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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Hilzoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Virginia Postrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
THE POWER TO GET FILMS QUICKLY FROM NETFLIX. Hey, nobody told me that the first disk of Heroes has not just a heckuva lot of deleted scenes (I had read that every disk does), but that it also has the never-broadcast pilot (with commentary by Tim Kring).


Okay, busy for a few hours now.

8/29/2007 06:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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Monday, August 27, 2007
BETTER LATE THAN BUGFUCK. You've probably seen a post by someone about Philip Atkinson, of rightwing Republican security apparatchik Frank Gaffney's "Family Security Matters," also known as the Center for Security Policy, whose now-disappeared piece boldly goes where no raving lunatic has gone before, but the jaw-droppingness! the jaw-droppingness!
[...] The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.

The simple truth that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide. Israel provides the perfect example. If the Israelis do not raze Iran, the Iranians will fulfill their boast and wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Yet Israel is not popular, and so is denied permission to defend itself. In the same vein, President Bush cannot do what is necessary for the survival of Americans. He cannot use the nation's powerful weapons. All he can do is try and discover a result that will be popular with Americans.

As there appears to be no sensible result of the invasion of Iraq that will be popular with his countrymen other than retreat, President Bush is reviled; he has become another victim of Democracy.

By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.

However, President Bush has a valuable historical example that he could choose to follow.

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome, thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming ex-president Bush or he can become President-for-Life Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.
Don't expect to stop seeing Frank Gaffney, who employed this man as a "Contributing Editor" through the publication of seven prior articles, and whose site this was published on by its "Contributing Editor," giving his opinions to Fox News, and other news organizations.

Because his judgment is clearly unquestionable.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

8/27/2007 07:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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PUT ON THAT PINK FLOYD, and go to sleep early, so you can see the dark side -- well, a dark side -- of the moon in tonight's total lunar eclipse. (If you're in a well-chosen location on earth; if not, scramble into your private jet, or teleportation device, now!)

It makes me recall a bit of Cold War history I suspect not everyone is familiar with: the objections on the American right to signing a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in the Fifties and Sixties on the grounds that we'd never know that the Soviets were cheating when they blew up atomic bombs on the other side of the moon.

(Don't believe me? See here, for instance; the Limited Test Ban Treaty actually went into effect in October of 1963, though, after that commie loser-defeatist Eisenhower opened negotiations with the treacherous Reds in August, 1958, leading eventually to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, and all of us having a lot less fallout in our food pyramids.)

Location tips!
[...] The early umbral phases will be in progress at moonset for observers in Maritime Canada. From the eastern USA, the Great Lakes region and Ontario, the Moon sets in total eclipse. Only observers to the west of the Rockies (including Alaska) will be treated to the entire event. All phases of the eclipse are also visible from islands of the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand and eastern Australia. Various stages of the eclipse are in progress at moonrise for eastern Asia. No eclipse is visible from Europe, Africa and western Asia.
For me, in Mountain Daylight Time, it'll be Partial Eclipse Begins: 02:51 am; Total Eclipse Begins: 03:52 am; Total Eclipse Ends: 04:22 am, and it's all over at 06:24 am, with dawn exactly one minute later, at 6:25 a.m, and moonset at 6:34 a.m.

Hope I can stay up; I slept through the Perseids again, damnit.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for details on timing and locations. Happy lunacy!

Of course, it's been clouds and scattered rain here all day, and the current forecast for tonight says "A Thunderstorm This Evening; Otherwise, Mostly Cloudy," so odds seem high that I, and folks around here, may see downright nothing. Not much cure for that, though.

If so:
[...] North Americans will have their next opportunity to see a total lunar eclipse on Feb 21, 2008.
Not a terribly long wait, really; I wouldn't be that bothered missing a few minutes of the beginning.

ADDENDUM, 10:00 p.m.: It's raining again. Hard. And the forecast still says more of the same.

Probably I should turn off the coffee pot.

I blame anti-semitism.

ADDENDUM, 8/28/07, 1:28 a.m.: The clouds are thinning somewhat, and one can at least see the moon's glow through them. I'll cling to some small hope of perhaps seeing something, for now. Another cup of coffee, after all.

ADDENDUM, 8/28/07, 2:46 a.m.: The sky is patchy, half covered with cloud, but half not. And the half not has kept the moon clear (and visible right out the window over my bed) for the past hour, so huzzah! (For now.) Five minutes!

ADDENDUM, 8/28/07, 4:00 a.m. Nice. Woulda been nice to have some low-power binocs, but, still: very nice.

It's sleepy out, though.

8/27/2007 03:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Sunday, August 19, 2007
THEN KARL WILL EAT SOME RAW HUMAN BABIES FOR LUNCH. Some people go to Disneyland. What does Karl Rove do when he leaves the White House? He's going to shoot symbols of peace. Of course.
[...] The first thing Karl Rove plans to do when he leaves the White House at the end of this month is go dove hunting in West Texas, The Sleuth has learned.

"He loves to go hunting," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says. (No word on whether the gunslinging vice president will be joining him.)

After a weekend of dove hunting, according to Perino, Rove will return to Washington to fetch his wife.
Yes, he's bringing his dogs. Why do you ask?

The Sleuth also reminds us of the M.C. Rove sketch:
[...] ("I like to go home, get a drink, and tear the tops off of small animals")
[...] No response yet from the White House. But if we get (non-Photoshopped) photos of Rove cuddling with his dogs, you'll be first to see them.

UPDATE Sorry, folks, no photos of Rove hugging puppies, bunnies or anything else that might disabuse PETA of the notion that he hates God's most vulnerable furry and feathered creatures.
Also, he can't be seen in mirrors. Way to confound expectations, Karl!

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5. Remember, he's a genius of presentation and master of symbolism, the greatest political mind of his generation and probably of any generation.

Incidentally, Karl visited Colorado this week:
That's a damn fine cup of coffee.

8/19/2007 07:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, August 17, 2007
SIDEBARS. If you ever read the fine print of my sidebar, you may have noticed this tally, which currently says this:
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 16; 11 cancellations; Total=5

Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 1

Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 6; 4 cancellations; Total= 2

Cancellations have been accumulating dramatically. I'm still madly pursuing disability application, but achieving it isn't remotely in sight.

I'm going to be in real financial trouble in another 2-3 months at present rate. Getting more and more nervous/towards frightened again. Bleh. Words, it makes me lose.

Only 7 non-subscription donations in the last 6 months, 2 in the last week. New subscribers, donations: good. Thanks.

8/17/2007 07:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 6 comments

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SQUIRREL PORN, AND OTHER SKIENCE NEWS. That's not what a story with this headline is? Squirrels wield a hot, secret weapon. Sadly, no.
[...] It's Californian ground squirrel versus rattlesnake in a potentially lethal showdown. But the squirrel has a secret weapon that until now has remained invisible to the human eye.

The ground squirrel heats up its tail then waves it in the snake's face - a form of harassment that confuses the rattler, which has an infrared sensing organ for detecting small mammals.

This defensive tactic remained invisible to biologists until they looked at the animals through an infrared video camera. Now they believe that many other animals might be using infrared weaponry to ward off potential predators.
View your hot squirrel vs. rattlesnake infrared video at the piece, if you like.

Angkor once a metropolis of over a million people.
A comprehensive map of the ancient Cambodian metropolis of Angkor has been produced from a radar survey, supporting the notion that this sprawling city was irrigated to produce food for a substantial population.


The radar survey shows a bustling centre connected to smaller suburbs, with an extensive and regular network of fields and canals. "The scale of the landscape manipulation is unparalleled," says Damian Evans, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who led the mapping project. This supports the idea that Angkor's residents channelled the Siem Reap river to feed a population that may have exceeded a million.

The 1,000-square-kilometre settlement resembles modern cities such as London and New York, says Evans.

