the quickies archive.November 2005
By 2004, the CIA had issued a steady stream of finished intelligence products that, one after another, undermined the premises of the Bush administration’s basic assertions about the occupation. The team that put these together included McLaughlin, the bloodied Near East Division analysts, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Not only did the CIA’s work shoot holes in White House policy; several of its conclusions were leaked, finding their way on to the front pages of the major newspapers. More than anything else, it was these leaks that enraged Bush and Cheney and caused them to turn to Porter Goss as their enforcer.-Robert Dreyfuss
The fact that the agency was leaking isn’t denied by some. “Of course they were leaking,” says Pat Lang. “They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They’d say things like, ‘This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won’t re-elect this man.’”
Meanwhile at MSNBC, the network executives freak out that their man Keith Olbermann could "...put liberals on, on consecutive nights?". This is the same network that fired Phil Donahue fearing anyone on their station offering a view against a war with Iraq. They also tried to "balance" his show by counting him as 2 liberals.
Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant.-Harry Reid [more complete?/ official / metafilter]
The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm’s way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions....
Let’s take a look back at how we got here with respect to Iraq Mr. President. The record will show that within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized these attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq.
The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq....
What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration’s manipulation of intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq? Basically nothing. Did the Republican-controlled Congress carry out its constitutional obligations to conduct oversight? No. Did it support our troops and their families by providing them the answers to many important questions? No. Did it even attempt to force this Administration to answer the most basic questions about its behavior? No.
Unfortunately the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities is not limited to just Iraq. We see it with respect to the prisoner abuse scandal. We see it with respect to Katrina. And we see it with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration....
There is also another disturbing pattern here, namely about how the Administration responded to those who challenged its assertions. Time and again this Administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course.
For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career came to an end. When then OMB Director Larry Lindsay suggested the cost of this war would approach $200 billion, his career in the Administration came to an end. When U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix challenged conclusions about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, the Administration pulled out his inspectors. When Nobel Prize winner and IAEA head Mohammed el-Baridei raised questions about the Administration’s claims of Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, the Administration attempted to remove him from his post. When Joe Wilson stated that there was no attempt by Saddam to acquire uranium from Niger, the Administration launched a vicious and coordinated campaign to demean and discredit him, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a CIA agent....
We demand that the Intelligence Committee and other committees in this body with jurisdiction over these matters carry out a full and complete investigation immediately as called for by Democrats in the committee’s annual intelligence authorization report. Our troops and the American people have sacrificed too much. It is time this Republican-controlled Congress put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political interests.
"The Apprentice" - Libby's 1996 entry in the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel-tells the tale of Setsuo, a courageous virgin innkeeper who finds himself on the brink of love and war. . .-PR
Like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, "turds," armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, "At length he walked around to the deer's head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer's nostrils."
Homoeroticism and incest also figure as themes. The main female character, Yukiko, draws hair on the "mound" of a little girl. The brothers of a dead samurai have sex with his daughter. Many things glisten (mouths, hair, evergreens), quiver (a "pink underlip," arm muscles, legs), and are sniffed (floorboards, sheets, fingers). The cast includes a dwarf, and an "assistant headman" who comes to restore order after a crime at the inn. . .
"You got reporters saying they're willing to go jail to defend the right of somebody to lie to them about something that leads to the deaths of thousands of people," Hersh says. "Do you understand the crazy value system? It's pretty bad...."-Antonia Zerbisias, "Hersh Winces at Media Protecting `lying' Sources"
"I was fascinated by today's Washington Post," Hersh continues. "There's about 88 pages of coverage on Libby and then, way in the back, there is about a 10-inch story: `Five GIs killed in Iraq; Shia family found slain.' One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine graphs. Oh man. Five Americans killed and it's not even a story. It's a tagline....
Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, knows about Iraq. He's the reporter who wrote the book on the abuses at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, Chain of Command.
More recently, he wrote the foreword to Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein, by former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.
"He's got some great stuff," says Hersh. "Some amazing stuff about how his own government worked against him and how often the Brits tipped him off about what our CIA were doing, they were so appalled. It's a great story but neither the Times nor the (Washington) Post has written a word about his book. They continue to ignore him. It's totally amazing."
In his work for The New Yorker, Hersh is known for his take-no-prisoners style. That's why neocon Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board, called him "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."
If your alderman introduced a resolution in the city council called the Salute to Our Boys in Uniform Resolution, which proclaimed that we support the troops in their mission to light a beacon of freedom in a dark world, etc., and in small print in Section II, Division A, Paragraph 4, Line 122 was a provision giving the alderman's brother-in-law Walt the contract to haul garbage, the honorable gentleman would be denounced as a crook and a dodo. And yet this same dodge has worked beautifully for Republicans in Washington, who have clubbed their hapless opponents over the head with Old Glory and then set up shop and profited mightily, and more power to them. I am in favor of corruption so long as it makes people truly happy. And so long as somebody writes a good confessional memoir like John Dean's "Blind Ambition."-Garrison Keillor
At this point in time, I don't see Karl Rove or Tom DeLay writing a good mea culpa, and I doubt that Colin Powell or Donald Rumsfeld will either. And of course presidents never do, and here is one more proof that we are not now nor have we ever been a Christian nation. Confession is at the heart of the faith. (All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.) But under this administration, the faith has been revised, all the stuff about the poor has been tabled and the confession of sin omitted, and prayer is now a promotional device in which you thank God for making you the terrific person you are. In the Christian view of the world, these folks rank lower than outright atheists, which is a terrifying aspect of the faith -- better never to have believed than to use sacred things for your grimy self-aggrandizement -- and which might scare a Republican into writing a decent book. One can hope for this.
