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Semantic Studios

Ambient Findability “I want to be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime.

What’s surprising is how close we are to making this impossibly strange dream a reality. Ambient interfaces, sensors and small tech are about to intertwingle the physical and virtual worlds in shocking ways that will make history of the Diamond Age.” [via Tomalak]

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Low down and too expensive:

Youngsters in the mood to spurn the trombone: “Musicians and teachers say the future of several instruments is at risk as pupils choose cheaper options.” Other instruments including the bassoon and the double bass — in fact, the entire bass range of the orchestra, the largest and thus most expensive instruments — are also “endangered.” The British government is planning a rescue campaign. Guardian UK [via Spike]

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How Deadheads ruined the Grateful Dead — Marc Weingarten reviews Dead publicist and family member Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead:

At first, it felt like a rear guard action — fighting for community in a socially fragmented era. But it curdled into the last refuge for musical conservatism and complacency, and it seemed to destroy the band’s work ethic. McNally glancingly makes reference to this dark side of the Deadhead phenomenon: “Like all fans … they could become tediously obsessed with the object of their joy,” he writes.

…What had begun as an inclusive rallying point for outcasts became a provincial closed society. Deadheads were supposed to represent enlightened musical inquiry, but instead, as McNally points out, they ignored adventurous opening acts and lifted lyrics out of context…

Thematic content hardly mattered to the loyalists any more; the band’s canon instead became a series of dramatic gestures, well-timed downshifts, and dance cues. Safe within the fuzzy bubble of Deadhead-land, the band coasted for years on end, but no matter how negligent or desultory the performance, they always had the Deadheads to fall back on. Of course the Dead loved the support — they never had to work hard to earn it.

With nothing to strive for and no musical goals to attain, the band lapsed into a creative torpor for the last 15 or so years of its career, even resurrecting itself this summer for another go-round without Garcia. If McNally’s book teaches us anything, it’s that, for a band with a prodigious drug and alcohol habit, the Deadheads’ unquestioning faith was perhaps its most dangerous narcotic. Slate

Exactly! This nails two of the painful core aspects of my experience as a fan, at times fanatic, of the Grateful Dead — how insufferable the fans were and unbearable the Dead show ‘scene’ became; and how inexorably the music turned from transcendent and ecstatic to plodding noodling, an imitation of its former genius — and shows exactly how they were causally linked.

Ironic. Non-Deadheads could never understand the appeal at all (“Either you’re on the bus or off the bus…”). Uncritically, vacuously, reverent Deadheads, on the other hand, could never understand how I could bring myself to stop going to the shows or why, as a tape trader with thousands of hours of the Dead’s music (listening to the best of which still brings me a visceral pleasure comparable only to the most brilliant improvisational jazz performances or passages of Mozart), I would turn my nose up at anything after, oh, 1977 or 1978 or so. Many never conceptualized the Dead as having a decline or downfall or, if they did, placed it more than a decade later and attributed it to Garcia’s health problems and/or his heroin addiction. Most never saw the decay of the ‘scene’.

Not Buddhists I guess… blind to the core lesson about the impermanence of all things, and the source of suffering in that impermanence. Nothing to that point had brought that home to me as my relationship with the Dead’s music and the bitterness of my struggle to give up my attachment, then watch the Dead and the scene plod on painfully, embarrassingly, for two more decades. And they’re still not finished — each of the surviving bandmembers’ bands, and their intermittent reunion attempts since Garcia’s death, are pitiful attempts to regain the glory and bask in the fans’ adulation without ever doing anything new musically.

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Can These People be Saved from Themselves?

Poll shows free speech support down: “Support for the First Amendment has eroded significantly since Sept. 11 and nearly half of Americans now think the constitutional amendment on free speech goes too far in the rights it guarantees, says a poll released Thursday.

The sentiment that the First Amendment goes too far was already on the rise before the terrorist attacks a year ago, doubling to four in 10 between 2000 and 2001.” Sacramento Bee

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"Always Vengeful Bureaucracy":

James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security

Agency
, writes:

Washington Bends the Rules ‘Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” So begins “The Trial,” Franz Kafka’s story of an ordinary man caught in a legal web where the more he struggles to find out what he did wrong, the more trapped he becomes. “After all,” says Kafka’s narrator, “K. lived in a state governed by law, there was universal peace, all statutes were in force.”

With increasing speed, the Justice Department of Attorney General John Ashcroft is starting to resemble the “always vengeful bureaucracy” that crushed Josef K. Recently, in two federal cases, the Justice Department argued that it is within the president’s inherent power to indefinitely detain, without any charges, any person, including any United States citizen, whom the president (through the Justice Department) designates an “enemy combatant.” Further, the person can be locked away, held incommunicado and denied counsel. Finally, Mr. Ashcroft argues that such a decision is not subject to review by federal or state courts. This situation is beyond even Kafka, who in his parable of punishment and paranoia at least supplied Josef K. with an attorney.’ NY Times op-ed

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Big Brother hiding inside cars

‘Called a Sensing Diagnostic Module, the electronic “brains” behind an airbag were developed by General Motors and are now manufactured by its spin-off company Delphi at an electronics plant in Kokomo, Ind. GM’s air bags are made in Vandalia at Delphi’s Interior & Lighting Systems plant and are later hooked up to the black boxes on assembly lines for GM and other auto companies.

Since 2000, it’s become possible with the right computer decoding software to retrieve and read information stored in the SDM’s electronic memory. Though GM designed the sensing modules to capture information about accidents that could be studied for ways to make cars safer, police and insurance investigators discovered that the data can also be used to help make a case about who caused the accident.’ Dayton Daily News

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With all due respect:

William Safire on journalistic integrity and how Bloomberg caved to Lee Kuan Yew, the dictator of Singapore.

“… Autocratic regimes professing to be democracies have been known to use their judiciary systems to jail or bankrupt dissidents and intimidate resident reporters. Electronic media professing to practice journalism have been known to trade their integrity for global access. Where is the greater corruption?

I tried to reach the C.E.O. of Bloomberg, Lex Fenwick, but he dove under his desk. The founder, one Michael Bloomberg, is no longer with the firm and left no forwarding address. ” NY Times

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Bhopal Update

Where’s Warren? Warren Anderson, that is, who ran Union Carbide in 1984 at the time of the Bhopal disaster in India and who has since disappeared from view. Protesters in India and worldwide seeking justice for victims are putting the heat on the Indian government, which is vacillating about whether it will bring murder charges against Anderson or let him slide with a misdemeanor negligence charge. It appears, naturally, that it is pressure from the US government (” How hard would it be to find Anderson if the US authorities really wanted to track him down? “) and Dow Chemicals (which has taken over the assets of Union Carbide) to preserve business arrangements that is leading to the Indian government’s ambivalence. Greenpeace

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Bush-Toons

A Democratic Editorial Website from Manhattan:

“My work reflects the three-hundred year American tradition of the guaranteed Constitutional right of “free speech” utilized by political satirists of the loyal opposition for centuries. As a progressive liberal Democrat, I am dedicated to returning Congress to Democrat control in c.2002, and returning the White House to a fairly elected Democrat by the American people in c.2004!

I am a fine artist who lives and works in New York City . The material I publish is my original content. This site is a unique political concept, because you are FREE to COPY and EMAIL my toons for personal use as a Democrat activist tool.”

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Social Action Archives

“For nearly a century the Wisconsin Historical Society has documented the major sociopolitical issues and movements in the United States, as well as the state of Wisconsin. It has often been the first and sometimes the only repository to recognize the value of documenting these movements. Today our holdings are the largest in the nation. From our beginnings as the first institution to collect labor and working class history, we have continued to identify and document the major issues of the day throughout the twentieth century: socialism, communism, anarchism, Social Security and entitlements, welfare rights, civil liberties and free speech, civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, the New Left, student activism, GI rights and resistance, community organizing, the battle over reproductive rights and right to life, and the contemporary peace and justice movement. Within Wisconsin we have also documented the battle against nuclear power, environmental activism, the women’s movement, and the Native American treaty rights controversy.” [via wood s lot]

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Israeli Air Force Chief Urges Treason Trials For Gush Shalom

‘Attacking leftist Gush Shalom activists for threatening to extradite Israeli air force pilots to the international court at the Hague for alleged war crimes, IAF Commander Major General Dan Halutz has urged brining the activists to trial.