Their map reveals previously unseen details of this sprawling city, including some 79 'linear features' that could be remnants of old canals or roadways, 94 local temples, and two giant earthen mounds of unknown use.
I'm just glad we've never done anything to harm the people of such an ancient culture!

Bigelow's first "space hotel" plans are changing a bit, possibly resulting in the launch of the "Sundancer space station" before 2010. Or, as often happens, maybe not. Genesis 2, though, did go into space in June, and it wasn't even a mediocre Gene Roddenberry movie.

The upside of being autistic! You don't catch yawns!

More monkeys!
[...] Addessi, a researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Rome, Italy, tested whether her capuchins could understand the value of monkey money, and then use it to buy the greatest amount of food.

First, all ten capuchins successfully learned that a blue token would "buy" them one piece of peanut whereas a yellow token would get them three, and if offered the choice between one of each token, they would be better off choosing a yellow one.


However, "four capuchins were able to maximise their payoff," says Addessi. These monkeys could work out that four blue tokens bought more food than a single yellow token, whereas two blue tokens were of lesser value.


What is unique about Addessi's study is that the monkeys didn't just choose between quantities but also showed they were able to represent them using symbols – much as humans use coins to represent value.
Pretty much everything ever said about how "man is the only animal that..." has turned out to be wrong.

And I thought cats and dogs I've lived with shed.

[...] Scientists said Wednesday that they were stunned to learn that the giant red star, Mira, zipping through the Milky Way galaxy 300 times faster than a speeding bullet, has a turbulent tail stretching trillions of miles across space.

“I was shocked when I first saw this completely unexpected humongous tail trailing behind a well-known star,” said Christopher Martin of the California Institute of Technology, principal scientist for the Galaxy Evolution Explorer spacecraft, also known as the Galex, that discovered the tail.


In a paper published in the Aug. 16 edition of the journal Nature, the researchers said the Galex craft also found a bow shockwave in front of the star and two streams of material coming from its front and back. The shockwave is caused by the speeding star’s plowing into relatively stable interstellar hydrogen and other molecules, compressing and heating the material as it flows back around the star, similar to a boat’s moving through water.

In the report, researchers said they believed that hot gas in the bow shockwave was heating the gas blowing off the star, causing it to fluoresce with ultraviolet light. This glowing material then swirls around behind the star, creating a turbulent tail-like wake.

The Mira tail is 13 light-years long and represents material shed by the star over the last 30,000 years, the scientists said.
At least the tail is unlikely to get caught in a door. Nature coverage.

Neural study via optical excitation.
[...] The channelrhodopsin switch is “really going to blow the lid off the whole analysis of brain function,” said George Augustine, a neurobiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
I say that all the time.

But the imagery of optical cables glowing and running out of the brains of mice, while someone flips switches to make them run left or right, is terribly monster movie; not to mention making "headless fruit flies flap away" with light beam/brain connections. I'm thinking David Cronnenberg should be alerted.

Seen a movie or tv show where someone's memory gets wiped? On the way!
[...] Scientists have erased a long-term memory in the brains of laboratory rats, offering insight into how such memories are stored.

Yadin Dudai and Reut Shema of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, trained rodents to associate a particular smell with illness. Injecting the rat brains up to a month later with a polypeptide called ZIP caused the rats to completely forget the unpleasant memory, they report in Science.

The study suggests that even though long-term memories can last for years or even for a lifetime, they are constantly maintained by an ever-active process.
That sure fits with both how I think I perceive my own longterm memories, and how it looks to me from the outside that others do: that at least in part, or in whole, they're recreated by being replayed, or they fade, but when replayed, they're subject to later distortion, and thus can mutate or blur over the years.

But my intuitions aren't worth much.
[...] "The result is surprising because most people would basically say it's impossible to erase a memory like this," says Sacktor. Most neuroscientists think that relatively permanent changes in the shape and physiology of neurons help store long-term memories, he says.
And the caution:
[...] David Glanzman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, is not completely convinced that the rats' memories have been fully erased. He says that if experiments show the effect lasts for a year, he would be swayed.

The researchers — who are expecting a lasting effect — are now testing to see whether the memories stay erased for longer periods of time.
I greatly fear any encouragement this gives to the possibility of Paycheck II. (A movie actually only utterly mediocre, banal, and completely predictable, without being outright bad.)

Of course, this isn't news: The behaviour of a teenager who has fallen madly in love is akin to that of a patient with a psychiatric disorder. Observedly, not always just teenagers.

[...] The lovestruck teenagers showed many behaviours resembling "hypomania" – a less intense form of mania. For example, they required about an hour less sleep each night than teens who didn't have a sweetheart. They were also more likely to report acting compulsively, with 60% saying they spent too much money compared with fewer than 30% of teenagers who were not in love.

Moreover, the lovestruck teens were more than twice as likely to say they had lots of ideas and creative energy. Worryingly, they were also more likely to say they drove fast and took risks on the road.
Further study is required to determine if they played music while driving.

Seasonal topic:
[...] Some people have fewer than two million sweat glands; some have as many as four million. Heavy sweaters may have glands five times average size; their big glands are more sensitive to nerve stimuli and make more sweat.
I believe I have approximately 600 million sweat glands 20 times average size.

More on sweat.

Counterintuitive point:
[...] And as for clothing: less is not always better. In studies during World War II, researchers sat volunteers on wooden boxes in the California desert, some wearing standard olive drab military fatigues, some in light tan summer uniforms, and some “near naked.” The unclothed “soldiers” sweated about 30 percent more than the others — an indication of how much heat their unprotected skin was absorbing from the environment.
I fear to mention that I've been known to blog in the nude.

Read The Rest Scale: pick and choice as you like.

8/17/2007 06:36:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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BUT WHAT DID HE KNOW ABOUT PROTECTING US FROM TERRORISM? Today's quote: in June, 1788, the adoption or rejection of the Constitution of the United States, replacing the previous Articles of Confederation, was being debated in the country.

This is from one such speech by a certain James Madison, to the Virginia Convention, during the session of that assembly; I pick him up in the middle of commenting on the speech of another:
[...] He has suggested, that licentiousness has seldom produced the loss of liberty; but that the tyranny of rulers has almost always effected it.

Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people, by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations: but on a candid examination of history, we shall find that turbulence, violence and abuse of power, by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions which, in republics, have more frequently than any other cause, produced despotism.

If we go over the whole history of ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes.

If we consider the peculiar situation of the United States, and go to the sources of that diversity of sentiment which pervades its inhabitants, we shall find great danger to fear that the same causes may terminate here in the same fatal effects which they produced in those republics.

This danger ought to be wisely guarded against.
Want an originalist thought on our Constitutional freedoms from an Original Founder? There you go.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

8/17/2007 06:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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POKING AT FISA. Spencer Ackerman reports that the FISA Court has responded to the ACLU lawsuit:
Don't get your hopes up yet. But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has told the government that it needs to submit an argument for why the court shouldn't disclose rulings from earlier this year on the warrantless surveillance program that prompted the Bush administration to gut the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Ten days ago, the ACLU filed a motion with the secret court seeking the release of two contentious rulings in particular: a January 10 ruling that Alberto Gonzales described as "innovative" enough as to allow the surveillance program to be placed under FISA; and the ruling from the spring that led to the wholesale FISA revision. In a conference call today, Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU disclosed that around lunchtime, the court, in response to the ACLU's "unprecedented request," asked the government to file any objections it has to a disclosure by August 31. Jaffer cautioned the court action doesn't herald actual disclosure, but it shows that the court is taking the ACLU's request seriously.
It's not even a baby step, but at least it's a tremble.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

You can become a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union here, and help defend your civil liberties, by the way. Besides, how else will you be able to quit in outrage later?

ADDENDUM, 8/18/07, 9:15 p.m.: The WaPo gets around to the story. ACLU press release.

