Month: September 2002

Why do American Jews find it so difficult to be critical of Israel’s policies?

This issue of Tikkun looks at the “ongoing fear and tribalism within the Jewish comunity. Kim Chernin analyzes the Seven Pillars of Jewish Denial, while Joel Kovel attacks Zionism’s Bad Conscience. Neil Altman draws on the psychology of denial to urge us Not to Get Polarized, and Starhawk asserts that Loving the Jewish Community Means Supporting Justice. Is Alexander Cockburn in denial? Dennis Fox invites him to Join the Expanding Middle searching for Middle East peace.” Tikkun Of note, Tikkun‘s email system has been hacked, according to a recent warning message to their mailing list from its managing editor. Recipients either get hateful letters about Tikkun, Michael Lerner and the efforts toward peace and reconciliation in the Middle East; or messages which purport to be from Tikkun attempting to alienate readers with a distorted message. According to the warning,

this assault has been happening across the board of all groups

supporting peace and justice in Palestine and also groups who

question the wisdom of the Iraq war. We know for sure that the first

set of emails are being put out by a group of right-wing Jews in

Israel and the U.S. There is considerable debate about who is

doing the second set–some people believe that this is the first

step in the new campaign of dis-information and disruption of peace

groups being sponsored by the FBI or CIA now that the domestic

restraints on their activities imposed in the aftermath of the Vietnam

war have been lifted so that they could participate more aggressively

in the war against terror. Others believe that this campaign is one

initiated by domestic right-wing groups who have media

sophistication. We have no idea who is doing this or how to stop

them.

USB On-the-Go gets going

A new technology that allows handheld devices to share files directly, without the need for a PC, could be on store shelves by the end of the year. Several manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard, are evaluating ways to use an offshoot of the Universal Serial Bus 2.0 specification called USB On-the-Go. Using it, a person could plug a handheld or digital camera straight into a printer to produce a photo. PDAs also could swap documents directly or back up data by connecting directly to a portable hard drive. The technology is also expected to be used in cell phones and MP3 players. CNET

XPdite – Quickly replace a dangerous Windows XP file

If you use WinXP and are hesitant about installing SP1, which seems problem-ridden

, at least fix the gaping security hole that, according to Brian Livingston,

“allows a malicious person to erase all

the files in an entire Windows XP folder — such as

C:\Windows — merely by sending victims an e-mail, no

attachment required.

I’m choosing not to say exactly how to do this. But the

gist is that Microsoft has created a new protocol it

calls hcp:// for the Help and Support Center

introduced in XP. This protocol can be initiated by a

Web page or an e-mail. Help then runs with elevated

privileges, to devastating effect.”

XPdite, from Steve Gibson, fixes this vulnerability with a single download and click.

Bush’s Nuclear Gamble:

Robert Parry: “The U.S. debate over invading Iraq has so far focused on only one part of the nuclear danger. George W. Bush has pushed an emotional hot button by alleging Saddam Hussein is close to having a nuclear bomb and is ready to share it with terrorists…

But what has not been examined in any detail is whether invading Iraq might actually hasten the day when nuclear weapons fall into the hands of anti-American terrorists. Indeed, that nightmare scenario might be as likely or even more likely if Bush gets his way on an invasion.”

At this juncture, inexorably tumbling toward war without much effective opposition, the antiwar Left resorts to more and more dramatic warnings of consequences governed by the laws of unintended outcomes (or is it ‘outcomes governed by the law of unintended consequences’?) and paradoxical intent. A credible antiwar argument has to be plausible and coherent and not seem to be grasping at straws to justify emotionally- or sentimentally-based opposition, if it is to influence any thoughtful listener who is not an absolute pacifist. Criticizing Bush for “alarmist rhetoric” in citing the Iraqi threat, its supposed linkage with al Qaeda, etc., can look like the pot calling the kettle black to some.

There may be a tendency to dismiss as particularly alarmist and manipulative warnings that Bush’s war plans may incinerate us all. As I’ve written in FmH over and over, we are lulled into complacency about nuclear threats by several factors. The first is what one of my mentors, antiwar psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, has called “nuclear numbing”, the difficulty thinking the unthinkable. Moreover, we have recently been further lulled, even if we broke through our denial to be able to contemplate nuclear annihilation in all its gruesome awe-ful detail, into thinking that the doomsday clock has been turned back by the end of the Cold War and that the nuclear threat is a thing of the past.

So it may be a struggle, but shouldn’t we consider with eyes wide open a scenario in which the US invasion inflames Muslim sentiment, Musharraf’s government falls to fundamentalist rioting, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons fall into the hands of his extremist successors? Or one in which such a radicalized Pakistan inflames India into a nuclear exchange over the festering sore of Kashmir? Or that the US, under its recently revised nuclear posture, will use tactical battlefield nuclear armaments if the going gets rough on the road to Baghdad, or that Israel will be attacked during the war and use nuclear retaliation? And finally,

Another risk from a U.S. invasion would be the possibility of “copycat” interventions by other nuclear powers against their own “terrorists.” The Russians already are eyeing an invasion of Georgia to wipe out Chechen rebels hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. Farther east, the Indians want to wipe out Pakistani-backed Islamic extremists fighting in Kashmir. Communist China sees challenges from nationalist groups on the mainland and in Taiwan.

By throwing away international rules against invading other countries, the Bush administration might find it difficult to enforce the same rules when other countries are caught in their own wars against “terrorism.” The Consortium

Keeping Cool:

Women’s Brains Better at Handling Anger: “In a nutshell, the research indicates that men are more aggressive than women because the part of the brain that modulates aggression is smaller in men than it is in women. Both genders have about the same ability to produce emotions, but when it comes to keeping those emotions in check, men have been shortchanged.” ABC

Delete the workers

Sun’s covert nerd-reduction programme: “Help is at hand for anybody who fears that their office is about to be swamped by Playstation addicts. It comes in the form of N1, a new sort of über-operating system unveiled on September 19th by Sun Microsystems, a computer maker. N1 will make it much easier to run corporate data centres—thus eliminating much of the work now done by armies of systems administrators.” The Economist

Union Activity:

Globe to publish same-sex unions: ‘Citing their value as ”community news of interest and importance to many of our readers,” The Boston Globe said today that it will begin publishing announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies and civil unions.’ Boston Globe

Linguists Decipher Warning Message in Genome

(February 1, 2039, BOSTON): “A group of researchers at MIT’s Chomsky Institute announced yesterday independent confirmation of their discovery of a series of messages encoded in apparently dormant or unused sections of the human genome. “We’re able to report replication of our results by at least three independent teams,” explained the team’s project director Klara Tulip. “We hence feel quite confident about the results and felt that they were significant enough to warrant preliminary public release.”