“What I have to say about those people is this: we live in a democratic country, and expressing an opinion is always allowed, but betrayal is not allowed,” Halutz told Ha’aretz in an interview. When asked if he suggests placing the Gush Shalom activists on trial on charges of treason, he replied, “The proper offense as defined by law should be found, and they should be tried in Israel.” ‘ Ha’Aretz [via Scoop]

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Simplistic Hunt for Evil in a Complex World:

Robert Scheer: “Doomed by the incoherence

of a foreign policy defined largely by biblical notions of the struggle between good and evil, the Bush administration thrashes about in its hunt for the devil. Sadly, all that has produced are shopworn enemies that were once our surrogates in battles we would rather forget.” Los Angeles Times [via Common Dreams]

The Vietnam Folly Calls Out to Us as War Fever Burns:


Stanley I. Kutler, author of The Wars of Watergate (1992): “Bush II is considering the necessity of an invasion of Iraq and the toppling of its regime. Where is the debate? Absent any real dissent, we have a lethal combination of inertia, intimidation and political impotence, all combining to cast an illusion of overwhelming consensus.” Los Angeles Times

Please consider joining me in a simple dissenting act. Place this consensus-busting graphic someplace on your webpage or distribute it to others to do so:


[Not in my name!]

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Target: "8eil 8itler"?

Target issues nationwide alert to recall clothing with insignia 88: ‘Target Corp. is recalling baseball caps and shorts from all of its stores after a California customer realized symbols printed on the clothing are a code for ”Heil Hitler.”

The caps and shorts are imprinted with ”eight eight” and ”88.” Among white supremacists, that stands for ”Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.’ Boston Globe

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Antitrust settlement shapes XP update

“Microsoft is finishing work on an update to its Windows XP operating system, clearing the way for public release of the software within the next few days, sources say.

The software giant periodically issues free updates, known as service packs, in order to fix bugs or revamp security software. The Windows XP update is unique, however, because it adds a new control for setting default middleware–such as Web browser and media player software–as required by Microsoft’s pending antitrust settlement with the Justice Department and nine of the 18 states that sued the company.” C/Net

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Quit Paxil, And Then…

… Zap!

Paxil, the world’s best-selling antidepressant, has become the target of growing complaints that stopping the drug causes severe side effects ranging from flu-like symptoms to electric-shock-like sensations in the brain that patients have labeled the “zaps.” This marks the first time that one of the new generation of antidepressant medications, often described as non-habit-forming, has been accused of being addictive.

The patient complaints, which previously circulated chiefly on electronic bulletin boards and specialized Web sites, became more public last week when a federal judge in California ordered the drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, to pull TV ads that boast the drug is “not habit-forming.” The judge later put that ruling, which said the ads may have underplayed the drug’s possible role in causing withdrawal symptoms, on hold. Washington Post

This is a fascinating and far from clearcut controversy. There is no disagreement between the drug’s critics and defenders about whether the discontinuation symptoms exist, but a war of words about what to call them (and to some extent a dispute, in which I side with the unfortunate users, about how severe and uncomfortable the discontinuation symptoms are). The gist of the manufacturer’s argument is that ‘discontinuation symptoms’ are different from ‘withdrawal’ and ‘addictiveness’, that there are other classes of medication whose abrupt discontinuation causes medical symptoms which we do not call addictive — e.g. steroids or certain blood pressure medications. The Food and Drug Administration sides with them in these objections.

As critical psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen (who was a former trainee of mine with whom I usually disagree, and whose book Prozac Backlash I have dismissed in these pages as overblown grandstanding) says, ‘dependency’ arises when the cells of the body “were making adaptation to living with the drug 24 hours a day”. ‘Withdrawal’ is the body’s reaction to suddenly missing the drug once it has become so adapted to having it around. While a hard-and-fast mind-body distinction is no longer easy to make without backsliding to an archaic dualistic position, we usually reserve the term ‘withdrawal’ for those drugs whose discontinuation syndrome has a subjective component of mental distress (so Glaxo’s comparison with beta blocker antihypertensives, whose ‘discontinuation syndrome’ is rebound hypertension, is a specious one…).

So any class of medication taken on a consistent maintenance basis, which produces a physiological adaptation to having it around in the body, fits the bill as ‘dependency-inducing.’ From among dependency-inducing classes of medication, it is the medications in that class that exit the body rapidly on abrupt cessation of use that provoke withdrawal reactions. Hence Paxil, but not Prozac or Zoloft, among SSRI antidepressants; Xanax or alcohol but not Librium, Ativan, Klonopin or Valium from among the sedatives (surprised at my lumping alcohol in there? It is ‘cross-tolerant’ with the class of sedative anti-anxiety medications, called benzodiazepines, to which these others belong, acting on the same pathways in the brain…) ; heroin, morphine, oxycodone etc. but not methadone or buprenorphine among the opiate painkillers… The more-slowly-eliminated medications in each class allow the body to “de-adapt” gradually to their falling concentrations after cessation of use; they ‘self-taper’ after stopped. In fact, we usually treat dependency on a medication with the substitution of a longer-acting ‘cross-tolerant’ drug in the same class, e.g. methadone detox from heroin dependency, Librium or Ativan detox from alcohol dependency, Klonopin detox from Xanax dependency, etc. The substitution of the longer-acting drug, and its slow taper, will let the body down more easily and mitigate if not eliminate the withdrawal or discontinuation reaction. (This raises the question of whether it would be easier for people to stop Paxil by substituting one of the other, more slowly eliminated, SSRIs, and then tapering that instead, over the ensuing 5-10 days.).

But we usually mean something more than physiological dependency, and the potential to cause physiological withdrawal upon discontinuation, when we call a medication ‘addictive’ or habit-forming’ . These are certainly button-pushing words in our social context, and I believe it was proper for the judge to stay his own ruling to ponder this further. An addictive drug is one which produces a psychological as well as a physiological dependency; whose cessation induces cravings for renewed use as well as withdrawal symptoms; whose self-administration is reinforced by the positive subjective state each dose induces; and seeking and administering which comes to assume a disproportionate role in the user’s psyche, behavior and lifestyle. Addictive drugs are are also ‘abusable’, i.e. used recreationally rather than merely therapeutically, and often in escalating doses. This latter has both a physiological component — because dependency-inducing drugs also induce physiological tolerance to their effects — and a psychological one, to obtain a more extreme or more long-lived alteration. I think it is clear that Paxil — or SSRIs, from this point of view — should not properly be called ‘addictive’ in an sense similar to the opiates, alcohol, or the benzodiazepines. While psychological dependency — especially in the sense of ‘cosmetic psychopharmacology’, the term coined by Peter Kramer in Listening to Prozac to describe the potential of this class of drugs to improve temperament even in the absence of frank depression or any of the other indications for which the SSRIs are used — occurs, Paxil-seeking does not dominate anyone’s lifestyle, there is no street trade in the drug, taking a single dose is not mood-altering or euphoriant and thus not self-reinforcing, there are no temptations to escalate dose to intensify the experience and no cravings after stopping its use.

What is at stake if such a loaded word as ‘addictive’ is implied, I believe imprecisely and improperly, to the SSRIs? I certainly don’t care about protecting Glaxo’s market share or cash flow, but I do worry about needless restrictions on the efficacy or accessibility of my pharmacopoeia. Even long before concerns about Paxil became known, the first question patients to whom I have proposed an antidepressant often ask me is whether it is “addictive.” Furthermore, even drugs which assuredly are addictive in one setting — the street — can be used under medical supervision in a controlled way that does not promote or provoke abuse, dependency or withdrawal. Narcotic analgesics are the perfect example. Seriously distressed people who could benefit from or even require an SSRI for their relief or recovery may be needlessly dissuaded from its use by such concerns.

Whether we call SSRIs addictive or not, and I hope I have made it clear I think we should not, avoidance of this and other complications of their use requires skillful prescribing and attentiveness. As usual, I argue that many of the complications of psychotropic medication use, especially SSRIs, arise from marketing pressures which have led to these medications being prescribed by internists, primary care doctors and doctors in other, non-psychiatric, specialties who do not have the expertise or time to manage patients on these drugs with the care they deserve.

In the interest of conceptual precision, we should avoid loaded buzzwords whose main use is to manipulate popular misconceptions to fill the pockets of ‘ambulance-chasing’ law firms…

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A Rebel Psychiatrist Calls Out to His Profession

“Dr. J. Allan Hobson, a psychiatrist for more than 40 years, is upset with his profession, saying it has lost its way. In a series of books, he has been trying to shake it up …”

Q. How would you reorganize medical training so that you’d attract better and more students to your speciality?

A. I’d tell them that they have a chance to work on one of the last great medical frontiers, which psychiatry could be. This is a field where they’ll have license to talk about psychology and physiology and philosophy, all together. Where else can you do that? NY Times

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Craig sez: "I’m bushed!"

