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»  May 30, 2005

What the...?  

The Burning Woman: 571 years ago today, the 19-year-old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France for heresy. Not too far from our home is a gold-plated reproduction of a larger-than-life statue of Joan riding her charger with a pennant and laurel crown. Some years ago, Barbara and I established our late-spring Joan of Arc Memorial Barbecue, which I still need to schedule for this year.


»  May 29, 2005


Tim Golden is Pure Gold!: From the CJRDaily blogger Mariah Blake's interview with The New York Times' Tim Golden. Golden was the lead reporter in the recent two-part series on prisoner abuse and homicide by US forces at Bagram in Afghanistan.

MB: A few conservative bloggers and pundits have questioned the timing of the series. Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) went as far as suggesting that The New York Times was trying to avert attention from the Newsweek ordeal by running it. What would you say to these critics?

TG: I am reluctant to respond to people who call themselves by names like "Instapundit."


»  May 27, 2005


NPR's "Political Junkie" Nods Off: During the run-up to the filibuster showdown at the end of April, NPR's "Political Junkie" Ken Rudin got all up lefty blogosphere's ass for criticism of David Welna's attribution of the "nuclear option" phrase to Democrats:

Finally, congratulations to the dozens and dozens of free thinkers who wrote in, often using the exact same language, regarding a piece by NPR's David Welna on the oncoming collision in the Senate over the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominations.


The least they could do is change some of the wording and make it look like they actually did some independent thinking before pressing the "send" button.

Intrigued by which well-read lefty site might have generated those emails, I sent Rudin an email:
Mr. Rudin:

I was interested in your comments on the folks who sent in identical emails complaining about David Welna's attribution of "nuclear option" to Democrats. Did you do any research to identify the source of those identical words? I was curious about whether they were the results of copied and pasted text or if they had been generated by some type of form-based mailing system.

I figured that in this age of Google and the like that it would be relatively simple to identify the source of the "exact same language," if it indeed existed. If nothing else, it would tell us what was effective at pressuring NPR.

Surprisingly, Rudin wrote back almost immediately, saying he was going to touch on that point in his next column and asking for my hometown (presumable if he was going to include my letter in the upcoming column). The original piece was published April 28, but he didn't have another offering until last week (May 18), a slightly longer gap than usual.

His new column included several non-identical responses to the dismissive way he'd dealt with the original criticisms, and a sort of mea culpa:

It is fair to say that not everyone agreed with my reaction to a mass e-mailing about NPR's use of the "nuclear option" language (see April 28 column). I was, to say the least, dismissive of those who wrote in complaining about a piece by NPR's David Welna, in which he mentioned that Senate Democrats are calling Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist's threat to end the judicial filibuster the "nuclear option." A Web log took NPR to task by pointing out that the origin of the "nuclear option" term came not from the Democrats but from Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), and a lot of e-mails came in accusing us of parroting the White House line by attributing the use of the term to the Democrats. (I was equally dismissive that so many of the e-mails were little more than echoes of the language included in the blogs.)
Missing, still, is any verification of the source of that "mass e-mailing" or "echoes." I mean, if you get a lot of emails, does that in itself constitute a "mass" emailing? Or is it just a lot of concerned people?


»  May 21, 2005


Howling at the Howler: The Howler Machine may have been trying to prevent Bob Somerby from shooting himself in the foot when it went on the fritz Thursday, preventing the release of his attempted smackdown of The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel with David Brooks until he forced it into a stress position on Friday.

In his coverage of vanden Heuvel's appearance to discuss the Newsweek story about abuse of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay on Monday night's "Hardball" (16 May 2005), Somerby characterizes her defense thusly:

You can defend her statements as “technically accurate.” (Although the May 1 Times report to which she refers is based on another anonymous source, and vanden Heuvel gave that source a slight raise, from “interrogator” to “officer.” For the record, the Times report does not refer to any allegations about Gitmo toilets.) But as we watched, we were struck by how hard vanden Heuvel was emoting. And yes, we thought she was clearly suggesting that the toilet story is “probably true,” although she has no earthly way to know if it actually happened.
Of course, "no earthly way" discounts the numerous detainee reports, presumably because those accounts have no weight. And by Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross had confirmed that it had reported abuses of the Koran ("substantial enough for us to bring to the attention of authorities" according to an ICRC spokesman) from both detainees and military personnel to the Pentagon through 2003, after which the complaints ceased. The ICRC didn't confirm the toilet story, but it didn't deny it, either. It's entirely possible that vanden Heuvel may have had heard about the reports sometime in the past two years.