...Bush’s political problem is not simply that he has estranged conservatives with his now aborted pick of Miers. More fundamentally, it’s that the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, so widely at variance with the sentiments of the American public on almost every issue, no longer commands automatic allegiance from previously invertebrate, now increasingly apprehensive Republican moderates.-Harold Meyerson
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.-Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from the Birmingham Jail", 1963
The Army now admits in reports never before released that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard gas agent into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.-PR
We at POGO thought that a $100 million dollar aircraft that can't do combat maneuvers was bad enough. Now we learn that the V-22 Osprey doesn't yet have the operational de-icing systems or weather radar that allow it to fly into clouds.-PR
An icing problem was apparently the root cause for an Air Force version of the V-22 Osprey running into trouble while enroute to Edwards Air Force Base in California last week. Our sources say CV-22 #6 experienced a compressor stall of both engines after flying into a cloud at 18,000 feet, presumably because of icing problems. The Osprey, our sources say, didn't recover from the engine problem until it reached warmer air around 10,000 feet. As a precaution the aircraft landed in Prescott, Arizona where it's engines were changed out.
The Navy, which honchos both the Marines and Air Force V-22 programs, says that technically the engines didn't shut down and that the incident wasn't as serious as it might seem. Yet, they admit the V-22, after 20 years in development, doesn't have a tested de-icing system, nor does it have weather radar onboard. The October 18 incident has been dubbed a "Class C mishape" meaning the aircraft sustained damages between $20,000 and $200,000.
The Pentagon already has approved the aircraft for full-rate production, yet the Navy says the V-22 de-icing systems are still being tested. Even so, pilots don't really need it, they say. Instead they're instructed to just avoid bad weather conditions. Of course, bad weather should be avoided, but sometimes it can't. Should an aircraft not ready for combat or clouds be approved for full-rate production?
According to insiders and to documents obtained from the State Department, the neocons, once in command, are now in full retreat. Iraq's system of oil production, after a year of failed free-market experimentation, is being re-created almost entirely on the lines originally laid out by Saddam Hussein.-Greg Palast
Under the quiet direction of U.S. oil company executives working with the State Department, the Iraqis have discarded the neocon vision of a laissez faire, privatized oil operation in favor of one shackled to quotas set by OPEC, which have been key to the 148% rise in oil prices since the beginning of 2002. This rise is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy 1.5% of its GDP, or a third of its total growth during the period....
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq adhered to the OPEC quota limit (historically set to equal Iran's, now 3.96 million barrels a day) via state ownership of all fields. Cohen reasoned that if Iraq's fields were broken up and sold off, a dozen competing operators would quickly crank up production from their individual patches to the maximum possible, swiftly raising Iraq's total output to 6 million barrels a day. This extra crude would flood world petroleum markets, OPEC would devolve into mass cheating and overproduction, oil prices would fall over a cliff, and Saudi Arabia-both economically and politically - would fall to its knees....
Roughly six months before the invasion, the Bush Administration designated Philip Carroll to advise the Iraqi Oil Ministry once U.S. tanks entered Baghdad. Carroll had been CEO of both Fluor Corporation, now a major contractor in Iraq, and, earlier, of Royal Dutch/Shell's U.S. division. In May 2003, a month after his arrival in Iraq, Carroll made headlines when he told the Washington Post that Iraq might break with OPEC: "[Iraqis] have from time to time, because of compelling national interest, elected to opt out of the quota system and pursue their own path. . . . They may elect to do that same thing. To me, it's a very important national question." Carroll later told me, though, that he personally would not have been supportive of privatizing oil fields. "Nobody in their right mind would have thought of doing that," he said.
Of course, the big question is whether this championship will help the White Sox become more than afterthoughts in Chicago compared with the Cubs. Actually, I think all Chicago is thrilled about this. The Sox-Cubs rivalry is mostly press hype. There used to be a real difference when the South Side was stockyards and steel mills, but not any more.-Studs Terkel
Besides, many Cubs fans today are from the suburbs, brought in by buses. It's like going to an air show or "Cats" - something tourists do. After the game, you ask them: "Who did the Cubs play? What was the score?" They shake their heads. It's not about baseball, it's about having been to a place to be.
Still, while everybody loves a winner, the Cubs are a phenomenon, and eventually they'll be the only thing anybody here talks about again. And it's true that compared with the Cubs, with their hallowed Wrigley Field, the White Sox have always played in a dump. The old Comiskey Park was terrible, and the new one, U.S. Cellular Field, isn't much better. The only thing good about it is the toilets - the cleanest I've ever seen in a public place. Still, that's not quite enough; next year I'm going to stick with watching on TV.
Jack Kemp, former Housing and Urban Development secretary under the first President Bush, decries the White House position: "There has to be some federal leadership here. ... Laissez-faire, Darwinian capitalism is not going to work here. Markets do work, but they need the direction of government in situations like this," Kemp told the Times.-Neal Peirce
Another reason for direct federal leadership, says Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program: The federal government is deeply implicit in the social disaster that Katrina unveiled. For 60 years, federal housing policy actually encouraged concentrating the poor in special enclaves, almost exclusively in flood-prone sections of New Orleans. Federal highway spending promoted middle-class dispersion from the city and development on wetlands susceptible to flooding.
