise dimensions of Germany's guilt. It was 20 more years before German historians began publishing accounts of the crimes, including the first book about the Holocaust that Margarete clearly remembers having bought and read. "It was on Bergen-Belsen," she says. Then she bought more books, and more. "I have Auschwitz . . ., the experiments, Ravensbrueck," she says, ticking them off. "Because we didn't know. There is so much in those books we simply didn't know."

Much of it, she says, was too gruesome for words. How the SS had dumped the ashes of murdered prisoners in the lake, for example. "I told Leni, and we were horrified; we said to ourselves, 'Thank God we never swam there.'"

The more she read, she says, the more she realized what she had been party to -- and the greater her desire to prove she had not been one of those "brutal guards." In the privacy of her living room, she set out on her long, tortuous effort to explain. From the first time she told her daughter, in the 1960s, Margarete stressed her own innocence: She was a draftee; Ruhrchemie, which had lied to her, was the guilty party. "We should have gotten together and sued the company, or gone to the British," she told Jacobeit. Over time, she emerged with a convoluted trope that she would repeat forever after. "I felt I was made innocently guilty -- you could say that, couldn't you?"
[...] Simone Erpel, 42, curator of the exhibit and an expert on Ravensbrueck's final years, says it is "self-serving nonsense" to assert, as Margarete does, that there were two kinds of guards. There was no categorical moral difference between the volunteers and the drafted -- there weren't even the two distinct uniforms Margarete has cited. Margarete, as she herself admitted, heard the gunshots, saw the flames and the corpses. She was, Erpel says, as much a part of the daily horror of Ravensbrueck as any other guard.

It is incontestable that Margarete set foot inside the camp, Erpel says. She ate her meals in the SS canteen inside the gate, overlooking the prisoners at roll call. After repeated denials, Margarete herself let slip in 2004 that this "could take your appetite away." Yet once off-duty, she bolted for the movies, the dinners of fried potatoes and wurst in town. She flirted and slept with a lover, like the rest of the guards.

Perhaps most damning, it's clear that Margarete had at least one opportunity to leave the camp. In the early spring of 1945, she was actually ordered to leave. She had developed thrombosis in one leg, making it painful to walk or to stand, and was deemed "unfit for work." But the freedom of being on her own, and the pull of her girlfriends and a Prussian lover, convinced her otherwise. The Americans had already crossed the Rhine, she says: Where was she supposed to go? She refused.

"When people don't consider the work they are doing in such a concentration camp as remarkable, or particularly awful, then why shouldn't they do what in any other situation they would do?" asks German social psychologist Harald Welzer, 47. "We all go dancing after work, meet friends."

This juxtaposition of horror by day and entertainment by night is typical of low-level Nazi perpetrators, says Welzer, whose newly published book -- a study of a German police battalion that shot tens of thousands of Jews in Poland during the war -- is titled Perpetrators: How Utterly Ordinary People Became Mass Murderers. It's one of many recent studies concluding that most of those who participated in the genocide were neither National Socialist zealots nor sociopaths, but average people who slipped, bit by bit, into evil. Virtually all the battalion's members, he says, considered what they were doing normal. It was simply a job -- unpleasant, sometimes upsetting, but ultimately necessary and unavoidable. "Very, very rarely do you have any evidence that any of these people felt they had done anything wrong," he told an audience in Berlin recently.


Erpel has documented cases of guards at Ravensbrueck who did refuse to serve in the camps. Refusing was difficult, indisputably, but it could be done. A woman could plead illness, elderly parents, fake a pregnancy; Margarete had already shown herself willing to do just that. More to the point, "there is not one documented case -- not one!" says Erpel vehemently, of a woman being punished for refusing to serve.

Welzer found the same. Even when police were explicitly excused from the mass slaughter of Jews, without adverse consequences, no more than 10 of 400 refused to shoot. "You realize with horror," he says, "that it was easier to decide to participate in mass murder than to break away from the dominant group."

