Several days ago I received a telephone call from an old friend who is a longtime Amnesty International staffer. He asked me whether I, as a former Soviet "prisoner of conscience" adopted by Amnesty, would support the statement by Amnesty's executive director, Irene Khan, that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is the "gulag of our time."
"Don't you think that there's an enormous difference?" I asked him.
"Sure," he said, "but after all, it attracts attention to the problem of Guantanamo detainees."
Where did we fathers go wrong? We spend twice as much time with our kids as we did two decades ago, but on television we're oblivious ("Jimmy Neutron"), troubled ("The Sopranos"), deranged ("Malcolm in the Middle") and generally incompetent ("Everybody Loves Raymond"). Even if Dad has a good job, like the star of "Home Improvement," at home he's forever making messes that must be straightened out by Mom.
Ed Cone, on the other hand, thinks dads are getting off easy. But Ezra Klein observes: "If the majority of shows presented other demographics the way they present fathers, they wouldn't survive a day. Ignorant blacks? Bitchy, materialistic moms? Moronic, accident-prone dads? The whole set fits, but only the last is widely allowable."
Roger Simon wonders: "What's going on with the 'liberal' (what in the world does that mean anymore?) wing of the Democratic Party. First Senator Durbin compares the US military to Nazis. Now this? Did these people have mass lobotomies? Enough!" Indeed.
I came unhinged and called Sen. Durbin an "idiot" for his violation of the Hitler Rule, which holds that a politician must never, ever, compare anything or anyone to Hitler or the Nazis, no matter how apt the comparison. Durbin's comparison was not apt, however. ... Mainly I was worried I'd call him Sen. Durkin.
Omid Sheikhan, an Iranian student, spent three months in jail last year - including a month of solitary confinement and torture. All because he spoke too freely on his blog. Now, he faces a trial on uncertain charges. In the wake of recent convictions against Iranian bloggers on dubious merits, we aim to put enough pressure on the Iranian authorities that they drop the charges against Mr. Sheikhan before his trial begins on October 8.
Read the whole thing, and sign their petition if you'd like to help.
posted at 06:28 AM by Glenn Reynolds
June 17, 2005
ON THE ROAD tomorrow, alas, heading home. Blogging will be light.
University of Michigan scientists have created the nanotechnology equivalent of a Trojan horse to smuggle a powerful chemotherapeutic drug inside tumor cells – increasing the drug's cancer-killing activity and reducing its toxic side effects.
It's dendrimer technology, not nanobots, but it's cool.
My suggestion - the next time the Senator from Illinois is speaking on the subject of prisoner abuse and finds himself grasping for an historical parallel, perhaps he could invoke the proud history of the great city of Chicago.
Read the whole thing to find out why. (There's also this great line in the comments: "I hate Illinois Nazi-equaters.") If I were a Senator, I'd introduce a resolution censuring Durbin. I suspect, though, that the Republicans would rather keep him talking.
UPDATE: For some perspective, go here -- but only if graphic photos don't bother you. And Rand Simberg has more perspective, without photos.
More here: "Every member of the military and their families and every voter who admires the military should be watching very closely as the Democratic Party and MSM say and do nothing about Dick Durbin's smear. You can't be a supporter of the military and allow the #2 Democrat in the Senate to put the Nazi/Stalin/Pol Pot brand on the troops, which is exactly what Durbin did."
I LINKED TO AUSTIN BAY'S REPORTING from Iraq yesterday, but this passage is worth highlighting:
I find that this return visit to Iraq spurs thoughts of America– of American will to pursue victory. I don’t mean the will of US forces in the field. Wander around with a bunch of Marines for a half hour, spend fifteen minutes with Guardsmen from Idaho, and you will have no doubts about American military capabilities or the troops’ will to win. But our weakness is back home, on the couch, in front of the tv, on the cable squawk shows, on the editorial page of the New York Times, in the political gotcha games of Washington, DC. It seems America wants to get on with its wonderful Electra-Glide life, that September 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the US political class?