The federal post-Katrina effort, Muro argues, should engage local officials in determining sound land-use decisions, creating new "neighborhoods of choice and connection," requiring local inclusionary zoning as a prerequisite for new federal housing assistance, investing in transit for mobility of all classes, and restoring the delta's long-abused ecosystem.
But the administration shows scant interest in such issues. Result: lack of meaningful federal engagement in recovery. Recovery delayed, misguided. The hurt goes on.
Just as hurtful, check Congress and the ascendant House Republican Study Committee, made up of 100-plus ultra-conservative members. It wants to start paying for the Katrina bill by cutting somewhere between $35 billion and $50 billion from programs of chief benefit to America's poor and near-poor. Among the programs to be slashed: food stamps, Medicaid, student loans, child-care support and the earned-income tax credit.
In short, the same myopia, the same failure to invest in people and a sound environment that Katrina revealed so painfully, is to be repeated. The hurt goes on, now to be spread to people in need across 50 states.
Twenty-two pallets of the canned water, distributed free by beer company Anheuser-Busch, bears the company's label – and members of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to hand it out to those in need.-NBC
Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group.
"The pastor didn't want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that's his prerogative and I back him 100-percent," said SBC volunteer John Cook.
The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren't happy when NBC2 wanted to know why.
"Why do you want to make that the issue? That's not the issue. The issue is that we're here trying to help people," Cook said.
No one disagrees with that, but the Red Cross says Anheuser-Busch is also trying to help.
“The seal had been lying in the same spot since Friday, so the lady and a few other people were trying to take it back to the water,” said Herman Oosthuizen, a marine biologist with the Department of Environmental Affairs.-MSNBC (lost her nose for her trouble)
“The young female seal then bit her in the face.”
The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children. The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households.-PR
More of that compassionate conservatism. Social darwinist scumbags. Medicaid and Medicare are getting cut too.
Here’s the back story. After disposing of David Horowitz and his like for once and for all, and then checking out some of the more widely-reported tales of conservative students being persecuted by their Stalinist professors, I get around to explaining what I do in some of my classes. Now, the last time I got together with my editor, on a weekday evening in a midtown restaurant in New York, he flagged the opening pages of the chapter on my postmodernism seminar and said, you might want to watch the mention of Kuhn—because, as you know, there are any number of readers out there who are really tired of humanities professors citing Kuhn and getting him wrong. Likewise with Gödel and Heisenberg on “incompleteness” and “uncertainty.”-Michael Berube
As you might imagine, this remark made me violently angry. Yanking the bottle of pinot grigio from the ice bucket to my right, I smashed it on the edge of the table, stood up, and said, “All right, man. I know all about those readers. And I’m as pissed off about sloppy appropriations of Kuhn as anyone. But let me say one thing.” At this point I had drawn the alarmed attention of all the diners-and-drinkers in the place, not least because I was waving the broken bottle around and making random stabbing motions. “I’ll put my reading of Kuhn up against anyone’s. Anyone’s, do you hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME? I’m serious, man—I don’t just go on about ‘paradigm’ this and ‘incommensurability’ that, people. I can take Kuhn’s examples about phlogiston and X-rays and shit, and I can extrapolate them to Charles Messier’s late-eighteenth century catalog of stellar objects, or the early controversy over the determination of the Hubble constant, or the 1965 discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Penzias and Wilson. GET IT? So don’t mess with my goddamn reading of Kuhn. Any of you.”
There were a few moments of silence, punctuated only by some nervous clattering of silverware. Then a conservatively-dressed man in his early fifties got up from a table fifteen or twenty feet away. “People like you,” he said, trying to stare me down, “read Kuhn backwards by means of Feyerabend’s Against Method, and as a result, you make him out to be some kind of Age of Aquarius irrationalist who thinks that scientists run from paradigm to paradigm for no damn reason.” Then he tossed his napkin across the table. “And if you want to deny it, I suggest we step outside.”
Fortunately for that guy, the maitre d’ intervened at just that moment, imploring me to “settle this peacefully,” preferably with a footnote to the sixth chapter. And cooler heads prevailed.
US State Dept. documents from the National Security Archive, obtained thru a Freedom of Information Act:State Department experts warned CENTCOM before Iraq war about lack of plans for post-war Iraq security, Planning for post-Saddam regime change began as early as October 2001, and ...They provide detail on each of the working groups and give the starting date for planning as October 2001. Entire sections of a Powerpoint presentation the State Department prepared on November 1, 2002 -- including those covering "What We Have Learned So Far" and "Implications for the Real Future of Iraq" -- have been censored as still-classified information....-Metafilter
Political killing in the cold war [& thereafter] provides an outline of the aftereffects of assassinations, covert killings, state and judicial executions.-Metafilter
Has conservatism achieved this exalted stature? If we are honest, we must answer no.-Defining Conservatism Down: As the Right’s popularity has grown, its intellectual challenge to the Left has diminished., by Austin Bramwell
In the 1950s and ‘60s, conservatives sought not just to refute modern liberalism but to obliterate it. Thus they charged that liberals were not merely wrong but were trying to “immanentize the eschaton”—an ancient heresy! (Voegelin) Or that they were in the grip of William of Occam—an insidious 13th-century Simon Magus! (Weaver) Or they were contemptible second-handers—sub-human weaklings! (Rand) And so on. Each conservative writer claimed to have uncovered the Holy Grail—the argument or principle that would expose the errors of liberalism (and communism, socialism, feminism, etc.) once and for all.