Margarete Barthel -- like most -- chose to remain a guard out of fear and opportunism; there is little evidence that her own conscience troubled her that much at the time. In all the anecdotes, only once does she mention a moment in which the barbarity made her cry -- when a child was pulled, howling, from its mother's arms, outside what could only have been a death transport at the Ravensbrueck gate.
There was no justice done in the post-Nazi era. Not to speak of. It would have been inconvenient for everyone, not least of all the U.S. and British governments, which needed first to get their sectors (and that given to the French), and later West Germany, running, and then to keep the Federal Republic on the Western side.

No real justice. There never will be.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. I only recently noticed that Deborah Lipstadt has a blog, by the way. If you don't know who she is, you should.

2/25/2006 06:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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THE QUIET VICEROY. I'm not clear: did Paul Bremer ever take an oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution? Regardless, obviously his first loyalty was to his President.

We now know his current version of events from his new book. Longtime NY Times reporter in Iraq Dexter Filkins reviews:
The most startling moment in "My Year in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer III's memoir from his days as the head of the American occupation, comes near the end, when violent uprisings were sweeping most of the central and southern parts of the country in May 2004. With the whole American enterprise verging on collapse, Bremer decided to secretly ask the Pentagon for tens of thousands of additional American troops — a request that, as the rest of his book makes clear, was taboo in the White House and Pentagon.

Bremer turned to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, and asked him what he would do with two more divisions, as many as 40,000 more troops. General Sanchez did not hesitate to answer. "I'd control Baghdad," he said. Bremer then mentioned some other uses for the soldiers, like securing Iraq's borders and protecting its infrastructure, to which General Sanchez replied: "Got those spare troops handy, sir?"

This is a jaw-dropping scene, and probably in ways that Bremer did not intend. To nearly anyone who spent time in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it was scandalously obvious that the American military, for all its prowess, lacked sufficient numbers of soldiers to bring the country under control. Iraqis knew it. American officers, beneath their breath, often said it. A two-mile drive on the road to Baghdad International Airport, the scene of daily suicide attacks, confirmed it.

Yet for most of the 14 months that Bremer oversaw the occupation, he and his aides, and General Sanchez and his, often seemed the only people in Iraq who refused to acknowledge the anarchy in the streets. Though confronted by the growing guerrilla insurgency and the brazen behavior of armed militias, Bremer and other senior American officials routinely batted down any suggestion that they needed more soldiers.

Instead, Bremer and his aides would point to the Iraqi police and army, which, they claimed, totaled 200,000 men by April 2004. Anyone who had had even a passing encounter with Iraqi soldiers or police officers during that time worried that American officials were inflating their numbers and exaggerating their quality. Sure enough, later that month, when Sunni and Shiite guerrillas rose across the country, the Iraqi security services disintegrated and disappeared.

Thanks to Bremer's book, we now know he harbored doubts of his own. He knew, or at least strongly suspected, that the fledging Iraqi security forces weren't up to the job. He just didn't say so in public.

Bremer's concern reflected a broader disquiet: "Coalition forces were spread too thin on the ground," he writes. "During my morning intelligence briefings, I would sometimes picture an understrength fire crew racing from one blaze to another."

What are we to make of such an admission?


But Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent — and so does General Sanchez. If we can assume that Bremer's recollection is correct, then General Sanchez' remarks indicate that Baghdad was indeed out of control, that both he and Bremer knew it and that without more troops, it was likely to stay out of control. And so it did, for many months after Bremer and General Sanchez left Iraq. Neither man ever gave a public assessment of the security situation that remotely approached the one Bremer gives here.

By staying silent, Bremer ensured that there would be no public debate on the merits of deploying more American troops. By staying silent, he helped ensure that there would be little public discussion over the condition of the Iraqi security forces, whose quality he doubted. When his request for more troops was ignored, his silence helped ensure that the troops would never come.

Why did he fail to speak out? Bremer doesn't say.
First chapter of Bremer's book here.

Former Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith reviews Bremer's My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope and George Packer's The Assassins' Gate here. (Read it before it disappears beyond the paywall in a couple of months.)