Exploiting evolved, mathematical models derived from iterative analyses of network-available audio, video and text files in more than 200 languages, the team scanned files in the Human Genome Library for patterns consistent with the presence of a “semantic system.” “We were actually using the Genome Library as a control data-set to be sure that our model wasn’t producing false positives,” explains Tulip. “We’d developed a mathematical and algorithmic formulation of a meta-language descriptive of all known human linguistic systems and needed to test it against some non-random data that we assumed had no semantic content. We we’re stunned to find that the genome contains sequences consistent with an implied linguistic system.” futurefeedforward

None of the Above

Electoral Yawns: Here’s an interesting idea, also from Dennis Fox. Although Green Party candidates debate whether they deserve the ‘spoiler’ moniker (would those who go to the polls to vote Green have otherwise held their nose and cast a ballot for the liberal Deomcrat, as the Dems suggest, or boycotted endorsing ‘more of the same’ entirely?), Fox suggests the Green Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts, who does seem positioned to help elect Republican Hugh Romney over Democratic machine candidate Shannon O’Brien, should offer to withdraw if the Dems pledge to support instant runoff voting in the future. I agree with Fox that this system (in which voters rank their preferences and, if no candidate gets a majority, the candidate who came in last is eliminated and her/his votes distributed among the voters’ second choices; the process continues until someone gets a majority) would better capture voter preferences and at least stand a chance of, occasionally, enticing me to vote for someone other than “none of the above”.

New Software Quietly Diverts Sales Commissions

New Software Quietly Diverts Sales Commissions:

“Some popular online services are using a new kind of software to divert sales commissions that would otherwise be paid to small online merchants by big sites like Amazon and eToys.


Critics call the software parasite-ware and stealware. But the sites that use the software, which is made by nearly 20 companies and used by dozens, say that it is perfectly legal, because their users agree to the diversion.

The amounts involved are estimated by those in the industry to have mounted into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and are likely to continue to grow — in part because most users are unaware that the software is operating on their computers.” NY Times [via Richard Homonoff]

New Software Quietly Diverts Sales Commissions

New Software Quietly Diverts Sales Commissions:

“Some popular online services are using a new kind of software to divert sales commissions that would otherwise be paid to small online merchants by big sites like Amazon and eToys.


Critics call the software parasite-ware and stealware. But the sites that use the software, which is made by nearly 20 companies and used by dozens, say that it is perfectly legal, because their users agree to the diversion.

The amounts involved are estimated by those in the industry to have mounted into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and are likely to continue to grow — in part because most users are unaware that the software is operating on their computers.” NY Times [via Richard Homonoff]

Just Blog Instead?

Joseph Epstein, author of the recent Snobbery: Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again: “According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them — and that they should write it. As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring, I’d like to use this space to do what I can to discourage them.

… I wonder if the reason so many people think they can write a book is that so many third-rate books are published nowadays that, at least viewed from the middle distance, it makes writing a book look fairly easy. After all, how many times has one thought, after finishing a bad novel, “I can do at least as well as that”? And the sad truth is that it may well be that one can. But why add to the schlock pile?” NY Times op-ed [Recall that Epstein not only doesn’t like writers but he doesn’t like literary critics either.]

The Bon-Bons of War:

From Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Though the rationale for liberating Kuwait was powerful in 1990 there was also testimony before Congress at the time about Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait which was later demonstrated to be entirely bogus. The immediate trigger for our involvement in Vietnam — as opposed to the larger rationale for our involvement — was later revealed to be based on exaggerations so great as to basically amount to lies. And one finds this sort of thing in the lead-ups to many other wars, in this country and in others. It’s almost like these little bogus stories are the bon-bons of war, the little morsels and appetizers to chum up those who can’t quite swallow the whole complicated rationale whole.

Karl Kraus: “How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.”

Blatant Idiocy Dept:

Bush calls Saddam ‘the guy who tried to kill my dad’: ‘President Bush leveled harsh criticism Thursday at the Senate on homeland security issues, but he revised his stump speech to make clear “there are fine senators from both parties who care deeply about our country.” And, in discussing the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Bush said: “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.” ‘ CNN Do you want your family or neighbors to die for a cowboy’s family feud??

You Can do Better Dept: Make your own Bush speech.

Will South Dakota Free the Jury?

I often agree with my friend psychologist Dennis Fox’s politics, but I have serious concerns about the position he takes in favor of ‘jury nullification’ in this article, my misgivings about which I reveal at the risk of appearing too anti-populist and surprise myself with a degree of concern about undermining the rule of law that would have worried me a decade ago. Essentially, the ‘fully informed jury’ movement asserts that juries have the power to find a defendant not guilty even if the evidence supports their guilt, i.e. to “nullify” the law. From this perspective, judge’s instructions to juries that they must make their decision “based on the evidence” are flawed, and defense attorneys cannot “fully inform” the members of the jury that they can acquit regardless of the evidence. Indeed, jurors who believe in the nullification principle will be screened out during jury selection

Fox cites some seemingly plausible reasons for acquitting someone who is clearly guilty:

Bob Newland, the South Dakota Libertarian Party’s candidate for attorney general, and other Amendment A advocates in Common Sense Justice for South Dakota give several examples: parents convicted of child pornography for taking bathtub photos of their toddlers; a man convicted of cruelty to animals for fighting off a vicious dog with a cane; a quadriplegic convicted of marijuana possession for toking to relieve post-surgery muscle spasms. Amendment A would force judges to let defendants like these tell the jury something like this: “I did it, but you’re allowed to go with your gut regardless of legal technicalities. You don’t have to send me to prison. You can let me go home.”

He has an interest in seeing jury nullification put into practice in a number of situations, including “eliminating punishments for marijuana use, consensual adult-sex offenses, hunting and fishing violations, and other victimless crimes tolerated or even committed by large portions of the population”. Jury nullification would stimulate juries to act as the “conscience of the community”, e.g. in acquitting mercy killers. He would also like to see jurors “realize that motives for political action are relevant despite judicial lies to the contrary”, e.g. when protesters are arrested for ” trespassing and other violations incidental to their political agenda.” Here he’s coming dangerously close to undermining one of the central tenets of civil disobedience, essentially that ‘if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.’ The inherent value in acts of conscience of dramatizating one’s political convictions is vastly diminished, if not mooted entirely, if there’s no risk of conviction.

Fox also cites the government’s perpetual war on victimless drug crimes and Ashcroft’s assault on our rights since 9-11 as reasons to insure that juries know they can “just say ‘no'”. He characterizes (at least some) opponents of the FIJA notion as “apoplectic” and caricatures their fears as being about “chaos in the courtroom.” He only addresses concerns about acknowledged “sorry examples” of potential abuse of the jury nullification principle —

…(U)ndeniably, jurors have not always used wisely their power to apply the law flexibly. In past decades, juries have sometimes freed white supremacists who lynched African Americans, men who beat their wives, and others whose aggression was too widely supported

— to dismiss them as “hav(ing) receded in time”.

Dennis, wake up and smell the rat here. Despite all sorts of wonderful empathetic and conscientious ways a fully nformed jury could act, it is hardly true that the threat of potential abuse of the practice is a thing of the past. Most of the challenge to the rule of law comes from the Far Right, and it has been my impression — apoplectic or not — that the jury nullification principle is being driven largely by their agenda. [What else should we make of the fact that the most hopeful of many historical efforts to allow “fully informed” juries is taking place in South Dakota rather than a more progressive jurisdiction? It verges dangerously close to the crackpot conspiracy theory flavor of the Left to suggest that there is a secret covenant between all judges nationwide to deny juries a right under law.] Open this Pandora’s box and all you will see is America’s famous brand of bigots and hatemongers tried —when they are, rarely, brought to trial— by likeminded, homogeneous “juries of their peers” with the right to ignore the illegality of the defendant’s actions because they are in accord with the beliefs that motivated that defendant. And even if I have my own qualms about the legitimacy of our government, I share nothing with those whose invalidation is based on its being a Zionist Occupation Government or a tool of the UN-driven One World Government.

