Quickies 10

The Quicker Linker upper

Experience past quickies: one. two. three. four. five. six. seven. eight. nine.

More recent quickies.

June 2004
Monday 28
Striking shot of Venus in transit of the Sun (also a cool picture). Here's another of a volcano and aurora in Iceland.
Iraq back in the hands of Iraqis, but...
Considering the vacuous way that the Bush admin has been timing its *big* announcements and puffed up Ashcroft red alerts to divert attention from embarrasing events, I wouldn't be surprised if the speed-up was nothing more than a petty attempt to divert attention away from Fahrenheit 9/11.
-planetkyoto
FOX NO-SPIN ZONE™:
But Hatch — good Mormon that he is — wouldn't be caught dead dropping the F-bomb on Leahy even if more than half of the rest of the country is screaming that very word at their TV sets.

No... it was left to straight-talking Cheney.
Space science enthusiasts will be glued to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) web site Wednesday evening to determine if the American-European made space probe Cassini-Huygens has swept through the colorful rings of Saturn intact and fully operational after the seven-year, 2.2-billion mile flight through space.

The Saturn ring plane of shattered rock and ice poses many potential hazards for the $3.3 billion spacecraft mission. But if the spacecraft is successful, the rockets will fire to slow its speed to be captured by Saturn's gravity for its planned 4-year orbital science mission.

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is expected to yield answers to many science mysteries and provide the public with spectacular images of Saturn and its many moons. The moon Phoebe was recently photographed by the space probe providing mission scientists and planetary astronomers the best images yet of the object orbiting at the edge of the planet's gravitational influence.
Most people slept through a light 4.5 magnitude earthquake that rumbled under a rural area of northern Illinois, shaking buildings but causing no damage.

Three hours later, a tremor measuring 6.7 struck Alaska.

The Illinois quake struck at 1:10 a.m. Monday and was centered eight miles northwest of Ottawa. It was not felt in Chicago 71 miles west-southwest, said the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center in Boulder, Colo., but tremors were felt as far away as Madison, Wis., and St. Louis.
[ALSO]
Lassige said earthquakes in that area are rare but have occurred before. He said quakes have been recorded there in 1881, 1912 and 1972.

The geological survey said the three-second quake occurred at a depth of 3.1 miles in a structure associated with the Sandwich Fault Zone. It was not connected with the New Madrid Fault further south, which has been responsible for the Midwest's most serious earthquakes.
[mefi]
Strange trivial revealed in Meta-thread.
Because there wasn't enough bad things to do in games...
Dave Winer indulges in irony
Josh on the Niger yellowcake story.
There has been endless speculation about who this mystery man was and who actually did the forging. Was he the forger? And if so, what were his motives? If not, who put them into his hands? And what were their motives?

According to the Financial Times article, that business man is likely himself the forger of the documents and he has a long history of bad acts which, they say, discredit him as a source of information. That last tidbit plays a key part in the FT story because, in their words, the provider of the documents is "understood to be planning to reveal selected aspects of his story to a US television channel."

That's what the FT says.

I hear something different.

In fact, I know something different.
Al Gore's now infamous "digital Brown Shirts" speech.
Analyzing Fahrenheit 9/11

Also, be careful out there...
Streeter voiced his view on the movie, "I made the comment, apples and oranges -- Kerry, Bush -- one's no better than the other. You really ain't got much of a choice. This guy comes up to me and says, 'Oh yeah?' " Streeter was then spat on by the same man.

He attempted to call police to report the incident when he was told not to, "A guy standing next to him said why don't you drop it. I said, 'No, I'm calling the police. I'm exercising my right as a citizen, I've been assaulted.' "

But the horror kept on growing for Streeter as he walked to his car on the phone with police, "This guy turns, and totally by surprise takes his hand and bam! It was a big guy. Shoved me onto the ground, I hit my head." A police report has been filed.
The American criminal justice system relies too heavily on imprisoning people and needs to consider more effective alternatives, according to a study released Wednesday by the American Bar Assn., the nation's largest lawyers' organization.

"For more than 20 years, we've gotten tougher on crime," said Dennis W. Archer, a former Detroit mayor and the group's current president. But it is unclear, he said, whether the U.S. is any safer for having 2.1 million people behind bars, including 160,000 in California.

"We can no longer sit by as more and more people - particularly in minority communities - are sent away for longer and longer periods of time while we make it more and more difficult for them to return to society after they serve their time," Archer said at a Washington news conference. "The system is broken. We need to fix it."
And now for an Update on Sudan:
..."The situation is as dangerous as we thought", said Muselier, Foreign Ministry secretary of state, told journalists after touring the Mornay camp where the Sudanese authorities say 100,000 people have taken shelter....

“After surviving massacres carried out by pro-government militias on their villages, displaced civilians in Darfur, Sudan continue to endure violent attacks and rapes around the areas where they have gathered”, a statement said. “The same militias that carried out the initial attacks now control the camp’s periphery, virtually imprisoning people who live in constant fear. “Men risk being killed if they leave, and women have been beaten and raped looking for food and other essential items outside the camp”, said the statement, released in Geneva.

“Already, 200 people die in Mornay every month, and there is nothing to indicate that assistance will arrive in time or in sufficient quantities to avoid a massive human disaster. “Today, one in five children in the camp is severely malnourished while irregular and insufficient food distributions do not come close to meeting the basic needs of people weakened by violence, displacement and deprivation”....

War broke out in Darfur in February 2003 when black African rebel groups, complaining of the economic neglect of their region and a lack of protection for local people, rose up against the Sudanese government. The government-backed Janjawid militias have been accused of conducting a scorched earth campaign and ethnic cleansing in the region. Clashes between the Sudanese army and the rebels have killed at least 10,000 people and forced more than a million from their homes, according to UN estimates. Khartoum, meanwhile, has been accused of hampering essential humanitarian access to the region. The United States has said it expects Khartoum to live up to President Omar Bashir’s pledge to rein in the militias.

The State Department, which has said Washington is considering sanctions against Sudanese officials unless the militias are neutralized, said it had “noted” Bashir’s promise to respect an April 8 cease-fire in Darfur. But spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States would wait to see whether Khartoum took action against the militias.
-Monday Morning

Bush is keeping with Reagan's "immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian" method of doing nothing about this. After all these months, now we are sending Powell? The government slaughters its own people for months and we are talking only sanctions. I'm frustrated and ashamed of our government.
Humanitarian aid agencies, analysts and U.S. officials all agree that no matter what the international community does to try to prevent the catastrophe unfolding in Darfur, western Sudan, it's too late: Huge numbers of people will die there in coming months.

With the U.S. Agency for International Development conservatively predicting that 320,000 people will perish from disease and starvation in the Darfur region, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will fly to the region this week to press Sudan to remove barriers to humanitarian aid and stop Arab militias from attacking civilians in Darfur....

We now really have to turn our attention to Darfur," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday."

Powell acknowledged Friday, "The situation is so dire that if we were able to do everything we wanted to do tomorrow, there would still be loss of life because of the deprivation people there are under now." Humanitarian agencies have seen the crisis coming for nearly a year. Many are asking why the world was so slow to act.

John Prendergast, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the catastrophe could have been avoided with early action, but powerful players such as the U.S. and Britain lacked the political will to do so....

The organization Physicians for Human Rights recently described "a genocidal process" in Darfur. There are questions about whether the Khartoum authorities deliberately orchestrated the crisis or whether it was an unintended result of supporting the janjaweed. So rather than "genocide," the term that the United Nations, humanitarian groups and others are using is "ethnic cleansing."

Annan said Friday that "we don't need a label to propel ourselves to act, and so I think we should act now and stop arguing about which label to put on it."
-LA Times At least we have the ICRC and the SRCS actively doing something.
Ready for some hyberbole? Bush Destroys the United States

Sunday 27
Just a reminder that we could all be paying more attention to the Cassini-Huygens space probe right now.
The pictures are pretty damn spectacular.
My favorite part of the movie is when Bob Roberts closes a letter to a 7-year-old girl in Vermont with the admonition "Don't do crack; it's a ghetto drug."

This is the perfect movie for an election-year party.
IMDB:
If there were a 101 on how fascism manipulates its way into power `Bob Roberts' would be it. Very few films excluding `All The President's Men' have we seen a dramatization placing conservatives in a bad light, and while there are assertions that the media has liberal bias, most films/news coverage featuring a politician or having some political meaning proves otherwise.

In the film, made-up U.S. Senate candidate Roberts (Tim Robbins) dodges questions about his stands on issues. When stonewalling loses grout, he moderates his stances by putting on a `folk rock' gig on the campaign trail. Despite the radical roots of folk rock, the words of Robert's songs are nothing more than lyrical preachings of the platform he's running on. Conceivably, a fictional coincidence of the horribly oxymoron `compassionate conservatism' which, like Robert's ploy, is as commercially misleading as an Atkins diet.
(Italics mine)
THE White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTE journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush....

The Irish Independent learned last night that the White House told Ms Coleman that she interrupted the president unnecessarily and was disrespectful.
Links to the video/audio of the interview and discussion with notable comments like:
That was supposed to be a confrontational interview? Hahahahahaha.

The interviewer asks supplemental questions in what are quite clearly pauses and opputunities. On two occasions, Bush comes to a grinding halt, and Carole asks another question, and Bush *decides* he hadn't finished. Does he hold conversations like this, expecting the other party to doff their cap, and only speak when spoken to, like he was the fucking queen talking to a servant?
-Blue Stone
As was mentioned earlier, I'd think this is at least partially the product of two different media cultures. Those who are comparing this reporter's interviewing style to O'Really should listen to the BBC - many of their interviews lack the veneer of politeness that is par for the course over here. Interrupting and badgering are pretty common. This is a bit of a non-story for me.
- deadcowdan
To me, Bush came off as a pompous prick for not answering questions, which causes people to interrupt in order to not veer off into "empty platitude preaching land." It's as if he's never had a conversation with anyone that wasn't a simpering sycophant patiently waiting for him to completely exhaust the hot air produced after every question and know exactly when he is finished doing so. The complaint to the Irish Embassy is on the level of "I'm telling Mommy that you were mean to me!" and the cancellation of the Laura interview is "I'm taking my ball and going home."

Sidenote: A close but not quite Biblical quote from Bush"...don't try and take a speck out of your eye if I got a log in my own." Another keeper, "I don't try to chase popularity polls. My job is to do my job."