What were Paul "Jerry" Bremer's qualifications to be Our Man In Baghdad?
Bremer, a former career diplomat, had been Henry Kissinger's special assistant, ambassador at large for counterterrorism in the Reagan administration, and ambassador to the Netherlands before leaving government in 1989 to become managing director for Kissinger Associates. Although he did not know Bush before, the two men immediately got on well, partly thanks to their shared interest in physical exercise. Even while representing an international coalition in Baghdad, Bremer was careful to emphasize his partisan credentials; he told George Packer in his Green Zone office that he was "a bedrock Republican." (This struck me as odd to tell a reporter, since in my view a US ambassador represents the entire US, not one political party.) Bremer had a reputation as a good manager, and many thought that if he had a successful record in Baghdad, he had a chance to be secretary of state in a second Bush administration.

Bremer knew nothing about Iraq. He had never been there, did not speak Arabic, had no experience in dealing with a country emerging from war, and had never been involved in "nation-building." During the two weeks he was given to get ready, he recruited a senior staff including several retired ambassadors, a former assistant secretary of state for administration, and a high-powered Republican Washington lobbyist. Only one of his recruits had any background in the region.
So that was a fine start, wasn't it? But at least Bremer had the benefit of the George W. Bush Exercise Workout.

Other info-bits:
[...] Packer writes that General Franks, the overall commander for the Iraq war, was prohibited from seeking Zinni's advice. Zinni's plan for a comprehensive occupation of Iraq—including providing security with US forces—was put aside as too pessimistic. Presumably this meant his plan would require too many troops to do too much. Packer is devastating about Franks, a tyrant toward his own staff who failed to challenge Rumsfeld's optimistic assumptions that postwar security would not be an issue. Nor did Franks initiate planning for postwar operations, Phase IV, which was a political hot potato. Packer writes: "When an officer at a Centcom meeting raised the question of Phase IV planning, Franks said, 'Mr. Wolfowitz is taking care of that.'" Packer gives a particularly incisive picture of Wolfowitz, who bears a heavy responsibility—precisely because he was by far the brightest of the war's architects —for the failure to prepare for the postwar chaos. As Packer demonstrates, Wolfowitz promoted the invasion of an Iraq that existed only in his imagination:
Paul Wolfowitz was the intellectual architect of the war. He made the case for war with more passion and eloquence than anyone else in the administration, often speaking publicly about the nature of Baathist tyranny and the stifled talents of the Iraqi people that were just waiting to be set free. Listening to him, you sometimes felt that he had dozens of close Iraqi friends and perhaps even a few distant cousins in Baghdad and Basra. He once told an interviewer who asked whether democracy in Iraq might lead to Islamist rule, "Look, fifty percent of the Arab world are women. Most of those women do not want to live in a theocratic state. The other fifty percent are men. I know a lot of them. I don't think they want to live in a theocratic state."...

For him Iraq was personal. He didn't seem driven by other agendas: Military transformation and shoring up the Likud Party and screwing the Democrats were not his obsessions. He wasn't a religious ideologue possessed by eschatological visions of remaking biblical lands. He was the closest thing to a liberal in the group. He had been pursuing this white whale for years, and he had everything to lose if Iraq went wrong. Why, then, did he find it all [i.e., the realities of Iraq] so hard to imagine?

Whether he agreed with the war plan or not, Wolfowitz was not about to go up against his hugely powerful boss on the subject Rumsfeld jealously owned. Wolfowitz was a true believer, but he was also a bureaucratic survivor of many administrations, and when it mattered he was more than capable of bowing to political reality. In the late 1990s, when regime change in Iraq became his signature issue, Wolfowitz lined up behind the flimsy idea of overthrowing Saddam with a few thousand followers of Ahmad Chalabi, because he understood that the public had no interest in committing large numbers of American troops to the cause. And now that America was about to go to war and finish the job that Wolfowitz had long felt had been left incomplete in 1991, he accepted the terms: light force, little commitment in the postwar. He told the public again and again that the reconstruction would be cheap, that it could be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. He said this in the face of expert advice from oil company executives who knew the state of Iraq's neglected oil facilities.... The administration systematically kept forecasts of the war's true cost from the public and, by the insidious effects of airtight groupthink, from itself. This would be historic transformation on the cheap. Wolfowitz as much as anyone else was responsible.
[...] I think Bremer was right about not reconstituting the armed forces and partially right about de-Baathification. Still, whether he was right or wrong, it was absurd to have had Garner pursuing the exact opposite course of action. Either the Bremer approach or the Garner approach could have been feasible strategy. Following both was a disaster. The President should have decided on a clear policy before US troops arrived in Baghdad and his failure to do so proved very costly.