So should I oppose jury nullification merely because I believe the situations where it will be used will be predominantly, overwhelmingly, in support of reactionary and regressive aims? No more than Fox should naively support it because he forsees the principle as having populist or progressive utility. No, at the risk of being elitist, this will not solve the inherent problem — the risk of mob rule under the guarantee of trial by a jury of one’s peers. Rights entail responsibilities, and I think the obligation to judge someone on the weight of the evidence is a good one. Of course, I also think that, on the weight of the evidence, no one would have voted for George Bush, so call me hopelessly deluded… And call me apoplectic, but when the laws are unjust, there are other avenues besides jury nullification that will make the law the conscience of the people, without, yes, chaos in the courtroom.

Addendum: Ed Fitzgerald wrote to make a cogent point — “…Suffice it to say this: jury nullification exists.” It is not evident because jury deliberations are secret, except when obviously guilty suspects walk; and, although defense attorneys are not allowed to mention it explicitly, they are savvy enough to play to juries’ possible impulse to nullify. The system just buries its head in the sand and pretends it doesn’t happen.

I certainly agree with Ed. I remember the realization I had one night during gradeschool, while watching some cops’n’robbers show on television, that the message of that and every TV show that the wrongdoers are always caught and that ‘crime doesn’t pay’ were convenient social fictions being passed off as realities to bolster the rule of law. Certainly, the idea that the legal system always makes conscientious and true decisions is another of those convenient fictions being foisted upon us. (Its consequences include among others the fable that the system precludes the execution of the innocent, which is necessary to pursue capital punishment.) And one version of that is that trial by a jury of one’s peers will always, consistently, across the nation, result in justice being done fairly. The impulse is that it is not in our interests to acknowledge the contrary.

Fitzgerald goes on:

“My solution is somewhat different. Allow lawyers to argue for nullification, and inform the jury that they have the power to nullify, but include strict instructions from the judge as to where and when nullification is an appropriate response. Give them the examples from history, point out that nullification is only cceptable when the jury perceives a higher moral duty than to uphold the law as it is, tell them that they shouldn’t consider nullification simply because it’s unpleasant to otherwise return a verdict, or out of sympathy for a defendant. In other words, I suggest that since nullification will happen (because it cannot be prevented), bring it out in the open and attempt to control it the same way everything else in the courtroom is controlled, through the rulings and instructions of the judge.”

So, unlike Fox, legitimize ‘fully informing the jury’ not because it is such an empowering thing to do, but because it teaches us that the ’emperor has no clothes’ — that rule of law rather than of sentiment and prejudice is a fiction — and perhaps holds out the possibility of keeping a necessary evil in check?

Dennis Fox replies:

I’m glad to see your long comment on my jury nullification piece,

along with Ed Fitzgerald’s excerpts. His solution isn’t a bad one,

and is probably what would happen if Amendment A passes. The defense

lawyer would tell jurors they can think for themselves, and the

prosecutor and judge would tell them they can’t.

Historically, in cases like Southern juries unwilling to convict

supremacists, and 1800s Utah juries unwilling to convict polygamists,

the feds have stepped in and brought defendants into federal court,

where they had more control over the jury pool. In other cases, we’ve

just lived with the consequences, not always unhappily. In Kentucky,

for example, at least in the 1980s, it was just about impossible to

find a jury willing to convict on marijuana charges — pot was the

state’s largest cash crop.

In any case, like most choices this one brings both positives and

negatives. It seems to me the fallback position should be that people

on juries should be given accurate information about what they can

and can’t do. I’m not sure how someone can argue reasonably that the

system works better when people are lied to. Yet I had a student once

who was thrown out of the jury pool as soon as she told the judge she

was taking a course in psychology and law (this at a time when

lawyers and even judges were getting put on juries).

If you’re interested, I have a longer article about jury

nullification, the ninth amendment, and the difference between law

and equity, wrapped up in anarchist context, at

http://www.dennisfox.net/papers/balance.html

, published in

Behavioral Sciences and the Law in 1993. I have other article also

focused on the law and legal fictions and the like.

Your point about civil disobedience also interests me. There’s always

been a debate about whether punishment for CD is necessary to make it

valid or whether it’s just a good PR tool. I’d have to check on this,

but I don’t think Martin Luther King, Jr. pleaded guilty every time

he got busted…

In any case, the law itself recognizes that jurors can sometimes let

people off. Jury nullification is the indirect route. There’s a more

direct route, the necessity defense, in which defendants claim they

did the act but had no choice — the harm they sought to prevent was

more important than the law they broke. This is what got Amy Carter

and Abby Hoffman off after anti-CIA protests at Amherst years ago,

and Sam Lovejoy for knocking down that nuke weather tower — they

jury accepted their arguments and found them not guilty. Tactically,

it seems to me more useful to stay out of prison to fight again

another day than get locked up for taking a moral stand. But this

probably brings us back to one of the battles between Clamshell

Alliance and CDAS…

[As you’ll surmise, I was a Clamshell, and of the persuasion to get locked up — over and over again — for taking a moral stand… — FmH]

Wabi and the Brain:

Neuroscience unlocks secrets of Zen garden:

“The beauty of one of Japan’s most popular Zen gardens has long eluded explanation. Now neuroscientists have found that its minimalist design suggests a pleasing picture to our subconcious.

The 500-year-old

Ryoanji Temple garden

in Kyoto contains five outcroppings of rocks and moss on a rectangle of raked gravel. Using symmetry calculations the researchers have discovered that the objects imply an image of a tree in the empty space between them that we detect, without being aware of doing so…” Nature

"The Shyness Clinic"

‘…is dedicated to the belief that shyness and social phobia do not have to interfere with achieving professional and interpersonal goals. The pain of shyness can be relieved by challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, and learning new behaviors. Participants at the Clinic have opportunities to learn and to try new behaviors in a safe and supportive environment.

The Shyness Clinic follows a “mental wellness” or “social fitness model” of treatment with a focus on encouraging participants to expand their current capabilities.’

Related: Painful Shyness: Talk to Someone Who Can Help — a brochure from the American Psychological Association. You can download a color .PDF of the pamphlet from the site.

New Crop of ‘Geniuses’:

Winners of MacArthur Grants Announced. NY Times Here’s the complete list, hyperlinks courtesy of me and Google:

Slouching Toward Baghdad (cont’d):

The Krugman-Kristof NY Times

op-ed page tag-team continues; is anyone listening? Paul Krugman asks us to recognize that the proposed war is a “diversion from the issues of dysfunctional security agencies, a sinking economy, a devastated budget and a tattered relationship with our allies.

Nicholas Kristof warnes us that, “(b)efore we rush into Iraq, we need to think through what we will do the morning after

Saddam is toppled.”