You hate to argue with Somerby, he does an awful lot of good work, but the next time his system gums up the works, maybe he ought to take a hint and wait another day for a possible revision.


»  May 20, 2005


Bloody Clots of History: The New York Times article on the torture and murder of two detainees in American custody at Bagram in Afghanistan had a particular resonance for me, as the direct cause of death for both men appears to have been blood clots in their lungs, something that almost killed me a couple of years back.

The jailers at Bagram used a technique called the peroneal strike, hitting a nerve bundle a few inches above the back of the knee, typically with a baton or a kick. One site giving advice to potential protestors has this to say about it:

[A] common peroneal strike could be used to slow an attacker without having to shoot him; sometimes a good thing. But it's also a good to inflict unjustified pain without leaving much in the way of evidence. It also makes a good defense in court when a cop has knee-capped a victim: "Your Honor, I was attempting a harmless control tactic addressing the common peroneal when the suspect raised his leg. It isn't my fault my baton contacted the knee, shattering it."
When a clot blocks a blood vessel into the lungs it causes a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism commonly results from the formation of a blood clot in a large vein in the legs, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you remember stories a couple of years warning people to get up from their plane seats and walk around every so often, that's because a DVT can form from just sitting too long in cramped quarters, although an injury or someone "pulpifying" your legs will do.

When the DVT breaks up, pieces of it travel through the venous system to places like the lungs where they may create a pulmonary embolism. As the blood vessel (or vessels in the case of more than one embolism) is restricted or blocked, blood no longer flows into that portion of the lungs and it begins to die. If enough blood vessels are blocked, not enough oxygen will reach the brain, heart, or other organs. That's generally a bad thing.

In my own case, the clot formed because of damage and reduced activity that resulted from a broken leg and angle. About seven weeks after surgery, I switched from crutches to a cane, then started to have some difficulty breathing that I attributed at first to the increased amount of work I had to do to get around. Two months to the day after breaking my leg, I passed out at the foot of the stairway to my office, and likely survived the multiple embolisms in my lungs only because of the quick actions of my wife, Barbara, and our proximity to excellent medical facilities, where I spent a night in critical care and a week in the pulmonary ward. I was on a regimen of blood thinners and testing for a year.

Less than four months after my episode, NBC correspondent David Bloom — just a year or so younger than myself — died of a pulmonary embolism while riding with US forces on the drive to Baghdad, likely from sitting in the cramped quarters of an armored vehicle, which could easily have been exacerbated by hitting his leg on something getting in or out of the vehicle.

I can tell you from experience, the week between the onset of my symptoms and the day I passed out was not a pleasant experience. I was constantly out of breath, it was difficult to concentrate, and as the week went on, getting up the stairs to my office became a trial. Even scooting around in my office chair, my preferred method of transport at the time, was tiring. On the stairs before I collapsed, I felt as if I was suffocating.

That, of course, is as nothing compared to what those poor bastards in Bagram experienced. Nobody was beating me. Nobody was tying me to the ceiling. Nobody was forcing me into stress positions for hours on end. Nobody was depriving me of sleep.

I cannot fathom the widespread cruelty depicted in the government report quoted by the Times story. I can't understand, given everything that's known about the effects and causes of DVT, why guards, interrogators and superiors at Bagram thought repeated blows to a prisoner's legs were acceptable technique.

Not everyone dies from an embolism, although it has a fairly high risk of death. In my own case, with multiple embolisms, I was quoted anything from 30% to 70% chance of death (the numbers the doctors and nurses mentioned got higher the more likely it looked like I was going to make it). Presumably, other detainees at Bagram received the same treatment. In all likelihood, some of them developed lesser cases of pulmonary embolism. I doubt whether anyone's followed up to see how many of them might have died after being released.

The amount of suffering the two men mentioned in the article is beyond my imagining. I can only extrapolate from my own minor experience, cosseted as I am in a familiar and safe environment with quality medical care available and people looking out for me. And man, it still really sucked.