Craig’s BookNotes should really be renamed Bushwatch (if there weren’t already a weblog by that name), to judge by recent content. Here are some of the best:

  • Jim Carroll: Inarticulate and Proud of It: Carroll is a passionate, articulate Boston Globe columnist whose sentiments and concerns consistently echo mine:

    In the beginning, the justification for ”regime change” in Baghdad was entirely a matter of the threat Hussein represents but no more. Now the justification includes protecting the integrity of threat. We have to go to war now because we said we would. Language is no longer an expression of purpose but the shaper of purpose.

    The United States, in fact, is in a crisis of language. This is what it means to have a president who, proudly inarticulate, has no real understanding of the relationship between words and acts, between rhetoric and intention. [via CommonDreams]

  • United We Dance
  • Bush says Musharraf is ‘Tight with Us’: In marvelling at Musharraf’s power grab last week, I wondered at official U.S. reaction. Here it is:

    Bush promised to be in touch with Musharraf “in more ways than one” about his decision to amend Pakistan’s constitution and greatly expand his authority. But he said he is not inclined to pull his support from Musharraf because the Pakistani leader has lent vital help to the U.S. effort to nab Taliban and al-Qaida fugitives who fled to his country from Afghanistan. Salon

  • The Western White House: ” Located in the remote, charming hamlet of Crawford, Texas, the Western White House is a modest and photogenic reflection of the Bush family’s folksy, down-home authenticity…” [more]
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"…a remarkable year for culinary dissonance":

The year of eating dangerously: ” My guests are innocently perusing the menu at Legal Sea Foods. One orders the spiced shrimp special, another the salmon. Little do they know! I whip out my handy Audubon Society Seafood Wallet Card and promptly inform them of their grievous crimes against the denizens of the deep. Shrimp and salmon both fall in the Audubon card’s ”red zone,” meaning ”most problematic” for consumption. Why?: Boston Globe

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Two scenarios for the future of the laptop

  • Notebook overhaul on the horizon: “Five years from now, the desktop will probably look pretty much like it does today, but the notebook will likely be smaller and lighter, capable of making cellular calls on its own and running on methanol. Component development projects under way portend fairly substantial changes in notebook design, according to executives and analysts. Fuel cells and battery enhancements, which will let notebooks run three to 10 times longer without a recharge, will begin to appear by late 2004.” C/Net
  • The laptop? The deck: ‘Then, in that classic wonk moment, you pull your Global Civil Society Designer Laptop from your ballistic-nylon shoulder bag and you boot it up. “Whoa!” is the instant response from a stunned and impressed public. “Where’d you get *that*?” “Oh, this? We’ve *all* got these now! They’re *everywhere!*”

    But it isn’t really a laptop per se. It’s more like your portable office network. Or maybe it’s more like a collection of PDAs. Let’s call it a Deck (as in a deck of cards…)’ nonsensical

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Hakim Bey would be pleased:

Declan McCullagh: Media chief decries Net’s moral fiber: ‘The president of media giant News Corp. warns that the Internet has become a “moral-free zone

,” with the medium’s future threatened by pornography, spam and rampant piracy.

Speaking Tuesday at an annual conference organized by the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Peter Chernin decried the “enormous amount” of worthless content online. He also predicted that without new laws to stave off illicit copying, News Corp.’s vast library of movies may never be made available in digital form.’ C/Net

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Music body presses anti-piracy case

Declan McCullagh: RIAA asks Verizon for name of P2P subscriber: “In what may become a new legal front in its war against online copying, the Recording Industry Association of America has asked a federal court for help in tracing an alleged peer-to-peer pirate.

On Tuesday, the RIAA asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for an order compelling Verizon Communications to reveal the name of a customer accused of illegally trading hundreds of songs. Citing privacy concerns and potential legal liability, Verizon has refused to comply with a subpoena the RIAA sent last month.” C/Net

Also:The U.S. Department of Justice is prepared to begin

prosecuting peer-to-peer pirates
, a top government official said on Tuesday.

John Malcolm, a deputy assistant attorney general, said Americans

should realize that swapping illicit copies of music and movies is a

criminal offense that can result in lengthy prison terms.” C/Net

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Yahoo’s China Concession

Yahoo agrees to China censorship

The aspiration to a borderless Internet has fizzled along with technology stock prices. Commercial Web sites are eagerly recreating real-space national boundaries in cyberspace, so that they run Japanese ads for people who log on in Japan and German ones for Germans. National regulators are tightening control, asserting their right to tax e-commerce sites in their countries and the right to “wiretap” e-mail with suspected criminal connections. For the most part, this is good: There’s no reason why societies that choose to ban child pornography in real space should decide that the same material in cyberspace is fine, or why bricks-and-mortar stores should pay sales taxes while clicks-and-mortar stores escape them. But this principle can sometimes go too far. It’s ironic that the latest company to cross the line is none other than Yahoo. Washington Post editorial

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NASA plans to read terrorist’s minds at airports

“Airport security screeners may soon try to read the minds of travelers to identify terrorists.

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial firm, which it did not identify.


Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into computerized programs “to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat,” according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times.”

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Electronic People Tracking

Offender Supervision with Electronic Technology

(.pdf)

The document is designed to help readers understand

and appreciate the process needed to incorporate and

implement electronic supervision strategies within

justice system programs. It was developed for agency

staff that want either to introduce electronic

supervision as a new program component or enhance

the use of electronic supervision that has already

been implemented. The document is divided into five

sections, and by reading each of these sequentially,

the steps for developing or enhancing electronic

supervision strategies will be apparent.

American Probation and Parole Association [via Politech]

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Annals of the Invasion of Privacy (cont’d.):

Disputed Air ID Law May Not Exist: “A recent lawsuit filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation founder John Gilmore against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, United Airlines and several others challenges the requirement that airline flyers present government-issued identification in order to travel within the United States.

The suit claims unpublished federal regulations have created an “internal passport” for Americans in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

As it turns out, there may be no such law on the books. Instead, carefully worded rules and statements allow airlines to make it seem that way. Under current federal regulations, they’re only required to ask for ID, not to make it a condition of travel.Wired

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unplugged times

Many thanks to David Walker, rapidly assuming the role of an unofficial auxiliary FmH editor for the number of blinks he sends me, for the following list, reprinted in its entirety, of what captivated during my week away:

I recall my panic when I took a vacation after the first few months of FmH’s existence about whether there would be any readers left when I returned two weeks later. I approached each of several friends from the blogiverse about having them keep up the blog as a guest editor during my absence. Ultimately, I rejected the idea — I’m too much of a control freak about FmH, I guess — and it certainly seems that it remains interesting enough for many of you to remember to come back after a week or two when it hasn’t been refreshed, and for others of you to think of me, by collecting pertinent blinks, while I’m away. Again, I’m indebted, David. Keep sending me those pointers!

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‘Mystery particle’ in schizophrenics

Thanks to Alwin Hawkins, a fellow health professional weblogger, for sending me this blink.

A tiny particle found in the spinal fluid of schizophrenia patients is baffling doctors who cannot work out what it is.

The Swedish researcher involved has even suggested it might be “a new form of life”, although other experts say this is unlikely.

However, it could mean that doctors have a reliable test for schizophrenia.’ BBC

The ‘new form of life’ angle, the more sensationalistic aspect of this news, should be placed in the context of the continuing British preoccupation with BSE (“mad cow disease”), caused by miniscule nonviral, nonbacterial communicable (but by no stretch of the imagination living!) protein particles known as prions. However, I’m among those who find this analogy implausible for schizophrenia, which has none of the epidemiology of an infectious disease. If these mystery particles are real, they are more likely a byproduct than a cause of the pathological process in the schizophrenic brain. And that’s a great big “if” — the history of schizophrenia research is rife with the ‘discovery’ of putative markers for the disease in blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid which have uniformly turned out to be artifacts. I’d love to read the scientific paper on this finding (from Neuroscience Letters; here’s the abstract

but the full text requires a subscription), rather than rely on the popular press, which does not even indicate if the study was done in a “double blind” fashion.