Saddam has ‘active’ plans for weapons use – Blair:

“Iraq is actively trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, the Prime Minister has told the House of Commons.”

Ananova: News

Main points of dossier

CNN – World

Envoy: Russian, British Views on Iraq ‘Converging’

Reuters World News

Gore Decries Bush’s Iraq War Push:

“Al Gore harshly criticized President Bush’s push for war against Iraq, saying it has hurt the United States’ standing and could dangerously undermine the rule of law around the world.”

Yahoo! News – Most-emailed Content

Democrats Uneasy With Move To War:

“Congressional Democrats uneasy with what they view as a precipitous move toward war are trying to come up with alternatives to President Bush’s request for broad powers to eliminate the threats posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

Yahoo! News – Most-emailed Content

Hot Buttons: Talk show topics:

“Congressional lawmakers say President George W. Bush’s proposed resolution to force Iraqi disarmament needs fine-tuning, but will likely receive approval once they understand how much power it gives him.”

UPI: Life & Mind

The poisonous Protocols

Umberto Eco on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:

Intellectual anti-semitism as we now know it originates from the modern world. In 1797, Abbé Barruel wrote his Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme to show that the French revolution was a plot of the Knights Templar and the freemasons. Later it was an Italian, Captain Simonini, who suggested to him that it was above all the perfidious Jews who were acting behind the scenes. It was only after this point that the argument surrounding international Jewry began, and the Jesuits seized on it as an argument against the sects of the Carbonari. The controversy raged throughout Europe, but found its most fertile soil in France, where Jewish finance was now identified as an enemy to defeat. The controversy was certainly fuelled by Catholic legitimism, but it was in secular, political circles that the ill-famed Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion slowly took shape. These were then published in Russian Tsarist circles and were finally used by Hitler. Guardian UK Books

The Darwin Wars:

Origin of Specious:

In the heated, often venomous battle over Charles Darwin’s legacy, (Stephen Jay) Gould faced a redoubtable crew from the fields of sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, genetics and philosophy. What’s more, many of these individuals, including E.O. Wilson, Stephen Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Robert Wright, have literary and polemical talents rivaling his own. Science will decide the relative merits of their arguments over topics such as punctuated equilibrium, speciation and the nature of complexity. But the cultural stakes of the dispute are obvious already. Gould’s opponents advocate one form or another of a digital Darwinism. Their grand syntheses are unimaginable without the computer revolution. Their reductionist emphasis — and their hopes for a single, internally coherent theory of everything from mitochondria to the human mind — draws heavily on the tools, methods and examples of digitalization. Gould’s views, on the other hand, owed next to nothing to computers. His Darwinism would have sounded much the same without computer code, artificial intelligence (AI) or the Internet. The American Prospect

When in doubt, blame the US

Review of The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World by Mark Hertsgaard, and After the Terror

by Ted Honderich:

A well-researched cultural and ideological history of anti-Americanism, exploring its history, its different strands – Leftist, Rightist, Euro-nationalist, Cold War, Islamic, Third Worldist and so on – and, above all, the strange interactions and cross-fertilisations between them, is a book that I would dearly like to read. But, if one is being written as a response to September 11, do not expect it to appear just yet. Serious research requires more than the six months’ writing time that went into most of the current crop of anniversary publications. Telegraph UK

The Left and 9/11

Never mind the Right; progressives are their own worst enemies since 9/11, says Adam Shatz:

The prowar left and the antiwar left have both tended to view the conflict through ideologically tinted prisms. Reflexive anti-Americanism is one such prism. As Don Guttenplan, a London-based correspondent for The Nation, observes, for a small but vocal section of American radicals, “there is only one imperialism, and if it isn’t American it’s not imperialism.” In the past decade this theology of American evil has assumed increasingly twisted forms, including, in some cases, a creeping sympathy for Serbian nationalism. It has also produced a highly selective solicitude for the oppressed: “Muslim grievances” are to be heeded when they emanate from Palestine, but ignored or even repudiated when they arise in Bosnia or Kosovo. This has damaged the left’s moral standing and widened the chasm with human rights activists, who should be our natural allies. The Nation

And Michael Bérubé wonders why the left can’t get 9/11 right

:

…(Y)ou would think that if the president was having a hard time making his case to the Republican policy elite, let alone the UN, it would be a simple matter for the American left to rally popular opposition to the war as well.

You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Most liberals in Congress are either mumbling under their breath or speaking up only to call for a ”debate” they themselves are unwilling to begin; the progressive left has been noisier, but the progressive left has its own problems, mired as it is in an Afghanistan quagmire of its own making. It would be a positive service to democracy if left-wing public intellectuals would take the lead where elected liberals cannot or will not, urging their fellow Americans that the war on terrorism requires many things – peace in Israel and Palestine, an end to the United States’ long-term addiction to oil – before it requires any regime change in Iraq. But the left is having some trouble providing that service, because one wing of it actually supports military intervention in Iraq, while another wing opposes all military interventions regardless of their objectives. Boston Globe

Turn Back the Arms Race:

Orchestras are becoming louder every year. As the argument goes, concert halls grow larger and orchestras have to get louder, especially as a louder and louder world causes earlier and earlier hearing loss. The cost hs been “a drastic degrading oftone colour” and, in particular, the drowning of the strings in a wash of brass. “Today’s musical instruments are like freakishly gigantic vegetables: the volume is prodigious, the flavour insipid. “

Lambasting cultural ‘parasites’:

Brit Art’s brats get a pasting from Rattle

Less than two weeks before taking up the baton as head of one of the world’s greatest orchestras, conductor Sir Simon Rattle has launched a furious attack on British attitudes to culture and dismissed modern British art as ‘bullshit’.

In an extraordinary verbal assault, Rattle, the new artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic, said that Germany was willing to spend money on the arts in a way that Britain never could. He also slammed the ‘anything goes’ attitude of British post-modernism and denounced leading Brit Art bratpack figures… Guardian UK

A Man On a Gray Horse

I ‘m amazed that Reinhold Niebuhr hasn’t made a comeback since September 11. After all, he was one of America’s most profound writers on war and international conflict. At the start of World War II and then again at the dawn of the Cold War he wrote sweeping books that helped readers to connect their historical situations with broad truths about God and human nature. Yet a Nexis search on Niebuhr turns up only a handful of references to him over the past year. And the few substantive essays that have appeared were written for conservative publications, whereas Niebuhr propounded a hard-nosed liberal view of the world. The situation is depressing: Niebuhr’s arguments were big and ambitious, whereas our debates are small and wonky.” The Atlantic

The Odds of That

“…all these scientists dying within months of one another, at the precise moment when tiny organisms loom as a gargantuan threat. The stories of these dozen or so deaths started out as a curiosity and were transformed rumor by rumor into the specter of conspiracy as they circulated first on the Internet and then in the mainstream media. What are the odds, after all?” NY Times Magazine

Bloomin’ Genius

Joseph Epstein feels that puncturing the bloated balloon that is Harold Bloom is necessary to rejuvenate literary criticism:

Harold Bloom’s success is of a peculiarly American kind and yet not easily fathomed. As a critic, he is not all that accessible and is capable of producing sentences, paragraphs, lengthy stretches that are quite incomprehensible. (“Like Thoreau, Whitman has a touch of the Bhagavad-Gita, but the Hindu vision is mediated by Western hermeticism, with its Neoplatonic and Gnostic elements.” Yeah, sure, as the kids say, right!) He claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, “I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.” Yet he himself doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in the Paris Review, he declared that he never revises his prose, and nothing in his work refutes this impressive claim. Any critic ready to avail himself of such gargoylesque words as “psychokabbalistic” and “pneumognostic,” who can refer to a passage in Montaigne as an “apotropaic talisman,” and can write about the cosmos having been “reperspectivized by Tolstoy,” may be many things, but he ain’t no aesthete. Hudson Review

Here They Are, Science’s 10 Most Beautiful Experiments:

When Robert P. Crease, a member of the philosophy department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory, recently asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, the 10 winners were largely solo performances, involving at most a few assistants. Most of the experiments — which are listed in this month’s Physics World — took place on tabletops and none required more computational power than that of a slide rule or calculator.