»  May 19, 2005


Pepsi President Says America Is the Middle Finger: An interesting news item linked from the front page of the Huffington Post

Students graduating from the Columbia Business school MBA class of 2005 may have expected some fizz in a commencement speech by Pepsico President Indra Nooyi, an Indian-American acclaimed as one of the most powerful corporate executives in America and a putative CEO of the soft drink giant.


 According to some students who were present at the graduation ceremony and who fired up the issue in the blogosphere, Nooyi then reserved the remaining finger for the United States (and not North America, they say), launching into "a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world."

Like all good programmers, I'm a Diet Coke drinker myself, but I certainly hope that Ms. Nooyi has the stamina to stick out the almost inevitable Bill O'Reily Pepsi boycott.



Altercation letter 2: Oddly enough, a second note of mine (mentioning Mao and Newsweek) to Eric Alterman's blog appears in his "Correspondence Corner." Now I'm a regular!



Women in Combat: A further addition to bills passed by the Senate and House prohibiting women from participating in direct ground combat, would make an exception for women provided with special equipment.

Under development for the past four years, the Biological Ultimate Repelling Kill Hub, Army has been nominally accepted by Republican congressmen as a measure that would enable men to feel secure with their female counterparts serving on the front lines.

Inspired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's observation that "...females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength...," the B.U.R.K.H.A provides top-to-bottom protection for its wearer, as well as an exoskeletal strength booster and automated "infections" control.


A reader at DailyKos asks: "How heavy is this thing? I'm all for it, but if women are going to be lugging around some space suit to serve that can't be helpful."

Most of the details of the B.U.R.K.H.A. are still under wraps, but with the air conditioning unit needed for the expected desert war scenarios, I expect it'll probably weigh at least 50kg. Of course, that includes the servo-assisted titanium alloy exoskeleton.


»  May 17, 2005


Credible Witness: Norm Coleman gives evidence as to his own credibility:

Mr Coleman said he didn't think Mr Galloway had been a "credible witness". If it was found he had lied under oath, there would be "consequences", he said.
Consequences? Like what? Are they going to send a team of black helicopters to Bethnal Green and Bow to "render" Galloway to Guantanamo? Does Coleman seriously think the Senate can threaten Galloway with anything? Or is this more along the lines of the Bill O'Reilly Boycott of Canada?



Failure of Intelligence: Pakistan: As anyone following the Newsweek Koran/Quran flushing story knows by now, the Pentagon didn't have anything to say about it for ten days after the article was published, until people started dying in Afghan demonstrations. Apparently, the Muslim world reads American weeklies more closely than the US government does.

The New York Times article today contains this little bit of between-the-lines reporting showing just how out-of-touch (or duplicitious) the American intelligence services are:

The outcry over the Newsweek article apparently began in Pakistan, when Imran Khan, the legendary cricketer turned opposition politician, summoned reporters to a press conference on May 6 to draw attention to it. Once close to the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and a onetime crusader against corruption, Mr. Khan has been vocal in recent years against United States strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Islam is under attack in the name of the war on terror," Mr. Khan, now one of General Musharraf's most stalwart critics, told reporters. He pressed the Musharraf regime to demand an apology from Washington.

For the next several days, the report dominated the front pages of English and Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan and became the center of debate in the Pakistan Parliament. Predictably, a coalition of Islamist parties seized on the Newsweek report to accuse General Musharraf's government of colluding with the West against Islam. But the criticism was not limited to the religious right. Legislators from across the political spectrum denounced the reported desecration, and by Friday, May 13, Parliament had passed a unanimous resolution condemning it.

So for a week — beginning the day after the much-touted capture of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the latest #3 al-Qaeda guy — this was an issue in Pakistan, one of our allies in the War on Terror. It was a big enough issue that it made it to a resolution in their Parliament. Wouldn't that have been an ideal time for the administration to deny that the incident had happened instead of waiting for the situation to get worse? Is anyone paying attention to what's going on over there?