From Clinton to Cheney to Gore people are pushing each other's buttons with hyperbole and aggressive tones. All this negativism is resulting in a backlash for Bush. At least in Cheney's case his excuse that it was, "...badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue" stands at odds with Michael Powell forcing the FCC's crackdown on F-bombs being aired to the public at large. BTW, we know that Bush has a potty mouth too so if everyone is using this language including the children we are supposed to be protecting from hearing it, then it's all just a holier-than-thou dance placating those overly sensitive Christians that endlessly complain about being offended. They should just set their damn TVs to PAN and shut up so the rest of us can speak freely without worrying about insane fines from the FCC.
Going through this thread inspired me to start searching on the net for things about relativism.

Internet Philosophical Resources on Moral Relativism
More reading suggestions
Ethical Relativism
Ethical Relativism History
Relativist fallacy
Exchange with Ted Keller on Relativism and Marxism
A Defense of Cultural Relativism
Why is the study of relativism important all of a sudden?
Barna Research Group founder George Barna notes, "Atheists and agnostics, who reject the Bible as truth, contend that there is no moral legitimacy to defining marriage as the amendment would do. The remaining half of the population -- comprised of notional Christians and people associated with non-Christian faiths -- lean toward letting people make their own choices, without any legal limitations or parameters."

Inconsistency and Moral Relativism
People's opinions were found to be less divided on the topic of ordaining homosexuals priests and pastors, however. By a greater than two-to-one margin, the public opposes ordaining practicing homosexuals as clergy (60 percent), while less than a fourth of adults (24 percent) support the idea of ordaining actively homosexual clergy.

Still, the survey found a great deal of inconsistency between people's support for the FMA and their acceptance of the ordination of homosexual clergy. One out of every eight marriage amendment supporters also favored homosexual ordination, while almost half of the adults opposed to the FMA also opposed ordaining actively homosexual clergy.

Barna, who directed the study, believes the widespread lack of awareness and lukewarm response to crucial issues such as the definition of marriage and the ordination of homosexual clergy are rooted in the serious problem of moral relativism. He notes that even though most American adults believe that marriage should be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, many consider the issue a moral "gray area" that is better left without strict legal definition.

The researcher finds similarity between these issues and the abortion debate. He notes that millions who oppose abortion for themselves and their families still feel that whether the act is right or wrong should be left up to individuals to decide for themselves. By the same token, many Americans -- including many born-again Christians -- who oppose homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples are not convinced that their moral beliefs should be codified into law.

"This is classic relativism," Barna says, "a philosophy that has taken the nation by storm in the last quarter century and is now restructuring every aspect of American society. The consequence is that many people are personally opposed to such behavior but feel compelled to allow that behavior to take place legally because they also contend that there are no moral absolutes."
-Marriage Amendment Survey Finds Many Unaware, Many Lukewarm
"An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary Western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason's ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart's restless quest for meaning," the Holy Father said....

"For this reason, the new evangelization calls for an unambiguous presentation of faith as a supernatural virtue by which we are united to God and become sharers in his own knowledge, in response to his revealed word," John Paul II said in his address delivered in English.

"The presentation of an authentically biblical understanding of the act of faith, one which emphasizes both its cognitive and its fiducial dimensions, will help to overcome purely subjective approaches and facilitate a deeper appreciation of the Church's role in authoritatively proposing the faith which is to be believed and put into practice," the Pope said.

"An essential element of the Church's dialogue with contemporary society must also be a correct presentation, in catechesis and preaching, of the relationship between faith and reason," he observed.
-Relativism Demands Credible Witness of Church, Says Pope
For a long time there have been two paramount arguments against homosexuality. The first came from the Bible. The King James Version of Leviticus 18:22 is quite clear: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: It is abomination." Then again, in that same Bible, Exodus sanctions selling one's youngest daughter into slavery. In fact, elsewhere in the Good Book, we're told that a woman caught wearing garments made from two different threads should be burned to death and that a man caught planting the wrong crops must be stoned to death. Oddly, the folks who most often use the Bible to defend their bigotry fail to mention these absurdities.

Darwin, whose theory of evolution says that all life originated from a common ancestor, made the other frequently cited argument against homosexuality. The reason the tree of life is so varied is because reproduction is an inexact process. Mutations arise that either help or hinder existence. Helpful ones create new lineages; harmful ones die off. "Survival of the fittest" is an abridged way of saying organisms with mutations that increase the species' chances of reproduction do better than ones that don't.

But mutation alone doesn't explain all the variety in nature. To address that, Darwin developed his idea of sexual selection. Sexual selection is meant to explain how things like a peacock's ornamental tail -- obviously a hindrance to survival (have you ever tried running away from a predator with a kite tied to your ass?) -- exist. Darwin figured, simply, that peahens (female peacocks) must like the tail. In fact, Darwin supposes, the male with the biggest tail attracts the most females. So, in Darwin's theory of evolution, mutations that are not in the service of survival -- as are speed, camouflage and opposable thumbs -- must be in the service of attracting mates with which to propagate the species.

Which puts homosexuality, which is clearly not a reproduction-enhancing mutation, at odds with Darwinism. Which, in turn, has made strange bedfellows out of sworn enemies: Evolutionary scientists and Christian-right literalists both agree, for different reasons, that homosexuality is unnatural.
-The Most Natural Selection
Moore is best when he doesn't stage dumb pranks (like broadcasting the Patriot Act in D.C. out of an ice-cream truck) but provokes with his mere presence. When he interviews the author of House of Bush, House of Saud in front of the Saudi embassy and the Secret Service shows up to ask what he's doing, it's a gotcha moment: What's the Secret Service doing protecting non-U.S. government officials? He has a light touch there that's missing from the rest of the Fahrenheit 9/11. In one scene, his camera homes in on a Flint, Mich., woman weeping over a son killed in Iraq, and the effect is vampirish. After the screening, a friend railed that Moore was exploiting a mother's grief. When I suggested that the scene made moral sense in the context of the director's universe, that the exploitation is justified if it saves the lives of other mothers' sons, my friend said, "When did you become a relativist?"

I'm troubled by that charge—and by the fact that we nearly came to blows by the end of the conversation. But when it comes to politics in a time of war, I think that relativism is, well, relative. Fahrenheit 9/11 must be viewed in the context of the Iraq occupation and the torrent of misleading claims that got us there. It must be viewed in the context of Rush Limbaugh repeating the charge that Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered in Fort Marcy Park, or laughing off the exposure of Valerie Plame when, had this been a Democratic administration, he'd be calling every day for the traitor's head. It must be viewed in the context of Ann Coulter calling for the execution of people who disagree with her. It must be viewed in the context of another new documentary, the superb The Hunting of the President, that documents—irrefutably—the lengths to which the right went to destroy Bill Clinton. Moore might be a demagogue, but never—not even during Watergate—has a U.S. administration left itself so open to this kind of savaging.
-Proper Propaganda
Ezrael does part three of his take on Superman history, while Marc Singer counters the claim that superheroes are fascist.
There is one bit of the world that happy people do see in an irrationally rosy light: themselves. As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ''There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.'' Indeed, Bentall has proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder.
Maybe all anyone needs is a friendly dog. "Dog" is "god" backwards! :)
A Canadian man, driving a car packed with weapons and ammunition, was intent on killing as many people as possible in a Toronto neighborhood but gave up the plan at the last minute when he encountered a friendly dog, police said on Thursday.
Taking Paul Harvey to task for If I were the devil.

Friday 25
For more than 50 years, rancher Waldo Wilcox kept most outsiders off his land and the secret under wraps: a string of ancient Indian settlements so remarkably well-preserved that arrowheads and beads are still lying out in the open.

Archeologists are calling it one of the most spectacular finds in the West.

Hidden deep inside Utah’s nearly inaccessible Book Cliffs region, 130 miles from Salt lake City, the prehistoric villages run for 12 miles and include hundreds of rock art panels, cliffside granaries, stone houses built halfway underground, rock shelters, and the mummified remains of long-ago inhabitants. The site was occupied for at least 3,000 years until it abandoned more than 1,000 years ago, when the Fremont people mysteriously vanished.
"Old Superstitions."
A thread that starts off concerning an attack on Linux and goes into discussing think tanks.
"Frankly, part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors," Paul Wolfowitz

Thursday 24
A metafilter talk about that new book by an anonymous ex-CIA guy called Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.
A followup on that Moony Corination back in March. CapitolFax has a longer quote of Moon's speech.
The five great saints and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin, who committed all manner of barbarity and murders on earth, and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons
"It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling" Jeri Lynn Ryan, "Star Trek: Voyager" actress and former wife of Illinois Republican candidate for US Senate Jack Ryan says Ryan pressured her to have public sex in S&M oriented clubs.
Christopher Hitchens goes apeshit over Fahrenheit 9/11.
Library employees at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, New York, thought 79-year-old Raymond Barber was a retiree and avid reader. But over a three-year period, Barber defaced 373 library books, police said on Wednesday.

Barber, a former trucker and a great-grandfather, wrote "God is Enough" inside the front covers of the books and scribbled over expletives and added religious phrases.

Barber caused $9,255 worth of damage and was charged with second-degree criminal mischief, a felony, police said. He was arraigned in city court on Monday and released.
Barber could not be reached for comment, but his wife reacted angrily when reached by telephone at their home in Lake George.

"I am sick of these phone calls when murders and rapists get no TV coverage. He scribbled in some books and he gets crucified on TV," she said before slamming down the phone.
An urgent inquiry was launched in Cyprus last night after an undercover police operation exposed a group of up to 100 tourists, including Britons, taking part in what was described a mass orgy aboard a cruise ship off the island.
[FARK]
More on Americans torturing prisoners.
United Nations-mandated auditors have sharply criticised the US occupation authority for the way it has spent more than $11bn in Iraqi oil revenues and say they have faced "resistance" from coalition officials.

In an interim report, obtained by the Financial Times, KPMG says the Development Fund for Iraq, which is managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and channels oil revenue into reconstruction projects, is "open to fraudulent acts".
District officials acknowledge that students have the right to wear anti-war shirts. But, they add, "it's difficult to control the reaction of students with strong opposing views." Said Sandstrom and Breen in a joint statement: "Provocative acts sometimes provoke other individuals.". . .

To test whether school officials employed a double standard, Robin Rothfeder, who graduated from Hillcrest last year and is now a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley, says he conducted an experiment. Two years ago, he donned a T-shirt identical to the handmade anti-war versions Perez and their friends were wearing. However, Rothfeder's version supported President Bush and the war in Iraq. When a Hillcrest hall monitor read his shirt, she praised Rothfeder for "standing up for his country."
How to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
An excerpt of Clinton's new book concerning the press.

Monday 21
Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.

That is all perfectly clear, and yet in the days before the film opens June 25, there'll be bountiful reports by commentators who are shocked! shocked! that Moore's film is partisan. "He doesn't tell both sides," we'll hear, especially on Fox News, which is so famous for telling both sides.
The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged.