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Abu Nidal dead:

It seemed abit unreal that not much worth noting had happened while I was media-less last week, then I find out that Abu Nidal is dead in Bagdhad, where he was staying for the past several months as a guest of the Iraqi government while he reportedly underwent treatment for skin cancer. Confused reports suggest he committed suicide “when confronted by Iraqi agents about his anti-government activities”, namely reported contacts with anti-Saddam elements in Syria and Jordan. However, “sources in Abu Nidal’s group said on Monday that he shot himself because he was suffering from cancer and was addicted to painkillers.” Ever vigilant for a WoT®-serving soundbite, Administration mouthpiece Ari Fleischer commented:

“Abu Nidal is one of the most craven and despicable terrorists in the world, who is responsible for killing at least 900 people in 20 different countries. The fact that Iraq gave safe haven to Abu Nidal demonstrates the Iraqi regime’s complicity in global terror. He will not be missed.” Guardian UK

However, not content with this level of complicity, the hawkish Telegraph UK reports that

“While in Baghdad, Abu Nidal, whose real name was Sabri al-Banna, came under pressure from Saddam to help train groups of al-Qa’eda fighters who moved to northern Iraq after fleeing Afghanistan. Saddam also wanted Abu Nidal to carry out attacks against the US and its allies. When Abu Nidal refused, Saddam ordered his intelligence chiefs to assassinate him. He was shot dead last weekend when Iraqi security forces burst into his apartment in central Baghdad.”

Abit too neat, tying up Palestinian terror, Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in one tidy package and delivering them to the WoT®-meisters, it seems. How would we ever know if it is true?

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Stand Tall:

This National Geographic Magazine feature on meerkats is getting alot of linkage. “Welcome to the strange social life of one of Africa’s most beloved carnivores.” Replete with cute pictures [and no references to the O’Reilly Network…]

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One Nation, Under Blog:

Are We? “A recent Newsweek article claimed that a half-million blogs populate the Net. But weblog software companies and industry experts say many new journals are authored by the same people who’ve abandoned older ones, just as AOL users stop using screen names they’ve outgrown.” Wired

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Don’t tell the 12m starving:

New from McDonald’s: the McAfrika burger :

McDonald’s has been accused of extreme insensitivity after releasing a new sandwich called the “McAfrika” in Norway, one of the world’s richest countries, at a time when 12 million people are facing starvation in southern Africa.

The launch of the new hamburger has infuriated the Norwegian equivalent of Christian Aid and the Norwegian Red Cross and generated a storm of bad publicity for the American fast-food giant. Guardian UK

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‘Guided Democracy’:

Musharraf Grants Self Broad Powers

Despite widespread criticism, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf unilaterally amended the Pakistani constitution Wednesday, granting himself sweeping powers – including the right to dissolve parliament – and extending his term in office.

“Pakistan is passing through a very crucial transitional period,” Musharraf told reporters in announcing his decision to implement the amendments, which were first unveiled in June. “We are taking Pakistan from democratic dictatorship to elected democracy. I want to introduce a sustainable democratic order.” Lycos News [thanks, Abby]

Is this not getting more airplay because of the Administration’s investment in downplaying this inevitable price of holding together the ludicrous WoT® coalition? Has there been any U.S. official reaction to these moves?

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Distant Echoes of the Clash Between Islam and the West


[Saragossa Ms.]

“Manuscript Found in Zaragoza,” based on a 200-year-old novel by a Polish count, tells the tragicomic tale of the seduction of an 18th-century Spanish-German soldier by a pair of Muslim princesses. Like so many Romantic adventurers and Western fictional heroes, from Lord Byron to Kit in Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky, the protagonist is drawn into a sensuous and illusory dreamscape that ultimately leads to his destruction. Directed by one of Spain’s most renowned playwrights, Francisco Nieva, the play has been adapted by him from a book of the same name written by Jan Potocki, a Polish ethnographer and historian, between 1797 and 1815.’ NY Times Arts & Leisure [via Abby]

[Saragossa Ms.] I saw the labyrinthine, phantasmagorical The Saragossa Manuscript

, a 1965 Polish film from the same source (of which this article makes no mention) directed by Wojciech Has (1925-2000), in the ’70’s when I was in college. Although abit rococo, its complex structure of dreams inside stories inside reveries inside fables, which left the audience reeling and laughing in confusion, haunted me for several decades during which I had lost track of its title and could find no further information about it. Even posting queries on the internet when it became viable a decade later was without results, until I happened to read in the mid-’90’s

that it was reputed to be Jerry Garcia’s favorite film

and that, along with Coppola and Scorsese, he was funding its restoration to its original 175-min. length — in the process learning its name again. The restored version premiered at the New York Film Festival in the fall of 1997, with a posthumous dedication to Garcia. I finally obtained a video copy around two years ago. Potocki’s book has recently reappeared in print, prompted by the revival of the film.

Probably because both films were most suitable for midnight viewing and, if you weren’t in an altered state of mind going into them you would be upon emerging, I often think of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s 1970 El Topo

(“What it all means isn’t exactly clear, but you won’t forget it. “) — anyone else remember this? — in the same vein. Funny, this Bright Lights Film Journal piece on The Saragossa Manuscript leads off with a reference to the latter. [El Topo]

There are rumors, by the way, that

Jodorowsky is working
on a sequel to El Topo

with Johnny Depp annd Marilyn Manson in the cast. Here’s a pre-release flyer. Other Jodorowsky ( “I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs”) trivia:

  • he studied mime with Marcel Marceau
  • he ‘signed on to direct a French-American production of Dune, which was to star his son Brontis, Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí and Gloria Swanson. The screenplay he wrote, by some accounts, could have been made into a 12- to 16-hour film. The financial backers pulled out in 1976.’ Dune was of course, disappointingly, made by David Lynch in 1984…
  • he ‘was also reported to have scouted locations in Tangier in the mid-80’s with William S. Burroughs for a film of Naked Lunch that was never made’

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Distant Echoes of the Clash Between Islam and the West


[Saragossa Ms.]

“Manuscript Found in Zaragoza,” based on a 200-year-old novel by a Polish count, tells the tragicomic tale of the seduction of an 18th-century Spanish-German soldier by a pair of Muslim princesses. Like so many Romantic adventurers and Western fictional heroes, from Lord Byron to Kit in Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky, the protagonist is drawn into a sensuous and illusory dreamscape that ultimately leads to his destruction. Directed by one of Spain’s most renowned playwrights, Francisco Nieva, the play has been adapted by him from a book of the same name written by Jan Potocki, a Polish ethnographer and historian, between 1797 and 1815.’ NY Times Arts & Leisure [via Abby]

[Saragossa Ms.] I saw the labyrinthine, phantasmagorical The Saragossa Manuscript

, a 1965 Polish film from the same source (of which this article makes no mention) directed by Wojciech Has (1925-2000), in the ’70’s when I was in college. Although abit rococo, its complex structure of dreams inside stories inside reveries inside fables, which left the audience reeling and laughing in confusion, haunted me for several decades during which I had lost track of its title and could find no further information about it. Even posting queries on the internet when it became viable a decade later was without results, until I happened to read in the mid-’90’s

that it was reputed to be Jerry Garcia’s favorite film

and that, along with Coppola and Scorsese, he was funding its restoration to its original 175-min. length — in the process learning its name again. The restored version premiered at the New York Film Festival in the fall of 1997, with a posthumous dedication to Garcia. I finally obtained a video copy around two years ago. Potocki’s book has recently reappeared in print, prompted by the revival of the film.

Probably because both films were most suitable for midnight viewing and, if you weren’t in an altered state of mind going into them you would be upon emerging, I often think of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s 1970 El Topo

(“What it all means isn’t exactly clear, but you won’t forget it. “) — anyone else remember this? — in the same vein. Funny, this Bright Lights Film Journal piece on The Saragossa Manuscript leads off with a reference to the latter. [El Topo]

There are rumors, by the way, that

Jodorowsky is working
on a sequel to El Topo

with Johnny Depp annd Marilyn Manson in the cast. Here’s a pre-release flyer. Other Jodorowsky ( “I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs”) trivia:

  • he studied mime with Marcel Marceau
  • he ‘signed on to direct a French-American production of Dune, which was to star his son Brontis, Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí and Gloria Swanson. The screenplay he wrote, by some accounts, could have been made into a 12- to 16-hour film. The financial backers pulled out in 1976.’ Dune was of course, disappointingly, made by David Lynch in 1984…
  • he ‘was also reported to have scouted locations in Tangier in the mid-80’s with William S. Burroughs for a film of Naked Lunch that was never made’

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Funny if it weren’t so painful:

Madame Jujujive from Everlasting Blort

sent me this, as a backdrop to my post Shaming Young Mothers

last week: Earlier Regier article had same message: ‘Florida’s new child welfare chief, who denied last week writing a controversial 1989 essay that condoned spanking even if it produces bruises or welts, wrote another article for a magazine that encouraged the use of ”manly” discipline, and quoted from the Bible: “Smite him with the rod.” The article, which bears Jerry Regier’s name alone, appeared in the July-August 1988 issue of Pastoral Renewal, a religious magazine no longer published. The article is titled “The Not-So-Disposable Family.” ‘ The Miami Herald

Not to mention this:

White House to push “embryo adoption” plan

: ‘Abortion rights advocates worry that the program lays the legal groundwork for considering embryos human beings with full legal rights. Using the term “adoption” rather than “donation” makes it appear that the program views embryos as children, said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.’ Salon [thanks, Julie!]