Scott McClellan, Larry DiRita, and the rest of the crowd pretending this is Newsweek's fault should be asked why the administration or Pentagon didn't address this issue when it became a news story in Pakistan. If they claim they didn't know it was an issue, people should consider how it's possible that something could be in the news over there for a week and make it onto the floor of the Pakistani Parliament without someone in the Bush administration knowing about it. Then again, if you can't get the information from someone by desecrating their religious practices, I suppose it's not real information.


»  May 16, 2005


Share Our Wealth: On September 8, 1935—soon to be seventy years ago—Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long was assassinated in the Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

Long was a controversial figure in his day and remains so among the people who've heard of him. Views on his status tend to divide sharply along class lines for those who know about his history. In this first posting on Long, I'd like to let him speak for himself, from the next but last chapter in his autobiography, published the year before his death.

From Every Man a King: The Autobiography of Huey P. Long by Huey P. Long, 1933



The increasing fury with which I have been and am to be, assailed by reason of the fight and growth of support for limiting the size of fortunes can only be explained by the madness which human nature attaches to the holders of accumulated wealth.

What I have proposed is:—


1. A capital levy tax on the property owned by any one person of 1% of all over $1,000,000 [dp: $14,275,000 in 2005 dollars]; 2% of all over $2,000,000 [$28,550,000] etc., until, when it reaches fortunes of over $100,000,000 [$1,427,500,000], the government takes all above that figure; which means a limit on the size of any one man's forture to something like $50,000,000 [$713,750,000]—the balance to go to the government to spread out in its work among all the people.

2. An inheritance tax which does not allow one man to make more than $1,000,000 [$14,275,000] in one year, exclusive of taxes, the balance to go to the United States for general work among the people.

The forgoing program means all taxes paid by the fortune holders at the top and none by the people at the bottom; the spreading of wealth among all the people and the breaking up of a system of Lords and Slaves in our economic life. It allows the millionaires to have, however, more than they can use for any luxury they can enjoy on earth. But, with such limits, all else can survive.

That the public press should regard my plan and effort as a calamity and me as a menace is no more than should be expected, gauged in the light of past events. According to Ridpath, the eminent historian:

"The ruling classes always possess the means of information and the processes by which it is distributed. The newspaper of modern times belongs to the upper man. The under man has no voice; or if, having a voice, his cry is lost like a shout in the desert. Capital, in the places of power, seizes upon the organs of public utterance, and howls the humble down the wind. Lying and misrepresentation are the natural weapons of those who maintain an existing vice and gather the usufruct of crime."

—Ridpath's History of the World, Page 410.

In 1932, the vote for my resolution showed possibly a half dozen other Senators back of it. It grew in the last Congress to nearly twenty Senators. Such growth through one other year will mean the success of a venture, the completion of everything I have undertaken,—the time when I can and will retire from the stress and fury of public life, maybe as my forties begin,—a contemplation so serene as to appear impossible.

That day will reflect credit on the States whose Senators took the early lead to spread the wealth of the land among all the people.

Then no tear dimmed eyes of a small child will be lifted into the saddened face of a father or mother unable to give it the necessities required by its soul and body for life; then the powerful will be rebuked in the sight of man for holding what they cannot consume, but which is craved to sustain humanity; the food of the land will feed, the raiment clothe, and the houses shelter all the people; the powerful will be elated by the well being of all, rather than through their greed.

Then those of us who have pursued that phantom of Jefferson, Jackson, Webster, Theodore Roosevelt and Bryan may hear wafted from their lips in Valhalla:



»  May 13, 2005


The Global War on Unemployment Compensation Fraud: As reported in today's Oregonian, the ever-vigilant anti-terror forces have caught another imminent threat in Portland, who's been scamming the state unemployment fund:

FBI inquiry leads to fraud case
A Muslim faces charges over jobless aid while he worked in Qatar, a lead developed by the Portland joint task force

A former Intel engineer and board member of the Portland Islamic School faces federal charges that he defrauded Oregon's unemployment compensation system.

A federal grand jury in Portland indicted Soubhi Fakher Abdulkarim, 40, on 32 counts of wire fraud and one count of stealing public money.

The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force found in April 2003 that the Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen was living and working in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, when he applied for and received benefits from the Oregon Employment Department.


For more than a year the state made electronic payments to Abdulkarim's Wells Fargo bank account in Oregon totaling $12,960, the indictment states. He reciprocated, prosecutors say, by filing weekly eligibility reports by e-mail.