In some cases, he was guilty of making a good story better, but in other cases (such as his ambush of Charlton Heston) he was unfair, and in still others (such as the wording on the plaque under the bomber at the Air Force Academy) he was just plain wrong, as anyone can see by going to look at the plaque.
These are such trivial errors, but Moore's critics go batshit crazy over them. The real message of Bowling for Columbine was not marred by them and that message is that there is something about American culture that encourages violence-that it's not the guns, but the people, which is actually the same message that the NRA offers.
Mr. Moore and his distributors have refused to circulate copies of the film and its script before the film's release this Friday; his production team said that as of last Wednesday, there was no final script because the film was still undergoing minor editing — for clarity, they said, not accuracy.

After a year spent covering the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, I was recently allowed to attend a Hollywood screening. Based on that single viewing, and after separating out what is clearly presented as Mr. Moore's opinion from what is stated as fact, it seems safe to say that central assertions of fact in "Fahrenheit 9/11" are supported by the public record (indeed, many of them will be familiar to those who have closely followed Mr. Bush's political career).

Mr. Moore is on firm ground in arguing that the Bushes, like many prominent Texas families with oil interests, have profited handsomely from their relationships with prominent Saudis, including members of the royal family and of the large and fabulously wealthy bin Laden clan, which has insisted it long ago disowned Osama. Mr. Moore spends several minutes in the film documenting ties between the president and James R. Bath, a financial advisor to a prominent member of the bin Laden family who was an original investor in Mr. Bush's Arbusto energy company and who served with the future president in the Air National Guard in the early 1970's. The Bath friendship, which indirectly links Mr. Bush to the family of the world's most notorious terrorist, has received less attention from national news organization than it has from reporters in Texas, but it has been well documented.
Mr. Moore is readying for a conservative counterattack, saying he has created a political-style "war room" to offer an instant response to any assault on the film's credibility. He has retained Chris Lehane, a Democratic Party strategist known as a master of the black art of "oppo," or opposition research, used to discredit detractors. He also hired outside fact-checkers, led by a former general counsel of The New Yorker and a veteran member of that magazine's legendary fact-checking team, to vet the film. And he is threatening to go one step further, saying he has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns the film or damages his reputation.
I respect Ray Bradbury, but he should just let this drop. [metafilter].
A look at other documentaries due out this year.
The former American president, famed for his amiable disposition, becomes visibly angry and rattled, particularly when Dimbleby asks him whether his publicly declared contrition over the affair is genuine.

His outrage at the line of questioning during the 50-minute interview, to be broadcast on Panorama on Tuesday night, lasts several minutes. It is the first time that the former President has been seen to lose his temper publicly over the issue of his sexual liaisons with Ms Lewinsky.

The President initially responds to Dimbleby's questions by launching a general attack on media intrusion. When the broadcaster persists with the question of whether the politician was truly penitent, Clinton directs his anger towards Dimbleby.
"It is memorable television which will give the public a different insight into the President's character. It will leave them wondering whether he is as contrite as he says he is about past events. Dimbleby manages to remain calm and order is eventually restored." [BBC executive]
How pathetic. Dimbleby asks a question with an implied insult/accusation and gets the response he hoped for. Big whoop.
...a class action filed in California on behalf of former detainees raises the specter of brutal physical abuse. One plaintiff, identified only as Neisef, claims that after he was taken from his home on the outskirts of Baghdad last November and sent to Abu Ghraib, Americans made him disrobe and attached electrical wires to his genitals. He claims he was shocked three times. Although a vein in his penis ruptured and he had blood in his urine, he says, he was refused medical attention. In another session, Neisef claims, he was held down by two men while a uniformed woman forced him to have sex with her. "I was crying," said Neisef, 28. "I felt like my whole manhood was gone." The class action also claims that detainees were raped in prison.
The Bush administration says it is exploring whether to describe the mass murder and rape in the Darfur region of Sudan as "genocide." I suggest that President Bush invite to the White House a real expert, Magboula Muhammad Khattar, a 24-year-old widow huddled under a tree here.

The world has acquiesced shamefully in the Darfur genocide, perhaps because 320,000 deaths this year (a best-case projection from the U.S. Agency for International Development) seems like one more boring statistic. So listen to Ms. Khattar's story, multiply it by hundreds of thousands, and let's see if we still want to look the other way.
I have nothing but contempt for Mr. Bush and an administration that would insult our intelligence concerning what is going on over there. Maybe Bush should read the news once and a while so he would know how the Sudanese Arabs have been systematically murdering blacks in the region for months. Maybe he should do something about it instead of ignoring the problem like Reagan ignored apartheid in South Africa. It's fitting that some are comparing Bush to that "immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian" man.
Evidence that President Robert Mugabe’s regime is considering a plan to rid Zimbabwe of most of its white population has come as little surprise to an embattled and dwindling community.

But the stark language used in a document apparently drawn up by advisers to the director-general of operations in Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has intensified concern that after four years of land seizures, Zimbabwe’s whites may soon be facing a new threat.

The paper, which has been leaked to the British embassy in Harare and The Sunday Times, describes a sequence of events that would set the scene for the ethnic cleansing some analysts have long predicted.
Ezrael is doing an excellent history of Superman. The first two of probably three parts are up.
The Beastie Boys new album doesn't seem up to snuff. Not only that, but it installs DMR software on your computer without your permission-pissing many off.
Why are so many of the things I love so embarrassing? Computer programming, science fiction, blogging-every one of my passions is something to sneer at. You're supposed to not care, to just do the things you love and ignore public censure-but who doesn't know better than that? When I discovered computers, I used to hide the manuals, so that no one could see. From the age of 12, I knew it was better to be a cipher, invisible to my peers, with no obvious preferences, than to be known as a boy who loved fractals. The alternative was beatings, and spitballs. Now, when I meet strangers, I talk about anything but websites and sci-fi. I keep the topics urbane. Art, serious film, well-reviewed books.
When I returned, to my dismay, someone had taken my parking spot.

Begrudgingly, I parked somewhere else.

Then, around 2:00 AM, I was awoken by a loud rumbling sound, followed by a crash. It happened again, and again, and again...
[metafilter]
Cognitive Dissonance.
#1 Q: YOU'RE REWRITING THE ENTIRE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY? IN LIMERICKS?

A: Yes, we are.

#2
Q: WHATTAYOU, NUTS OR SOMETHING?!

A: Aside from being nuts about the English language, no, not really. We respect the OED and we enjoy writing limericks. This project is the inevitable outcome of those two factors.
[metafilter]
Transcript of a talk given by Brian Eno as part of the Long Now Foundation's series of Seminars About Long Term Thinking.
[metafilter]
Bill Moyer's speech about the gap between the rich and poor in America. Related: What progressive Christians are doing about it.
More on Catholic preists avoiding the law.
Nearly half of the more than 200 cases we identified involve clergy who tried to elude law enforcement. About 30 remain free in one country while facing ongoing criminal inquiries, arrest warrants or convictions in another. Most runaway priests remain in the church, the world's largest organization, so they should be easier to locate than other fugitives. Instead, Catholic leaders have used international transfers to thwart justice.
(It's not just the preists..) But is the Vatican more worried about "New Age" religions and fads? And yet...
The six-year search for Chiara Marino and Fabio Tollis, two missing teenagers who were members of a heavy metal band called the Beasts of Satan, ended in a pit in the woods northwest of Milan. The authorities say other members of the loose-knit band buried the bodies after killing the teenagers in a drug-fueled Satanic sacrifice....

The discovery of the bodies has captured the Italian imagination, especially in the north, not so far away from where a series of crimes that came to be known as the Monster of Florence killings haunted people in the Tuscan woods for two decades, beginning in 1968.

This is a country in which Roman Catholic priests are still asked to carry out exorcisms.

A sociologist, Maria Macioti, a professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, has said increasing numbers of young people seem drawn to devil worship. A magistrate has warned of the lure of antichrist cults....

In Italy, Ms. Macioti said, the devil is deeply ingrained in popular faith. She said that Satanic sects had always existed but that more and more young people now seemed to be experimenting with elements of Satanism through drugs and music. But they are mostly unsophisticated, uneducated and misguided, she said.

"In the past, there were intellectual Satanists," Ms. Macioti said. "Today, you'd have difficulty finding people who can write two sentences."

Crude graffiti scrawled on the walls outside Midnight, the nightclub, suggest that she may be right.

Francesca Cramis, who is Mr. Sapone's lawyer, said the band members could barely play musical instruments and were more involved with drugs and with listening to music than in practicing Satanism. "They listened to death metal and Satanic music that pushes people toward Satan, toward killing people," she said. "These are guys that have severe problems and they convinced themselves that they were in contact with Satan and they had the power to kill others. It was born as a game, but it ended in a tragedy."
Speaking of religious wacko's, "Paul M. Weyrich, national chairman of an amalgam of conservative organizations known as Coalitions for America, recently said that Bush needs to change the subject from Iraq to the gay marriage ban in order to be re-elected in November." Will homophobia trump terrorist-phobia?
Myopic journalism.
Fighting racism for 20 years
This doesn't make much sense, but it is, in fact, what's happening in Nogales, Sonora: If you take your spouse's prescription to be filled at a pharmacy, you can end up in a Mexican prison. That's exactly what happened a few weeks ago to 66-year-old Raymond Lindell of Phoenix.

Lindell had a valid prescription from a doctor in Arizona. His "crime" was that the prescription was not from a doctor in Mexico, and it had his wife's name on it, not his.

Lindell is one of 11 Americans now incarcerated for these acts in Nogales prisons. This is what the Mexican authorities consider a crackdown on those who violate the country's drug abuse laws. . .
[And at the other border...]

The Bush administration, doing the bidding of the big drug corporations, wants to make it next to impossible for U.S. citizens to buy their drugs in Canada. The Food and Drug Administration insists that Americans can't be sure the drugs from Canada are safe, therefore it won't give its OK to state governments, co-ops and others who would like to save about a third of the cost of prescription drugs by going through Canadian pharmaceutical channels. . .

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and other governors insist that their states could save tens of millions for their taxpayers if they could buy en masse through Canada. . . The drug companies are pulling out all stops to prevent this from happening, going so far as to limit the supplies to Canadian distributors. Heavens! We don't want some senior U.S. citizen paying $20 for a prescription when she should be paying $30, now do we?

It's no wonder that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has issued drug companies a threat of his own. He says that if they do limit drugs to Canada, he'll see to it that their products are taken off the preferred list for Illinois state employees if there is a viable alternative available.
A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer.
That's been my stance since the start of the "War on Terror."
Debunking the McCain myth.
• Voted against a bill declaring the third Monday in January a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

• Voted to cut off federal assistance to public schools that prohibit prayer in school.