Since then, while American conservatives have retained their passion for Big Ideas, their passion for the biggest idea of all—the Holy Grail that will refute liberalism—has waned. Most simply assume that the Grail has already been found. Thus, they breezily dismiss liberals with some of their favorite epithets—“rationalists,” “relativists,” “statists,” “utopians,” or “historicists.” (Sometimes they could hardly be more inapt. A person who regards government health care as a human right, for example, is not a “relativist” but an arch-moralist.) Never mind that liberals, nonplussed by the vituperative quality of right-wing thought, themselves reject these labels. Someone out there has already proved that one or another will stick.
Yet the Holy Grail has not been found. One can still find lapel-grabbing right-wingers who will argue late into the night that their favorite thinker has figured everything out for all time. (My personal favorite: certain libertarians believe that Alan Gewirth, a now forgotten philosopher of the 1970s, showed how the rightness of limited government derives ultimately from Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction.) This is not the place to take up the argument with them. I only wish to observe, as an empirical matter, that no one person’s ideas actually define American conservatism. If English conservatism is nothing other than Burkeanism, American conservatism is not Rothbardianism, Randianism, Jaffaism, or Hayekianism.
Just as Christianity is being transformed through its global encounters, the same is true of Islam. Neither religion is a fixed entity locked in a timeless mould. Just as the critical developments in contemporary Christianity may be occurring in Africa, so the crucial changes in Islam are taking place in its encounter with the West in the West. In his Globalized Islam Olivier Roy points to the encounter with Western values in Western societies as the central transforming element in contemporary Islam and in the creation of Islamism.-Globalised Religions for a Globalised World, by Gregory Melleuish
Unlike Christians, Muslims for a long time were uneasy about living outside the realm of Islam, after all how was it possible to live a righteous life in a society run by infidels? In recent times, however, there have been a significant number of Muslim migrants to both Europe and America, although as Roy points out those going to America have been of a higher socio-economic status. It has been out of this encounter that much of contemporary radical Islam has been born.
In part, according to Roy, radical Islam was created by an input of Western ideas and values into Islam. For example, traditionally Islam was not particularly concerned with issues such as abortion and homosexuality but it has taken over these moral issues. At the same time the training of Islamic clerics has become more exclusively concerned with technical religious issues. As in the West this training is no longer embedded in a particular cultural tradition but has been reduced to a number of technical propositions. The Islamic equivalent of the Western liberal education is being expelled from Islamic theological education.
The result is an Islam that belongs nowhere and everywhere, a globalised Islam that can be carried from place to place, just as it can be argued that there is a globalised form of Christianity that is no longer linked to any particular culture. More importantly this ‘fundamentalist’ Islam is not a ‘medieval’ religion. In fact just as Evangelical Christians seek to convert Catholics to Christianity so Islamists want to get rid of the traditional rural Islam founded on saints and sufis. It is a thoroughly modern religion acceptable to scientists and engineers.
The dumbest man at the top of our government is the Secretary of Defense. He is so dumb--he's--he is so dumb. He thought he could take over a country and its oil, population, ah, 27 million I believe--Muslim. He thought he could take it over and the oil, which is what he was after, with a whole bunch of big bangs you know. And then 200,000 American soldiers who didn't even know how to say "hello" in Arabic?!-Kurt Vonnegut
Maybe I'm just naturally suspicious of things like the men's movement because they often go the way of The Man Show in embracing the worst in masculinity to fight the "nice guy syndrome" or turn toward the traditional religious misogyny to feel better about themselves. They should just get an Aneros instead or does the existence of a male g-shot offend their maleness?
Anyway, women have been pushed to the background for most of history. If their chance at equal treatment and real independence from men means that some men suffer, it's a pittance to pay for it. It's not just for American women either as the slogan for the independent Russian woman declares, "If pants must be hanging in the closet, they might as well be mine!"
The Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry and Geophysics at the University of Bayreuth has some photos of their 5000 ton multianvil press (the green & red one) Additional technical details about the press can be found here (340 kb PDF).-Metafilter
Basically, a multianvil press applies high pressure to small polyhedral samples along multiple axes simultaneously: this 1967 paper (85 kb PDF) explains several types. More links here.
Just the tool for your next startup, or to keep your loved, carbon-based life forms close to you:
The LifeGem® is a certified, high-quality diamond created from the carbon of your loved one as a memorial to their unique life. The LifeGem diamond provides a way to embrace your loved one’s memory day by day. The LifeGem® is the most unique and timeless memorial available for creating a testimony to their unique life. Your LifeGem memorial will offer comfort and support when and where you need it, and provide a lasting memory that endures just as a diamond does. Forever.