The President's directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as "we're not going to fail" and "pace yourself, Jerry." In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq's ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: "It's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq." According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush's candidate for president of Iraq's interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had "been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition."


Not only had Garner publicly committed the United States to establishing an Iraqi interim government by mid-May 2003, but a presidential envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad (now the US ambassador to Iraq), visited the new Iraqi leaders in April carrying the same message. Normally, a presidential envoy speaks for the President. But in the undisciplined Bush administration, it appeared the envoys said whatever they wanted. Bremer clearly had the authority to decide whether or not to form a new government and he decided not to. Bush made no decision one way or another.


To make the ILC more representative, Bremer added eighteen new members, and renamed it the Iraqi Governing Council (GC). Collectively, Bremer's new members won about 3 percent of the vote in 2005. He evidently had no idea of who was representative and who was not.

Bremer treated the Iraqi Governing Council more or less like a student council. In July 2003, he came up with the brilliant idea that the members of the Governing Council should "demand" that the Coalition Provisional Authority do things it was already planning to do, arguing that this would enhance the GC's credibility. When they did not take up his suggestion, Bremer told the astonished members of the Governing Council: "Look, you can't very well hope to run a country of 25 million without working hard. The Governing Council works fewer hours in a week than the CPA works every day."

It seems never to have occurred to Bremer that the leading Iraqi politicians had no real interest in enhancing the credibility of the American-installed Governing Council. And they certainly had better things to do than to demand that the CPA do what it was already doing. Bremer seems surprised that the Governing Council members stopped attending meetings, sending lower-level substitutes.


And in the permanent constitution approved on October 15, 2005, the Kurds won every point that Bremer had refused. But there were no hard feelings. As one Kurdish leader tells me almost every time I see him, "We will erect a statue of Bremer here in Kurdistan. He did more than anyone else to break up Iraq."
Quite a political epitaph.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for both pieces.

2/25/2006 06:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR FAVORITE CONGRESSWOMAN ROLLED OVER AGAIN. Okay, the image is eeuuuwww. Because it's Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) (and Rep Virgil H. Goode Jr. [R-Va.]).
Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted yesterday in federal court that he attempted to illegally influence Defense Department contracting officials and tried to curry favor with two House members, in addition to lavishing more than $1 million in cash, cars, a boat, antiques and other bribes on convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

The new admissions, including details that identify Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) as recipients of illegal campaign contributions, are contained in Wade's agreement to plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe.


Wade went beyond bribing Cunningham, Wainstein added, to include the Defense Department officials who would be making the procurement decisions that affected District-based MZM. This included hiring the son of one official who oversaw the company's work and then hiring the official, too, according to the plea agreement. In return, Defense officials gave Wade's company inside budget information and favorable performance reviews, court documents said.


Wainstein and Joseph Persichini Jr., acting head of the FBI's Washington field office, said public corruption in the defense contracting industry is a top priority for their staffs. Persichini noted that $97 billion in federal contracts goes to companies in the Washington region and that he hoped the Cunningham-Wade case would "instill moral outrage" in the public, who would report attempted extortion or bribe attempts to authorities.

Wade also pleaded guilty to election law fraud for making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to "Representatives A and B," who are identifiable as Goode and Harris. He did so, the filings said, in hopes that they, like Cunningham, would "earmark" federal money for MZM. Wade gave the funds for the donations to 19 of his employees and their spouses, who then wrote $2,000 checks to the members, according to the documents.


The member identifiable as Harris received $32,000 in illegal donations from Wade and his employees in 2004. Documents filed with Wade's plea say that he took Harris to dinner early last year, where they discussed the possibility of another fundraiser and the possibility of getting funding for a Navy counterintelligence program in the member's district. One source familiar with the inquiry said Harris made such a request for funding, but it was not granted.