Read the whole thing, which is quite critical not only of the usual suspects, but in particular of the Bush Administration for not making its case strongly or clearly enough.
posted at 12:57 PM by Glenn Reynolds
RAND SIMBERG EMAILS that he saw an excellent commencement speech at USC and that it was very humble, and focused on the graduates, not the speaker, notwithstanding the speaker's eminence. There's video here.
posted at 09:04 AM by Glenn Reynolds
PROBABLY THE LAST SCIENCE FICTION POST, though email continues to pour in. What about Lois McMaster Bujold? Lots of people asked that.
Somebody asked about Frank Herbert, but he's really a 1970s writer. My colleague Becky Jacobs claims that the most recent books in the Dune franchise are actually good, but he lost me with Refrigerator Repairmen of Dune or somesuch, many years ago.
There was some outrage that I didn't mention Neal Stephenson, but actually I did in the linked recommendations post. But he rocks
Doug Weinstein, a fan of out-and-out space opera, loves Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano books, and I think they're pretty good. (Weirdly, he doesn't like David Weber's Honor Harrington books, which I think most people regard as superior).
As noted before, I'm a big fan of Charles Stross. So I should note that he's made his new book, Accelerando, available for free download with a Creative Commons license even before it appears in bookstores. Did I mention it's free? What are you waiting for?
IRANIAN ELECTIONS: Norm Geras is busting double standards: "The man who was telling us only two days ago that American democracy isn't quite good enough by European standards is today putting in a good word for the Iranian election."
WANT TO DO BLOG REPORTING? You might want to take a look at these free online courses in shooting video, etc., from the BBC.
posted at 08:53 AM by Glenn Reynolds
SCREENSHOTS OF CENSORSHIP: Rebecca MacKinnon tried to set up a Chinese blog on MSN Spaces using the phrase: “I love freedom of speech, human rights, and democracy.”
She has screenshots of the rather disturbing results.
posted at 08:44 AM by Glenn Reynolds
June 16, 2005
FOR THOSE WHO'VE WRITTEN asking for updates on the Insta-Wife, you can see that she's doing better. She's been swimming in the ocean and the pool, and generally having a good time. The recovery isn't complete, but it's come a long way (compare this photo), and we're grateful.
We do these beach trips most summers: A big house with a lot of family members -- 16 this time, including my brother's Nigerian father-in-law, who's on an extended visit to the states. (He likes the beach, which reminds him of River State where he grew up).
I really enjoy the trips, and it's fun to see all the cousins playing and hanging out together. I'm a big believer in the old-fashioned extended family, and it's easy to see the benefits, especially for the kids.
God forbid, if something happens to me over here, I do not want to be used by the likes of Phil Hansen in Seattle, Michael Moore, Gary Trudeau, or Ted Koppel, to make their political points against the war, the President, and finally the country, all the while saying "they support the troops".
SCIENCE FICTION RECOMMENDATIONS: It's now to the point where I'm getting emails complaining about the people I haven't mentioned:
Where’s Larry Niven? Is he not considered to be that good? Or is he just old?
The book Ringworld is worth checking out. It’s the one about the giant ring that orbits a sun. The popular game Halo was based on it (the ringworld part).
I don’t know if it’s so great, but definitely worthy of note.
He has other fun stuff too, not fancy or mind-blowing, but fun. Why isn’t he on the list?
Niven's great, and the shared-universe series on the Man-Kzin wars (latest installment, which I haven't read yet, is here) is very entertaining. But Niven has been around for a while; I was asked for recommendations for post-Seventies stuff. But while I"m at it, I highly recommend The Mote in God's Eye, a very interesting alien-contact story with very interesting aliens, coauthored with Jerry Pournelle.
Various other readers want to know why I didn't recommend Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, etc. They're all good -- I just wasn' trying to be comprehensive. I very much enjoyed Benford's Galactic Center stories (In the Ocean of Night is the first). Bear's Darwin's Radio, and the books that follow, is excellent. Brin's Kiln People, which I think was the last thing of his I read, was fun, though a minor work. He's probably best-known for his Uplift Trilogy, of which Brightness Reef is the first installment.