US Army auditor who attacked Halliburton deal is fired. Bunnatine Greenhouse, senior Army Contracting Specialist and the highest-ranking civilian at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), who blew the whistle on Halibuton after Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root got $12 billion worth of exclusive contracts for work in Iraq has been fired - ostensibly for poor performance....-Metafilter
The simple reason why Japanese art does not conform to the unrealistic strictures of moralists and humanists is that it is art and not propaganda. In its devotion to beauty Japanese art can hold its own against art anywhere. Lafcadio Hearn said Japanese art has "followed the line of least resistance."33 Even here, however, the creation of objects of beauty, though they are utilitarian in purpose, is not trivial. If excelling in sword making, cloisonne and pottery is the line of least resistance, perhaps the line of most resistance is in writing like Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe. But did these people praise virtue and condemn vice wholeheartedly? Even if their right to some pinnacle of virtue can be conceded, why should everyone imitate them?Evaluation of The Tale of Genji, by Richard W. Amero
Beauty may not be truth as man knows it. It may not even be manmade as the grandeur of the universe testifies, but the recognition of its presence depends on man alone.
Is Japanese art less rewarding because as J. Ingram Bryan said, "Nature was so much more perfect and delightful than society. Even animals and birds and fishes became more powerful art motives than the human form and character?"34 George B. Sansom has written, "I think our Western studies of Japanese history would advance more rapidly and more usefully if we could --- for a time at least --- abandon our preconceived notions as to what is good and what is wise."35 He is referring to the condescension among Western students of the history of Japan that has been so evident among Western critics of its art.
Man is what he is, and Lady Murasaki has depicted him as such --- his gross reality and his transcendent luminescence. She cannot be blamed for her depiction, though there will be many who do not like what they see because they don't see at all.
Israeli military prosecutors have opened criminal investigations following allegations by soldiers that they carried out illegal shoot-to-kill orders against unarmed Palestinians.-Guardian
The 17 separate investigations were prompted by the testimony of dozens of troops collected by Breaking the Silence, a pressure group of former Israeli soldiers committed to exposing human rights abuses by the military in suppressing the Palestinian intifada. The investigations cover a range of allegations, including misuse of weapons and other misuses of power.
Some of the soldiers, who also spoke to the Guardian, say they acted on standing orders in some parts of the Palestinian territories to open fire on people regardless of whether they were armed or not, or posed any physical threat.
The soldiers say that in some situations they were ordered to shoot anyone who appeared on a roof or a balcony, anyone who appeared to be kneeling to the ground or anyone who appeared on the street at a designated time. Among those killed by soldiers acting on the orders were young children.
Bush's War on Condoms "... the Bush administration's policy of emphasizing abstinence-only prevention programs and cutting federal funding for condoms have contributed to an alleged condom shortage in Uganda." Meanwhile, people desperate to prevent HIV infection have begun using garbage bags as condom substitutes.-Metafilter
Last Chance for Iraq - Peter W. Galbraith, writing in the New York Review of Books, on the new Iraqi constitution. He compares it to a peace treaty between three warring parties.-Metafilter
In my opinion, the greatest threat to our country today is the irrational thinking that permeates the Party running this country. As Jim Bechtel, the founder of R.E.A.S.O.N – a group promoting rational thinking in Nebraska, noted: If you’re willing to believe things regardless of evidence, then it doesn’t matter what you believe, it just matters who gets to you first. Because Bush is an irrational man, he is susceptible to being conned by anyone who gets his ear and engages his gut.-Mary
"Anyone can read the news to you," Colbert declared. "I promise to feel the news at you."-Peter Ames Carlin is right that Stephen Colbert's character is a brilliant parody of Bill O'Reilly, his unbridled arrogance suggests he mocks Limbaugh too.
In other words, Colbert is one of those guys who won't let the facts get in the way of his righteous indignation. Kind of like O'Reilly, who during Tuesday's "Daily Show" interview launched into another of the angry denunciations of France he's been unreeling since the walk-up to the Iraq war. When Stewart noted that France's main reason for not joining the U.S. coalition -- they didn't believe the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- were correct, O'Reilly blinked, uncomprehending. What difference did that make?
"I don't trust books. They're all fact and no heart, and that's exactly what's pulling our country apart," Colbert had said on Monday. "We are divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart."
Colbert -- or, more precisely, the alter ego he plays on TV -- is a political creature, but not exactly partisan. The positions he takes are fueled less by a traceable ideology than a freewheeling egocentrism he usually asserts in the time-honored tradition of men who describe their courage in terms of an intimate body part. When Wednesday night guest Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, mentioned that he considered himself to be a political centrist, Colbert cut him off: "Isn't a centrist someone who doesn't have the (guts) to be a fanatic?" While
Iran's hard-line president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported Wednesday.-Iran Leader Calls for Israel's Destruction, by Nasser Karimi
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it.
"There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad told students Wednesday during a Tehran conference called "The World without Zionism."
"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury, (while) any (Islamic leader) who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad said.
Is the Islamic world so feeble that Israel's existence means its defeat. More likely it means a fucking lunatic is in charge of Iran.
Republicans began targeting key programs for budget cuts yesterday, from student loans and health care to food stamps and foster care. But the tough measures immediately drew staunch opposition from anti-poverty groups, businesses and moderate Republicans. Sixteen congressional committees began cobbling together one of the most comprehensive bills in years, touching issues such as trade policy, prescription drug reimbursements, agriculture price supports and the future of welfare. The rash of spending that followed Hurricane Katrina two months ago has emboldened conservatives to push for cuts far beyond what Congress could agree to in a budget blueprint in the spring. "Listen, we're broke. Let's face it," said Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which will try today to complete legislation saving $18.1 billion over five years from pension protection and student loan programs.-Planned GOP Budget Cuts Target Programs Such as Foster Care, Jonathan Weisman
Well Mr. Boehner, the reason we're broke is because Republicans can't find it in their hearts to tax the rich and you fucks are the biggest fakes when you talk about family values while cutting foster care.