• Voted to strike provisions of the Racial Justice Act that would prohibit the death sentence in state and federal cases if a defendant could prove with statistical or other evidence that the race of the victim played a role in sentencing.

• Voted against a 1996 bill to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

• Voted against measures to increase the minimum wage, against a woman's right to choose, and with Bush 91 percent of the time last year.
Why does inhaling helium make one's voice sound strange?
A police officer used his Taser gun on a 68-year-old grandmother in her home Tuesday night...
Donnie Darko to be rereleased. [metafilter]

Thursday 17
A Shenendehowa teacher faces possible disciplinary action for disparaging former President Ronald Reagan during a moment of silence in his honor, district officials said. The female High School East instructor, whom the school would not identify, refused to honor a silent tribute to the late 40th president during Monday morning's homeroom period, district spokeswoman Kelly DeFiciani said.

During the minute or so observation, the teacher made a series of "negative" and "inappropriate" comments about the Republican president's policies in front of up to 16 seniors, officials said. A parent of a student in the class alerted the district to the incident, she said.
...a remarkable collection of progressive columnists share my revulsion, or at least querulousness, about the orgy of myopic praise for Reagan this week. (I am tempted to take back my contribution from NPR for joining in the almost universal hushed tones of reverence with no counterbalancing viewpoints. All Things Considered indeed! Some would invoke the cliché about not speaking ill of the dead, but I would counterpose with that the one about living your life so that no one can speak ill of you when you die.)
For more than 80 years, everyone in Mongolia was on a first-name basis. After seizing power in the early 1920s, the Mongolian Communists destroyed all family names in a campaign to eliminate the clan system, the hereditary aristocracy and the class structure.

Within a few decades, most Mongolians had forgotten their ancestral names. They used only a single given name -- a system that eventually became confusing when 9,000 women ended up with the same name, Altantsetseg, meaning "golden flower."
Why did DCI George Tenet suddenly resign on June 3rd, only to be followed a day later by James Pavitt, the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations (DDO)?

The real reasons, contrary to the saturation spin being put out by major news outlets, have nothing to do with Tenet's role as taking the fall for alleged 9/11 and Iraqi intelligence "failures" before the upcoming presidential election.

Both resignations, perhaps soon to be followed by resignations from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, are about the imminent and extremely messy demise of George W. Bush and his Neocon administration in a coup d'etat being executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The coup, in the planning for at least two years, has apparently become an urgent priority as a number of deepening crises threaten a global meltdown.
"RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association notify physicians that, except in emergencies and except as otherwise required by law or other professional regulation, it is not unethical to refuse care to plaintiffs' attorneys and their spouses."

Well at least the third generation Hawk left out the children.

The chilling explanation by Dr. Hawk for this proposed resolution is that lawsuits against medical-practice mayhem raise malpractice insurance premiums "forcing physicians to reduce their scope of practice, relocate, and retire early." Therefore, he concludes, trial attorneys should be given "the opportunity to experience the access problems caused by the professional liability crisis," [and] then "perhaps they would be willing to help change the system."

The main problem with this sadistic sequence of illogic is that it is false. The insurance companies are gouging the physicians by creating a phony crisis and playing off the natural desire of physicians never to be sued. Take all the premiums paid by doctors to insurance companies for malpractice coverage and divide the sum by all the practicing physicians. The premium would be about $10,000 a year -- a third of what they pay an experienced receptionist in their offices.
"In Iceland in 1991, the volcano Hekla erupted at the same time that auroras were visible overhead." One of the greatest pics I've seen there. This one of Phoebe looks cool too.
Ignorant Law Professors on the March
"the kingdom of God is within you"
Seth, the long time cranky complainer, makes his first post, which is more or less a collection of stuff about the very thing he always complains about. It does bring out a decent response or two.
Any poetry aficionado will have had more than their fair share of evenings straining to catch the words, and drift, of the figure hunched over the lectern. During a reading by Auden at the South Bank in the 1960s, Patrick Kavanagh even fell asleep on stage. In my own years of presenting and promoting the stuff, I've developed a polite smile that friends tell me later can, at times, look rather fixed. There was the poet who spent the entire reading jangling the change in his pockets in a metallic symphony that drowned out all the words. And the one who, after too many vodkas, lurched up to the microphone and launched her reading with a loud burp. And the Aboriginal poet who, if I hadn't started clapping and leapt up to thank him, would clearly have gone on all night.
Among the many books by Vladimir Nabokov, two are of special importance to me. The first, not surprisingly, is "Lolita," one of the indisputably great American novels of the 20th century, one that grows ever deeper and richer not merely with each reading but also as it is reflected upon and savored within the province of memory. In time "Lolita" will have its own "Second Reading" (though in truth it will be a fourth or fifth), a day I await with eager anticipation.

The other, perhaps somewhat less predictably, is "Speak, Memory," the memoir that Nabokov wrote in bits and pieces mostly in the 1940s, first published in book form in 1951 (under the title "Conclusive Evidence") and then republished, heavily edited and revised, under its current title in 1966. Precisely how many times I have read it I do not know, nor do I recall when I read it for the first time, but this can be said with certainty: It is a book that I absolutely, unconditionally love. Opening it entirely at random -- to any page, any paragraph, any sentence -- I feel at once in the presence of the miraculous, awakened once again to the power, the magic and the mystery of the word.

There are remarkably few pieces of writing about which I can say that: a number of poems (though I rarely read poetry anymore), James Joyce's story "The Dead," "The Great Gatsby" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude," some Faulkner and Dickens, "Jane Eyre," a handful of books treasured in childhood and youth. The list could go on a bit longer -- Shakespeare, of course -- but not much. Four decades of reading for a living have made me difficult to satisfy, easy to displease, reluctant to give my heart to any old book or any old author.
The state of one's body affects one's mind more often than the other way round. Not mind over matter, but matter over mind, generally seems the order of the day. "It is not usually our ideas that make us optimists or pessimists," Miguel de Unamuno writes, "But it is our optimism or our pessimism, a physiological or perhaps pathological origin, as much the one as the other, that makes our ideas."
Interest in Beethoven's love life has focused largely on a letter he wrote in the summer of 1812, to an unidentified woman. On July 5, after a hazardous journey by night on an unfamiliar road, Beethoven reached the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz at four o'clock in the morning. His doctor had advised him to take the waters there the previous summer, too, but this time he was clearly going through an acute midlife crisis.

The morning after he arrived, he began writing a passionate love letter to a woman he had almost certainly met up with in Prague on his way to Teplitz. Addressing her as "My angel, my all, my own self", he was, he told her, writing the letter with her pencil. "Can you alter the fact," he asked her, "that you are not entirely mine, and I am not entirely yours?" Beethoven continued the letter that evening, and the following morning he added a further page in which - in the most famous words he was ever to write - he described her as his "Immortal Beloved".
How you define Tantra is largely determined by what you want to say about it. To the extent that the general reading public is familiar with the term, Tantra has become an Orientalist wet dream, a transgressive, weird, sexy, dangerous world. Many people refer to the Kamasutra, or even The Joy of Sex, as Tantric. But Tantric practice has a narrower and more precise historical genealogy. In David Gordon White’s account, the distinguishing characteristic of South Asian Tantra in its earliest documented stage is a ritual in which bodily fluids – sexual or menstrual discharge – were swallowed as transformative “power substances”.

Friday 11
Remembering Reagan as "...immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian..."
In the weeks leading up to his appearance on Capitol Hill, Tutu said in speeches that it seemed that the Reagan White House saw "blacks as expendable" in South Africa. The white government forced black people from prized lands and into horrid townships. Migratory labor laws split familes for 11 months at a time. Education was gutted for black children. There was virtually no due process for black defendants. Tutu said it was "reminiscent of Hitler's Aryan madness." Tutu declared that "constructive engagement is an abomination, an unmitigated disaster."

On Capitol Hill, Tutu became a public relations disaster for Reagan. Tutu started off the hearing by saying apartheid itself "is evil, is immoral, is un-Christian, without remainder." I was there, and all breathing stopped, without remainder. Tutu continued:

"In my view, the Reagan administration's support and collaboration with it is equally immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian. . . . You are either for or against apartheid and not by rhetoric. You are either in favor of evil or you are in favor of good. You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can't be neutral."
Reagan was not moved. Over the remainder of his presidency, at least 3,000 people would die, mostly at the hands of the South African police and military. Another 20,000, including 6,000 children, according to one estimate by a human rights group, would be arrested under "state of emergency" decrees.

Yet Reagan had the gall to say in 1985 that the "reformist administration" of South Africa had "eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country." In 1986, Reagan gave a speech where he said Mandela should be released but denounced sanctions with crocodile tears, claiming that they would hurt black workers, who were already ridiculously impoverished. Reagan's go-slow speech was denounced by Tutu, who said: "I found it quite nauseating. I think the West, for my part, can go to hell. . . . Your president is the pits as far as blacks are concerned. He sits there like the great, big white chief of old."

Later in 1986, Reagan made his greatest demonstration yet that black bodies were "expendable." Congress had finally had enough of the carnage to vote for limited sanctions. Reagan vetoed them. Congress overrode the veto. Reagan proceded to put no muscle behind the sanctions. Mandela remained in jail and at least 2,000 political prisoners remained detained without trial.
Ronald Reagan was a vile human being that surrounded himself with crooks and it serves no purpose to paint the picture any different.
Only in a country so morally bankrupt and addicted to revenge as ours could we have idiots on the radio, TV, and in print try and convince people that the cruel death of Nicholas Berg and the deaths of the mercenaries compares at all to the deliberate and systematic torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners.

Our government has decided that the rule of law does not apply to them and for this every one of them should be impeached and imprisoned, though I would spare them the torture they so willingly tolerate toward others.

Torturers are not "a few bad apples" who just need to be thrown away or have the rotten piece cut off. They are human beings who have been converted into instruments of the system of economic exploitation and oppression. None of them came to be this way on their own. Condemning a few of them to jail might be "fair," but it is not going to stop the nightmare. For example, it's known that there are similarities between the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib and Israeli methods used against Palestinian detainees. There is a master. And there are methods. These are not isolated events.
After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to "take the gloves off" in interrogating him. The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists...
The undoing of U.S. foreign policy is captured in the budget numbers. Long gone are the Marshall Plan times, when America dedicated several percent of its gross domestic product to European reconstruction. The United States will spend about $450 billion this year on the military but only $15 billion on official development assistance.

The 30-to-1 ratio is mirrored by a similar imbalance in American thinking. America's military expertise is undoubted. America's ability to understand what exists before and after wars in low-income countries is nearly nonexistent.