I like Joe Haldeman--and recently re-read Forever War; unfortunately, it
seems almost quaint in its datedness now.
I agree about Haldeman -- the book's a period piece. Still good, as long as you remember that. Reynolds (no relation) is very good. Gene Wolfe is a superb writer, but I'm not crazy about his storytelling -- though I nearly wrote a piece using his novella, "The Shadow of the Torturer," as a metaphor for legal education. Reader Rae Leggett agrees about Reynolds:
Since I've spent all day home with the flu reading, I'd like to recommend anything by Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space in particular. Good, hard science science fiction with believable characters, and it explores the consequences of nanotechnology, good and bad, very well. His other books are Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. Chasm City is different from the others...it's reallly a hard science mystery novel, set in the same universe as the others.
I'll just note that people were jailed for sedition over far less in prior wars. That isn't to say that we should be doing that now, but it's worth noting when people emote about the Bushitler Texas-Nazi Police State.
The moment the left has been awaiting hopefully for the past six weeks has arrived at last—and like everything the left hopes for these days, it's going to flop. . . . The document itself will now take center stage. And that's the problem.
As far as I could tell, there's never been any there, there.
Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman who sparked a national debate as her parents and husband fought over keeping her alive, was destined to remain in a vegetative state and wouldn't have benefited from therapy, an autopsy found.
Schiavo, who was 41 when doctors removed feeding tubes that kept her alive, had a severely atrophied brain that weighed about half of what a normal brain does, Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin said during a press conference in Largo, Florida. She was completely blind, he said.
``No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons,'' Thogmartin said during the televised conference. ``Her vision centers of her brain were dead.''
Which seems to undercut the claim that she recognized visitors.
UPDATE: Neal Boortz offers a brisk I-told-you-so that should be must reading, at least for those of you who sent me hatemail or made nasty phone calls. Shame on you for being such . . . tools.
ROBERT SAMUELSON says it's the end of Europe. As I wrote recently, I think that such forecasts are premature, but the problems inspiring them are real.
posted at 03:52 PM by Glenn Reynolds
POWER LINE offers an exercise in comparison and contrast.
posted at 03:46 PM by Glenn Reynolds
UNSCAM UPDATE: FoxNews has PDFs of the Annan emails mentioned earlier. And Roger Simon continues to follow the story.
posted at 03:35 PM by Glenn Reynolds
TECHNOLOGY REVIEW'S CONCERNS ABOUT "DIGITAL MOBS" receive a polite dismissal from Eugene Volokh. Actually, the media "mobs" who have done the most damage over the past few decades have been composed of professional journalists, not bloggers.
MORE SCIENCE FICTION: Lots of readers have been writing in with suggestions as to authors. Iain M. Banks -- whom I've never read -- seems a favorite, particularly his Use of Weapons. And Dodd Harris writes:
One of the best hard SF authors I've discovered in the last decade is Peter F. Hamilton. He started with SF detective novels (Mindstar Rising, et al), but it's his "Night's Dawn" trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist,The Naked God) that's his highest accomplishment. It blends what can only be called a 'fantasy' element into hard SF so plausibly that one only notices the fact that it's a distinct departure from the usual SF fare after the fact. After reading it, one will inevitably end up reading the short story collection "A Second Chance At Eden" (which includes an SF detective story that introduces the Universe in which "Night's Dawn" takes place) just to inhabit that Universe a little while longer.
I'm a big Vinge fan, and the Haldeman books are very good, too. Reader Robert Katz emails:
I also liked Old Man's War, though I found the ending to be just a bit too pat, but allow me to recommend Edward Maret (Willowgate Press, ISBN 1-930008-00-7) by (who else?) myself! It came out in 2001, was picked by Booksense as one of the notable science fiction novels of 2001 and was recommended for the Nebula Award by Paul Levinson, at that time President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. One reviewer referred to it as, "The Count of Monte Cristo meets Robocop," which was pretty much my intention.