8/17/2007 04:46:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SURVEILLANCE STATE. Despite getting a few prominent links from my post on the government's revolutionary plan to use satellite surveillance on the citizenry, I'm still astonished at how relatively little attention this scheme has received, both in general, and from so many of the stalwarts of the liberal/left blogosphere, including those who usually address civil liberties issues with passion. I'm baffled at the silence of the prominent civil libertarians of the blogosphere. (I wrote Balkin, Lederman, and Glenn Greenwald, but no response from any.) I wish they'd offer their views. (I know, it's August, people have other concerns; this is important.)

Meanwhile, mainstream coverage:
[...] “It potentially marks a transformation of American political culture toward a surveillance state in which the entire public domain is subject to official monitoring,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.
Absolutely. This is why this needs attention now, before it's accepted as just normal business, to protect the children, blahblahblah. PEOPLE SHOULD BE RINGING ALARM BELLS! WRITING THEIR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES!

Or at least writing blog posts, damnit.
[...] Spy satellites, which provide higher-resolution photographs than commercial satellite imagery, and in real time, have traditionally been used overseas to monitor terrorist movements and nuclear tests. Their expanded use in domestic surveillance marks a new era in intelligence gathering, conjures up images of “Big Brother in the sky,” and raises civil liberties concerns.

“This touches so many Americans, it can’t be allowed to be discussed behind closed doors,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union.


Civil liberties advocates complained that the agencies could not be trusted to supervise themselves, and that Congress needed to play a larger oversight role.

An official with the House Intelligence Committee said the panel had been notified of the program last spring but had not been given details of the data-sharing, and would ask for a full briefing when lawmakers returned in September from their summer recess.

“Crystal-clear rules on the use of such information are needed to protect the privacy of the American people,” said Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat who heads the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.
What's going to happen, if people don't make a huge uproar, is clear: it'll sleep until September, and this will quietly proceed. The article is full of anodyne quotes from administration officials intended to put everyone to sleep: it's all harmless, folks, nothing to see here, it's just about use in emergencies, will never be used against citizens, don't worry about anything, etc., etc., etc.

And the Democrats will be happy to sleep through it, too, unless they're forced not to.

This is a silent, invisible, threat. It's the easiest thing in the world to ignore, or disclaim. No harm will be visible to anyone.

This is a bright line being crossed.

It's in your hands, people. It's your liberty. Use it or lose it.

Liberty is not visible, either, but you still need to grab it and hold onto it, if you don't want the last shreds of it taken from you.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5, but please read this, if you haven't. Thanks. I suspect it's no coincidence that this announcement was made in the dog days of August, when so few people read the news, given that they've could have made it any time in the last year.

ADDENDUM, 12:54 p.m.: See also this Corrente post, which fully gets it.

8/17/2007 10:53:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, August 16, 2007
HOW'S THE EXCHANGE RATE WITH QUATLOOS? Second Life bank collapse! 200,000,000 Lindens (U.S. $750,000) lost!

Naturally they're forming:
[...] the Second Life Exchange Commission, which is modeling itself on the SEC.
After all, there are more than 40 other banks in SL.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5. I wonder how many professional con artists are now making use of SL. It's a lot cheaper to play the Big Con there than in rl.

8/16/2007 12:00:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007
A Russian region of Ulyanovsk has found a novel way to fight the nation's birth-rate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who "give birth to a patriot" during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.


Ulyanovsk Gov. Sergei Morozov has added an element of fun to the national campaign.

The 2007 grand prize went to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who received a UAZ-Patriot, a sport utility vehicle. Other contestants won video cameras, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines.
Runners-up prize: you get to spend a day conceiving.

Or at least three minutes.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. How long until this is an American game show?

Okay, doubtless a Japanese game show first.

8/15/2007 11:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CRAZED USAGE OF "DHIMMI" WATCH. Mark Steyn comes through like the champ he's reputed to be:
[...] I think this sums it up best:
Scratch a liberal, find a dhimmi.
Yes, that surely sums it up best. Us liberals are all godless folk, who believe our grandparents were monkeys, and we're looking forward to Muslim theocratic rule, because our terrorsymp cowardly side just overwhelms us, like it did during the Cold War, when Democrats did nothing to contain Communism (except invent the entire doctrine, found NATO and SEATO, fight two major wars, and the like).

Got it in one.

Steyn quotes from Kathy Shaidle, incidentally, whose point is that:
[...] But Allah isn't the God of the Old and New Testament. The two contradict each other. Only one can be the real God.
Of course, by that logic, the Jewish God and Christian God also greatly contradict each other, and only one can be "the real God." Conservatives don't tend to argue that much, though, for some reason.

The "real God." That's so useful to argue about.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

8/15/2007 09:22:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 7 comments

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JUDGE DOWN RABBIT HOLE. Ryan Singel and David Kravets spent today live-blogging the AT&T/NSA "Program" hearing at the U.S. 9th Circuit; some fascinating stuff, and some good parts:
[...] Judge Harry Pregerson (left, in file photo) suggests the government is asking the courts to "rubber stamp" the government's claim that state secrets are at risk "Who decides whether something is a state secret or not? ... We have to take the word of the members of the executive branch that something is a state secret?"

Garre counters that the courts should give "utmost deference" to the Bush administration.

Judge Pregerson: "What does utmost deference mean? Bow to it?"

2:30pm PDT

All three judges are giving Garre skeptical questions about the power of the state secrets privilege. They're also getting stonewalled a bit.

"Was a warrant obtained in this case?" Judge Pregerson asks.

"That gets into matters that were protected by state secrets," Garre replies.

2:45pm PDT

Judge McKeown asks whether the government stands by President Bush's statements that purely-domestic communications, where both parties are in the United States, are not being monitored without warrants.

"Does the government stand behind that statement," McKeown asks.

Garre: "Yes, your honor."

But Garre says the government would not be willing to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect for the court record.

Pregerson, by his record, is the most liberal judge on the panel, and he clearly thinks the government is just looking for a blank check for their secret program. But the other two judges aren't thrilled either. They seem perplexed that the government attorney can't swear under oath that the Bush Administration isn't warrantlessly spying on domestic phone calls.


Judge Hawkins (left, file photo) wonders if the document is really that secret?

"Every ampersand, every comma is Top Secret?," Hawkins asks.

"This document is totally non-redactable and non-segregable and cannot even be meaningfully described," Bondy answers.

The government says the purported log of calls between one of the Islamic charity directors and two American lawyers is classified Top Secret and has the SCI level, meaning that it is "secureCheshire compartmented information." That designation usually applies to surveillance information.

4:25pm PDT

Judge McKeown: "I feel like I'm in Alice and Wonderland."

Eisenberg: "I feel like I'm in Alice in Wonderland, too."
For the record, it's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," so Eisenberg had it closer (or was thinking of the 1951 Disney film).

[...] Many thought that the Al-Haramain plaintiffs, who look to be the only people in America who can prove they were surveilled without warrants by the government's so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program, would be able to clamber over the legal obstacles standing in the way of getting a court to rule on the legality of warrantless wiretapping.

Instead, the court looks likely to throw out the Al-Haramain challenge because the government says the alleged surveillance call log is too secret to be used in court. But at the same time, all three judges seemed to believe that the government could confirm or deny a secret intelligence relationship with the nation's largest telecom, without disclosing secrets to the world.
Not really an optimism-inspiring outcome of the day, apparently. Sigh.

[...] Maybe the San Francisco-based court will take the government's side or maybe it won't. But one thing is certain: if there was or is wholesale electronic spying on Americans without warrants, the courts aren't about to step in and stop it any time soon. That's because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's largest federal appellate court, isn't likely to rule for months or more. And the outcome isn't likely to be settled for perhaps years.

Best part of course: that "the government attorney can't swear under oath that the Bush Administration isn't warrantlessly spying on domestic phone calls."