Changing all of this will require much more than recognizing the errors of the Iraq war. A good starting point would be to rebuild USAID into a pre-eminent agency for understanding and resolving human catastrophes and security threats arising from extreme poverty.
For years we have been asking the wrong question, "How do kids learn to be violent?" The more poignant question is "How do kids (and adults) learn not to be violent?" for surely our survival on many occasions throughout different eras has been dependent upon successful acts of violence.

Reasons for violence include violation of a sense of honor, which includes the emotion of vengeance, moralization, ethnocentrism and gross self-deception. Study after study has debunked the idea that media violence begets real violence. This is not to say that repetitive, gratuitous violence does not numb the senses, dull rational thought and create a virtual culture in which violence is more likely to erupt.

A quick look at history, however, confirms that people were actually more violent before television and movies, and that contrary to popular thought, the United States has not been and is not the most violent country in the world. Many Third World countries and former Soviet Union republics were and are undeniably more violent.

One thought to remember is that even today in the United States, our violent media heroes live in a highly moralistic world. The good guys still win; only the spectacle of blood and gore and weaponry has changed.

The role of glory and honor, whether nationalistic or individualistic, also exacts a depressing and repetitive price throughout history in its justification for violence. The 17th-century philosopher Hobbes wrote, "Men will fight over a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue."

Thursday 10
AN UNCTUOUS MSNBC reporter interviewing a D-Day veteran outfitted in uniform and numerous medals. He asks the vet his age: “82 years old.”

“82 years young might be a better way of putting it.”

“Up your ass.”
Another from Ethel...
SS: In earlier interviews you described how the economy has been "financialized" in ways that free companies from taxation. What role do offshore tax havens play in this?

MH: Companies set up trading companies in tax-avoidance islands and declare whatever income or capital gains they earn on real estate, stocks or other investments to be made by these shells. This has led to the quip that taxes have become purely voluntary for modern businesses.

SS: How does this affect the domestic U.S. economy?

MH: Un-taxing business income--and financial income in particular--leaves individual taxpayers to bear the fiscal burden through wage withholding for Social Security, Medicare and pension-fund contributions. Consumers also bear a rising burden through the sales tax and other local taxes.
SS: You paint a discouraging picture. What is the point in trying to tax corporate and financial income at all, if transactions with these islands are not simply closed down?

MH: A choice is indeed being forced. If these tax-cheating havens are not closed down, the only people left to tax will be the middle class and employees.

Companies now file two sets of annual accounts. One is for their stockholders, and another is for the tax collector. The tax account shows no profit, because companies don't want to pay taxes. The report to stockholders shows a maximum profit, because companies want to boost the price of their stock. Voters have elected politicians whose electoral campaigns are paid for by lobbies who are hired to mobilize support for this policy, while academic chairs are endowed to hire well-meaning fools or "useful idiots" to teach this anti-government philosophy as representing positive "reform" rather than depicting it as outright parasitism.

The public is being misled in two ways. First of all, governments are given tax returns that show profits as shrinking, through artificial book-keeping that becomes the basis for official statistics. Meanwhile, stockholders are being given stories of fictitiously high profits, at least in the cases of Enron and Parmalat.

The clients of this floating island world use a system that has been put in place by pillars of business integrity representing the global economy's core, not merely a peripheral underworld constituency. These enclaves belong at the center of economic analysis, yet they usually are treated as an anomaly rather than as an integral organ of modern wealth accumulation.
A look at the "torture memo." Here's Digby's take on it. My take is that they are all fucking monsters.
Government Lie #1: The Saudi's did fly out of here after Sept 11.
Government lie #2: In reality, terrorist attacks went up in 2003.
The Bush administration routinely bypassed or overruled Pentagon experts on international law and the Geneva convention to construct a sweeping legal justification for harsh tactics in the war on terror, the Guardian has learnt.

In one instance, President George Bush's military order of November 13 2001, which denies prisoner-of-war status to captives from Afghanistan and allows their detention without charge or access to a lawyer at Guantánamo, was issued without any consultations with Pentagon lawyers, a former Pentagon official said.

The revelation follows reports in the US press this week of a Pentagon memo that argued that Mr Bush was not bound by laws against torture, and that interrogators who torture detainees at Guantánamo cannot be prosecuted.

Wednesday 9
Christopher Hitchens writes about "The stupidity of Ronald Reagan."
I guess I am not the only one bewildered by the whitewashing of Ronald Reagan. He seemed nice enough. for a crap President like Carter before him.
The Democrats who voted for Reagan abandoned the sour, nitpicking Jimmy Carter for the cheerful Hollywood figure, but they also did what the political pros and historians still don't get. Led by the determined cadres of the "New Right," they supported a candidate and a plan for a new America with an ideological agenda. That agenda called for doing the unthinkable: grabbing control of Congress and smashing the New Deal, while leaving a token "safety net" in its place. It was in the early days of Reagan that the homeless began to appear in growing numbers on the streets of American cities, an early sign of the slow process of turning over the functions of the federal government to companies through such ideas as privatization. Reagan practically initiated the concept of turning social welfare over to charitable foundations. All of this was accomplished with the glue of anti-Communism, a shared bond that tied otherwise quarreling factions together—the libertarian-minded Republicans, the anti-feminist crusaders, the Christian fundamentalists. Under Reagan, the government borrowed the concept of guerrilla warfare from the winning side in Vietnam and used it to win a victory over the Sandinistas. Reagan escaped the Iran-Contra scandal without a scratch. For some, Reagan spelled the turning point in the death of the first American republic.
And more about Ronnie from Sam Smith. Brian collected some too.
And now a word from a the lunatic side...
The Greatest President of the 20th Century The eulogies for Ronald Reagan are already abundant, but I cannot resist offering my own.

I believe that Ronald Reagan was the greatest President of the 20th century. The only competitor is Franklin Roosevelt, who gets credit for leading the country during World War II and for helping the US persevere through the Great Depression. But Roosevelt's accomplishments were marred by his enormous failures, including significantly expanding government control of the economy, undermining traditional constitutional restraints, failing to actually end the economic downturn until World War II, and not appreciating the dangers of Soviet Communism.

By contrast, Reagan's accomplishment were tremendous in both the domestic and foreign spheres, and they were not undermined by any significant failures. In the domestic sphere, Reagan inherited an economy plagued by stagflation and bequeathed one with both low inflation and strong economic growth. In foreign affairs, Reagan took a nation that was paralyzed by Iranian students and transformed it into one that persuaded the Soviet Union that it could never win the Cold War. Reagan's failures, such as trading arms for hostages, pale in comparison.

Perhaps President Reagan's greatest accomplishment was that he achieved these goals even though elites, especially liberal elites, regarded his policies as dangerous if not absurd. The elites claimed he practiced voodoo economics, and in 1982-1983 in the midst of a severe recession, lesser men would have despaired. But the President's courage and wisdom prevailed, and the Reagan boom soon emerged.
The whole thing is worth reading for the total fantasy world it reveals. I think this is one of those favored war-bloggers too, which just goes to show you how loony they all are.

Here's a small tidbit of truth to add. One of those "liberal elites" that used the phrase "voodoo economics" was George HW Bush.
Meanwhile...Bush goes bonkers.
World Must Act on Darfur Crisis, Says Kerry.
Is the World's Oil Running Out Fast?
Noam Chomsky on the price of Oil.
Because Christ was into torture too right?

Friday 4
The Corporation is a new documentary that might explain these people
Because of the wealth associated with Europe's new found dependence on spices like pepper, cloves and nutmeg, Spain and Portugal were rivals. Both were eager to get control of commerce with the Far East -- especially with the Spice Islands of the Indies (Indonesia). In order to keep the two nations from fighting each other, on June 7, 1494, in the Treaty of Tordesillas, Pope Alexander VI divided the world in half "giving" Spain and Portugal each one half of it. Following on the heals of Columbus's "discovery" of the "West" Indies in 1492, it is not coincidental that Alexander-a Spaniard, born Rodrigo de Borja, near Valencia-bestowed the western hemisphere, in which Columbus promised the existence of immeasurable quantities of golf, on Spain, and the eastern hemisphere on Portugal. Alexander VI was a lawyer by training. He assumed the Borgia name when his maternal uncle, Alfonso Borgia, began his brief reign as Pope Callistus III and as his lineage suggests, was a rather secular pope. He was among the wealthiest and most ambitious men in Europe, fond of his many mistresses and his illegitimate offspring. He indulged his worldly tastes with great vigor and was one of the most corrupt and secular popes of the Renaissance period. Alexander is perhaps best remembered as the patron of the Banquet of Chestnuts, known more properly as the "Ballet of Chestnuts" in which fifty courtesans crawled naked on the floor collecting chestnuts that had been strewn on the floor of the papal apartments after the meal had been eaten, following which was the obligatory orgy.
-Christianity, Capitalism, Corporations, and the Myth of Dominion by Norman Council (I think he meant "gold" instead of "golf," but there are a lot of golf courses in the US....
All the links to articles about the Iraq torture scandal and the history of torture that you could possibly need for now. Hours and hours of reading material.

Here are a couple I enjoyed...
In recent days, some have labeled Red Cross personnel as "humanitarian do-gooders" whose presence in coalition-run detention centers is inappropriate while American soldiers are fighting and dying. Others have warned that the ICRC is on the path toward becoming a left-wing advocacy group and portrayed the Geneva Conventions as a hindrance to our ability to extract intelligence from prisoners that might save U.S. lives. It is critical to realize that the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions do not endanger American soldiers, they protect them. Our soldiers enter battle with the knowledge that should they be taken prisoner, there are laws intended to protect them and impartial international observers to inquire after them. America's observance of the Geneva Conventions and our support for the ICRC in part determine the willingness of other nations to do the same. While our intelligence personnel in Abu Ghraib may have believed that they were protecting U.S. lives by roughing up detainees to extract information, they have had the opposite effect. Their actions have increased the danger to American soldiers, in this conflict and in future wars.
-John McCain

There is no ‘good cause’ for torture. As a torturer, you are the first to be a victim because you lose all your humanity. You do harm to yourself in the act of harming another. If you had a good cause to begin with, it is lost when you torture another human being. When we imagine situations when torture could be justified, we jump to conclusions too quickly and too easily. Torturing someone will not always give us the result we wish for. If the prisoner in custody does not tell us the information we want it is because they don’t want their people, their fellow soldiers to be killed. They withhold information out of compassion, out of faithfulness to their cause. Sometimes they give out wrong information. And there are those who prefer to die rather than give in to the torture. I am absolutely against torture. It is very easy to create a pretext for why it is necessary to torture a prisoner when we have fear and anger in us. When we have compassion, we can always find another way. When you torture a living being, you die as a human being because the other person’s suffering is your own suffering. When you perform surgery on someone, you know the surgery will help him and that is why you can cut into his body. But when you cut into someone’s body and mind to get information from them, you cut into your own life, you kill yourself as a person.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk-from an interview, This Is What War Looks Like
The Gang of Four by Lionel Rolfe
They're the most unappetizing gang of hypocrites and liars ever, these spawn of the "Reagan Revolution." We're talking about Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Falwell and Henry Hyde.
The sad thing is that they have spawn a host of copycats and that some on the left have decided to fight fire with fire.
I won't run through the details regarding Somalia since you can find a lot in print, right at the time and later.