What does modern history have to teach us about the age of American empire? The final chapters of the British Empire offer lessons and parallels aplenty. Empires don't last forever, and the combination of martial victory, popular ennui, and liberal anti-patriotism is a dangerous mix for a superpower.-Metafilter
Books are the new snobbery, according to a survey today. Social competitiveness about which titles we read has become one of the new mass forces of the era and only middle-aged people are relatively free of it.-Guardian
Driven partly by pressure from incessant literary prize shortlists, more than one in three consumers in London and the south-east admit having bought a book "solely to look intelligent", the YouGov survey says.
It finds one in every eight young people confessing to choosing a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title". This herd instinct dwindles to affect only one in 20 over-50 year-olds....
Yet the results indicate that "reading" is a relative term. When asked about specific titles, only one in 25 people turn out to have read the novel chosen as the best in the Booker prize's 25-year history, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children - and half these had failed to finish it.
Only one in 100 had read Andrew Levy's Small Island, picked earlier this month as the best of all Orange prize winners. Not a single reader had yet opened this month's Booker winner, John Banville's The Sea.
Why is Marijuana Illegal? Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug. The actual story shows a much different picture.-Metafilter
Management aiming to clean house (NYT, acct. req'd) — Pope Joseph Ratzinger begins to fulfill his promise to rid the Catholic Church of freethinking undesirables who propagate an "unacceptable democratic model of the Church", starting with the rooting out of gay clergymen, who — by simple virtue of their sexuality — are assumed to be child molesters, never mind Ratzinger's complicity in widespread interference with investigations into and long-standing cover-ups of the Church's worst offenders.-Metafilter
Jeff Dowd of the Seattle Seven is the model for The Dude in The Big Lebowski-Metafilter
Sarah Polley, the little girl in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, finds out that another little Canadian girl is about to star in another Terry Gilliam film, and writes--and warns--about her experiences. Gilliam responds.-Metafilter
MISHLOVE: Prior to the development of quantum physics and the holonomic model of the brain, people based their notion of who they were and how their minds worked more on the Newtonian classical models of physics, and perhaps in some sense, if they bought into those models, would tend to deny their spiritual experiences, or not really feel connected with that part of themselves. Would you say so?
PRIBRAM: Very definitely, and that recalls something that De Tocqueville said. After writing his histories, he said, "Maybe I've been interpreting it the wrong way, because I've been doing it in terms of classical mechanics, with cause-and-effect relationships. But when the human being acts, this is not a cause; this is a challenge."
MISHLOVE: He wrote the books on capitalism and democracy.
PRIBRAM: Democracy in America, and all. When we act it's a challenge, and that's very much a quantum-type, holographic, implicate-order type idea. Rather than having causality --
MISHLOVE: It's moving towards a goal.
PRIBRAM: No, it isn't. It's a challenge, it's different. Moving toward a goal would still be causal. See, we don't even have a good language to talk about all this. It's a challenge. The whole system can reorganize on the basis of this challenge, and you never find out where the cause is. When we were talking earlier, you said, "Where does the will start?" Well, it's a challenge. The whole system does it. There isn't a start and a midst and so on, because time and space are enfolded, and therefore there's no causality.
The changing phases of Atlantic hurricane activity are not completely understood; but there appears to be a link to fluctuations in the thermohaline circulation, the global pattern of ocean currents which in western Europe appears as the Gulf Stream.-BBC
By causing the sea-surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic to change by even a degree Celsius, these fluctuations can bring major differences to the number of hurricanes generated in a particular year.
We have already seen the failure of comprehensive utopian packages in the last two decades: the failure of “shock therapy” to convert the former Soviet Union from communism to capitalism and the failure of IMF/World Bank “structural adjustment” to transform nations in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America into free-market paragons. All of these regions have suffered from poor economic growth since utopian efforts began. In the new millennium, apparently unchastened, the IMF and World Bank are trying something even more ambitious—social, political, economic, and environmental transformation of the poorest nations through Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. These reports, which the IMF and World Bank require that governments design in consultation with the poor, are comprehensive plans to make poverty vanish in each nation. It is a little unclear how a bureaucratic document can make often undemocratic governments yield some of their power to the poor, or how it will be more successful than previous comprehensive plans that seem modest by comparison.The Utpoian Nightmare
Indeed, we have seen the failure of what was already a “big push” of foreign aid to Africa. After 43 years and $568 billion (in 2003 dollars) in foreign aid to the continent, Africa remains trapped in economic stagnation. Moreover, after $568 billion, donor officials apparently still have not gotten around to furnishing those 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths.
With all the political and popular support for such ambitious programs, why then do comprehensive packages almost always fail to accomplish much good, much less attain Utopia? They get the political and economic incentives all wrong. The biggest problem is that the rich people paying the bills do not share the same goals as the poor people they are trying to help. The wealthy have weak incentives to get the right amount of the right thing to those who need it; the poor are in no position to complain if they don’t. A more subtle problem is that if all of us are collectively responsible for a big world goal, then no single agency or politician is held accountable if the goal is not met. Collective responsibility for world goals works about as well as collective farms in agriculture, and for the same reason.