Going back a few years, you might try the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, particularly The Player of Games and Use of Weapons, also Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury (one of my favorite writers), a poorly disguised followup to Asimov's Foundation series. Also the recent The Myriad, by R. M. Meluch, a writer who deserves to be much better known than she is.
Lots of stuff I haven't read there. And reader Brett McGill emails:
Please let me call your attention to Dan Simmons' book Ilium and its sequal, due out a the end of this month, Olympos.
Ilium grabbed me like no other book had in a long time. It wraps together the Trojan War, Greek gods living on Mars's Olympus Mons, the Tempest, the Iliad, an Eloi-like race of humans living in the future, robotic-human moravecs occupying the moons of Jupiter and the last Jew on earth in book I literally had trouble putting down. (Cliche but true.)
I tried to read Simmons' Hyperion a few years ago and just couldn't get into it. But lots of people like his stuff, and I should probably give it another chance.
So scary tales about U.S. "death stars" hovering over target countries promising swift strikes from space rely merely on readers not understanding the basics of orbital motion in space. A satellite circles Earth in an ever-shifting path that passes near any particular target only a few times every 24 hours, not every 10 minutes. It's quicker and cheaper to strike ground targets with missiles launched from the ground.
Nor is a space rendezvous robot, such as those under development by half a dozen nations and commercial consortia, a "space weapon" — despite media claims that one of them, the Air Force's XSS-11 satellite, could perform as a weapon. Plenty of productive peaceful rationales for these vehicles exist, from refueling to repair to resupply, and they are going to be deployed in large numbers in coming years.
Raising unjustified fears about them and other so-far-totally-conceptual space vehicles may be politically or ideologically satisfying to some, but in the big picture, feeding foreign prejudices and stoking the insecurities of some naturally paranoid cultures is a dangerous game.
I've written about this subject myself, most recently here.
Men in their 70's raced on bikes for 40 kilometers in this month's National Senior Games in Pittsburgh. A 68-year-old woman threw the discus 85 feet, and a 69-year-old man hurled the javelin nearly half the length of a football field.
Is it possible that people this age are still physically capable of putting in a full day's work at the office?
I realize I'm being impolitic. In the Social Security debate, the notion of raising the retirement age is the elephant in the room, as Robin Toner and David Rosenbaum reported in The Times on Sunday. Both liberal and conservative economists favor the change, but politicians are terrified to even mention it to voters.
Americans now feel entitled to spend nearly a third of their adult lives in retirement. Their jobs are less physically demanding than their parents' were, but they're retiring younger and typically start collecting Social Security by age 62. Most could keep working - fewer than 10 percent of people 65 to 75 are in poor health - but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, they prefer not to.
Today's notion of "retirement age" is a fairly recent one. Otto von Bismarck is often credited with craftily setting the retirement age at 65 because most people wouldn't live that long -- though in fact, Bismarck set it at 70, and it wasn't lowered to 65 until later. But the justification for retirement has always been that by retirement age people were nearly used up, and deserved a bit of fun and then a comfortable and dignified decline until death. Get rid of the decline and death, and you've given up the justification for living -- as Social Security recipients, at least, do -- off other people's efforts on what amounts to a form of welfare . Logically, retirement should be put off until people are medically old, or perhaps just replaced with disability, and those who are able to work should do so, while those desirous of not working should save up as for a long vacation.