What they have in common is that they epitomize the elusive quality scientists call beauty. This is beauty in the classical sense: the logical simplicity of the apparatus, like the logical simplicity of the analysis, seems as inevitable and pure as the lines of a Greek monument. Confusion and ambiguity are momentarily swept aside, and something new about nature becomes clear. NY Times: Science

Aerial Hysterics:

Bob Herbert: High-Altitude Rambos: “On a recent flight, two U.S. air marshals reacted to an erratic passenger as if they were trying out for Hollywood’s latest action extravaganza.” NY Times op-ed

Fall Equinox



From the Bear Tribe Newsletter:

‘This year, the Autumn equinox falls on September 23rd. We will spend the early part of the day cooking and preparing for the Harvest Celebration. We will set an Altar of fruits, vegetables and brightly colored leaves and then we will light candles of brown, gold, orange, blue and black. The candles will burn all night in gratitude of all we have received from the season past. The next morning, the bounty of our Harvest Altar will be placed in the woods as our give-away back to the Earth and “all our relations.” ‘

Aurora Season Begins:

“Autumn is special in part because lengthening nights and crisp pleasant evenings tempt stargazers outside; they see things they ordinarily wouldn’t. But there’s more to it than that: autumn really does produce a surplus of geomagnetic storms–almost twice the annual average.

see captionIn fact, both spring and autumn are good aurora seasons. Winter and summer are poor. This is a puzzle for researchers because auroras are triggered by solar activity. The Sun doesn’t know what season it is on Earth–so how could one season yield more auroras than another?” NASA

The Childhood Origins of Terrorism

by Lloyd deMause:

“Because so much of the world outside the West has for historical reasons fallen far behind in the evolution of their childrearing practices, the resulting vast differences between psychoclasses have recently turned into a global battle by terrorists against liberal Western values. In order to understand this new battle, it would be useful to know what makes a terrorist – what developmental life histories they share that can help us see why they want to kill “American infidels” and themselves – so we can apply our efforts to removing the sources of their violence and preventing terrorism in the future.

The roots of terrorism lie not in this or that American foreign policy error, but in the extremely abusive families of the terrorists. Children who grow up to be Islamic terrorists are products of a misogynist, fundamentalist system that often segregates the family into two separate areas: the men’s area and the women’s area, where the children are brought up and which the father rarely visits.”

wood s lot comes back out of forced retirement after four days, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Marching Toward Baghdad:

U.S. Taking Steps to Ready Forces for Iraq Fighting: “Mobilizing for a possible attack on Iraq, American commanders have taken many steps to prepare and deploy their forces, Defense Department and military officials say. But the early steps have been calculated not to interfere with the Bush administration’s campaign to build diplomatic and political support for taking action.” NY Times

U.S. Will Not Go to War with Iraqi People -Rumsfeld

“Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested on Sunday that any American invasion of Iraq would directly target Baghdad’s “dictatorial, repressive” government while attempting to spare the Iraqi people.”

Yahoo! News – Most-emailed Content

U.S. Senators Warn of Possible ‘Arab-Israeli’ War

“Prominent members of the U.S. Congress warned on Sunday that a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq could draw in Israel and lead to a wider Middle East war.”

Yahoo! News – Most-emailed Content

Iraq proves test of US-Russia ties

“In a half-hour phone call Friday, Bush failed to persuade Putin to follow Washington’s lead on Iraq.”

Christian Science Monitor: World News

Even Kuwait’s Islamists welcome US

“An additional 4,000 US Marines are due in Kuwait next week as part of joint military exercises.”

Christian Science Monitor: World News

Blueprint for Iraq: tight, intense attack

“As the Bush administration moves aggressively at the United Nations and in Congress to win support for a possible military strike against Iraq, a consensus has begun to emerge among Pentagon war planners that the United States should conduct a narrowly focused but extremely intense attack that would be radically different from the 1991 Gulf War.”

International Herald Tribune

Punch First as a Last Resort

Christian Science Monitor

Maureen Dowd: Culture War With B-2’s: “The administration isn’t targeting Iraq because of 9/11. It’s exploiting 9/11 to target Iraq.” NY Times op-ed

Raging boffins

“The nature v nurture debate has never been so fierce. Robin McKie and Vanessa Thorpe report on the bitter row between two leading scientists:

One is a boor, a scientific dinosaur and ‘a hardline left-winger’ whose ideas have long since ceased to matter. The other is a ‘wicked’ individual whose ideas could lead more children to be assaulted by abusive parents.

That is how two leading scientists have denounced each other over their claims to know the causes of human aggression. Violence is in the air and, it appears, at its roots.

In his book They F*** You Up British psychologist Oliver James argues family influences are critical. Neuroscientist Steven Pinker says nothing matters more than our genes. Both are openly abusive about each other’s stance. Hence, the accusation of one of Pinker’s allies that James is ‘fucked-up’ while he has retorted in turn that his opponent is telling lies.

The extraordinarily angry row reveals the depth of the scientific battle that is emerging over the soul of mankind. On one side stand the followers of the fledgling science of evolutionary psychology, led by Pinker. They say studies of human evolution show that parents have little impact on their children’s behaviour. Only their genes, and a person’s interaction with peers and friends, matter in the shaping of violent personalities. Road rage and murder are in our DNA.

On the other side are traditional psychologists and psychoanalysts who say that children’s aggressive behaviour is picked up from violent parents. The family is the root of all troubles. Genes have only a limited role in the birth of of criminal, violent behaviour. Learning from parents is key.

Pinker, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s centre of cognitive neuroscience, outlines his views in The Blank Slate. His and James’s books were published last week and sparked an exchange of vitriol between the authors. Guardian-Observer

Speed of light broken with basic lab kit

“Electric signals can be transmitted at least four times faster than the speed of light using only basic equipment that would be found in virtually any college science department.

Scientists have sent light signals at faster-than-light speeds over the distances of a few metres for the last two decades – but only with the aid of complicated, expensive equipment. Now physicists at Middle Tennessee State University have broken that speed limit over distances of nearly 120 metres, using off-the-shelf equipment costing just $500.” New Scientist

Do whales have a language?