Harris spokeswoman Kara Borie said yesterday that the congresswoman acknowledges being "Representative B" in the court papers. Harris said in a statement that Wade had "discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district." She said Harris had donated all her MZM donations to charity. "This case demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to determine the intent of a contributor."
Perilous, indeed.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Who could imagine, particularly, Katherine Harris engaging in questionable behavior?

2/25/2006 05:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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WORKING THE MINE-SHAFTS. Could people please quit talking about "wire-tapping"? "Eavesdropping," if that's the only aspect you want to talk about. What's most important there is the switch-compromising, and compromising of the satellite-relays, and that isn't "wiretapping."

It's a heck of a lot worse. (Or, if you prefer, better; whichever, it's vastly more massive than a guy tampering with the wire on a pole outside your house, or in the basement of your apartment building.)

Meanwhile, the mining. Markoff:
A small group of National Security Agency officials slipped into Silicon Valley on one of the agency's periodic technology shopping expeditions this month.


The tools they were looking for are new, but their application would fall under the well-established practice of data mining: using mathematical and statistical techniques to scan for hidden relationships in streams of digital data or large databases.


"The theory is that the automated tool that is conducting the search is not violating the law," said Mark D. Rasch, the former head of computer-crime investigations for the Justice Department and now the senior vice president of Solutionary, a computer security company. But "anytime a tool or a human is looking at the content of your communication, it invades your privacy."

When asked for comment about the meetings in Silicon Valley, Jane Hudgins, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, said, "We have no information to provide."


One such tool is Analyst's Notebook, a crime investigation "spreadsheet" and visualization tool developed by i2 Inc., a software firm based in McLean, Va.

The software, which ranges in price from as little as $3,000 for a sheriff's department to millions of dollars for a large government agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, allows investigators to organize and view telephone and financial transaction records. It was used in 2001 by Joyce Knowlton, an investigator at the Stillwater State Correctional Facility in Minnesota, to detect a prison drug-smuggling ring that ultimately implicated 30 offenders who were linked to Supreme White Power, a gang active in the prison.

Ms. Knowlton began her investigation by importing telephone call records into her software and was immediately led to a pattern of calls between prisoners and a recent parolee. She overlaid the calling data with records of prisoners' financial accounts, and based on patterns that emerged, she began monitoring phone calls of particular inmates. That led her to coded messages being exchanged in the calls that revealed that seemingly innocuous wood blocks were being used to smuggle drugs into the prison.

"Once we added the money and saw how it was flowing from addresses that were connected to phone numbers, it created a very clear picture of the smuggling ring," she said.

Privacy, of course, is hardly an expectation for prisoners. And credit card customers and insurance policyholders give up a certain amount of privacy to the issuers and carriers. It is the power of such software tools applied to broad, covert governmental uses that has led to the deepening controversy over data mining.


Although Congress abruptly canceled the program in October 2003, the legislation provided a specific exemption for "processing, analysis and collaboration tools for counterterrorism foreign intelligence."

At the time, Admiral Poindexter, who declined to be interviewed for this article because he said he had knowledge of current classified intelligence activities, argued that his program had achieved a tenfold increase in the speed of the searching databases for foreign threats.

While agreeing that data mining has a tremendous power for fighting a new kind of warfare, John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said that intelligence agencies had missed an opportunity by misapplying the technologies.

"In many respects, we're fighting the last intelligence war," Mr. Arquilla said. "We have not pursued data mining in the way we should."

Mr. Arquilla, who was a consultant on Admiral Poindexter's Total Information Awareness project, said that the $40 billion spent each year by intelligence agencies had failed to exploit the power of data mining in correlating information readily available from public sources, like monitoring Internet chat rooms used by Al Qaeda. Instead, he said, the government has been investing huge sums in surveillance of phone calls of American citizens.

"Checking every phone call ever made is an example of old think," he said.