The sooner we start moving in this direction, the better for everyone, particularly as the underlying trend will -and should -- continue.
posted at 03:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
REBECCA MACKINNON has thoughts on free speech, blogging and China -- er, and Microsoft. "I agree with Scoble: no outsiders, including Microsoft, can force China to change. But nobody's asking Microsoft to force China to do anything. The issue is whether Microsoft should be collaborating with the Chinese regime as it builds an increasingly sophisticated system of Internet censorship and control."
posted at 09:42 AM by Glenn Reynolds
I LIKE LILEKS' SCREEDBLOG. but I wish he'd get permalinks for his entries.
posted at 09:17 AM by Glenn Reynolds
YESTERDAY'S BOOK-MEME POSTING produced requests for more. Maybe there's something to it after all! Reader Jim Hohnbaum emails:
Glenn, could you please recommend some science fiction authors? I devoured the stuff (Clarke, Asimov, etc.) from the late 50’s through the mid 70’s until marriage, career, children, and so on. When I went back to the bookstore look, it seemed from glancing at the racks that the field had been taken over by fantasy works. Some pointers to authors would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Well, reader Joshua Kay has emailed to endorse two titles I've recommended before:
Both of those are quite good. Here's an earlier post with quite a few book recommendations.
I'm also a big fan of Greg Egan. His Permutation City and Diaspora are among the best hard science fiction I've read in recent years, and the opening pages of Permutation City are some of the best writing in science fiction.
Apologies certain are in order, but Congress isn't the party which needs to make them. It's the Supreme Court which owes the apology.
Meanwhile West Virginia blogger Don Surber notes that Robert Byrd was uncharacteristically silent on this question: "The protector of the Right to Filibuster was silent when the filibuster's darkest days were acknowledged."
posted at 09:13 AM by Glenn Reynolds
HOSSEIN DERAKSHAN IS BLOGGING THE IRANIAN ELECTIONS: From Iran.
UNSCAM UPDATE: The New York Times has an interesting memo report:
Kofi Annan has said several times that he did not discuss the contract with his son and was not involved in Cotecna's selection. A United Nations panel headed by Paul A. Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, concluded in March that Mr. Annan had not influenced the awarding of the $10 million dollar-a-year contract to the company.
But the memo appears to raise questions about the secretary general's role.
I'm not terribly confident that the Volcker Commission will get to the bottom of this, but I hope that someone will.
For months, Kofi Annan has denied any connection between the UN Oil-for-Food contractor and himself through his son Kojo. The Secretary-General has gone so far as to state that he never met with Cotecna on OFF business and only had the most general of information from his son. However, Cotecna has found an e-mail that indicates their executives did indeed meet with Kofi, making his earlier denials look more and more suspicious:
I've gotta get on record saying this rash of celebrities claiming they've been involved in stalkerazzi-related traffic accidents is straight-up bullshit. How can anybody be taking these claims at face value? Out-of-control skank Lindsay Lohan, who has already racked up an abysmal driving record in her 18 years, gets in a crash with a photographer, and we're supposed to assume the photographer's at fault? Accident-prone xanthochroid Cameron Diaz blames nameless shutterbugs for her bad luck, and the papers believe her? The legendarily high-strung J.Lo shows signs of persecution anxiety, and that's the fault of the paparazzi?
I'd prefer, of course, if all of these stars were no longer covered. Give 'em what they want . . . .
As video cameras, and digital storage devices (like the iPod), grow smaller and cheaper, they have become useful as a military intelligence tool. The latest example of this is a lightweight video camera that can be attached to a helmet, and the video stored on a 30 gigabyte hard drive the size of an iPod. That provides enough storage for 2-46 hours of video (depending on the resolution.)
It was civilian security personnel, former military people, who first started doing this sort of thing. Small vidcams attached to the dashboard, were used to photograph a mission. Reviewing the tapes later would often reveal an attempted attack, or some other danger that needed to be studied, and dealt with in the future. Now a British company, Double Vision (DV), is producing wearable vidcam systems for police, journalists, military personnel and athletes.
I want some of these for bloggers. . . .
posted at 08:36 AM by Glenn Reynolds
ROGER SIMON NOTES A DISTURBING EXAMPLE of Microsoft sucking up to China. Bill Gates, and the rest of the Microsoft crowd, should be embarrassed, and I agree with Roger that if this story bears out, it's hard to imagine MSN Spaces doing well with the blogging community.