Funny, that.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 11:19 p.m.: NYT coverage.
[...] “Is it the government’s position that when our country is engaged in a war that the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?” Judge Harry Pregerson asked a government lawyer. His tone was one of incredulity and frustration.
Of course; the right of the government to keep anything and everything secret from the mere citizenry must be unquestioned. That's what Rudy Giuliani would say freedom is all about, after all.
[...] All three judges indicated that they were inclined to allow one or both cases to go forward for at least limited additional proceedings before Judge Walker.
I should have clarified that we're talking about two cases, Hepting v. AT&T, and Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. George W. Bush.
The two cases deal with different secret programs, but are broadly similar. One, a class action against AT&T, focuses mainly on accusations that the company provided the N.S.A. its customers’ phone and Internet communications for a vast data-mining operation. The lawyers in the AT&T case call that program, which the government has not acknowledged, a “content dragnet.”

The second case, brought by an Islamic charity and two of its lawyers against the government, concerns a program disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, which the administration calls the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The program, which has since been submitted to a secret court’s supervision, bypassed court warrants in monitoring international communications involving people in the United States.
I've blogged plenty of past posts on both; feel free to Google if you're interested.

There was also this:
[...] Judge Pregerson, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, appeared irritated with the government’s arguments, and he became frustrated when Mr. Garre said he could not provide simple answers to questions about the scope of a recently amended 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Mr. Garre said it was a complicated law.

“Can’t be any more complicated than my phone bill,” Judge Pregerson said.
ADDENDUM, 8/16/07, 1:00 a.m.: WaPo version:
[...] "This seems to put us in the 'trust us' category," Judge M. Margaret McKeown said about the government's assertions that its surveillance activities did not violate the law. " 'We don't do it. Trust us. And don't ask us about it.' "

At one point, Garre argued that courts are not the right forum for complaints about government surveillance, and that "other avenues" are available. "What is that? Impeachment?" Pregerson shot back.


"If there were in fact widespread surveillance of American citizens, there would be no [legal] remedy, yes or no?" McKeown asked Garre. He responded by reiterating that litigation would inevitably lead to exposing methods that must be kept secret to be effective.
Civil rights and liberties? Quaint. Be afraid of the terrorists!

8/15/2007 09:07:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JUST THE FIRST PARAGRAPH IS ENOUGH to laugh at Michael Gerson:
In the field of environmentalism -- where brows tend to be frozen in furrow and despair is a professional credential -- Gregg Easterbrook of the Brookings Institution is notable for his optimism. And one cause of his sunniness is smog in Los Angeles.
And another cause is that Gregg Easterbrook of the Brookings Institution doesn't know what a scientific theory is, and argues for the physical existence of "spiritual dimensions" (aka, Where God Lives), is a creationist, is opposed to spending taxpayer money on "abstract knowledge", and is a demonstrable kook on more than a few issues of science and technology.

But it's good to know that as regards global warming, Gregg Easterbrook Of The Brookings Institute Is Optimistic!

Everyone break out your fireworks, and join in the dancing in the streets now.

Gerson wanders off onto stuff like:
[...] Hysteria on the environment is a liberal temptation. Prudence, however, remains a conservative virtue, and it requires the issue of warming to be addressed.
Nah: more than a few conservatives believe it's all a hysterical liberal hoax/conspiracy/hallucination, Michael: haven't you heard? It's too soon to take action: it would be imprudent!

He does, however, eventually come out for a cap-and-trade system. La-di-da.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. I don't recommend quoting or quasi-quoting Gregg Easterbrook on science.

ADDENDUM, 8/17/08, 11:22 a.m.: Welcome, Pharyngula readers; do please feel free to check out the eclectic topics of other posts; if one bores, just scroll to the next!

(Donations appreciated more than I can say!)

8/15/2007 02:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MAPLES CAN BE PART-ROTTEN, TOO. Don't get me wrong: I very much admire and like Canada, and lots of Canadians; I could wax at length on both topics.

But the grass is always greener Over The Fence, and liberal Americans often romanticize Canada -- at least since the Vietnam War -- and tend to not know very much about Canadian politics, Canadian conservatism, Canadian history, and Canadian civil liberties.

Which, to be sure, I wouldn't say overall are any worse than those of the United States. But no one even faintly knowledgeable could say that Canada's institutions and tendencies and history are any more perfect than those of the U.S., either.

Case in point yesterday -- remember Maher Arar?:
[...] Yet after the court ordered the release of the information about Arar that had been kept secret, the same Canadian government insisted that the disclosures would mean the ruination of national security. What that fear really betrays is a mindset that the rising and setting of the sun is a state secret.

The Canadian government opposed revealing that the CIA, not the FBI, decided to deport Arar. It fretted over disclosing that the operations director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service authored a memo 15 days after Arar's arrest opining that "the U.S. would like to get Arar to Jordan where they can have their way with him." The Canadians also objected to unbosoming that the Syrians considered Arar "more of a nuisance than anything else"; and that information extracted by severe abuse or torture in Syria from another Canadian, Ahmad El-Maati, was exploited by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to persuade a judge to authorize a wiretap. As John Ibbitson wrote in the Globe and Mail last week: "National security my ass. Foreign affairs, CSIS and especially the RCMP were simply trying to keep hidden their incompetent, duplicitous, and disgraceful handling of the Arar file. And they are still at it."
Nothing new here:
[...] November 7, 2002 [...]

Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation imposes severe restrictions on civil liberties and opens the door to serious abuses against rights and freedoms according to a national coalition recently formed to monitor the application of the law and its impacts on the legitimate activities of Canadian civil society organizations. The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) wants a Parliamentary special committee to review immediately, through a process that would include public consultation, the far reaching measures adopted in the aftermath of September 11.
Of course, their trends go back long before 9/11.

Anyway, not to kick Canada particularly: not at all; my point is solely that they're not some sort of civil liberties paragon to look to over the U.S. Alas.

Read The Rest Scale: as interested.

8/15/2007 12:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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EYE IN THE SKY. Is it giant and lidless? Yes!
The U.S.'s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation's vast network of spy satellites in the U.S.

The decision, made three months ago by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, places for the first time some of the U.S.'s most powerful intelligence-gathering tools at the disposal of domestic security officials.


Access to the high-tech surveillance tools would, for the first time, allow Homeland Security and law-enforcement officials to see real-time, high-resolution images and data, which would allow them, for example, to identify smuggler staging areas, a gang safehouse, or possibly even a building being used by would-be terrorists to manufacture chemical weapons.
Fortunately, this system is incapable of being abused, because of magical incantations that will be placed upon it. Also, our officials can never be corrupted by power, because they are as gods.
[...] Plans to provide DHS with significantly expanded access have been on the drawing board for over two years. The idea was first talked about as a possibility by the Central Intelligence Agency after 9/11 as a way to help better secure the country. "It is an idea whose time has arrived," says Charles Allen, the DHS's chief intelligence officer, who will be in charge of the new program.
Of course it has. So has the ability to listen to everyone's phone calls, and to use audio amplifiers to listen to everyone's conversations, whether outdoors, or with a laser on the windows to "hear" the sound vibrations of what you're saying indoors!

It's the Wonderful Worldwide Wire!
DHS officials say the program has been granted a budget by Congress and has the approval of the relevant committees in both chambers.
Hello, Democrats!?
[...] Access to the satellite surveillance will be controlled by a new Homeland Security branch -- the National Applications Office -- which will be up and running in October.


Unlike electronic eavesdropping, which is subject to legislative and some judicial control, this use of spy satellites is largely uncharted territory. Although the courts have permitted warrantless aerial searches of private property by law-enforcement aircraft, there are no cases involving the use of satellite technology.

In recent years, some military experts have questioned whether domestic use of such satellites would violate the Posse Comitatus Act. The act bars the military from engaging in law-enforcement activity inside the U.S., and the satellites were predominantly built for and owned by the Defense Department.