To make things worse, utopian-driven aid packages have so many different goals that it weakens the accountability and probability of meeting any one goal. The conditional aid loans of the IMF and World Bank (structural adjustment loans) were notorious for their onerous policy and outcome targets, which often numbered in the hundreds. The eight Millennium Development Goals actually have 18 target indicators. The U.N. Millennium Project released a 3,751-page report in January 2005 listing the 449 intermediate steps necessary to meet those 18 final targets. Working for multiple bosses (or goals) doesn’t usually work out so well; the bosses each try to get you to work on their goal and not the other boss’s goal. Such employees get overworked, overwhelmed, and demoralized—not a bad description of today’s working-level staff at the World Bank and other aid agencies....
Free markets and democracy are far from an overnight solution to poverty—they require among many other things the bottom-up evolution of the rules of the game, including contract enforcement and fair political competition. Nor can democratic capitalism be imposed by outsiders (as the World Bank, IMF, and U.S. Army should now have learned). The evolution of markets and democracy took many decades in rich countries, and it did not happen through “big pushes” by outsiders, Millennium Development Goals, or Assemblies of World Leaders. Progress in wealthy countries arrived through piecemeal steps, gradual reforms, incremental improvements, and experimental probing, accompanied by gradually accelerating economic growth, rather than through crash programs....
The “something-is-being-done” syndrome also explains the fixation on money spent on world poverty, rather than how to meet the needs of the poor. True, doubling the relatively trivial proportion of their income that rich Westerners give to poor Africans is a worthy enough cause. But let’s not kid ourselves that spending more money on foreign aid accomplishes anything by itself. Letting total aid money stand for accomplishment is like the Hollywood producers of Catwoman, recently voted the worst movie of 2004, bragging about their impressive accomplishment of spending $100 million on its production.
In its attempt to replace the manlike God Yahweh with the God-like man Jesus, Mr. Bloom argues, the New Testament is a supreme example of anxiety of influence - so much so that, he suggests, it would be better to call it the Belated Testament. This literary-critical argument is the core of "Jesus and Yahweh," and it is genuinely stimulating, if not exactly novel. It is a shame that, to get to it, the reader must wade through so much of the usual Bloomian detritus - irrelevancies, digressions, careless repetitions, grand pronouncements. Is it vain to hope that, in his next book, Mr. Bloom will stop hiding his intellectual light under a bushel of mannerisms?-Adam Kirsch, The Lazy Gardener (review of Bloom's new book, Jesus and Yahweh)
EO Wilson, who coined the term sociobiology, described him as one of the most influential - and consistently correct - theoretical evolutionary biologists of our time. But he was reckless, aggressive and suffered from bipolar disorder which led him into agonising, debilitating breakdowns. His work was politically controversial. Harvard would not give him a professorship and towards the end of the 70s he seemed to vanish. In fact, he went in 1979 to the University of California in Santa Cruz, then a university with a reputation for drug abuse and slackness. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime mistake," he says, "in the sense that I can't afford to make another one like that. I survived, and I helped raise my children for a while; but that was all."-Guardian (Trivers new book will be out in Nov. called Genes in Conflict)
He also switched his attention from theoretical biology to the detailed and difficult study of stretches of DNA and their conflicts within particular bodies. He says: "Call it arrogance, overconfidence, or ignorance; it was mostly ignorance, I think. I naively thought - this was my phrase - I'll whip genetics into shape in three to five years. Fifteen years later, genetics has whipped me into shape. You do not whip genetics into shape within three to five years. It took me eight to 10 to understand what I was reading."
He is bringing out a book, Genes in Conflict, written with a younger colleague, Austin Burt, which summarises everything that is known about conflicts within the genome; but at just the point when the two of them know as much as anyone can about this discipline he has switched back to anthropology. His next project is to show that we have evolved the capacity to deceive ourselves because it makes us better at lying to other people....
During the second world war, Howard Trivers worked for the army, and produced the regulations for denazification: he was rewarded with a post in the state department, so Robert Trivers grew up in a diplomatic household, a handicap he has triumphantly overcome: his opponents at Harvard are described as fools, and he says Richard Lewontin, the intellectual leader of the campaigns against sociobiology, grossly underestimated the role that selection plays in the makeup of the genome, while sanctioning all sorts of slanders against his opponents. Trivers says of his old enemy Stephen Jay Gould's theory that the female orgasm was merely a by- product of the fact that the opposite sex has them, "It makes you wonder just how close Steve had ever been to that blessed event if he thought it was a side-effect ..."
...While recovering, he took courses in art, and was hired to illustrate, and then to write, a series of textbooks for high schools. Despite his history degree, it was obvious to his supervisors that he knew little about human biology, so he was given the animals to write about, and started to learn modern Darwinian biology. He fell in love with the logic of evolution. In the flow of genes through generations, and the steady, inexorable shaping of behaviour by natural selection, he saw a geometry of time, as beautiful as the geometry of space that Newton and Galileo had discovered. His mentor was an ornithologist called Bill Drury, whose memory he venerates. Drury was an expert on herring gulls. Trivers says: "He knew enough that if God had made him a herring gull, he would have known 90% of what he needed to survive."