Alexandra Morton is about as independent a scientist as you’re likely to find. For the past two decades she has been living in remote Echo Bay in British Columbia studying the intricate patterns of sounds killer whales use to communicate. She has had no graduate training, yet has become an authority on orcas. On her boat, she talked to Bob Holmes about her unusual career, her passion for the wild and the curse of salmon farming.” New Scientist

President-speak:

From uggabugga:

‘There has been some commentary following Bush’s apparent failure to recall the familiar expression: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

This brings to mind the whole set of malapropisms by the President – commonly referred to as Bushisms. These Bushisms haven’t been analyzed in any thorough manner, so we decided to take a look at the current set, and see if there was a pattern. There is…’

Lumpin’ proletariat:

Jon Udell, who runs Radio UserLand, is big on RSS aggregators, as he explains in this Byte magazine piece. And, for your newsreading edification, this list of RSS aggregators is cribbed from his weblog:

Here are a few more I’ve found in my travels:

A chart comparing the attributes of several of these can be found here. Very useful information about RSS, reading and creating feeds, etc. is compiled here.

Slouching toward Baghdad:

This chart exploring the possible scenarios proceeding from the coming invasion of Iraq, from uggabugga, is being broadly linked to (and stressing out ugga’s server to no end, apparently..). It pretty much says it all, with tongue strongly restrained by cheekwall.

President-speak:

From uggabugga:

‘There has been some commentary following Bush’s apparent failure to recall the familiar expression: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

This brings to mind the whole set of malapropisms by the President – commonly referred to as Bushisms. These Bushisms haven’t been analyzed in any thorough manner, so we decided to take a look at the current set, and see if there was a pattern. There is…’

Pick hit of the day:

Bach: Goldberg Variations (recorded 1955 and 1981) by Glenn Gould have bee re-released in a gorgeous and essential 3-CD set to mark this month’s 70th anniversary of his birth and 20th anniversary of his death —

Glenn Gould’s extraordinary career was bracketed by the Goldberg Variations. It was his first recording of the work, in 1955, that established Gould as a pianistic force of exceptional gifts, while the second studio version he made in 1981 (there is also a Salzburg festival performance from 1957) proved to be his last visit to the recording studio; it was released in September the following year, just days before his sudden death at the age of 50. In the subsequent 20 years, Gould’s reputation and stature as one of the most important pianists of the 20th century have been maintained, and these two recordings especially have achieved near legendary status.

Reissued together now to mark the 20th anniversary of his death, the two recordings of the Goldberg Variations provide a fascinating comparison. The earlier one has been scrupulously remastered for the new album, and sounds more lifelike and immediate than ever before. The set also includes a disc of outtakes from the 1955 sessions as well as an interview Gould gave in 1982, in which he discussed the differences between the two performances. The most startling contrast is in the sheer length of the performances. In 1955 Gould got through the work in 38 minutes, while in 1981 he took 51; in the later account he does observe some repeats (there were none in 1955), but there is also a broadness, a sense of contemplation in a work that clearly meant more to him than any other. Guardian UK

Nation of Sheep Dept (cont’d):

Travelers would trade privacy for shorter lines:

In a poll of frequent business fliers, the overwhelming majority said they would welcome more intrusive personal identification technology if it streamlined airport security check-in. The poll was commissioned by Johnson Controls.

About three-fourths of the frequent air travelers polled said they would be “extremely” or “very” willing to undergo a fingerprint scan at the airport if it helped streamline and shorten flight check-in time. Nearly two-thirds were just as willing to undergo an iris or facial recognition scan. And 61 percent said they were extremely or very willing to use a national ID card with thumbprint.

The poll’s release follows recent relevant testimony from James Loy, acting head of the Transportation Security Administration. Before a Senate committee last week, Loy voiced support for the creation of a “trusted traveler” program to reduce airport security waits for frequent business fliers. The proposed program would involve voluntary, in-depth background checks for frequent travelers who would then receive a badge embedded with some type of personal identification technology and become part of a registered traveler database.

Johnson Controls, of course, has a vested interest

in the broad adoption of such technologies…

Deconstructing ‘The Sopranos’

Five books about The Sopranos considered:

“Maybe higher education isn’t such a good idea after all. The fourth season of The Sopranos is finally here, and professors of various stripes are having a go at explicating the first three seasons. Literary critics and historians, neo-Marxists and theoretical feminists, postmodernists and pre-post-post-structuralists are scrambling to stake their claims to David Chase’s series. The name-dropping in these books borders on the felonious — why stop at Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese when Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin are available? — but unfortunately the RICO statute doesn’t yet apply to the academic racket.” NY Times

Recall last week’s discussion here of whether readers should take my multiple postings about Wilco as an indication of my own tastes? Well, I’ll short-circuit any similar speculation about my fondness for Sopranos blinks by making it explicit that, yes, they signify my fondness for the show. One of the reasons, of course, is my endless fascination with the pivotal role a psychotherapeutic relationship plays in a popular TV show. While I do think it is about the most responsible portrayal of psychiatric treatment I’ve seen in the popular media, that doesn’t make it problem-free… There’s also that giddy, somewhat delectable dissonant experience of feeling empathetic toward and invested in a mobster as an audience member, which of course parallels the supportive and empathetic stance one struggles to maintain toward whomever one is treating as a psychotherapist.

Of course, self-described ‘conservative’ columnists such as Suzanne Fields would have a different take on my appreciation of the show:

It has been widely remarked that the Sopranos are a 1950s family with a ’50s family sensibilities, reflecting a traditional reference point for right and wrong. But if the microcosm resides in hearth and home, the macrocosm is hell on earth. The Mob follows a vicious immoral code and the lead characters resemble Satan, Moloch and Belial, the fallen angels in Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” who seek ways to attempt to wreak vengeance against God.

William F. Buckley argues that the popularity of “The Sopranos” depends on the degeneration of its audience, but this, I think, ignores the way the series raises legitimate questions about the nature of evil and its seductive qualities. If we sometimes find ourselves in sympathy with vile criminals, we’re confronted with our own gullibility and susceptibility to behavior we know is wrong. These gangsters aren’t “role models.” Nobody in his right mind would want to be in Tony Soprano’s shoes.

[Does anyone, by the way, have a reference for the Buckley observation? FmH]

Addendum: Here

it is

Readying for War:

“U.S. pilots patrolling the skies over Iraq are taking a new approach to defending themselves against Iraqi gunners by striking at the command and communications links in Iraq’s air defense system rather than its guns and radar, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

The switch, which Rumsfeld said he ordered more than a month ago, is designed to do more long-lasting damage to Iraq’s ability to shoot down the American and British pilots whose fighter jets have been patrolling “no-fly” zones over northern and southern Iraq for 11 years.” Washington Post

Russia demands to see US proof over Saddam Hussein

:

“Russia says it won’t support military action against Iraq unless the US shows enough evidence that Saddam Hussein is a threat.” Ananova

Bush plans first strike against any foreign foe

: ‘U.S. President George W. Bush unrolled a sweeping blueprint for global supremacy yesterday, vowing to wage military, economic and ideological battles around the world to destroy terrorist threats and promote U.S. values.