According to Pentagon officials, the government has in the past been able to supply information from spy satellites to federal law-enforcement agencies, but that was done on a case-by-case basis and only with special permission from the president.

Even the architects of the current move are unclear about the legal boundaries. A 2005 study commissioned by the U.S. intelligence community, which recommended granting access to the spy satellites for Homeland Security, noted: "There is little if any policy, guidance or procedures regarding the collection, exploitation and dissemination of domestic MASINT." MASINT stands for Measurement and Signatures Intelligence, a particular kind of information collected by spy satellites which would for the first time become available to civilian agencies.

According to defense experts, MASINT uses radar, lasers, infrared, electromagnetic data and other technologies to see through cloud cover, forest canopies and even concrete to create images or gather data.
Because "largely uncharted territory" and "unclear about the legal boundaries" and "little if any policy, guidance or procedures" are always the way to go when we're considering mere civil liberties.

Anyone remember being brought up on rhetoric about how America stood for freedom and liberty?

What do those words mean any more?

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5; you may not watch them, but they're watching you. It's to keep us safer! If we don't do it, the terrorists win!

Ben Franklin said that.

Oh, and people might to refresh themselves on Kyllo v. United States, although I'm sure this SCOTUS will find it no bother at all.

ADDENDUM, 8:25 p.m.: As I was saying in reply to Kevin's e-mail:
[...] let me assure you that some of these satellites most assuredly can read heat/infrared inside buildings. That capacity goes back to the Seventies; I well recall reading William Burrows' Deep Black in manuscript when I was at Avon back circa 1987 (unsuccessfully; my boss was unconvinced it was a paperback, which wasn't an entirely unfair judgment), and which became the declassified bible on intel satellite capabilities for a bunch of years, though it's now out of print and out of date, last I looked.

But just a little googling would confirm this
capability, I assure you. It's as basic to cutting
through clouds, after all, as is radar capability.

The main limitation on satellites these days is time over station: not so much resolution (though obviously there are limits -- but we really are vague on what those are, unless "we" have major clearance) or spectrum.
You can look up some of the capabilities here. For more IMINT (imagery intel) see here.

Among other programs, KH-12 (KEYHOLE)/ IMPROVED CRYSTAL satellites, which have been flying since 1992:
[...] These electronic cameras provide real-time transmission of images to ground stations via Milstar relay satellites. The IMPROVED CRYSTAL sensors operate in visible and near infrared light, as well as thermal infrared to detect heat sources. These sensors probably incorporate low-light-level image intensifiers to provide night-time images. The KH-12's have an infrared capability superior to that of the IMPROVED CRYSTAL, with the advantage in infrared primarily for camouflage detection, for looking at buried structures, for looking at differential thermal inertia in the target area, for trying to determine which factories are operating and which factories are not.
A key (pardon me) element:
[...] A periscope-like rotating mirror reflects images onto the primary mirror, enabling the KH-12 to take pictures at very high angles of obliquity, imaging objects hundreds of kilometers away from its flight path.
This was a huge improvement over the KH-11.

Later came the "Enhanced Imaging System". These have longer dwell time by going to far higher orbits than previous satellites.

If you like, read more here on TENCAP (Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities), and a huge slew of satellite and other overhead program capabilities, including SIGINT (signals intel) as well as IMINT.

And check out this on 3-D imaging capability. But first:
[...] They are known in the spy trade as “Keyhole-class” satellites. And they have a resolution of 5 to 6 inches, meaning they can distinguish an object that small, but no smaller, on the ground. Two other satellites are radar-imaging, built by Lockheed Martin in Watertown, Colo. Their resolution is about 3 feet.
Later in the story:
[...] Using initially a Cray supercomputer and now smaller computers, NIMA analysts create 3-D animations — called “envisions” — for policymakers so they can understand problems faced by peacekeepers or soldiers before they make decisions on deployment.

Similar animations were shown to pilots at preflight briefings in 1995 to help them prepare for bombing runs over Bosnia. Multiple route plans have been animated so the pilots know the advantages and disadvantages of each.

And the simulations can be just as useful in the battles against terrorism and narcotics. The CIA has pulled together street-by-street urban landscapes that are used to prepare intelligence officers and agents for missions to “denied areas” like South Beirut before they arrive on scene. With some newly acquired technology, those officers and agents can use a joystick to take a virtual “stroll” through such an area long before they arrive.


Pike says that NIMA now maintains an imaging archive that can be accessed via the closest server.

“Until the past few years, the imagery, even though the downlink was digital, had to be converted to film — because physically, the intelligence community didn’t have the bandwidth to move it,” says Pike. “During Desert Storm, an airplane had to fly the pictures to Saudi.”

Now, he notes, there is enough bandwidth to sent these multi-gigabyte images to wherever they are needed.

These 3-D capabilities can even help intelligence analysts determine what a terrorist or drug lord’s intentions might be. For example, if analysts know that a suspected terrorist has rented an eighth-floor apartment in a particular building, they can order a 3-D re-creation of that neighborhood. By “flying” through the neighborhood 80 feet above the ground and freezing the view in front of the suspect’s apartment, the analysts see what the suspect sees — and perhaps gets a good view of what’s being targeted.


And the analysts are not limited to satellite imagery. They can add information gathered from other sources to create a more complete 3-D image.

Here are three examples: a CIA agent covertly takes photographs of a “denied area,” like south Beirut. Those photos can be added to the 3-D animation of the neighborhood, created mainly from satellite imagery, yielding a more realistic look for the CIA officer or commando who will follow him.

In the second example, a CIA agent obtains technical data, but not a photograph, on China’s new F-10. When the Chinese roll out a mock-up of the F-10 and a Keyhole satellite snaps its picture, the analyst can take a look at the imagery and then add in the technical data to create a better, fuller and more compelling view for policymakers and military intelligence officers.

Finally, an analyst can combine unclassified, low-resolution, multispectral imagery of North Korea’s nuclear reactor — the kind that shows heat and ultraviolet emissions — with classified high-resolution Keyhole imagery of the same reactor. The commercially available low-resolution imagery can sense a rise in heat — and thus the operational tempo at the reactor — while the high-resolution imagery can watch for the movement of fuel rods or other equipment at the reactor.

“We have become very good at fusing imagery from visible light and radar imaging satellites with imagery from multispectral satellites, which are unclassified,” says Richelson.

Richelson notes that each has its strengths. For example, the classified radar-imaging satellites — initially code-named “Lacrosse” — can see through clouds and at night and to some extent can even see underground. The recent discovery of the ruins of ancient Arabian cities provides the best unclassified example of radar-imaging capability.

Radar images can also be digitally rearranged to create the perspective of seeing the target from all sides, an immense value in the analysis of foreign weapons systems and military installations.

Satellites that have infrared cameras, like the unclassified Landsat, can better detect targets that are camouflaged.

“So, multispectral or hyperspectral imagery can be combined with visible light imagery to detect things that each alone can’t detect,” Richelson said.


Another, newer capability of imagery analysis involves “modeling” — creating 3-D computerized models of buildings, ships, planes and other objects, then combining them to obtain further information. One recent example involved manipulating an image of a North Korean freighter to obtain the ship’s internal dimensions, cargo-loading capabilities and maximum load. Then the analyst modeled an image of a North Korean Scud missile. By adding details on the ship’s history and North Korean sales of missiles to other nations, the analyst produced a 3-D model that could help determine how many missiles were loaded on a freighter headed for Iran.

The CIA can now use artificial intelligence along with modeling to match a known building to an unknown location. The analyst and computer scientist can take a covertly obtained blueprint, create a digital model of the facility, then “ask” a computer to scan the available imagery and find the completed facility.

The key to understanding all these advances is knowing the real value of digital imagery: the capacity to manipulate, model and combine.
This is all stuff from back in the Nineties.