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Caveat Emptor Dept: Direct Answers Coming!

Online advice columns are not usually something I read, or point to, but this blink

was sent to me — without further explanation — by a reader, responding to my invitation to fill my mailbox with URLs while I was away from my surfing last week. Here’s the crux of the mission statement of the columnists, couched in terms of drawing an interesting distinction [emphasis added — FmH]: The difference between Dear Abby, Ann Landers, and Wayne & Tamara.

Wayne and Tamara realized …how often Abby and Ann Landers dodge the question. Those two columnists, 82-year-old twin sisters, are each in their fifth decade of syndication. When they began writing, “see a counselor” may not have occurred to some people. These days it’s a way of avoiding an answer.

The Mitchells decided they would answer each letter in a way that gives the writer deeper understanding. As they often say, their aim is to help people become students of relationships, so they can answer their own questions.

At the time, Tamara remarked, “We need to give each person a direct answer,” and that is how the column became “Direct Answers from Wayne & Tamara

.”

Let’s examine this a little, because IMHO in setting up on the one hand Abby and Ann and on the other ‘counseling’ as straw men, the Mitchells hoist themselves on their own petard of self-contradiction and self-condemnation. Through the unlikely vehicle of an advice-to-the-lovelorn column mission statement, they unveil some deeply held misconceptions they share with the public about the facilitation of personal change. I know, I know, I may be giving this alot more significance than it deserves, but it’s a vehicle, so bear with me…

The term ‘counseling’ — and I hope I’m qualified to have an opinion on this because I took a master’s degree in counseling psychology before I went on to medical school and my subsequent psychiatric training — denotes an ill-defined wastebasket profession-without-portfolio in a permanent identity crisis. Arising from ‘guidance counseling’, it remains caught betwixt and between the effective change agency techniques to which I would refer as ‘therapy’ or ‘psychotherapy’ and the well-meaning handholding, advice-giving and ‘direct answers’ that have no place in therapy but are suitable to coaching, career or guidance counseling… or advice columns. People hang out ‘counseling’ shingles aspiring to do therapy, but do not necessarily have the experience, qualifications, training, or in some cases the sophistication to do so, and their profession does not provide the gatekeeping, quality control, suypervision or rigorous foundations of any of the pathways to a ‘real’ psychotherapy career. The public at large does not understand this distinction. People increasingly use the terms ‘counseling’ and ‘therapy’ interchangeably and increasingly go to ‘counselors’ rather than ‘therapists’ never knowing their potential to be shortchanged — caveat emptor!. [This is partly due to the progressive erosion of support for psychotherapy — for meaningful change — in the funding of mental health in the modern managed healthcare environment.This, however, is a subject for a different diatribe, and a fit I throw here in FmH fairly frequently at that.] I don’t mean, BTW, to disparage the endeavors of any of you readers who describe your professional activities as ‘counseling’; you are probably very good and very effective at what you do; in some cases, I would say you are good therapists, but note I said “not necessarily” above…

The Mitchells don’t understand the distinctions either. They appear not to recognize that their stated goals of providing ‘deeper understanding’, ‘ to help people become students of relationships, so they can answer their own questions’ are precisely the aims of any competent psychotherapy relationship. Then they go on in the very next paragraph to contradict these stated ideals with the conceit of concluding they should provide ‘direct answers’. Uhhh, this would seem to be inimical with helping people answer their own questions, wouldn’t it be? It is certainly the case in bad counseling, it may be the case in all counseling, but is not at all the case in a psychotherapy relationship that facilitating change is invalidated by the client’s tendency to ‘avoid an answer’, as the Mitchells ignorantly characterize it. If change were easy, it would be easy. There would be no grace or art to therapy if there were not a universal human tendency to avoid changing. Working with such resistance — usually in ways so subtle they are never noticed — is the constant subtext of the therapy process and the central skill of forming the therapeutic alliance and facilitating change. It involves grappling with one of the central existential paradoxes all good therapists embrace but the Mitchells seemingly do not grasp — that giving a ‘direct answer’ to someone ‘avoiding answers’ prevents, not facilitates, therapeutic progress. Quite simply, an answer that you do not discover for yourself does not stick to the bones.

To amplify on this abit, here’s how psychotherapy works, regardless of theoretical school. You can skip this paragraph if you want; it is not essential for the argument of the rest of this post; if you read it, please forgive me for oversimplifying abit…:

Distress is largely caused by characteristic ways of doing business with the world that are experienced by the client as inevitable and automatic. Therapy is a relationship enough like every other relationship in the client’s life that they enter into it in the same characteristic ways of doing business. Yet it is different from every other relationship in one crucial respect. The therapist is not only a participant in the relationship but a trained observer of it as well, with the aim of enlisting the client to become an observant participant-observer as well, and the skill to do so. The therapist’s finely honed ability to sort out what is the therapist’s own contribution from that of the client, so that the latter can be an object of study unimpeded; and to gently and subtly overcome the client’s instinctual resistance, allows them to gradually begin to experience their ways of doing business as discretionary instead of inevitable. With the freedom to do things differently comes the ability to avoid recreating one’s characteristic ways of creating distress. The therapeutic relationship can be a ‘laboratory’ for empirical trials of doing things differently which, when solidified, can be implemented in the ‘real’ world. Disparate theoretical schools of therapy differ in whether they involve any explicit discussion of what is happening in the therapeutic relationship — ‘analysis’ — and the balance between discussion of what’s happening ‘in the room’ vs. outside ‘in the world’ the rest of the week; in the relative emphasis placed on present- vs. past-centered, or emotional vs. cognitive, paradigms for describing how one does business. Those differences, however, are IMHO just window-dressing — the ‘hooks’ that enlist the client in the essential participant-observation process. If this process happens in untutored ‘counseling’, it happens inadvertently, instinctively, certainly not explicitly. And, of course, it never happens in advice columns…

So should we not have advice columnists? Certainly not those who do not know their own constraints! It is probably a stretch to tout Ann Landers and Dear Abby as paradigmatic change agents — and I have never been a close enough observer of their columns to know — but their ‘dodging the question’, as the Mitchells put it, is in this sense almost surely much closer to effective therapy — and certainly to recognizing their own limits — than the grandiosity of Wayne and Tamara’s ‘direct answers’. Pitiful… [And what’s up with their innuendoes about A. and A.’s five decades each of experience, syndicated or not??]

Okay, enough, I’ll stop here. The reader who sent me the blink was probably recommending these guys anyway…

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Amazing Magnetic Fluids:

“If you don’t see it for yourself, you might not believe it.

A grey blob oozes down the side of a laboratory beaker. It’s heading for the table, but before it gets there a low hum fills the air. Someone just switched on an electromagnet. The goop stiffens, quivers, then carries on oozing only after the hum subsides.” NASA

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How did the film canon get so stodgy?

Sight Unchanged: “In an era when best-of lists and expert polls have degenerated into promotional devices, one poll still has a grip on the imaginations of film aficionados the world round. Every 10 years, Sight & Sound, a venerable British film magazine, asks hundreds of prominent critics and directors to list their 10 favorite films of all time. The first Sight & Sound poll was held in 1952, in the midst of the postwar burgeoning of film consciousness; the survey quickly became an institution, eagerly awaited and endlessly handicapped. The 2002 edition

of the Top 10 poll is now online at the Sight & Sound Web site, with 253 individual lists to pore over.