But the JTTF discovered that Abdulkarim was being paid $9,000 a month as an Internet technology manager for Aspire, Qatar's new sports academy. The feds notified the state, and the payments to Abdulkarim stopped.


I feel safer. I mean, I'm glad the state's not paying Abdulkarim any more undeserved unemployment compensation (and I'm looking into those Qatar job offers a little more thoroughly) but I also wonder how much money the FBI spent investigating this guy, and what the heck they're doing, since this is their big Oregon success since the Brandon Mayfield fiasco.


»  May 11, 2005


The Oregon Lottery at 20:1: A short piece by Tom Grace in Willamette Week last month caught my eye, a geographic correlation between where the Oregon Lottery takes money in and the income levels in the same area.

According to Grace's article:

The 97217 ZIP code in North Portland, which has 49 video-poker outlets, topped Oregon's list for net video-poker sales in 2004 with $19.4 million-or $650 per man, woman and child. That's over a month's rent for a one-bedroom apartment in an area where the last U.S. Census classified nearly one in seven residents as living in poverty.

Compare that with the 97221 ZIP code in Portland's West Hills, where the median income is nearly double that in 97217. Net sales last year from its five video-poker outlets were $1.1 million, or $95 per person.



Exploding Property Lists: In a discussion on problems with long lists and the script window on DIRECT-L ("script editor and ve-e-ery long lists"), Cole Tierney posted a link (in the new DOUG Director Wiki) to his Lingo implementation of the php print_r function, which takes a property list and creates a human-readable, indented string:

put print_R ([#test: [#indent: "joe"], #test2: #bill], 1)
-- "[ \
    #test: [ \
        #indent: "joe" \
        ], \
    #test2: bill \
As a side note, I'd like to mention that I've finally finished my first DOUG article for a long time, on reading XML in Director using Flash XML objects created on-the-fly.


»  May 4, 2005


Criminalizing Association at TIME: In his generally admiring review of two biographies of Robert Oppenheimer, TIME's Richard Lacayo makes two incredibly dense statements:

Even a generous evaluation of his fate would call him complicit in his downfall. Whether through hubris or naiveté, he refused to take seriously that his years of association with communists would open him to suspicion.
and in the very next paragraph:

Oppenheimer always denied that he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. But he never sought to conceal that he had spent much of his professional life surrounded by party members, including his younger brother Frank. Even his wife had been a member before their marriage.
Despite the best efforts of people like J. Edgar Hoover, being a member of the Communist Party or sympathizing with communists wasn't any more of a crime than being a fascist (and it's still not, despite TIME's Acc Coulter cover).

Oppenheimer had been American enough to be chosen to lead the research team in the most secret scientific pursuit of World War II. He'd helped win the war for the US, and given them a nuclear monopoly. In a sane society, that contribution would have been weighed against his "years of association with communists." Perhaps Oppenheimer was naive about just how stupid people could be, but by any reasonable standards there should have been no "suspicion."

And how (and why) was he supposed to hide the fact that his brother and wife had been members of the Communist Party (an organization they could legally belong to)? He never "sought to conceal" it because if you weigh the fact that they weren't doing anything illegal against the fact that Oppenheimer built the fucking bomb, a rational person would have said "So what?"

This is another example of lazy writing, lazy editing, and lazy thought. Lacayo falls into a "blame the victim" fallacy of faulting Oppenheimer for being locked out of the nuclear research establishment while simultaneously acknowledging that the FBI illegally bugged his home, office, and phones. He mentions how Atomic Energy Commission chair Lewis Strauss used transcripts of those taps in hearings to strip Oppenheimer of his security clearance, but the guilt has already been placed on Oppenheimer by Lacayo for not taking his communist associations seriously and not trying to cover them up (and for signing farmworker rights petitions and raising funds for Republican Spain). Lacayo's implies that Oppenheimer was pretty much asking for it, what with wearing that pretty dress and all.

Oops. I meant what with being a liberal and all.

Only a few more weeks before they stop sending me these things.



Dvorkin Undermines NPR: As if NPR needed anyone to undermine it but itself, NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin wrote (in "When Those Pesky Blogs Undermine NPR News") about how information is just too darn free. A letter.