All this stuff, and what's come since, will now be directed at you.

Oh, and I forgot to mention MISTY. Remember MISTY?

And I probably should clarify that so far as we know, no, unlike tv and movies, there's still no live video capability, and most likely not even color capability (if it's there, there have been no leaks yet). But they can do live stills, and if you don't need live capacity, the combined 3-D modeling capability I quote about above is obviously amazing.

On the other hand, the ability to follow specific locales is highly limited: there are only so many satellites, so a panopticon it isn't yet.

It's the threshold-crossing here that's revolutionary, and crucial. All this stuff was never supposed to be used against Americans. Now it's suddenly okay. Trust the government!

ADDENDUM, 11:10 p.m.: Michael Froomkin comments.

ADDENDUM, 8/16/07, 1:31 a.m.: Washington Post coverage.
The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.


Other nonvisual capabilities can be provided by aircraft-based sensors, which include ground-penetrating radar and highly sensitive detectors that can sense electromagnetic activity, radioactivity or traces of chemicals, military experts said. Such radar can be used to find objects hidden in buildings or bunkers.
Etc. Italics mine.

How does the bureaucracy work? Like this:
[...] The two officials have been coordinating for months, as recommended in a 2005 study headed by Keith Hall, then the director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Hall's group cited an "urgent need" for expanding sharing of remote sensing data to domestic groups other than scientific researchers. "Opportunities to better protect the nation are being missed," the report said.
The NRO finds that there's an "urgent need" for more "customers" in government for their "product." They, too, can better justify more money and positions with more "customers" if, like so many others both in government and the private sector, they can feed at the trough of money for "homeland security." That's how it works. [ADDENDUM, 8/21/07, 4:02 p.m.: Jim Henley ably commented on this the other day.]

Another bit:
[...] Under the new program, the DHS will create a subordinate agency to be known as the National Applications Office. The new office, which has gained the backing of congressional intelligence and appropriations committees, is responsible for coordinating requests for access to intelligence by civilian agencies.
FYI, NAO: ok.

[...] "We can give total assurance" that Americans' civil liberties will be protected, Allen said. "Americans shouldn't have any concerns about it."
Everyone just take his word for it! It's the government, so we can trust them!

ADDENDUM, 8/16/07, 10:23 a.m.: P. Z. Myers links. So does Avedon Carol. And Scott Lemiux. Matt Yglesias thinks this is important.

ADDENDUM, 11:01 a.m.: It's probably not a good idea to make this post much longer, as it's already long past the length many will bother to read, let alone click on the links to, but so it goes. This was sent to me by a reader who prefers to stay anonymous, and it seems credible and unsurprising:
[...] A few years ago I interviewed for a software engineering job at Lawrence Livermore national lab. The job description was quite vague, but reading between the lines it sounded like they wanted people to write software to analyze satellite imagery looking at nuclear sites.

That seemed strange since there are other agencies in the government that had that expertise, but I shrugged it off and submitted a resume.

A few weeks later they flew me in for an interview and finally explained what they were doing. They had to set up an adaptive optics camera assembly and put it in a helicopter. As a demo, they flew over San Francisco and employed their special camera and processing software to track vehicles. The demo involved tracking all vehicles in a 10 km by 10 km square, with plans to scale the system up to a 30 km by 30 km square.

It turns out that the software needed to process that data in real time is rather simple to write given a modern graphics card. And of course, once you can track vehicles, you can track individuals since vehicles tend to leave or return to people's houses, which can be easily identified by mapping street addresses to GIS coordinates.

I saw a video of their demo and it was very impressive. And it wasn't completely evil; they got very quiet when I asked certain types of questions, but my hunch was that they had expensive nuclear detectors that could only be used at a few points in a city. Put the detectors along highways and combine it with this system and you gain the ability to track the origin and destination of vehicles carrying nuclear material. Not a risk that worries me personally, but something that various government folk are overly concerned with.

Anyway, this option is much, much cheaper than satellite work.
Sure. And, obviously, there are endless sorts of surveillance capabilities; certainly datamining and vast webs of street cameras, and pointable audio pick-ups, and the like are more immediately threatening than satellites, but none should be ignored, and the sudden change of our government's legal attitudes are critical.

For those unaware, I've also posted a lot on the NSA's surveillance and datamining over the years.

ADDENDUM: donations to help keep me from being overwhelmed with anxiety, so I can blog at least sporadically, would be most appreciated, by the way. Also, here is a slight follow-up.

I forgot to mention how, incidentally, cell phones can be used to track you, and how the pathfinders are building surveillance infrastructure, didn't I?

8/15/2007 10:24:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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FONTS SAVE LIVES! If you care, you've probably already read this; it's probably only for the smattering of people who get excited about typefaces, and design.

But, hey, that includes me, somewhat! And you can see the difference as you slouch here, right?
[...] Type is just as much about psychology as geometry. A letter’s shape, its curves, the way it sits next to other letters — all these factors give a font its personality and in turn create an emotion and connotation for the reader.


“Type on the roadway is very much like the corporate identity of a country,” says Graham Clifford, a friend of Montalbano’s who runs his own branding and design firm in New York.


“Typography is all about tone of voice,” Clifford says. “Do I shout at people? Do I whisper at people? Do I scream from the rooftops? Am I talking to a woman? To a man?”
If you care, hit the link. If not, click another! I encourage you!

Otherwise, if you're an American driver, perhaps you might care that the look of U.S. highways is changing subtly, or perhaps you won't.

Read The Rest Scale: as many san serifs out of 5 as you prefer. Font geek enough? I'm also assuming that the borders of Hellertown grew a mile; or something.

8/15/2007 08:29:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
ASSUMING YOU CAN SPARE IT, consider giving Mona a hand. She could use it.

And I know how hard it is to ask.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

8/14/2007 11:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I HELP YOU! To the person using the search string "is there monkes in spaceships," I have good news! There are! That is, there were, back in the day:
[...] The United States launched monkey flights primarily between 1948 and 1961 with one flight in 1969 and one in 1985. France launched two monkey space flights in 1967. The Soviet Union and Russia launched monkeys between 1983 and 1996. Most monkeys were anesthetized before lift-off. Thirty-two monkeys flew in the space program; each had only one mission. Numerous back-up monkeys also went through the programs but never flew. Monkeys from several species were used, including rhesus, cynomolgus, squirrel, and Philippine monkeys as well as pigtailed macaques.
Some contributed nobly to space exploration:
1958: Monkey lost after space flight
The search for a small bushy-tailed monkey fired into space in the nose cone of a Jupiter rocket has been called off.

The squirrel monkey named Gordo survived a 300-mile journey into space and then travelled more than 1,500 miles in the rocket until it dropped in the South Atlantic.

A technical problem with the recovery gear meant a parachute failed to open and the nose-cone sank taking Gordo with it. The US Army abandoned the search after six hours.
And, yes:
[...] There have been angry protests from animal rights groups about the decision to send Gordo into space.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said only inanimate objects should be used for such tests. The British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also expressed "grave concern and apprehension".
But that was then. Oliver would never get caught in one of those crazy machines.
Will No Cage Hold Him? Monkey Again Escapes Zoo

For the second time in two weeks, Oliver, a 9-year-old capuchin monkey at a Mississippi zoo, escaped his cage, and this time, his keepers said he proved to be an even more artful dodger.


On July 31, the white-faced monkey popped a relatively simple lock on his cage and went on the lam for more than six days before he was spotted looting the vegetable garden behind a nearby home, Mr. Nemechek said.

With his monkey safely back behind bars, Mr. Nemechek said, he spent $300 on new locks for the cage Oliver shares with Baby, another of the park’s five capuchins.

The locks were installed last Friday.

On Monday, Oliver got out of his cage, 20 minutes after his handlers said they had cleaned and locked it. He was seen headed toward the lush landscaping of the Tupelo Country Club.
He knows where the fun is.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. It's Mr. Miracle, Detective Chimp.