What makes this poll more compelling than others is that it purports to be a snapshot of the evolving film canon. The 10-year interval between surveys is just enough time for taste to change in the world of film criticism, which has undergone several great upheavals in the 50 years since the poll’s inception… [more

] Slate

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Being There

Review of Sam Jones’ 2002 I Am Trying to Break Your Heart : “Intending to shoot a documentary about the making of critical fave Wilco’s newest album, Sam Jones found himself handed — gift-wrapped with a bow on top — a classic three-act narrative, replete with surprise turns, stunning rejections, and an emblematic clash with Corporate Rock.” PopMatters

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Marijuana-derived compound targets pain, inflammation

“We believe that [the compound] will replace aspirin and similar drugs in most applications primarily because of a lack of toxic side effects…”

‘Researchers are developing a marijuana-derived synthetic compound to relieve pain and inflammation without the mood-altering side effects associated with other marijuana based drugs.

…The compound, called ajulemic acid, has produced encouraging results in animal studies of pain and inflammation. It is undergoing tests in a group of people with chronic pain and could be available by prescription within two to three years, the researchers say.’ EurekAlert!

I thought of adding a flip comment to the effect that removing the ‘mood-altering side effects’ would take all the fun out of it. On reflection, though, that’s a serious objection; the ‘therapeutic dissociation’ caused by marijuana use is surely an important component of its use in clinically challenging distress such as chronic pain or severe nausea. I would be surprised if, barring that effect, any new drug would be a significant enough advance over existing antiinflammatory medications.

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Hops-pocrisy:

Urge “Drug Czar” Walters to End Relationship with Beer Promoter: ‘The Office of the “Drug Czar” is partnering with Anheuser – Busch beer sponsored NASCAR racer Jimmy Spencer on “anti-drug” messages to America’s youth. This sends a confusing message to kids while legitimizing alcohol as a sponsor of sporting events. Tell John Walters, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to end this partnership that sends the wrong message “Don’t Do Drugs, But Beer is OK!” ‘ Action Network

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Apocalypse Then:

Scientists Find Signs Big Meteor Hit Earth 3.5 Billion Years Ago:

‘The heat would have killed all single-cell microbes, the only life on Earth at the time, on land and in the upper ocean, which would have boiled into steam. The impact appears to have sent giant tsunamis coursing around the world’s oceans, scouring the early continents.

“The only thing that would have survived would have been bacteria in the deep ocean,” said Dr. Gary R. Byerly, a professor of geology at Louisiana State and the lead author of the article.’ NY Times

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I’m off on vacation for a week, sans web access (sans electricity, in fact!). FmH won’t be updated until the 24th or 25th. Consider using the time you would have spent reading FmH to discover a new weblog or two; click on something unfamiliar in my ‘blogroll’ in the left sidebar…

And please

<!–

document.write(‘send me any interesting links’);

// –>

you think FmH ought to feature, anytime but especially now while I’m away from my daily reads. Thank you for all your ongoing support; back soon…

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Firefighters Vote to Boycott Bush Sept. 11 Tribute

“The president has merely been using firefighters and their families for one big photo opportunity… We will work actively to not grant him another photo op with us.”

‘The International Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously on Wednesday to boycott a national tribute to firefighters who died on Sept. 11, in an angry response to U.S. President George Bush’s rejection of a bill that included $340 million to fund fire departments.

Bush is expected to speak at the Oct. 6 ceremony in Washington D.C., where the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation is hosting its annual tribute to those who died in the line of duty during the prior year.

The ceremony will honor 343 firefighters who died responding to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, as well as about 100 others who also died in the year.

The IAFF, the umbrella organization for the nation’s professional firefighter unions, is enraged by the president’s rejection of a $5.1 billion appropriations bill that included $150 million for equipment and training grants requested by some of the nation’s 18,000 fire departments.

It also include $100 million to improve the communications systems for firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel as well as $90 million for long-term health monitoring of emergency workers at the Ground Zero site where New York’s World Trade Center towers once stood.’ Reuters [via Paul Randall]

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‘Law & Order’ Senator?

‘Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), the sometime actor who once said that life in Washington made him “long for the sincerity and realism of Hollywood,” is negotiating to join the cast of “Law & Order” this fall, Hollywood sources report.

Thompson, the first sitting senator to have a lead role in a TV series, is slated to play a newly named district attorney and boss of Executive Assistant DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Assistant DA Serena Southerlyn (Elisabeth Rohm).’ Washington Post [via Spike]

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Psychological consequences of cancer and their management:

A review from the British Journal of Medicine

. Sent by a trusted reader who says it “looks like a handy reference to have around for

us laypeople.”

Only a minority of cancer patients develop psychiatric illness, but other psychologically and socially determined problems are common. These include unpleasant symptoms such as pain, nausea, and fatigue; problems with finances, employment, housing, and childcare; family worries; and existential and spiritual doubts. Well planned care that fully involves patients and their families can minimise these problems…

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Professor X

Not your usual psychedelic explorer:

With his gray beard, shock of white hair, and wrinkled tribal-patterned shirts, he certainly looks the part of a counterculture icon. But unlike Timothy Leary or Terence McKenna, Shulgin doesn’t proselytize for psychedelic drugs. Instead, he invents new compounds, runs experiments to determine their pharmacological effects, and publishes his recipes. His 1976 synthesis of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), aka ecstasy, is the best-known result of his work. But he’s also created dozens of other psychoactive compounds, including DOM (2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine), more commonly known as the potent ’60s psychedelic STP, and 2C-T-7 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(n)-propylthiophenethylamine), now sold on the street as “tripstasy”and suspected in the overdose death of a Tennessee teenager last year.

Together with Ann, Shulgin has written two books that have become cult classics: PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (short for “Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved”) and TIHKAL: The Continuation (about tryptamines). They have long tested his compounds on themselves, in the tradition of scientists a century ago, then written about them in a style that mixes dispassionate technical detail (“A suspension of 9.5 g LAH in 750 ml well stirred and hydrous Et20 was held at reflux under an inert atmosphere”) with wide-eyed psychedelic utopianism (“I saw the cloud toward the west. THE CLOUDS!!! No visual experience has ever been like this.”). His approach inspired the so-called psychonauts, a small group of scientifically sophisticated young explorers who post chemical syntheses, experimental results, and “Train Wrecks and Trip Disasters” at Erowid.org. “Shulgin has given the scientific approach a role model,” says one psychonaut who, under the pseudonym Murple, self-publishes studies on next-generation psychedelics like 2C-T-7. Wired [thanks, David]

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Experts Expect Rapid Rise in West Nile Virus Cases

“The number of cases of West Nile fever is expected to rise sharply in the next week and could eventually reach 1,000, federal health officials said yesterday. If the current epidemic reflects experience, about 10 percent of the cases will be fatal.

Yesterday, New York City reported its first case of the year.

This year, 169 cases, including 9 deaths, have been reported from 12 states and the District of Columbia, health officials said.” NY Times

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Ultimate Frisbee:

Ed Headrick, Designer of the Modern Frisbee, Dies at 78: “Mr. Headrick asked that his ashes be molded into a limited number of memorial flying discs, which will be distributed to his family and friends, his son Ken told The Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“We used to say that Frisbee is really a religion — `Frisbyterians,’ we’d call ourselves,” Mr. Headrick said in an interview with the newspaper in October.

“When we die, we don’t go to purgatory,” he continued. “We just land up on the roof and lay there.”” NY Times

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Britney, S Club et al:

Emma Jones: Inflaming Child Sex Sickos:

Like everyone else in Britain today, I feel an increasing sense of despair as the search for Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman continues.

But I can’t help thinking that, in a small way, we all share some responsibility for their plight.


Why? Because we live in a society where paedophilia has been allowed to infiltrate our mainstream culture.

Sexy images of children in pop videos, magazines and adverts now appear perfectly normal, even fashionable.

Confusing messages are being beamed into the warped minds of Britain’s 18,500 registered sex offenders, including the 266 in Holly and Jessica’s home county.

In fashion, pop music and TV, our children are being exploited as sex objects.The Sun [via bloggerheads]

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Gnutella bandwidth bandits

“The file-trading network’s developers are discovering that even their wide-open, free-for-all technology might need a little policing“:

Last September, the loose affiliation of programmers who monitor the Gnutella file-trading network noticed something strange. The network, a popular hub for MP3 traders, seemed to be suffering a kind of denial-of-service attack, with some people reporting that their machines were inundated with requests for content. Though the attack seemed small, the particular design of Gnutella — a “decentralized peer-to-peer network,” in which each computer routes network traffic — amplified its effects, causing the whole network to clog.

