World Without Regret:

The Guilt-Free Soldier: “On the eve of a messy 21st-century war, university researchers are probing ways to unlearn fear. Erik Baard dissects the uses of the amygdala.” The Village Voice However speculative, the article’s major assumptions don’t make much sense to me. First of all, while PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) researchers point to the role of amygdaloid fear in encoding certain traumatic memories in a distinct form that cannot be integrated, this doesn’t have much to do with run-of-the-mill guilt or regret. Rather, the sense of self-reproachful responsibility victims of abuse feel for their plight is a mental trick to ward off the sense of uncontrollability of what had happened to them — if only I had done something differently, I could have avoided my pain, it is as if they are telling themselves for some perverse reassurance. But it is merely an artifact of the lumping together of research on traumatic abuse PTSD and combat PTSD to think that the benefits of blocking amygdaloid fear in the former cases would extrapolate to the latter. Not to mention that, if memories of the horrors of combat were encoded rationally and accessibly, rather than traumatically, this might lead soldiers to a more thorough realistic moral assessment that would make them less, rather than more, likely to do their masters’ bidding, more rather than less devastated by the terrible realities of what they have seen and what they have done. Traumatic remorse isn’t, as the author suggests, “a check on our own worst impulses” as more rational remorse is. Fortunately, we cannot block the latter pharmacologically.

For Potter fans, 1,000 pages won’t be heavy reading

This Boston Globe article focuses on speculation about whether children will plow through the estimated 1,000 pages of the forthcoming book. Since it is coming out at the end of the school year, kids will have the entire summer to read it uninterrupted, making it more likely in some cases… But the real question is whether the book needs to be that long, or if Rowling has lost control of parsimony in her ‘creative’ process. We’ll surely see whether it can sustain itself that long or collapse under the weight of its own verbosity. (And what does this steady upward trend in pleonasm foreshadow for the coming volumes of the series, if she ever gets around to any more?)

Depravity Update —

TV Report Sparks Occult Fears in Germany

“Just weeks after Germany became exposed to the reality of cannibalism, a television report has whipped up a fresh media storm…

The latest furore was sparked by a report transmitted earlier this week on Germany’s public television station ZDF about cannibalism and cult rituals within the federal borders. The report contains testimony by two women and a young child, who claim to have witnessed horrifying occult rituals, in which people were murdered and sometimes eaten.” Deutsche Welle [via Walker]

Paradoxically, the current case ought to comfort Germans that there is no epidemic of Satanic abuse, if the history of similar US phenomenon — where there was never any evidence of ritualistically slaughtered corpses or even mere missing persons to correlate with hysterical claims that people witnessed bizarre cult rituals rife with murder and sometimes cannibalism — is any indicator. It is likely this case, where evidence appears to confirm the claims, is an isolated incident, although the tide of ‘the madness of the crowd’ will undoubtedly surge in its aftermath.

Fans Howl in Protest:

Judge Decides X-Men Aren’t Human: ‘Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz Inc. pushed Judge Barzilay to declare its heroes nonhuman so it could win a lower duty rate on action figures imported from China in the mid-1990s. At the time, tariffs put higher duties on dolls than toys. According to the U.S. tariff code, human figures are dolls, while figures representing animals or “creatures,” such as monsters and robots, are deemed toys.

To Brian Wilkinson, editor of the online site X-Fan (, Marvel’s argument is appalling. The X-Men — mere creatures? “This is almost unthinkable,” he says. “Marvel’s super heroes are supposed to be as human as you or I. They live in New York. They have families and go to work. And now they’re no longer human?” ‘ WSJ [via Walker]

Judge to Hear Air ID Challenge
“A U.S. District Court judge agreed to hear a challenge to an airline requirement that forces passengers to show identification before boarding a plane, despite a motion by the government and two airlines to dismiss it. John Gilmore, the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has sued United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Attorney General John Ashcroft, alleging that the ID requirement stems from a “secret law” that violates his right to anonymous travel within the United States.” Wired News