Drury became very close to his pupil and his trust was reciprocated: "Bill and I were walking in the woods one day, and I told him that my first breakdown had been so painful that I had resolved that if I ever felt another one coming on, I would kill myself. Lately, however, I had changed my mind, and drawn up a list of 10 people I would kill first in that event. I wanted to know if this was going forwards or backwards. He thought for a while, then he said 'Can I add three names to that list?'. That was his only comment."
The textbook series was meant to be as influential as the new mathematics, and to transform the teaching of biology, which meant that Trivers himself had to get a thorough understanding of animal behaviour. In the event, it was killed by Christian conservatives. It taught evolution as fact, and examined human behaviour as an anthropologist might, so the states where it might have sold in millions would have nothing to do with it. It sold 50,000 or 60,000 copies where it might have sold five or six million.
...Each summer more than 1,200 of them come from around the country to attend a two-week workshop on how to defend their faith during college. They listen to lectures on creationism versus evolution, abortion, homosexuality, Christianity and the media, euthanasia, and postmodernism, among other topics....Thomas Bartlett, Faith Camp
Spend a couple of days at the workshop and it becomes clear that, for many of these students, college is fraught with peril. There is the pressure to party, to drink, to have sex. There is also the subtle pressure to conform to a non-Christian worldview....
Professors are often portrayed not as keepers of knowledge, but as clever propagandists determined to undermine the beliefs of gullible Christians. "The dirty little secret of education is that our young people are being indoctrinated into another faith, but they're not told that," says the Rev. David Noebel, the president and founder of Summit Ministries, which runs the workshop. "They're being told that secular humanism is somehow agenda-free and value-neutral when it is not...."
The days begin with an hour of Bible study led by Mr. Noebel, followed by a lecture from one of the visiting speakers. On a recent Thursday, the guest lecture was delivered by Dave and Mary Jo Nutting, a husband-and-wife team who founded the Alpha Omega Institute, which is devoted to "exposing the fallacies of evolutionary worldviews and defending the accuracy of the Bible," according to its Web site. They have put together an entertaining two-hour PowerPoint presentation to promote creationism. In one sequence, Mr. Nutting shows a cartoon of a man standing next to a pile of lumber covered with dynamite. The cartoon man lights the fuse and -- boom! -- suddenly the lumber is gone and in its place is a lovely house. "That, folks, is evolution," Mr. Nutting says.
The workshop has only one session devoted to homosexuality, but the topic seems to come up frequently. Mr. Noebel contends that gay and lesbian organizations wield more power than any other group on college campuses. "Much of the faculty is scared to death of them," he says. "The homosexual agenda has been around for a long time, but it's now really at the top." In a book he co-wrote with Tim LaHaye, homosexuality is grouped with drug use, "kids killing kids," and abortion as "true signs of a decaying society."
The students are less harsh in their condemnations. "I don't agree at all with homosexuality," says Davy Desmond, who will begin her freshman year at George Fox University in the spring. "But it's not like I'm going to say, 'Hey, you're going to hell.'" Bri Johnson, a high-school junior who isn't sure yet where she will attend college, jumps in: "Yeah. I mean, you dislike the action, but you love the person, you know?"
Yes, those same Biblical Fundamentalists that kept Trivers textbook from schools are brain-washing kids with nonsense from places like The Alpha Omega Institute, which offers the laughably weak 10 Best Evidences for Creation.
5. Law of Cause and Effect:
The Law of Cause and Effect is one of the best documented principles of science and of everyday experience. Every event must have a sufficient cause. Since the origin of the universe and the origin of life are events, they too must have a cause. The physical universe consisting of time, space, energy, and matter must all have a cause outside themselves. Likewise, life must have a living Cause. Following this reasoning to its logical conclusion, leads to an infinite, eternal, powerful, intelligent, living First Cause--our awesome Creator!
Why must the universe have an origin? If you are already imagining an infinite being, what's to stop you from conceiving an infinite universe? Oh, I know! The pathetic appeal by Steve Austin puts it plainly.
Remember, the teachings of evolution contend that we evolved from monkeys, or from some other intermediate ancestor. Thus, if we follow that teaching to its logical conclusion, we would recognize that it implies the Bible is not true, and simply a collection of stories and myths; and if that is true about the Bible, then God does not exist, and we have no need of a Savior.Commitment to belief in the absurd mandates the denial of reality. The evidence for evolution is so overwhelming and the evidence for Biblical accuracy so completely absent that insistence on the validity of the latter seems destined to lead the bearer to insanity. While the Catholic Church has accepted evolution, this doesn't diminish its bloody history regarding heretics. Considering Pat Robertson's views on assasination and the war-like language of "Faith Camp" participants I doubt if they truly got into power they'd spare those pointing out the multitude of Biblical errors.
My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.-Dalai Lama
Of course, he falls prey to injecting karma into the gaps of scientific understanding just like the creationists and if science paints karma into a corner will he abandon it? Granted, some form of non-material element to the universe is not beyond conception, but the idea of a just or loving God is. One has to ignore far too much of the world to see God as anything but, as Mark Twain put it, the "Great Criminal."
I'm fully aware of the "free will" argument for suffering and how Christians have raised it to the highest point by their use of the cross. But if all life were designed, then some forms mark evidence of a cruel creator bent of inflicting disease and pain toward every part of the human body and mind. Are we to praise the "divine inspiration" of technological advancement that reduces human suffering when the "divinity" is the source of the suffering? (...too much to discuss here, so I made an entry)