But when the developers got to the bottom of the problem, it turned out that there was no malicious attack — it was just selfish code. A new Gnutella client called Xolox

had recently come onto the network, and in an effort to give Xolox users faster downloads, its programmers had configured the program to frequently “re-query” the network to check for desired files. Such automated requests aren’t unusual — many programmers use the technique to improve their software’s performance on Gnutella; but Xolox re-queried at dizzying speeds, causing headaches for everyone else, while possibly improving downloads for its own users. Salon

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Gene Mutations Linked to Language Development

Two critical mutations appeared roughly 200,000 years ago in a gene linked to language, then swept through the population at roughly the same time anatomically modern humans began to dominate the planet, according to new research.


The findings, released online yesterday and due for publication soon in the journal Nature, provide the most compelling evidence to date that the gene, which researchers described in detail only last year, may have played a central role in the development of modern humans’ ability to speak. Researchers said that could have given them a critical advantage that allowed them to supplant more primitive rivals…


The research indicates the genetic mutations may at least partly explain why humans can speak and animals cannot. Researchers are likely to try to introduce the genetic mutations into mice as part of their work, but they said many other genetic changes would likely be necessary to produce a talking animal, and several said they doubted anything of the sort would ever be possible, let alone desirable.

The new research was led by Svante Paabo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He and his colleagues were careful not to claim in their paper that they had identified the key molecular event in the birth of human culture. But the paper added fresh evidence to the notion that they have identified at least one of the keys. Washington Post

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UFOs to IFOs?

Investigation Casts Light on the Mysterious Flying Black Triangle:

They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials.

A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.

NIDS researchers contend that these type vehicles are lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military’s making. Likely powered by “electrokinetic” drive, the lifting body-shaped airships have been skirting the skies from perhaps the early to mid 1980s. space.com

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Unequivocal Rejection

Execution pits Mexico against U.S.:

The unexpected cancellation by the president of Mexico of his visit to President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch – in a blunt objection to the execution of a Mexican national – has given Bush his highest-level indication yet of the breadth and depth of near-global opposition to the death penalty in America.


.

Over strenuous objections from Mexico and the European Union, Javier Suarez Medina was put to death Wednesday in Texas for the murder of an undercover policeman in Dallas in 1988. A few hours after the execution, a spokesman for President Vicente Fox of Mexico said, “It would be inappropriate, in these lamentable circumstances, to go ahead with the visit to Texas.” The cancellation “is an unequivocal signal of rejection of the execution,” said the spokesman, Rodolfo Elizondo. International Herald Tribune

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Antarcticles

70 South is a weblog from Antarctica:

70South is a (if not the) leading independent news and information resource on Antarctica and other polar related topics. Besides being Interactive and updated daily with the latest news and information on and about Antarctica, the site has an ever increasing amount of reference and educational information. In addition the site contains a dynamic events calendar with exhibit information and links, famous quotations, hundreds of links, art, games, pc wallpapers and graphics.

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The eatonweb portal has been beefed up: “(W)ith the new additions, i’m keeping track of weblog name, url, description, country, state, region, language, category(s), keywords, birthdates, parent/children/sibling weblogs, author’s sex, author’s birthdate, ratings and reviews.” The 6000 weblogs listed are asked to update their database entries with the new categories of information; mine’s done. I especially like the blogtree-like genealogy concept; if you are a weblogger who was inspired to blog by reading FmH, please build the net of data by entering me as a ‘parent blog’. You can also rate or review me:

Rate Me on Eatonweb Portal

bad

enh

so so

good

excellent

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Functional MRI and the study of human consciousness:

J. Cogn. Neurosci. — Abstracts: Lloyd 14 (6): 818

Functional brain imaging offers new opportunities for the study of that most pervasive of cognitive conditions, human consciousness. Since consciousness is attendant to so much of human cognitive life, its study requires secondary analysis of multiple experimental datasets. Here, four preprocessed datasets from the National fMRI Data Center are considered…

This exploratory study thus concludes that the proposed methods for “neurophenomenology” warrant further application, including the exploration of individual differences, multivariate differences between cognitive task conditions, and exploration of specific brain regions possibly contributing to the observations. All of these attractive questions, however, must be reserved for future research. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

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The Naked Face

Malcolm Gladwell: “Can you read people’s thoughts just by looking at them?”

Many years later, Yarbrough met with a team of psychologists who were conducting training sessions for law enforcement. They sat beside him in a darkened room and showed him a series of videotapes of people who were either lying or telling the truth. He had to say who was doing what. One tape showed people talking about their views on the death penalty and on smoking in public. Another featured a series of nurses who were all talking about a nature film they were supposedly watching, even though some of them were actually watching grisly documentary footage about burn victims and amputees. It may sound as if the tests should have been easy, because we all think we can tell whether someone is lying. But these were not the obvious fibs of a child, or the prevarications of people whose habits and tendencies we know well. These were strangers who were motivated to deceive, and the task of spotting the liars turns out to be fantastically difficult. There is just too much information—words, intonation, gestures, eyes, mouth—and it is impossible to know how the various cues should be weighted, or how to put them all together, and in any case it’s all happening so quickly that you can’t even follow what you think you ought to follow. The tests have been given to policemen, customs officers, judges, trial lawyers, and psychotherapists, as well as to officers from the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the D.E.A., and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms— people one would have thought would be good at spotting lies. On average, they score fifty per cent, which is to say that they would have done just as well if they hadn’t watched the tapes at all and just guessed. But every now and again— roughly one time in a thousand—someone scores off the charts. A Texas Ranger named David Maxwell did extremely well, for example, as did an ex-A.T.F. agent named J.J. Newberry, a few therapists, an arbitrator, a vice cop— and John Yarbrough, which suggests that what happened in Willowbrook may have been more than a fluke or a lucky guess. Something in our faces signals whether we’re going to shoot, say, or whether we’re lying about the film we just saw. Most of us aren’t very good at spotting it. But a handful of people are virtuosos. What do they see that we miss?

[…]

Friesen and Ekman then combed through medical textbooks that outlined each of the facial muscles, and identified every distinct muscular movement that the face could make. There were forty-three such movements. Ekman and Friesen called them “action units.” Then they sat across from each other again, and began manipulating each action unit in turn, first locating the muscle in their mind and then concentrating on isolating it, watching each other closely as they did, checking their movements in a mirror, making notes of how the wrinkle patterns on their faces would change with each muscle movement, and videotaping the movement for their records. On the few occasions when they couldn’t make a particular movement, they went next door to the U.C.S.F. anatomy department, where a surgeon they knew would stick them with a needle and electrically stimulate the recalcitrant muscle. “That wasn’t pleasant at all,” Ekman recalls. When each of those action units had been mastered, Ekman and Friesen began working action units in combination, layering one movement on top of another. The entire process took seven years. “There are three hundred combinations of two muscles,” Ekman says. “If you add in a third, you get over four thousand. We took it up to five muscles, which is over ten thousand visible facial configurations.” Most of those ten thousand facial expressions don’t mean anything, of course. They are the kind of nonsense faces that children make. But, by working through each action-unit combination, Ekman and Friesen identified about three thousand that did seem to mean something, until they had catalogued the essential repertoire of human emotion.[via David Walker]

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Global Warmth for U.S. After 9/11 Turns to Frost

:

What happened, many Americans are wondering, to that wave of sympathy and stockpile of global goodwill they encountered after Sept. 11?

“It was squandered,” says Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the House of Lords.

“America dissipated the goodwill out of its arrogance and incompetence. A lot of people who would never ever have considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United States,” he says.

Desai and others blame what seems to be a wave of new U.S. policies that they regard as selfish and unilateral, stretching back to President Bush’s refusal last year to support the international treaty on global warming. USA Today

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Rare Public Appearance :

Michelangelo Signorile: The Gist:

It was pretty perverse to pick up The New York Times last week and read that the Vice President of the United States of America, a still free and open democracy (despite John Ashcroft’s best efforts), had surfaced in “a rare public appearance,” in which he defended his administration’s economic policies and spoke out against corporate misconduct.