8/14/2007 11:02:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

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BONOBOS: NOT AS SEXY AS YOU THINK. I confess to making my way slowly, in doses, through Ian Parker's bonobo piece, "Swingers" (good punny title), but it is fairly fascinating, though perhaps more than many wish to know about these still not-so-well-known primates.

A lot of it is debunking, while also explaining the entire relatively brief history of the study of bonobos; just a small bit, running rather counter to the popular notion of bonobos as all-peaceful, sex-all-the-time, loving animals:
[...] For a purportedly peaceful animal, a bonobo can be surprisingly intemperate. Jeroen Stevens is a young Belgian biologist who has spent thousands of hours studying captive bonobos in European zoos. I met him last year at the Planckendael Zoo, near Antwerp. “I once saw five female bonobos attack a male in Apenheul, in Holland,” he said. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth. Now, that’s something to counter the idea of”—Stevens used a high, mocking voice—“ ‘Oh, I’m a bonobo, and I love everyone.’”


The bonobo of the modern popular imagination has something of the quality of a pre-scientific great ape, from the era before live specimens were widely known in Europe. An Englishman of the early eighteenth century would have had no argument with the thought of an upright ape, passing silent judgment on mankind, and driven by an uncontrolled libido. But during my conversation with Jeroen Stevens, in Belgium, he glanced into the zoo enclosure, where a number of hefty bonobos were daubing excrement on the walls, and said, “These bonobos are from Mars. There are many days when there is no sex. We’re running out of adolescents.” (As de Waal noted, the oldest bonobo in his San Diego study was about fourteen, which is young adulthood; all but one episode of oral sex there involved juveniles; these bonobos also accounted for almost all of the kissing.)

Craig Stanford, in a 1997 study that questioned various alleged bonobo-chimpanzee dichotomies, wrote, “Female bonobos do not mate more frequently or significantly less cyclically than chimpanzees.” He also reported that male chimpanzees in the wild actually copulated more often than male bonobos. De Waal is unimpressed by Stanford’s analysis. “He counted only heterosexual sex,” he told me. “But if you include all the homosexual sex then it’s actually quite different.”
So apparently bonobos are very gay.

More seriously, the bottom line is that a) studying animals in the wild, and studying them in captivity -- which is where all the original popular notions came from about bonobos, from Frans de Waal's pioneering work, which is (as is often the case with pioneering work) now under a fair amount of criticism -- are extremely different things, because the animals' behavior may change drastically in captivity (hey, doesn't yours?); and b) study of bonobos in the wild is still pretty well in its infancy.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5, though more if you're keen for hot monkey sex.

ADDENDUM, 8/16/07, 7:43 p.m.: Franz de Waal responds to the piece in Skeptic.

8/14/2007 01:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE -- well, Virgil Griffith's eye, if you want to be all technical about it -- who's been truly caring about Wikipedia:
[...] Wikipedia Scanner -- the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith -- offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses.
How's that?
[...] Griffith thus downloaded the entire encyclopedia, isolating the XML-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses. He then correlated those IP addresses with public net-address lookup services such as ARIN, as well as private domain-name data provided by

The result: A database of 34.4 million edits, performed by 2.6 million organizations or individuals ranging from the CIA to Microsoft to Congressional offices, now linked to the edits they or someone at their organization's net address has made.
Sample results:
[...] Voting-machine company Diebold provides a good example of the latter, with someone at the company's IP address apparently deleting long paragraphs detailing the security industry's concerns over the integrity of their voting machines, and information about the company's CEO's fund-raising for President Bush.


As has been previously reported, politician's offices are heavy users of the system.
In some ways what's more interesting is what isn't here; one such point regarding changes from political offices is this:
[...] Perhaps interestingly, many of the most apparently self-interested changes come from before 2006, when news of the Congressional offices' edits reached the headlines. This may indicate a growing sophistication with the workings of Wikipedia over time, or even the rise of corporate Wikipedia policies.
And this:
The vast majority of changes are fairly innocuous, however. Employees at the CIA's net address, for example, have been busy -- but with little that would indicate their place of apparent employment, or a particular bias.

One entry on "Black September in Jordan" contains wholesale additions, with specific details that read like a popular history book or an eyewitness' memoir.

Many more are simple copy edits, or additions to local town entries or school histories. One CIA entry deals with the details of lyrics sung in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.
I'm unsurprised that a fair number of CIA people are interested in all sorts of general knowledge, and in correcting other people.

(Especially given the emphasis in recent years in open source intelligence, Intellipedia, and the like.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. The attitude of the creator of this software is a touch amusing, if one overlooks the shallowness:
[...] "Everything's better if you do it on a huge scale, and automate it," he says with a grin.
Hey, the NSA agrees, though.

8/14/2007 12:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ONCE AGAIN, YOUR FLYING CAR, as requested. Yes, again. No, not Ludwig's.
The event was NASA's first Personal Aircraft Vehicle (PAV) Challenge [....]
While mentioning NASA, I'll also note that the gouge in Endeavor is a tad worrisome, though it's nice they got the new station gyroscope and truss installed.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 as desirous of air commuting. One can only hope it's more successful than delivering mail via nuclear submarine missile, although, of course, flying cars remain one of Lucy's best football tricks.

But let's visit for a moment, the U.S. Postmaster General in 1959:
[...] Upon witnessing the missile's landing, Summerfield stated, "This peacetime employment of a guided missile for the important and practical purpose of carrying mail, is the first known official use of missiles by any Post Office Department of any nation." Summerfield proclaimed the event to be "of historic significance to the peoples of the entire world", and predicted that "before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail."
These prolonged thresholds just heighten the climax, you know.

8/14/2007 10:44:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Monday, August 13, 2007
GET YOUR JOKERS HERE. Who are these guys? Mildly amusing explanation here. I hear the Joker was hiring.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5; more if you like dark knights.

I've been meaning to mention for the longest time, incidentally, that it was really good to hear that Bruce Timm and company were back in the animated DC superhero business.

ADDENDUM, 11:52 p.m.: Ron Moore can only improve on the piece of crap script bought from a guy who had nothing to do with Isaac Asimov, and stuffed under Asimov's name in the first film:
[...] Moore's feature work will also include the sequel to I, Robot for 20th Century Fox and an update of The Thing for Universal Studios.
While John Carpenter's version was a distinct improvement on the "an intelligent carrot! The mind boggles" original adaption of the John W. Campell classic, I'm unconvinced the world needs yet another remake: there's no shortage of great classic sf, of one vintage or another, that's never been adapted at all, or at least not properly; still, I'd never have dreamt a remake of Glen Larson's crappy Battlestar Galactica would have been worthwhile, either, and for that matter, I thought Star Wars sounded dumb when it was promoted at the Kansas City Worldcon in 1976, so my judgment in these prejudices is dubious at best.

But, ooh, ooh!
[...] There's a "solid chance" that Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon will produce a 90-minute TV special featuring the character of Rupert "Ripper" Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) for the BBC, according to a report by novelist Suzanne Brockmann, one of five winners of an auction for a private dinner with Whedon at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month.
And then more?

The full text of Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End. Via John Robinson.

ADDENDUM, 8/14/07, 2:05 p.m.: Incidentally, if you were wondering, the Region 1 DVD release date of Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer is Oct. 2, 2007, and Spider-Man 3's is October 30th. I managed to not be up to getting to a theatre for either, so I'm still curious.

8/13/2007 07:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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RUDY'S FIVE BIG LIES about 9/11. Wayne Barrett has been the go-to guy on Giuliani for decades, and still is today.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. Bonus links: firefighter videos, and more.

ADDENDUM, 8/14/07, 1:00 a.m.: Lis Riba points out a charming quote of Rudy's from a 1994 speech:
[...] What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

[ Interruption by someone in the audience. ]

You have free speech so I can be heard.
It's Rudy Giuliani, ladies and gentlemen, speaking from his heart.