In a report to Congress, Mr. Bush said the United States is prepared to launch pre-emptive military strikes against security threats even when they are not imminent, and will not shrink from “compelling” others to fall in line.’ Globe and Mail

The Legality of Using Force

Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale: ‘As Congress confronts the prospect of war, it should consider some constitutional fundamentals. The Bush administration would have us believe that international law contains only ambiguous or advisory requirements. In fact, the United Nations Charter was ratified as a treaty by the Senate after World War II, and the Constitution explicitly makes all treaties “the supreme law of the land.”

The president has no power to pick and choose among the laws that bind him — unless Congress tells him otherwise. This is what makes the precise terms of any Congressional authorization for war against Iraq so important. According to judicial precedents, treaties like the United Nations Charter can be trumped only by subsequent legislation. The Charter would lose its status as governing domestic law if Congress explicitly authorizes the president to make war in violation of its terms.’ NY Times op-ed

More Sci- Than Fi, Physicists Create Antimatter

“Physicists working in Europe announced yesterday that they had passed through nature’s looking glass and had created atoms made of antimatter, or antiatoms, opening up the possibility of experiments in a realm once reserved for science fiction writers. Such experiments, theorists say, could test some of the basic tenets of modern physics and light the way to a deeper understanding of nature.” NY Times

The Vision Thing

Paul Krugman: “This is the way the recovery ends — not with a bang but with a whimper. O.K., I could be wrong. Industrial production is falling and layoffs are rising. But it’s still not a sure thing that the months ahead will be bad enough for the business-cycle referees to declare a renewed recession. And on the other hand, the administration seems determined to have a bang sometime before Nov. 5.But right now it looks as if the economy is stalling, and also as if the people in charge have no idea what to do. In short, it’s feeling a lot like the early 1990’s.” NY Times op-ed

But who’s noticing? G.O.P. Gains From War Talk but Does Not Talk About It: “Republican Party officials say the prospect of weeks of Congressional debate on Iraq is letting them block Democrats from using domestic concerns as campaign issues.” NY Times

Mr. Fox Goes to Washington:

TV show set to select a presidential candidate:

“…Applications will be accepted from naturalized U.S. citizens who will be 35 years old by January 20, 2005. The candidates must produce a petition signed by 50 supporters.

A panel of experts will choose 100 semifinalists, two from each state, who will be introduced to viewers in the series’ first episode.

Episodes will be broadcast live from locations like Mount Rushmore, Gettysburg and the Statue of Liberty, where the candidates will compete with such things as debates and stump speeches. Viewers will gradually eliminate candidates…

The series will begin in early 2004 and culminate around July 4 with a live show at The Mall in Washington, D.C., where viewers will choose their favorite candidate for president.

FX has no idea whether the winner will then actually run for president.” CNN

Likening Bush to Hitler:

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder apologized to President Bush yesterday for the offense caused by a report that his justice minister had compared Bush’s methods to Hitler’s.

The election-eve report in a regional daily angered a US administration already upset about the center-left chancellor’s voluble, and highly popular, opposition to a possible US-led war on Iraq.

Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-

Gmelin tried to calm the trans-Atlantic dispute yesterday by denying the report, but reporters pressed her for more than an hour on what appeared to be not only a breach of a German political taboo, but an affront to Germany’s ally. Boston Globe

Out of Body But in the Brain



Brain site responsible for “out-of-body experiences” identified
:

Swiss scientists think they have pinpointed the area of the brain where so-called “out-of-body experiences” are triggered.

When Dr. Olaf Blanke, from Geneva University Hospital, and colleagues used electrodes to stimulate the brain of a female epilepsy patient during treatment, the woman reported that she felt as though she had left her body and was floating above it.

Dr. Blanke’s group produced the phenomenon by stimulating an area in the right cortex of the angular gyrus. The findings are published in the September 19th issue of Nature.

These findings suggest that “this experience is related to a specific part of the brain,” Dr. Blanke told Reuters. “It seems to be that this area is important for brain processes that could be related to out-of-body experience.”

Scientists believe that about 10% of people brought back from the brink of death experience something similar, but it has been difficult to prove it actually occurs. The phenomenon has also been reported by some migraine, epilepsy and stroke patients. Reuters Health

Calamitous

Weblogger extraordinaire Mark Woods is putting wood s lot on hiatus as he is going computerless. He does not say for exactly how long, but indicates that it will be long enough to hurt. I know I will dearly miss my daily fix and hope Mark will hurry back to the cybersphere, even if he does not decide to add the apostrophe to ‘wood s lot’ for whose absence I have chided him (“like an itch I can’t scratch”), as he suggests he might. It has always been beyond me where he manages to find the riches to which he consistently links. Many webloggers are prolific, but those of us who may sometimes be accused of offending with volume largely use convenient, routine sources — e.g. a few, or a few dozen, tried and true media sites. Mark surfs the deep web instead. I sometimes wish he would put abit more of himself into his posts; I’d like to know better this man whose web presence enlivens and stimulates so much. But what he thinks is clearly between the lines of what he posts. The silver lining, Mark, is that you’ll probably gain back as available time the — oh, what? — forty-five minutes or so daily that you have been devoting to compiling wood s lot. Here’s hoping your mercurial spirit will find other satisfying, productive outlets while you’re computerless…

It’s Like This:

Muffy E. A. Siegel, Dept of English, Temple University: Like:

the Discourse Particle and Semantics

Using data from interviews with high school students, I first adduce evidence that lends support to Schourup’s (1985) claim that the United States English adolescent hedge like is a discourse particle signalling a possible slight mismatch between words and meaning. Such a particle would generally be included in a grammar in a post-compositional pragmatic component, but, surprisingly, like also affects basic semantic attributes. These include both truth-conditions and the weak/strong distinction-though only in existential there and sluicing sentences. I argue that the differential behaviour of like in various constructions selecting weak NP’s stems from the restricted free variable it introduces, a variable which only there and sluicing require. This variable is available for binding, quantifier interpretation and other syntactic-semantic processes, yet is pragmatically conditioned. Indeed, I show that, due to its formal properties, like can be interpreted only during the assignment of model-theoretic denotations to expressions, along the lines of Lasersohn’s (1999) pragmatic haloes. These results support the idea that weak/strong is not a unitary distinction and suggest that the various components of grammars must be organized to allow information from pragmatic/discourse elements to affect basic compositional semantics. Journal of Semantics [via NPR’s Morning Edition]. [Isn’t it, like, appropriate that a study of the use of like is written by a Muffy?]

War Tax:

The Economic Costs of an Unjust War


Miriam Pemberton, Foreign Policy in Focus:

“From massive budget deficits to skyrocketing oil prices, the proposed attack on Iraq will have a devastating effect on the lagging U.S. economy.”