A rare public appearance. This is a term that, I recall, was used often when the media would discuss the late film star Greta Garbo and the weird recluse Howard Hughes. But a vice president? With regard to world leaders–and let’s face it, Dick Cheney, who everyone agrees is one of the most powerful vice presidents we’ve had, is a world leader–”rare public appearance” has been applied in the past to, oh, say, the devious, mysterious autocrats who run the People’s Republic of China. More recently it’s been applied to none other than Saddam Hussein. The point is not that Cheney is a communist or a lunatic, but this: Leaders who are afraid of what lies out there in people’s minds live underground. NY Press

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Surfing the Economy

Go get ’em, Maureen:

President Bush tried to fix the economy before lunch yesterday.

He managed to last for 20 minutes each in four economic seminars at Baylor University. He dutifully scribbled some notes as participants talked, looking as happy as a high school kid in trig class, and bounded out of his chair when Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill told him he could be excused.

“Yes, well,” a visibly relieved Mr. Bush said, jumping up after an exhausting 18 minutes in “Economic Recovery and Job Creation,” “that’s the life of the president. Always has to go.” NY Times

Ludicrous, transparent, contemptible and (one of my favorite adjectives since November, 2000) risible — these come to mind to describe this soundbite “economic summit”. Say what you will about the NY Times; anyone continuing to bring us the public service of Maureen Dowd’s acerbic observations is all right in my book. More, much more, in the same vein collected here on BookNotes

— William Saletan, including William Saletan and Robert Kuttner.

But, Craig, you missed one — Joe Conason: Bush’s TV Show Lacking in Reality

:

The Waco forum was about as authentically significant for economic policy as the President’s “ranch” in nearby Crawford is for his credentials as a cowhand.

George W. Bush has learned from experience that if he emphasizes his Texas drawl, slaps on his cowboy hat and talks as if he’d never set foot in Andover, Yale and Harvard (let alone Kennebunkport and Greenwich), most people will buy the down-home shtick. The ranch is a perfect backdrop for this political persona, as a New York Times reporter observed last weekend in comparing the uses of the Bush ranch with the L.B.J. ranch (although the author neglected to note that Mr. Bush only bought his place in 1999, the year he decided to run for President). Surely George W. loves that Crawford spread, but his appearances there also help everyone forget that his favorite steed is neither a horse nor a pickup. It’s a golf cart.

The “economic forum” TV show performed similar functions of harmless deception and cheap reassurance. It was meant to demonstrate that this frequently vacationing President is actually a diligent executive; that he’s worried about those who have trouble “making ends meet”; that he listens to (and is listened to by) the powerful and the important as well as humble wage earners and shopkeepers. New York Observer

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The Last Days…

…of Philip K. Dick by his friend science fiction writer and cartoonist Ray Nelson; a whimsical but disquieting evocation.

Here’s some of who Nelson is:

Ray says he became captivated with science fiction at the age of eight at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. “I was just there one day, but that was the most important day of my life because before that I was not a science fiction fan and after that day I was”. After that, he began reading science fiction and fantasy novels voraciously, and became a science fiction fan and cartoonist.

In the 1950s, he moved to Paris, where he met Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs among others of the Beat Generation. He subsequently co-edited Miscellaneous Man, the first “Beatnik” little literary review. In Paris, he worked with Michael Moorcock smuggling Henry Miller books out of France…


In 1967, he published his first novel, The Ganymede Takeover in collaboration with Philip K. Dick.

Numerous books and short stories have followed. His book Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake and his wife are travelers in space and time, has been his greatest critical success. His short story 8 O’Clock in the Morning, was turned into the comic book story Nada, and Nada was made into the paranoid cult classic They Live in 1988. This John Carpenter film has shown remarkable staying power.

His greatest claim to fame, however, he says, is as inventor of the propeller beanie

while still in high school. Says Ray, “Centuries after all my writings have been forgotten, in some far corner of the galaxy, a beaniecopter will still be spinning.”

Also: Nelson’s Checklist of Fiction Faults and what to do about them.

Speaking of PKD:

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The Secret Behind a Burger Cult

‘In-N-Out, founded on the West Coast in 1948, is that rarest of chain restaurants: one with a cult following. Exalted both by hamburger fans and those who normally shun fast food, it has built its reputation on the rock of two beliefs: fast food should be made from scratch, and the whims of the customer should be entertained.

Even Eric Schlosser, author of the muckraking book Fast Food Nation, is a fan.’ NY Times

Related: the In-n-Out website.

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Homegrown:

Sushi Cooks Are Rolling Their Own:

“When takeout sushi, mostly in the form of tuna maki, the classic rice and fish roll wrapped in seaweed and sliced into disks, started turning up at supermarkets in Atlanta and Nashville several years ago, it was a sign that the sushi landscape in the United States was becoming more . . . well, Japanese. In Japan, sushi can be found in the finest restaurants, in subway kiosks and in most places in between. About the only place sushi isn’t prepared in Japan, in fact, is in the home.

Here, though, that’s not the case. If home cooks from New York to Iowa to Los Angeles are any indication, Americans are embracing sushi-making with abandon and, like the generations that introduced pizza and lo mein to home kitchens, are tinkering with the original recipes and creating a hybrid food that is a lesson in technique, flavor and — most important — freshness.” NY Times

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"…up to and including…"

FBI probing ‘war chalking’? This is from Dave Farber’s IP mailing list; a reprint of a leaked memo from a Pittsburgh FBI agent suggesting that the FBI is watching ‘war chalking’:

Identifying the presence of a wireless network may not be a criminal

violation, however, there may be criminal violations if the network is

actually accessed including theft of services, interception of

communications, misuse of computing resources, up to and including

violations of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute, Theft of

Trade Secrets, and other federal violations. At this point, I am not

aware of any malicious activity that has been reported to the FBI here

in Pittsburgh, however, you are cautioned regarding this activity if you

have implemented a wireless network in your business.

It goes on to point readers to the now-famous .pdf of war chalking symbols, warning that “if you notice these symbols at your place of business”, your network has likely been compromised.

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The New Texan

Why George Bush is scared of Ron Kirk:

“This is our Colin Powell,” says Rufus Shaw, who worried that Kirk was too conservative as mayor of Dallas. “This is as close as a black politician can come to being inoffensive to the Anglo community, without becoming a Republican. If Texas doesn’t vote for him, it’s going to say something about Texas, and it will not be very good.” The New Yorker

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Life as a Blackman

‘Tired of Playing those same old boring Board Games? Well, the folks at Underground Games, Inc., a black owned game company, have come up with the most fun and interesting board game concept too ever hit the Market. Life As A BlackMan the Game is the first and only board game to depict life from the perspective of a minority. “This is the party game for the next millennium,” says Chuck Sawyer, C.E.O. Underground Games, Inc. ‘

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Has the War on Iraq Already Begun?

Incredible speculation found at kuro5hin.org:

According to DEBKAfile :

“Tuesday August 6, at 0800 hours Middle East time, US and British air bombers went into action and destroyed the Iraqi air command and control center at al-Nukhaib in the desert between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

If that was all, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, as stuff like that has been going on for a few years now. But the following is what caught my eye:

“Turkey Seizes Critical Bamerni Airport in North Iraq – Hurriyet. Strategic Airfield Now Occupied by Turkish 5,000-Strong Force With US Special Forces Troops”

Now, admittedly DEBKAfile is far from being impartial or unbiased, so read it with ‘a pinch of salt’, or a handful if you like. But their military analyses have proved to be mostly correct on a number of occasions in the past – they seem to have several excellect sources in the international intelligence community. Also their layout is rather counter-intuitive, but that’s besides the point.

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Blogging for Dollars:

Meg Hourihan: Giving Rise to the Professional Blogger:

“During that weekend, I came to a realization that I’ve been mulling over ever since: a lack of money is hindering the growth and potential of blogging. Free–or personal–blogging can only take us so far.

Most financial discussions focus on blog content and explore donations, advertising, or some type of sponsorship/patronage model as the means to compensate bloggers. Very little progress has been made towards finding viable economic models because people still think of Weblogs as personal sites. If you aren’t Andrew Sullivan (who purportedly makes $6,000 per month on his site through donations), it’s hard to imagine how you’d get the traffic and donations to generate such revenue…

What I propose is slightly different: make it a commercial endeavor and hire an experienced blogger. Engage someone who’s already proven they can filter, condense, and write. Work with someone who can blog day in and day out for more than a month or two. The idea here is to find an enthusiast, empower them, and fund them, not to dump blogging onto someone’s day job, or it’s not likely to succeed.

Think of what some of the best bloggers could do if they were financially able to do focused, full-time blogging? Pick a topic you’re interested in, now imagine someone had 40 hours per week to cover everything related to that topic, and you get the idea. ” O’Reilly Network