He was alluding to databases maintained at an AT&T data center in Kansas, which now contain electronic records of 1.92 trillion telephone calls, going back decades. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group, has asserted in a lawsuit that the AT&T Daytona system, a giant storehouse of calling records and Internet message routing information, was the foundation of the N.S.A.'s effort to mine telephone records without a warrant.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the company would not comment on the claim, or generally on matters of national security or customer privacy.

But the mining of the databases in other law enforcement investigations is well established, with documented results. One application of the database technology, called Security Call Analysis and Monitoring Platform, or Scamp, offers access to about nine weeks of calling information. It currently handles about 70,000 queries a month from fraud and law enforcement investigators, according to AT&T documents.

A former AT&T official who had detailed knowledge of the call-record database said the Daytona system takes great care to make certain that anyone using the database — whether AT&T employee or law enforcement official with a subpoena — sees only information he or she is authorized to see, and that an audit trail keeps track of all users. Such information is frequently used to build models of suspects' social networks.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive corporate matters, said every telephone call generated a record: number called, time of call, duration of call, billing category and other details. While the database does not contain such billing data as names, addresses and credit card numbers, those records are in a linked database that can be tapped by authorized users.

New calls are entered into the database immediately after they end, the official said, adding, "I would characterize it as near real time."

According to a current AT&T employee, whose identity is being withheld to avoid jeopardizing his job, the mining of the AT&T databases had a notable success in helping investigators find the perpetrators of what was known as the Moldovan porn scam.

In 1997 a shadowy group in Moldova, a former Soviet republic, was tricking Internet users by enticing them to a pornography Web site that would download a piece of software that disconnected the computer user from his local telephone line and redialed a costly 900 number in Moldova.

While another long-distance carrier simply cut off the entire nation of Moldova from its network, AT&T and the Moldovan authorities were able to mine the database to track the culprits.

Much of the recent work on data mining has been aimed at even more sophisticated applications. The National Security Agency has invested billions in computerized tools for monitoring phone calls around the world — not only logging them, but also determining content — and more recently in trying to design digital vacuum cleaners to sweep up information from the Internet.

Last September, the N.S.A. was granted a patent for a technique that could be used to determine the physical location of an Internet address — another potential category of data to be mined. The technique, which exploits the tiny time delays in the transmission of Internet data, suggests the agency's interest in sophisticated surveillance tasks like trying to determine where a message sent from an Internet address in a cybercafe might have originated.

An earlier N.S.A. patent, in 1999, focused on a software solution for generating a list of topics from computer-generated text. Such a capacity hints at the ability to extract the content of telephone conversations automatically. That might permit the agency to mine millions of phone conversations and then select a handful for human inspection.

As the N.S.A. visit to the Silicon Valley venture capitalists this month indicates, the actual development of such technologies often comes from private companies.

In 2003, Virage, a Silicon Valley company, began supplying a voice transcription product that recognized and logged the text of television programming for government and commercial customers. Under perfect conditions, the system could be 95 percent accurate in capturing spoken text. Such technology has potential applications in monitoring phone conversations as well.

And several Silicon Valley executives say one side effect of the 2003 decision to cancel the Total Information Awareness project was that it killed funds for a research project at the Palo Alto Research Center, a subsidiary of Xerox, exploring technologies that could protect privacy while permitting data mining.

The aim was to allow an intelligence analyst to conduct extensive data mining without getting access to identifying information about individuals. If the results suggested that, for instance, someone might be a terrorist, the intelligence agency could seek a court warrant authorizing it to penetrate the privacy technology and identify the person involved.

With Xerox funds, the Palo Alto researchers are continuing to explore the technology.
Naturally, I have to point out that I was posting about the "Analyst's Notebook" software, and the use of this kind of data-mining technique in March, 2004, and earlier, in December of 2003.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for the Markoff piece; you might want to look back at my posts from two-plus years ago, though. It's almost as if I might know what I'm talking about.

Previous NSA "Program" posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, particularly here, here, here, particularly here, emphatically here, here, here, here, here, particularly here, here, immensely emphatically here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. For starters.

2/25/2006 04:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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The Defense Department will comply with a federal judge's order to release the names and nationalities of hundreds of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a Pentagon spokesman said Saturday.