Costs of Imperial Adventurism


Geov Parrish, WorkingForChange.com:

‘The Iraqis may have agreed to weapon inspections, but the campaign for “regime change” in Baghdad continues. And most other nations will go along — for a price.’ AlterNet

And now for a public service announcement:

Katha Pollitt, author of Reasonable

Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism
: Join the EC E-mail Campaign: “America’s rate of unwanted pregnancy is a huge public health scandal, but five years after being approved by the FDA, emergency contraception–the use of normal birth control pills to block pregnancy within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex–has yet to fulfill its potential. Part of the problem has to do with the difficulty of getting EC in time; many doctors don’t want the hassle of dealing with walk-in patients, many clinics are closed on weekends and holidays (times of peak demand) and some pharmacies, like Wal-Mart’s, refuse to stock it. That anti-choicers falsely liken EC to abortion and tar it as a dangerous drug doesn’t help.

The main barrier to EC use, though, is that most women don’t know what it is. To spread the word, Jennifer Baumgardner and I have written an open letter explaining how EC works, how to get it and why women should even consider acquiring it in advance. If every Nation reader with access to the Internet forwards it to ten people and one list…” The Nation

‘The Center Cannot Hold’

Black-Jew Rift Widens After Southern Primaries:

“Participants in this month’s Congressional Black Caucus conference say the defeat of two black House members in bitter primaries not only suggests a widening rift with Jewish Democrats, but trouble within the Democratic Party itself…

The anger is emanating from reports that several outside Jewish special interest groups took a particular interest in defeating Reps. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., and Earl Hilliard, D-Ala., by fueling the campaigns of their respective Democratic primary opponents with thousands of dollars and an interest in seeing the incumbents defeated for their long-standing support of Palestinians.” Fox

Rogue E-mail

From John Robb’s Radio Weblog: “As I mentioned I would do earlier today: I deleted this story before it got into Google’s cache.

The reason I posted it was that I thought it was really is amazing how quickly people can amplify someone’s stupid mistake via e-mail. This is the dark side of the Internet: mob consciousness facilitated by e-mail.

BTW: I am also deleting the e-mail message from my hard drive. Don’t ask for forwards or reprints. Regardless, given the wide distribution on this e-mail, you will probably see it in your inbox soon: it is going global.” [via blogdex]

Sounds interesting; does anyone have a copy saved that you wouldn’t mind forwarding to me? Thanks in advance…

Recipes for Death:

Nicholas Kristof: “We have a window now, while terrorists still have difficulty obtaining reliable recipes for bio- and chemical weapons. If we continue to allow these cookbooks to improve, buttressed by helpful articles in professional journals, then over the next 10 years we may empower terrorists to kill us on an unimaginable scale.” NY Times op-ed

Iraq Agrees to Readmit Inspectors, U.N. Says

‘Iraq unconditionally accepted the return of U.N. weapons inspectors late Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

“I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of inspectors without conditions to continue their work.” ‘ NY Times The Bush administration rejected Iraq’s move as a “tactic”. but then, as they have already determined to attack Iraq regardless of justification or the world’s opinion, they would dismiss any Iraqi move, would they not?




[thanks, Simon]

Bush planned Iraq ‘regime change’ before becoming president

“The blueprint, uncovered by the Sunday Herald, for the creation of a ‘global Pax Americana’ was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W Bush’s younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC).” via disinfo The report is available here as a PDF document, or converted to HTML by Google here.

Internet successful in educating doctors on herbal and dietary supplements:

A pediatrician at Brenner Children’s Hospital has developed an efficient way to help educate health care professionals on herbal and dietary supplements via the Internet, according to a study published in the September issue of Academic Medicine.

Kathi Kemper, M.D., a pediatrician at Brenner Children’s Hospital, worked with physicians from the Longwood Herbal Task Force to develop a series of e-mails containing information and questions about various herbal and dietary supplements.

Over 537 healthcare professionals participated in the e-mail series, which took place over 10 weeks. Participants were asked questions twice a week about herbal supplements and were given a link to an Internet site for more information about each topic. The questions focused on the more popular herbal remedies like Saw Palmetto and Gingko Biloba, found in most area supermarkets and drugstores.

Participants were also given a pre and post-test to see if they increased their knowledge base and if they were more confident in their ability to answer their patients’ questions and find the resources they needed. Scores on the post-test showed an improvement in the knowledge scores from 67 percent at baseline to 80 percent following the curriculum. EurekAlert!

20/20 Hindsight:

Cronkite Regrets Giving Up Career: More than 20 years after signing off, the 85-year-old Cronkite told a meeting of the American Association of Retired Persons he is still consumed by a longing to return to work, especially when a big story is breaking. AP [What about that famous homily that ‘no one on their deathbed regrets not spending more time at the office’? — FmH]

For Our Sins

It is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the culmination of the High Holidays. Given Yom Kippur’s emphasis on atonement, the confessional prayers (“Viduy”) appear numerous times in the liturgy. ‘Liberation theology’ rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine offers this supplementary liturgy to help atone for some modern-day sins not mentioned in the traditional confessional. Beliefnet Considering alternate sins, today is aptly the twentieth anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

in Lebanon.

Christian Radio Knocking NPR Stations off the Air

Religious and Public Stations Battle for Share of Radio Dial:

‘The Rev. Don Wildmon, founding chairman of a mushrooming network of Christian radio stations, does not like National Public Radio.

“He detests the news that the public gets through NPR and believes it is slanted from a distinctly liberal and secular perspective,” said Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for Mr. Wildmon’s American Family Radio.

Here in Lake Charles, American Family Radio has silenced what its boss detests.

It knocked two NPR affiliate stations off the local airwaves last year, transforming this southwest Louisiana community of 95,000 people into the most populous place in the country where “All Things Considered” cannot be heard…

This is happening all over the country. The losers are so-called translator stations, low-budget operations that retransmit the signals of bigger, distant stations. The Federal Communications Commission considers them squatters on the far left side of the FM dial, and anyone who is granted a full-power license can legally run them out of town. ‘ NY Times

More al-Qaida sleeper cells in U.S.? More wolf calls?

“Government agents have recently uncovered numerous calls from hard-to-track prepaid cell phones, Internet-based phone service, prepaid phone cards and public pay phones in the United States to known al-Qaida locations overseas, federal officials said. The calls are one piece of a growing body of evidence pointing to the presence of suspected members of terrorist sleeper cells operating on U.S. soil, and a growing sophistication on their part to keep their communications secret, the officials said.” MSNBC

A busy summer…

Ruling Roils Death Penalty Cases: “…(T)rying to untangle the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ring v. Arizona, which said juries rather than judges must make the crucial factual determinations that support the death penalty, (has made for a busy summer for) courts and legislatures in the nine states where juries do not make such findings, or render only advisory verdicts…” NY Times

Making Enemies:

How Saddam Happened: “America helped make a monster. What to do with him—and what happens after he’s gone—has haunted us for a quarter century.” MSNBC

What They Were Thinking

[City Lights, 1955]

City Lights, 1955. Lawrence Ferlinghetti (on the right, with, from left, Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert LaVigne) recalls, ” When the picture was taken, I was thinking, ‘Are these the best minds of our generation?’ Howl starts with that phrase. I’d say it was a bit of a satirical question. I am the only one in the picture still alive, because I work out all the time. They didn’t work out except raising the elbow or rolling joints. I wasn’t part of the Beat Generation at all. I was really the last bohemian…” NY Times Magazine [Doesn’t it look as if the sign saying “Books” is a thought balloon emanating from LaVigne’s head, by the way? — FmH]