Steve Shalom had a fine article about it at the time in Z; I wrote about it right away in Z too. More later, after other facts dribbled out. In brief, there had been a terrible famine after the chaos following the overthrow of the murderous US-backed dictator. By the end of 1992 it was declining, Red Cross supplies were mostly getting through, it looked as though the situation was coming under control. At that point Bush 1 decided to make a spectacular show of "humanitarian aid." Marines were sent in a manner so comical even the TV teams couldn't take it seriously. There was a night landing in front of TV cameras (of course all networks were notified: what else would be the point?). But the marines with their night vision equipment were blinded by the cameras and the crews had to be ordered to shut them off. There was no resistance of course.

-Noam
Did Bush lie on the reasons for 9-11 ("they hate our freedoms," etc.)? I think one has to be a bit cautious.

Lying requires a certain competence: at least, it requires an understanding of the difference between truth and falsehood. When a 3-year old tells you an obvious falsehood, it isn't really fair to call it a lie. The same was true of the huge whoppers that Reagan came out with when he got out of the control of his handlers. The poor soul probably had no idea. With Bush, I suspect it is more or less the same. There is a literature of "exposures" (Woodward, etc.), which is taken seriously, but I don't frankly understand why. Among the people he is interviewing, some have the competence to lie, and it only makes sense to suppose that they are doing so; why should they tell him the truth? As for the others, it doesn't really matter what they tell him. The same is true of people who are deeply immersed in some religious cult, like the Washington neocon intellectuals. It is hard to know whether they have the competence to lie, just as it's hard to know for someone who has a direct line to some divinity.

-Noam
...in most respects, the blogosphere is inferior to the existing media that the Internet makes available. From my home computer, I can read newspapers in Britain and Canada, I can have easy access to the current commentary of Chomsky and Roy and others without parochial blinders.

Now contrast this with most of the US-based law and political science blogosphere, which functions almost entirely as an echo chamber for stale right-wing tripe, that was already widely available in the reactionary United States. Why turn to the blogosphere when The Weekly Standard and The National Review" and The Wall Street Journal, not to mention the various pseudo-scholarly publications of AEI and Heritage, have long been around?

-Brian Leiter
"73% of bloggers are human."
The Traditional Values Coalition, one of the nuttiest groups in an already nutty movement, published a "parents beware" warning about Shrek 2, which the TVC believes is part of a DreamWorks effort to help the "transgender agenda...by promoting cross dressing and transgenderism in this animated film."

I'm fairly certain the group isn't kidding.

The DreamWorks' animated film, "Shrek 2," is billed as harmless entertainment but contains subtle sexual messages. Parents who are thinking about taking their children to see "Shrek 2," may wish to consider the following: The movie features a male-to-female transgender (in transition) as an evil bartender. The character has five o'clock shadow, wears a dress and has female breasts. It is clear that he is a she-male. His voice is that of talk show host Larry King.
Larry King Live transcript with guest, bill Maher.

Wednesday 2
David Holthouse wrote about how he was raped as a child and now is arrested for stalking the rapist.
A letter everyone should read.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm," an HBO show known for its acerbic wit, accidentally helped deliver a happy ending to a man who had been charged with murder.

Juan Catalan spent 5 1/2 months in jail on murder charges before his attorney found video footage taken by the show at Dodger Stadium that backs up his client's claims of innocence.

Police arrested Catalan in August, alleging he killed Martha Puebla, 16, in the San Fernando Valley on May 12, 2003, because she had testified against his brother in another case.
May 2004
Sunday 31
Longtime pro-war Robert Novak loses faith.
Afghanistan constitutes George W. Bush's clearest victory since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Taliban regime has been overthrown, eliminating al-Qaida's most important base. But the overlooked war continues with no end in sight. Narcotics trafficking is at an all-time high. If U.S. forces were to leave, the Taliban -- or something like it -- would regain power. The United States is lost in Afghanistan, bound to this wild country and unable to leave.

The situation in Afghanistan, as laid out to me, looks nothing like a country alleged to be progressing toward representative democracy under American tutelage. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-sponsored Afghan president, is regarded by the U.S. troops as hopelessly corrupt and kept in power by U.S. force of arms.
Paul Wolfowitz could not come up with the right number when he testified on Capitol Hill recently—he was off by about 30% in his estimate of the number of Americans killed in Iraq, which at this writing is 786. He's a busy man. You can't expect him to remember how many young Americans have died for the ambition of his adult life. Had he been asked what they died for, he would not have repeated what he told Vanity Fair last year. He would not have said, "For oil." By now, on message with the rest of the administration, he'd have said, "For democracy."

Tragically, any good the US could have obtained from bringing democracy to Iraq has been vitiated by the mayhem Wolfowitz's obsession with toppling Saddam Hussein has inflicted on the Iraqi people—the 7,000 to 10,000 civilians killed, the torture victims, the populace so brutalized and humiliated by an occupation to which Wolfowitz appears not to have given a thought that over 80% want us out now. And those are just the short-term, intra-Iraq harms. Long-term, according to the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, US interests in the Middle East have been set back a decade by Abu Ghraib....

Paradoxically, the very scale of the debacle in Iraq may yield one long-term good: the repudiation of neo-conservative "democratic imperialism." The Americans killed in Iraq will not have died in vain if their sacrifice keeps other Americans from dying in neo-con wars to "remediate" Syria, Iran, or North Korea. After Iraq, "neo-conservative" may achieve the resonance of "isolationist" after World War II—a term of opprobrium for a discredited approach to foreign policy, shorthand for dangerous innocence about world realities. Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.
THE PHOTOS from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison are snapshots not of simple brutality or a breakdown in discipline but of CIA torture techniques that have metastasized over the past 50 years like an undetected cancer inside the US intelligence community. From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak. After experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, electric shocks, and sensory deprivation, this CIA research produced a new method of torture that was psychological, not physical -- best described as "no touch" torture.

The CIA's discovery of psychological torture was a counterintuitive breakthrough -- indeed, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the 17th century. The old physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA's new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential methods to achieve their goals.

In the first stage, interrogators employ the simple, nonviolent techniques of hooding or sleep deprivation to disorient the subject; sometimes sexual humiliation is used as well.

Once the subject is disoriented, interrogators move on to a second stage with simple, self-inflicted discomfort such as standing for hours with arms extended. In this phase, the idea is to make victims feel responsible for their own pain and thus induce them to alleviate it by capitulating to the interrogator's power. In his statement on reforms at Abu Ghraib last week, General Geoffrey Miller, former chief of the Guantanamo detention center and now prison commander in Iraq, offered an unwitting summary of this two-phase torture. "We will no longer, in any circumstances, hood any of the detainees," the general said. "We will no longer use stress positions in any of our interrogations. And we will no longer use sleep deprivation in any of our interrogations."

Although seemingly less brutal, no-touch torture leaves deep psychological scars. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to cruelty and lasting emotional problems....

For more than 50 years, the CIA's no-touch methods have become so widely accepted that US interrogators seem unaware that they are, in fact, engaged in systematic torture. But now, through these photographs from Abu Ghraib, we can see the reality of these techniques. We have a chance to join fully with the international community in repudiating a practice that, more than any other, represents a denial of democracy.
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."

Cheney's relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.
[metafilter]
What you won't find posted on LGF. This too! What is LGF?
Witty, most of these warbloggers aren't....Probably the most venomous of all is Charles Johnson. His site (http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com) is the toilet in which all sorts of misinformation and malice about Arabs and, in particular, Palestinians are dumped. Anybody who writes favourably — or even in a half-balanced manner — about them is slimed.
The crisis in Darfur has been going on for months and I'm supposed to praise Bush for this small gesture?

Sunday 30
"People were literally walking out of the show," she said. "As soon as she came out, she began to insult us. We thought she was joking at first because it was kind of weird."

Witnesses said Jewel went on a tirade of insults from poking fun at fat people to others with no teeth. At one point, she asked the audience to yell requests and then told them to "shut the hell up."

"I saw her live in Boston and it was the greatest show I’ve ever been to," Dion said. "I don’t know if she was having a nervous breakdown or what. She told everyone to stop looking at her teeth and look at her breasts."

Jewel was on stage for about an hour and played only four to five songs. Halfway through the show, Dion said Jewel began to talk about Zoloft and Paxil for about 10 minutes.
The New Yorker story on Ahmad Chalabi.
Yeah, yeah, Bush's numbers are down. But in order for Democrats to get his approval rating to be where it should be, post-Clarke, post-Abu Ghraib-- that is, somewhere between 5 and 15 percent (somewhat higher in the South)-- we need to understand just why his remaining supporters are still hanging on. So, as a public service to all the smart, well-informed, snarky progressives and liberals and lefties reading this blog on a regular basis, I've devised a handy pop quiz that we can distribute to Bush supporters, in order to discover (in the best traditions of Gramscian cultural studies) the continuing appeal of the Bush presidency.
For Iraq, there are difficult days ahead that may appear chaotic, but do not fear: our actions are guided by a vision, and Operation "I Will Always Hate You People" is proceeding according to plan

Monday 24
In part, the attack on Iraq was simply another exercise in the type of neo-Wilsonian fantasy that is a recurring feature of US foreign policy, but it was also an exercise in realpolitik - and a resource war. A key part of the rationale for the invasion was to enable the US to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, which had come to be seen as complicit with terror and inherently unstable.
Ah yes! Another e³ essay. He was a bit insane before, but now desperation has sent him over the top. He is careful to parse his hatred in strict terms of "Radical Islam" in the same way the owner of LGF focuses on it to the complete exclusion of everything else. This offers him only a myopic "must win" mantra to preach. It's the same jingoist jingle always preaches.
This will be a long and circuitous journey. I’m sorry; I wish it were not so. But we must, we must find the strength we need to sustain our spirits against an onrush of negativity, pessimism, defeatism and despair that is so deadly precisely because it is so antithetical to the natural character of the American people.

Morale, my friends. Morale. Humor and confidence are our best friends now. And so, as we begin our journey through Mordor toward the heart of Mt Doom, this mission to defeat this pernicious attack on our strength, remember this:

Americans eat disasters and crap hand grenades. And I got your quagmire right here.
The thing these war pundits don't get is that terrorism is a tactic that thrives on the exact kind of macho crap they spew. It fuels the hate and racism that keeps this circle spinning out of control.