The decision came in response to a ruling last month by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan on a lawsuit brought last year by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

The suit sought to require the Pentagon to release transcripts of military tribunal hearings held to determine whether the detainees at Guantánamo had been properly categorized as enemy combatants.


Last year, the Pentagon released transcripts of 558 tribunals, but blacked out names and other identifying information about the prisoners.

The Pentagon and Justice Department had objected to releasing the names of the detainees, citing privacy and security concerns, but ultimately decided not to appeal the judge's ruling.

Judge Rakoff had previously ordered the Defense Department to ask prisoners if they would consent to their names being published. Of 317 detainees who received a form with this question, 63 checked yes, 17 checked no, 35 returned the form without answering, and 202 did not return the form, the judge said.

The judge concluded that the small number of negative answers did not justify withholding all the names.

He also said the Pentagon had offered only "thin and conclusory speculation" to support an argument that terrorist groups might attack the prisoners or their families.
One step towards being a tad less Franz K.

Washington Post version here.
Defense officials made it clear yesterday that the release will not be a roster of the approximately 490 detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay. Instead it will contain names associated with about 390 hearing transcripts. Some detainees did not participate in the hearings.
So the identities of some ~100 prisoners are still secret. Are they dangerous killers? Or just guys taken in because some Pakistani or Afghan had a grudge against them, or they had the bad luck to have the same name as someone who is dangerous, or otherwise are there by accident?

Who knows?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

2/25/2006 04:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JUDGE NOT STANDING FOR GRAYMAIL. Neither is he sitting still for it. I'm not sure what posture that leaves him in, actually, other than one that's unsympathetic to Lewis Libby's graymail attempt to derail his prosecution with bogus demands to see the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs):
I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who is charged with lying to investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. officer, won the right Friday to review his handwritten notes for a nine-month period surrounding the publication of the information.

But the federal judge hearing Mr. Libby's case seemed markedly skeptical to a second request that the defense also be given the highly classified documents known as the President's Daily Brief for a similar period. The judge, Reggie B. Walton, suggested that the requests for those documents by Mr. Libby's lawyers might "sabotage" the case against him.

Mr. Wells said that even though the daily briefs were so valuable that they are often called the nation's "family jewels," he needed to show the jury the kinds of momentous issues with which Mr. Libby was involved.

But Judge Walton, who deferred a final ruling on the matter, said the briefs were so sensitive that "the White House will never agree" to release them, adding, "If I order this, it will sabotage the prosecution."

The judge also suggested that Mr. Libby's personal notes for that period, which he had just ordered to be turned over to the defense, could be sufficient to remind Mr. Libby of the issues he was involved in.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel prosecuting Mr. Libby, told the judge that if he agreed to order the intelligence briefs made available to Mr. Libby, the result would be months of arguments over executive privilege and relevancy that "would derail the case."

Mr. Fitzgerald has said in court papers that the request for the briefs was an obvious effort at "graymail," a technique in which defense lawyers demand highly sensitive information from the government to force the prosecution to choose between providing the information or dropping the case. He noted that the disclosure of part of the Aug. 6, 2001, daily brief to the Sept. 11 commission was the sole instance of a daily brief's being publicly disclosed and that occurred only after much wrangling.
Ted Wells, Libby's lawyer, loves graymail. Judge Walton doesn't seem inclined to let it fly here.

Meanwhile: who talked to Bob Woodward about Valerie Plame? Still only the source and Woodward and whomever they may have told knows. It's someone "who did not work at the White House and was the source for two reporters." Here it's asserted to be:
In another development in the leak case Friday, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said another administration official, who does not work at the White House, also spoke to reporters about Plame Wilson. This individual, according to sources close to the case, works at the National Security Council.

Walton said that Libby’s defense team was not entitled to be told of the individual’s identity because the person is not charged with a crime in the leak. However, the person is said to be one of several people in the administration who is cooperating with the probe.
The reason I have no interest in made-up guessing games is that the real world provides so many for us.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you care. Bush-loyalists, be sure to express your boredom.

2/25/2006 12:31:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MORE MOORE'S LAW. Smaller and better marches on:
PCs with blazing-fast 5-GHz CPUs are not only feasible, they should soon be on store shelves, according to chipmakers at a conference in Silicon Valley this week.