ADDENDUM, 8/15/07, 4:51 p.m.: I'd also say that I think Matt's analysis here is, as it often is, spot-on.

ADDENDUM, 8/16/07, 1:48 p.m.: This seems strangely familiar. As does this.

8/13/2007 07:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 6 comments

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HERE'S THE WHIMPER. This'll cheer anyone right up:
The abundant doomsday plotlines in “The World Without Us” make it a useful conversation piece, if a grim one. Traveling down many different avenues of scientific research, Alan Weisman postulates the complete disappearance of mankind from planet Earth. Then he extrapolates about what would happen without us. By his estimate most of our leavings would rot and crumble; much of our damage would take eons to undo. There’s one tiny bit of good news. Depleted sea species might recover if we would do them a favor and go away.

Over all, this book paints a punishingly bleak picture. Entries in its index indicate the scope of its pessimism. For instance: “Birds, plate glass picture windows and”; “Central Park, coyotes in”; “Earth, final days”; “Embalming, arsenic and”; “Human race, robots and computers as replacements”; “Great Britain’s shoreline, rubbish along”; “PCBs, and hermaphroditic polar bears.” “Dessication,” “Meltdowns” and “Slash-and-burn” also play their roles here.
The review just goes on like that, making clear that it's accurately representing how much more so does the book: it's all doom, all the time: 52 flavors!, each more terrible than the next.

But there's always a bright side:
[...] Compared with the founder of Vhemt — the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, a group with the motto “May we live long and die out” — Mr. Weisman is a veritable beam of sunshine.
And sometimes it seems to be a Douglas Adamsish universe.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, if you can stand it.

In my little world, my landlord stopped by over the weekend to say he was raising my rent; on the bright side, only $25/month, and it's my fourth anniversary in this apartment, so I really can't say it isn't more or less fair.

I still wish he hadn't started the summer by filling in and paving over the swimming pool, though (the heater broke, and he didn't want to spend a couple of thousand to replace it). And it would be nice if the gout hadn't been stabbing again in recent days. And so on. Still, it's not exactly like living in Iraq, so no serious complaint.

ADDENDUM, 4:48 p.m.: Elsewhere in book reviews, this piece isn't all that compelling, but it is interesting to contemplate the critical point: we wound up with two continents basically named by accident of history of mapmaking, with this result:
[...] As Fernández-Armesto astutely observes, it’s probably a good thing Mercator went with America instead of what might have been the more obvious choice, Christopheria or, say, Columbia. “Columbus has such an ineluctable presence in history,” he writes, “that a hemisphere named after him would never be free of association with him. With every vocalization, images of imperialism, evangelization, colonization, massacre and ecological exchange would spring to mind. The controversies would be constant, the revulsion unendurable.” Since Amerigo Vespucci is a historical nonentity, the term “America” is free of the disturbing connotations that would have been associated with his more famous forebear. “History has made him irrelevant,” Fernández-Armesto writes, “to the major resonances of his own name.”
Nobody marches against Vespucci because nobody ever marches for Vespucci, because he really didn't do anything of great note, other than display a splendid talent for self-promotion.

A shame for him that modern American intellectual property laws and principles weren't in effect, and the Disney Corp. hadn't been around to colloborate with him; their shared trademark on "America®" would doubtless still be in effect.

8/13/2007 12:44:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
MAKE AN OFFER, BECAUSE YOU CAN'T REFUSE. It's worth repeating now and again that our present political funding system operates exactly like the Mafia. (Classic, ethnic, local, any and all: they're all the same, including those in Congress.)
[...] "One of my dear clients asked me if I would help contribute and I said yes, even if I don't think McCain's going to win," Mingolelli said. "And to be honest, if it came down to McCain and Romney, I'd probably go with Romney," he added, referring to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R).
Nothing partisan about this: it's an all around practice.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. Bundling = dirty.

8/07/2007 06:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR HUMAN WAYS ARE STRANGE TO ME. To Punish Thai Police, A Hello Kitty Armband. Perfectly natural idea: who wouldn't have thought of it?
[...] Pink armbands for misdemeanors are a start. Stronger measures could be next for corruption and extrajudicial killings.
It's just an obvious progression.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

8/07/2007 02:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BRINGING HIGHER EMPLOYMENT THAN CAFTA OR ANY OTHER AFTA, when you want to fight insurgents, go to those with experience:
[...] The Latin Americans typically served in the military back home -- many fought leftist guerrillas in places like El Salvador and Colombia -- and were taught by U.S. instructors, making it easier for them to use U.S. weapons and work under American security procedures.

But after leaving their armed forces, these soldiers found themselves in low-paying jobs. So they agreed to risk injury or death in Iraq for $1,000 to $1,500 a month -- $5 to $7 an hour -- a good wage for them, but far below the $10,000 to $15,000 monthly pay for American contract employees.

Peruvians guard the outer perimeter of a U.S. installation in Basra. Chileans protect the governmental Green Zone in Baghdad. Hondurans have provided security within the terminal at Baghdad International Airport. Salvadorans once protected the Green Zone in Baghdad, but they and some Ecuadoreans reportedly have left the jobs after media in their home countries labeled them ``mercenaries.''

Yet, as a growing number of Americans clamor to bring their troops home, many Latin Americans are willing to head to Iraq.

''A lot of Peruvians would like to go because of the salaries,'' said Felix Almeida, 45, who fought against the Shining Path guerrillas 15 years ago in Peru and has applied to work in Iraq. ``I'd be a mercenary. I don't have a problem being called that.''
Commies, Islamists: same deal, after all.

And there's a comfort level in working for a government with death squad militias again: it's like going home.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5. Via Cosma Shalizi. Of course, paying tens of thousands of freelance soldiers to fight could never come back to bite us in the ass. No more than giving hundreds of thousands of small arms to Iraqis. After all, the soldiers have all sworn loyalty to the U.S. for life, and the arms can't be used against anyone but bad guys!

So it's all good.

8/07/2007 11:02:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ARE YOU PIG-BITING MAD? A lovely look behind the scenes of the Weekly World News, whose presses have finally come to a halt.

Little-known fact:
[...] In fact, most of WWN's writers really had escaped from mainstream newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times. They figured life at the Weekly World News would be more fun -- and they were right.


Eddie Clontz was the mad genius behind WWN. A 10th-grade dropout from North Carolina and former copy editor at small newspapers, he imbued the WWN newsroom with his unique philosophy of journalism: Don't fact-check your way out of a good story.

"If we get a story about a guy who thinks he's a vampire, we will take him at his word," Clontz told the Philadelphia Inquirer before he died in 2004.


One day, Eddie Clontz spotted a tiny newspaper story about a Florida undertaker who was arrested for selling body parts to research scientists. With a little reporting and a little creativity, it became a WWN classic: "FLORIDA MAN SCREAMS FROM THE GRAVE, MY BRAIN IS MISSING!"

In those days -- they could be termed WWN's semi-factual period -- the tabloid employed a squad of "clippers," who read scores of local newspapers and clipped out the weirder stories.


But too many facts can ruin a good yarn, so Pope and Clontz encouraged their reporters to embellish a bit. The reporters complied and started spicing up stories with lovely details that came straight from their imaginations. Gradually, true stories became half-true stories, then quarter-true stories, then . . .
...Elvis was found eating Bigfoot's vampire ghost while riding in a UFO with his alien love-child....

Read The Rest Scale: 47 out of 26! Just remember that this isn't the whole story! How would the WWN report it?

And now I must go, because SPACE ALIENS ATE MY LAUNDRY! But you can read about Bat Boy.

And don't cry too hard; it looks as if the website will continue. (And, hey, there's been no anthrax in years.)

8/07/2007 09:09:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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