Mr. Dvorkin:

You state near the end of a recent column that "The blogs showed NPR, when it posted the Defense Department document, that the Web has changed both the rules and the means of disseminating information."

The npr.org domain has been around since 1993. Are you seriously saying that an organization that has had an Internet presence for a dozen years, that posts hundreds of shows a week online, and has a fairly sophisticated Web presence itself is just now realizing that the "means of disseminating information" have changed?

[UPDATE] Unbelievably, Dvorkin wrote back within minutes. Believably, the response is virtually meaningless:

Yes. The volume and scope of all internet information is becoming so prominent, that it needs to be acknowledged. NPR website does a good job, but it is a mere drop in the ocean.




Reed vs. the Conservatives: The May 2005 issue of Reed, the alumni magazine of the college I finally graduated from, has an article questioning whether the college's traditionally liberal campus keeps the conservatives down. It somehow completely misses David Horowitz's current anti-liberal campus crusade. It prompted a letter.

Regarding the "Uncivil Discourse" article in the May 2005 issue I'm a bit perplexed. When I was a student during the Reagan and G.H.W. Bush presidencies there seemed to be no end of students arguing over virtually everything. Indeed, Anne Bothner-By ('86) is quoted in the article as saying "Reed students are very combative." Are the conservatives less combative (something that seems hardly likely if you turn on the TV or radio)? Or do they just have a harder time making the kind of fact-based argument that tends to gain support from the type of people who choose to study at Reed?

As I read the article this April weekend, a conclave of Christian conservatives, addressed by the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate, was meeting to discuss how a largely Republican-appointed federal judiciary is biased against Christians, and how judges who disagree with them might be removed from office, which might give some pause to those students considering careers in law. The Kansas Board of Education is about to decide whether thinly-disguised creationism should be included in the science curriculum, which would presumably affect whether high school students see the connections between chemistry, physics, and biology as mysteries of nature or acts of God. You tell me whether that will affect their future careers on the edge of science and the lives of anyone planning to teach said students.

The discussion is open. It has been open. I was attacked for pointing out that folks who complained (two years after the incident) about police twisting their arms and letting them go at Safeway after they were removed from the Development Office during the South Africa divestment sit-in got off pretty easy. A few years older than my fellow students and from a blue-collar background, I found Reed student liberalism (and conservatism) broad but not particularly deep. As in the real world, a lot of the people didn't care about politics at all.

What I found most astounding about Gay Monteverde's article though, given its premise, is its failure to mention the current campaign led by David Horowitz's Students for Academic Freedom to pass an "Academic Bill of Rights" in state legislatures nationwide that purports to protect academic freedom but is viewed by faculty groups in states where it's moving forward (such as Florida) as a restriction on acceptable topics of discussion in the classroom and the ability to correct students whose views don't mesh with topics like evolution. The campaign is predicated largely on painting the faculties and student bodies of colleges as "too liberal." As a private college, Reed wouldn't be affected by anything like that passing in Oregon, but the timing's certainly a heck of a coincidence.



Michael Medved Hates Soldiers But Loves War: Wonkette notes that film critic (and Yale honors graduate) Michael Medved takes Hollywood to task for not being patriotic (where have I heard that before?), blaming "Many of the major stars today [who] have an Ivy League background." He can't understand why popular wars like the first Gulf War haven't spawned more loving coverage, just conflicted works like Three Kings (where even the characters who are only in it for the money end up putting their lives on the line to help some Iraqi civilians), The Manchurian Candidate (which wasn't so much against the war as it was anti-corporatism), and Courage Under Fire (not that anyone watched it).

In what is perhaps his finest moment of black kettle-calling, Medved blasts Oliver Stone (who attended Yale for a year) for his movie Platoon and a speech he gave nearly 20 years ago when he accepted an ACLU award. After quoting Stone's criticisms of the military-industrial complex and the Cold War, Medved asks: "Is it any wonder that people who deliver statements like that also feel the need to trash the U.S. in film after film after film?" After his year at Yale, of course, Oliver Stone did a tour of duty in Vietnam and received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Medved, whose jaw-droppingly name-dropping biography notes that he was classmates at Yale Law with Bill and Hillary Clinton (although he didn't finish his law degree), turned 19 in 1967, the same year that Oliver Stone headed off to serve his country. Medved had a Selective Service "occupational deferment" teaching middle school three hours a day.