But IBM, for example, said this week it will defy "conventional wisdom" and print circuits with 30-nanometer ridges, a third of the size of the 90-nm chips in production today, using current lithography imaging processes.

Also this week, Dutch-based lithography equipment maker ASML Holding NV demonstrated its 42-nm production process and said it had the equipment to make 35-nm chips.

Both developments followed CPU-giant Intel's announcement last month that it had produced a 45-nm SRAM, or Static Random Access Memory, chip.

The company, which already has 65-nm chips, is also on track to make 45-nm SRAM on 300-mm wafers next year, it claimed.


According to chipmakers and a technology road map from the Semiconductor Industry Association , we can expect transistor counts on CPUs to double from 1 billion to 2 billion in two years, and to an astonishing 4 billion in four years. The SIA roadmap predicts chips will continue to become smaller and denser through 2020.

Intel and AMD have said CPU clock speeds -- measured in gigahertz -- will not increase to the same degree as in years past due to constraints in power consumption and heat. However, the companies will take advantage of increasing chip densities to pack multiple cores onto each chip, resulting in performance leaps. Intel said there may be as many as 100 cores packed on a single processor within 10 years.

While CPUs with 5-GHz clock speeds in four years is probable, analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 agreed that performance boosts on levels commensurate with years past will be based on multi-core CPU designs.

"Processor makers will focus on architectural approaches such as parallelism," Brookwood said. "They will go from dual core, to quad core to octal core."

Also, the amount of DRAM per chip should continue to double from a maximum of 1 Gigabit now to 4 Gigabits per chip in four years, according to memory chipmakers and the SIA roadmap.

As DDR2 memory designs become increasingly available now for 1-Gb DRAM chips, it is possible to pack in modules with high-end motherboards that can handle more than four GB of DRAM. With the advent of 2-Gb memory chips in less than two years, 4-Gb devices are expected to follow in four years.
But new computer games will continue to require you to buy the latest and most expensive hardware.

Tramp, tramp, tramp towards the Singularity, we march.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. Man, I'd just like to be able to afford to get online access faster than dial-up 49.2 kbps sometime in the not endlessly distant future. Sigh. I hear that the intarweb has movin' pitchers, now, and in color!

2/25/2006 12:00:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, February 24, 2006
MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION has the green light, baby! Your Amygdala told you about this then-prospective tv series back in August of 2005, when it was announced as "Masters of Sci-Fi."

Now the excellent news that the series is go, and even better, that execrable neologism won't be used (although I won't believe that until I see it):
ABC has given a green light to the SF anthology TV series Masters of Science Fiction, which will present works of well-known authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, Variety reported.


ABC has ordered four episodes, but IDT and Industry plan to go ahead and produce at least six episodes and as many as 13.

Writer Michael Tolkin (The Rapture) is already on board to adapt and direct an episode, while the producers are also in talks to produce works such as Harlan Ellison's "The Discarded" and Asimov's "The Last Question." IDT and Industry also hope to sign Bradbury to adapt his "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed."

Morris Berger, Steve Brown and John Hyde will executive-produce for IDT, as will Industry's Keith Addis, Brad Mendelsohn and Andrew Deane.

IDT and Industry hope to start production on Masters of Science Fiction in Vancouver this May. The producers said they can start delivering the series to ABC by the middle of June, making a summer launch a possibility. The project is targeted to air in the 2006-07 TV season.
I can but hope that my hopes aren't too high.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5; might want to check out the considerably greater detail in my August post, though, including the long endorsement from Harlan.

Incidentally, the sequels to Superman Returns and Batman Begins are also apparently on. As is the tv Aquaman pilot. (Remember, the "CW" network is what's going to be left when UPN and the WB get through merging; it ain't the Cowboy/Western network.) I'm a little dubious that Aquaman is a strong enough character/concept to hold a tv series, but naturally it's the execution that will matter. I could certainly stand a weekly dose of Ving Rhames (as a primary supporting character, not as Aquaman, you dope).

2/24/2006 06:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 10 comments

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