They have too much twisted and stubborn pride then to go out and help the waning majority of folks in the Middle East that are fed up with all the violence. You help them by promoting their voices and protecting them and not by pointing out only the extremists all the time.

But e³ ain't going for any of that jibber jabber.
I and many others view Little Green Footballs as the equivalent of the Cold War’s D.E.W. Line – the Distant Early Warning radar system that searched the Polar skies, looking for incoming threats. This is why Charles is attacked personally. He is attacked personally in an attempt to discredit him and his website because the fact remains that almost everything he links to are articles by Islamists, about Radical Islam – and what they say in their own words is so totally compelling, damning, and down-right blood curdling that anyone not seeing the danger brewing does not deserve to be part of this argument.

Now, the source of this hatred towards the West is the source of endless books and analysis and articles and thesis papers. To this interminable Gordian Knot of causes and effects and counter-causes and grievances, I can only add this:

I don’t care.
That's why we're in this mess.
Americans labor under the delusion that fascism "can't happen here" because of the nation's history as an open, democratic society.

This is a peculiar blind spot, because in fact fascism is only possible as an outgrowth -- a metastasis, if you will -- of democracy. Historically, fascism has only taken root in democracies when they stumble. It seems not to occur to Americans that if their democracy stumbles, the dark face of fascism awaits to take its place.
What is happening in Iraq is deeply troubling and the sense that we are on the edge of further horrific incidents and decisions is growing. All wars are corrosive of morality simply because of the violence used to obtain certain ends. Even the "good" or justified wars have cases where some humans caught up in the fear and killing step beyond the bonds of defensible behavior and do things that are wrong. Yet, war that is fought to defend against aggression, with a leadership that remembers that the enemy is human and that war itself is an awful thing that should only be used when there is no other choice lessens the chance that people will resort to excessive brutality. This was the leadership Abraham Lincoln showed when reflecting on the ongoing Civil War: "Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away."
Here's a fun one! "At least 81% of 415 historians ranked Bush's presidency an overall failure." With comments like:
He is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He does not think, process, or speak well, and is emotionally immature due to, among other things, his lack of recovery from substance abuse. The term is "dry drunk". He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him . . . . . He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.
What corporate interest?
"Brat Pack" - the twentysomething Young Republicans who are running Iraq's economy. Their resumes all pulled from the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation, they came to Iraq with no experience and found themselves with six-figure salaries managing the $13 billion budget of the Coalition Provisional Authority. An amazing article from The Washington Post that reads like the scariest season of MTV's The Real World ever.
More on Moore.
What I think, after my short time in his company, is that Moore is a man you would not want as an opponent, but also one you'd think twice about calling a friend. Though a talented film-maker and a clever showman, a populist who knows how to play the maverick, he is too often both big-headed and small-minded. In his desire to be seen as the decent man telling truth to power, he is too ready to blame those less powerful than himself for his shortcomings. He was justly revered in the Palais, but out on the street no one had a kind word to say about him. At Cannes, Moore may have been the star but he was not, it seems, the man of the people.
At least 2,000 pages might have been missing from the copy of the Army report on soldiers' abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners that was delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The 6,000-page report, compiled by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, formed the basis for hearings this month into the allegations. Taguba found "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" had been inflicted on Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad between last October and December.
Thank God for Iraq! We can forget about Israel.
One of the key political moderates in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet deplored on Sunday the Israel army's offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying television images reminded him of the suffering of his family during the Holocaust. In stark and emotional language, Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid, who also holds the Justice Ministry portfolio and is a Holocaust survivor, told Israeli radio that the country risked further international condemnation if the army continued its campaign of pursuing Palestinian gunmen, demolishing homes and expelling civilians from the heart of the populous Rafah refugee camp.
Thank God for Iraq! We can forget about Sudan
The suffering people of war-ravaged western Sudan need the help of their government and the international community if a humanitarian disaster is to be averted, the aid agency Oxfam said today.

Oxfam warned that thousands of people in the troubled region of Darfur face disease and starvation over the next three months as food and fresh water supplies run dangerously low.
Sudan 'on verge of mass starvation'
Aid agencies were today warning of looming famine and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, where up to a million people have been driven from their homes by government-backed militias.

The arid desert region is hit by a cyclical "hunger gap" from April until harvest-time in October, but attacks on towns and villages by the "Janjawid" mounted Arab militias, which human rights observers say include members of the armed forces, have exacerbated the crisis this year....

Around a million people are believed to be internally displaced in the region, while 200,000 refugees have fled over the border to neighbouring Chad....

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which is also operating in the area said the threat of famine was "looming" in Darfur. A nutrition survey conducted by the agency showed dangerously high levels of malnutrition and mortality, with a rapidly deteriorating food security situation.

With already high levels of "excess death" and malnutrition, the whole population was "teetering on the verge of mass starvation", MSF warned.
Donate to the Red Cross. [metafilter]
We are constantly finding that we have procedures and habits that have evolved over the years from the last century that don't really fit the 21st century. They don't fit the Information Age. They don't fit a time when people are running around with digital cameras - Donald Rumsfeld at a Senate hearing speaking of the conflict between torture and technology
[more]

Saturday 22
A look at why outsourcing is so attractive to business. (i.e. a software programmer from the United States makes $66,100 and one from India gets $10,000. And here is a look at both sides of the debate.
In January of 2002, Alberto Gonzales sent a memo to George Bush encouraging torture.
"Cargo cultists versus Christians."
Life on the Edge.
Why Michael Savage is a depraved person.
The Guardian accuses the US gov. of lying.
WTF?
Another look at the sick bastard Brooks
Chicago is sinking again/still.

Thursday 20
Dirty Politics
On this Patriots Day, Updike is again thinking about war and politics. He has met President Bush. "I give him high praise for graciousness," Updike says. "Laura, too."

But, he adds, "that doesn't make me a Republican."

"Upon sober reflection at age 72," he says, "the Democratic Party is the party that tries to give losers a chance. A laissez-faire government drives a culture apart."

He says toothily, "I would like to see Kerry win."
-Washington Post
In more modern times, the Meat Inspection Act of 1917 prohibits giving "money or other thing of value, with intent to influence" to a government official.

But that was before the lawyers and the politicians got around to rewriting the meaning of bribery. And so we came to a time a few years ago when the Supreme Court actually ruled that a law prohibiting the giving of gifts to a public official "for or because of an official act" didn't mean anything unless you knew exactly what the official act was. In other words, bribery was only illegal if the bribee was dumb enough to give you a receipt.

The media has gone along with the scam, virtually dropping the word from its vocabulary in favor of phrases like "inappropriate gift," or "the appearance of a conflict of interest."

Another example is the remarkable redefinition of money to mean speech. You can test this one out by making a deal with a prostitute and if a cop comes along, simply say, "Officer, I wasn't giving her money, I was just giving her a speech." If that doesn't work you can try giving more of that speech to the cop. Or try telling the IRS next April that "I have the right to remain silent." And so forth. I wouldn't advise it....

You don't just need techniques and instruments to torture. You also need the right words to justify it. Marshall Rosenberg, who teaches non-violent communication, was struck in reading psychological interviews with Nazi war criminals not by their abnormality, but that they used a language denying choice: "should," "one must," "have to." For example, Adolph Eichmann was asked, "Was it difficult for you to send these tens of thousands of people their death?" Eichmann replied, "To tell you the truth, it was easy. Our language made it easy."

Asked to explain, Eichmann said, "My fellow officers and I coined our own name for our language. We called it amtssprache -- 'office talk.'" In office talk "you deny responsibility for your actions. So if anybody says, 'Why did you do it?' you say, 'I had to.' 'Why did you have to?' 'Superiors' orders. Company policy. It's the law.'"

Just like "those techniques" at Abu Ghraib. - SAM SMITH

Wednesday 19: Stuffy head, runny nose...ah, just post mefi links...
Sex and Psychological Operations. [Mefi].
The sensationally sordid Staff Ass sex scandal. Young DC congressional staff assistant starts juicy blog. (edited cache). Blog describes carryings on with many men, including a married Bush appointee who pays her for sex. Washington's most amusing and best read new blogger, Wonkette, links to it, picking out choice quotes. Within hours, the blog is gone, the girl is fired. Now another blogger outs the girl's boss as a Republican Senator. Fun!
Jon Stewart does a speech thing.
Mars robot rovers, The Movie.
Michael Moore Hates America, The Movie. Sigh.
The guards made movies. Rumsfeld's part is all this is backed up by the WP.
I cheat here with a Leiter quote:
Here is David Brooks commenting on Dylan Klebold, one of the two high school students who shot up the Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, killing many classmates, before killing himself:

"My instinct is that Dylan Klebold was a self-initiating moral agent who made his choices and should be condemned for them. Neither his school nor his parents determined his behavior."

So Brooks is a "libertarian" incompatibilist about free will: he thinks free will is incompatible with determinism, but believes we can be self-caused in some sense....

Nietzsche, happily, had the Brooks-type pegged long ago:

"The longing for 'freedom of the will' in the superlative metaphysical sense (which, unfortunately, still rules in the heads of the half-educated), the longing to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for your actions yourself and to relieve God, world, ancestors, chance, and society of the burden--all this means nothing less than...pulling yourself by the hair from the swamp of nothingness into existence." (Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 21)

But, of course, Brooks is ascribing responsibility to others, not claiming it himself, and Nietzsche also had "the psychology of all 'making responsible'"

Monday 17
In the domain of bodies, most of us accept that common sense is wrong. We concede that apparently solid objects are actually mostly empty space, consisting of tiny particles and fields of energy. Perhaps the same sort of reconciliation will happen in the domain of souls, and it will come to be broadly recognized that our dualist belief system, though intuitively appealing, is factually mistaken. Perhaps we will all come to agree with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and join the side of the "brights": those who reject the supernatural and endorse the world-view established by science.

But I am skeptical. The notion that our souls are flesh is profoundly troubling to many, as it clashes with religion. Dualism and religion are not the same: You can be dualist without holding any other religious beliefs, and you can hold religious beliefs without being dualist. But they almost always go together. And some very popular religious views rest on a dualist foundation, such as the belief that people survive the destruction of their bodies. If you give up on dualism, this is what you lose.

This is not small potatoes.
Billionaires' Dinner
Stalking the Bogeyman, By David Holthouse [[Metafilter Thread]
Cold Turkey, by Kurt Vonnegut. [Metafilter Thread]
Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About.

Thursday 13: I'm playing catch-up-have not read much all week.
...It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That's why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history....