»  May 3, 2005


A Cloud Hangs Over TIME: In the interest of full disclosure, let me put some of my long history as a sci-fi geek up front. I've got my original white D&D box (circa 1976) on my office shelf, and I played role-playing games for most of a decade. I worked for nearly four years in a science-fiction/fantasy book & game shop. I conceived and organized a science-fiction convention in 1983. My wife and I first met at a monthly party organized by sci-fi writer John Varley. So what follows here is not a slam of people who enjoy a fantastic story.

Darth Vader: Mr. Force

Rather, it's a call for a saner type of fandom, particularly in the case of TIME writer John Cloud, whose fawning cover story on Ann Coulter spawned choking noises from people like myself who don't think people who advocate terrorism and the targeted killing of journalists should be given airbrushed coverage. Sometimes, it can lead to a bit of criticism, as it does here. And here. And here.

This week, Cloud recounts "How Star Wars Saved My Life" although he doesn't really explain exactly what it saved his life from. He does mention having "crushes on most of the boys in the neighborhood" — at six; that he has a boyfriend; that he regularly came home when he was twelve with spitballs in his hair. But there's no explanation as to how Star Wars made any of this more bearable, particularly. All I had during my geeky youth was 2001 and the original Star Trek, but they didn't exactly save me from getting bullied.

Like a lot of over-eager fans, Cloud approaches his 900-word essay with a true believer's passion and little perspective. He (or an editor) should have noticed the eighth of the essay — complete with dialog — Cloud devotes to recounting his favorite scene from the original movie that even sounds like you're talking to the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. And perhaps it's my athiest heart talking, but I'm fairly certain that by the time I was 12 — even with Cloud's upbringing — I wouldn't have been praying "the Lord would send me to live with Han and Chewie."

This lack of perspective, even in the thirtysomething Cloud's life, is what I think went wrong with the Coulter interview — apart from even thinking of or approving of it. At one point in my life, I met a lot of sci-fi writers, some of whom were big at the time and others who have become big in the last couple of decades. But even then I knew they were just people, and that's something a writer for TIME should know about any interviewee, whether they're someone they like or someone they don't.

There are always fans whose internal governor of gushiness is switched off, however, and they may not know anything about the person, they're just thrilled to be talking to them. To have the illusion that they're being treated as an equal, even when the famous person's only talking to them to peddle a book, a movie, or a story about Iraqi WMDs. Starstruck reporters can't be objective about their subjects.



Bring Back Crackers: In the comments for David Niewarts's "Beyond the Minutemen" at Orcinus, poster Josh Jasper quips "how about forming a vigilante gang of accountants, journalists and bloggers, and going off into the American frontier of agribuisness, meatpacking and day labor." I second the motion! It sounds like a job for Michael Moore; I can see the gang being led by his creation Crackers, the Corporate Crime Chicken.


What the...?  

Gotta Love the Hot Teens: I don't normally examine the stuff that manages to slip through my spam filter, but something in this one caught my eye as I was deleting it. I guess whoever put it together (whatever country they're from) ran it through a spell checker...

I am new to Internet and I am very much excited about doing my own privet shows. its free for now, b/c they say I am still an armature
So I'm guessing Julie — for that was her purported name — is some sort of artificial construct doing "shows" in some sort of hedge.


»  May 1, 2005


Big Man on Gaming: Brian Robbins: Brian Robbins of Fuel Industries (and once upon a time of CleverMedia) has been poking the Director/Shockwave nose under the tent of the professional gaming world for several years now, with appearances at the Game Developers Conference and participation in the International Game Developers Association.

He's been so busy, in fact, that he didn't make it to the Director Get-Together at GDC 2005 in March. We waved in passing from about 50 feet apart as he walked with a client down the hallway past where I was working.

And lately, I've let my reading pile up enough that I've got a big stack of magazines waiting for me to go through and recycle them because I haven't read them. But I chanced on the back of the IGDA's 2004 Annual Report yesterday, and a face leaped out at me from the back cover.