I admit, I'm a little slow. Because I tried to think about something as deadly serious as Iraq, and the post- 9/11 world, in a nonpartisan fashion — as Joe Biden, John McCain and Dick Lugar did — I assumed the Bush officials were doing the same. I was wrong. They were always so slow to change course because confronting their mistakes didn't just involve confronting reality, but their own politics.

Why, in the face of rampant looting in the war's aftermath, which dug us into such a deep and costly hole, wouldn't Mr. Rumsfeld put more troops into Iraq? Politics. First of all, Rummy wanted to crush once and for all the Powell doctrine, which says you fight a war like this only with overwhelming force. I know this is hard to believe, but the Pentagon crew hated Colin Powell, and wanted to see him humiliated 10 times more than Saddam. Second, Rummy wanted to prove to all those U.S. generals whose Army he was intent on downsizing that a small, mobile, high-tech force was all you needed today to take over a country. Third, the White House always knew this was a war of choice — its choice — so it made sure that average Americans never had to pay any price or bear any burden. Thus, it couldn't call up too many reservists, let alone have a draft. Yes, there was a contradiction between the Bush war on taxes and the Bush war on terrorism. But it was resolved: the Bush team decided to lower taxes rather than raise troop levels....

And, of course, why did the president praise Mr. Rumsfeld rather than fire him? Because Karl Rove says to hold the conservative base, you must always appear to be strong, decisive and loyal. It is more important that the president appear to be true to his team than that America appear to be true to its principles. (Here's the new Rummy Defense: "I am accountable. But the little guys were responsible. I was just giving orders.")

Add it all up, and you see how we got so off track in Iraq, why we are dancing alone in the world — and why our president, who has a strong moral vision, has no moral influence.

-Thomas L. Friedman.
We are about to see, in a range of inquiries about the prison torture, the transgressors blaming the system. We may get caught up in tortuous discussions about which level of the system it was that failed. In so doing, the first casualty will be any notion of personal responsibility. To be sure, you will to hear pronouncements about the personal responsibility of the Abu Ghraib guards — from the government, not in the service of the promulgation of an ethical standard, but merely to deflect the political liabilities it faces. The first casualty of the invasion of Iraq has been the poor unfortunate citizens of that country (yes, Virginia, even in light of the fact that they have been freed from Saddam Hussein). The second casualty appears to be America's soul.
We are about to see, in a range of inquiries about the prison torture, the transgressors blaming the system. We may get caught up in tortuous discussions about which level of the system it was that failed. In so doing, the first casualty will be any notion of personal responsibility. To be sure, you will to hear pronouncements about the personal responsibility of the Abu Ghraib guards — from the government, not in the service of the promulgation of an ethical standard, but merely to deflect the political liabilities it faces. The first casualty of the invasion of Iraq has been the poor unfortunate citizens of that country (yes, Virginia, even in light of the fact that they have been freed from Saddam Hussein). The second casualty appears to be America's soul.

Saturday 8
Every news organization has First Amendment rights, just as I'm exercising mine right now. But speaking out is one thing, keeping others from being heard is another. Sinclair censored Koppel.
-Bill Moyers.
Just when we thought we had a pure and simple hero, a millionaire athlete who gave up wealth and fame to become the ideal patriot, to make the ultimate sacrifice, his friends and family complicated everything. They turned Pat Tillman into a human being Monday, showing us what was really lost during that ambush in Afghanistan, insisting that we question every assumption we've made since he died an icon on April 22....

Tillman's youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn't written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.

"Pat isn't with God,'' he said. "He's f -- ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f -- ing dead....''

Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he'd mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: "Let's discuss.'' A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman's readings, adorned the program.

It concluded with this: "But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.''
A Metafilter thread about communism posted by 111. 111 also wants to bring back McCarthyism.
...Joe McCarthy has been proved basically right. But if you do a little reading, perhaps you'll find out that we need McCarthyism more than ever... Incapacity to learn from history and/or recognize old threats under new guises are surefire signs that your genes won't be around much longer.
Yes. Metafilter has a resident sociopath, but the rest of the thread is interesting.
Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates...

Friday 7
Linkmeister and Dave Johnson on where the blame goes over the abuse of prisoners. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh says, "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release?"
WTF? Why did Congressman Danny Davis of crown Sun Myung Moon the new Messiah?
Economics.
Islamic law.
Saw this here. Sourced as from here.
The New York Times reports that an on-the-scene, eye witness account of what *really* happened on 9-11 recorded by at least six air controllers who were working the New York air lanes that day was destroyed without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it. The reason given for the destruction of evidence? The air controllers were not in the right frame of mind to give accurate statements. Here's how the tape was destroyed in case anyone thinks it was one of those bureaucratic oversights:

"The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, but it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. quality-assurance manager, who crushed the cassette in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department."
[Same story from Truthout]
Also from the Progressive Review:
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - The United States and Israel were again in near isolation at the United Nations on Thursday as the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed Palestinian sovereignty over land Israel seized in 1967. The assembly voted 140-6 to adopt a resolution saying the Palestinian people have "the right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory." Eleven nations abstained. Only four tiny states -- the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau -- joined Israel and the United States in voting against. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but do reflect the majority sentiment of the international community.
Methodists losing members over homosexual acceptance while Catholics quarrel over Communion and some are teaching the religion of Bush.
I remember when Secret Wars only referred to comics.

Thursday 6
A metafilter thread talking about the Iraqi prisoner situation. Don't miss this:
Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker's daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call "a backwoods world".

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

"A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq," Colleen Kesner said.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

In Fort Ashby, in the isolated Appalachian mountains 260km west of Washington, the poor, barely-educated and almost all-white population talk openly about an active Ku Klux Klan presence.

There is little understanding of the issues in Iraq and less of why photographs showing soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, mostly from around Fort Ashby, abusing prisoners has caused a furore.
Lots of people united on their knees today.
Lots of people pissed off at Oprah.
Liberals and strangers:Liberalism is not 300 years old; it was born 10,000 years ago with the invention of agriculture. By Paul Seabright
Postmodern Approaches to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality - A Critique. By Edmund Standing

Monday 3
...there are few Pattons at the top of today's military who know the fighting game and have the guts to tell Perfumed Prince superiors that their poor decisions could get soldiers killed. So now – according to the Pentagon's Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia – our brilliant Brass are “repositioning assets” while our soldiers and Marines are absorbing rocket propelled grenades and road-side mines in thin-skinned vehicles far more fit for a vacation at Yosemite than for combat.

"Most of our tanks were left behind, and tankers, gun bunnies and ADA (Air Defense) guys became infantry," says a 1st Cav leader in Iraq. "What we need are more tanks and tracked APCs (armored personnel carriers). We also need more Strykers (armored carrier vehicles), because tracks are no good for line-haul escort duty. However, the Strykers aren't the end-all – they’re having problems maneuvering inside cities with RPG-proof cages. Bradleys can turn faster."

Now we're flying armor to these besieged outfits at about $200,000 a tank, and our seaports are on overtime loading ships with the track vehicles that were also left behind.

It's no wonder that the Pentagon will soon ask we-the-people for additional billions of dollars to continue pursuing the greatest military miscalculation in our country's history. Meanwhile, the meter’s already closing on $300 billion, 800 dead and more than 22,000 battle and non-battle casualties.
The plastic, no-account M-16 rabbit shooter that our Army warriors have painfully packed since early in the Vietnam War might at long last be on its way out.

I can only say "good riddance"” to a bad rifle that's been outmatched by the Soviet AK-47 since Ho Chi Minh became Enemy No. 1. I condemned it in my first after-action report while I was with the 1/101st Airborne in Vietnam in 1965, but – in spite of many such complaints across the decades from trigger-pullers wading through the world’s killing fields – that lousy sucker has remained in service longer than any other rifle in U.S. history. A shameful testimony to the power of generations of military-industrial-congressional-complex porkers.

The M-16 and its popgun cousin, the M-4 carbine, have neither the range nor the bang. Nor is their tiny 5.56-mm slug much of a grunt morale multiplier. Ask the Rangers who fought in Somalia how many insurgents they drilled – and drilled again – who just kept coming.

The hot contender currently being tested by the Army to replace these lemons is the XM-8, a revolutionary smart-weapon being put through its paces by professionals who, so far, give it two thumbs up. It’s a different kind of rifle, lighter and less expensive, yet it offers additional features and performance not available in any other assault rifle in the world.
[Reader's letters]
The Myth of the Beginning of Time: String theory suggests that the big bang was not the origin of the universe but simply the outcome of a preexisting state, by Gabriele Veneziano
The Fifty years of pop : Rock'n'roll has come a long way in the half-century since Elvis first stepped up to the microphone at Sun Studios. Here we choose 50 moments that shaped popular musical history - and in the process changed our lives, by Sean O'Hagan
Pete Sessions, Chris Vance, Mike Simpson are petty pricks. I find this quoute from Jim McDermott interesting though.
"I was a 6-year-old boy when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ," said McDermott, a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. "I went to Wheaton College with Billy Graham. But religion shouldn't be worn on your sleeve. I don't wear my religion on my sleeve. I don't think my relationship with God has any place in this."
Creationist theme park, a sure sign of desperation

Saturday 1:MAY DAY!
Starting in the 1930s, the Soviets spurned genetics in favor of Lysenkoism, a fraudulent theory of heredity inspired by Communist ideology. Doing so crippled agriculture in the U.S.S.R. for decades. You would think that bad precedent would have taught President George W. Bush something. But perhaps he is no better at history than at science.

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences.... The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."
"Journalistically speaking, he is not doing his job, which is to get the news out to his readers, instead of saving it up and charging $28 for it eight months later," says Fellings. "But on the other hand, I am sure it helps interviewees relax and confide in him."

Matthew Felling fails to understand that news is not free.
Senator Byrd delivered the following remarks in the Senate to mark the one-year anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, which occurred on May 1, 2003.
The word Abracadabra was originally a magic incantation which was used to cure fevers and to protect against disease.

The word was transcribed onto an amulet which was worn around the neck of the patient in eleven successive lines arranged as an inverted triangle. Each line eliminated one letter of the incantation until only the letter A remained at the very bottom of the triangle. This gradual reduction in the number of letters symbolised the reduction and eventual elimination of illness.
In December 1845, Joseph Faber exhibited his "Wonderful Talking Machine" at the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia. This machine, as recently described by writer David Lindsay, consisted of a bizarre-looking talking head that spoke in a "weird, ghostly monotone" as Faber manipulated it with foot pedals and a keyboard.
Researchers have found evidence that these early people hunted and processed meat and used fire at a site called Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in the northern Dead Sea valley.

Developing the ability to use fire "surely led to dramatic changes in their behavior connected with diet, defense and social interaction," said lead researcher Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Occupation of the site has been dated at about 790,000 years ago, according to the research team. Their findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.