January 2, 2008

inch by inch

They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer, an excerpt

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it--please try to believe me--unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures' that no 'patriotic German' could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."


"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not?--Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, 'everyone' is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.'

January 1, 2008

"You Don't Understand Our Audience"

What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC, by John Hockenberry

... To get airtime, not only did serious news have to audition against the travails of Diana or a new book by Dr. Phil, but it also had to satisfy bizarre conditions. In 2003, one of our producers obtained from a trial lawyer in Connecticut video footage of guards subduing a mentally ill prisoner. Guards themselves took the footage as part of a safety program to ensure that deadly force was avoided and abuses were documented for official review. We saw guards haul the prisoner down a greenish corridor, then heard hysterical screaming as the guard shooting the video dispassionately announced, "The prisoner is resisting." For 90 seconds several guards pressed the inmate into a bunk. All that could be seen of him was his feet. By the end of the video the inmate was motionless. Asphyxiation would be the official cause of death.

This kind of gruesome video was rare. We also had footage of raw and moving interviews with this and another victim's relatives. The story had the added relevance that one of the state prison officials had been hired as a consultant to the prison authority in Iraq as the Abu Ghraib debacle was unfolding. There didn't seem to be much doubt about either the newsworthiness or the topicality of the story. Yet at the conclusion of the screening, the senior producer shook his head as though the story had missed the mark widely. "These inmates aren't necessarily sympathetic to our audience," he said. The fact that they had been diagnosed with schizophrenia was unimportant. Worse, he said that as he watched the video of the dying inmate, it didn't seem as if anything was wrong.

"Except that the inmate died," I offered.

"But that's not what it looks like. All you can see is his feet."

"With all those guards on top of him."

"Sure, but he just looks like he's being restrained."

"But," I pleaded, "the man died. That's just a fact. The prison guards shot this footage, and I don't think their idea was to get it on Dateline."

"Look," the producer said sharply, "in an era when most of our audience has seen the Rodney King video, where you can clearly see someone being beaten, this just doesn't hold up."

"Rodney King wasn't a prisoner," I appealed. "He didn't die, and this mentally ill inmate is not auditioning to be the next Rodney King. These are the actual pictures of his death."

"You don't understand our audience."

"I'm not trying to understand our audience," I said. I was getting pretty heated at this point--always a bad idea. "I'm doing a story on the abuse of mentally ill inmates in Connecticut."

"You don't get it," he said, shaking his head.

[much more at link]

December 31, 2007

Happy New World, Citizen

US and UK have become "endemic" surveillance societies

Take a look at the map below. It shows privacy rights around the world; the brighter the color, the better for privacy. If you live in the US or UK, you might (or might not, depending on your politics) be surprised to find both countries painted black, just like Russia, China, and Malaysia. A new report out from Privacy International (UK) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (US) claims that both countries now feature "endemic" surveillance. [more at link]


December 30, 2007


LRB · Ben Anderson: Diary

30 June. We were all chatting over a cup of tea outside the Naafi last night when a soldier sat down next to me and introduced himself. He asked what we were talking about, but didn't listen to my answer. His eyes were glazed and he was swaying slightly, struggling to keep upright. I thought he was stoned or drunk and looking to start a confrontation. But instead he just said: 'I'm scared.' I told him he'd be lying if he said otherwise, or mad. But my words had no impact. Then he said that on the last big operation, he and a friend were lying next to each other when his friend got shot through the eye and died instantly. The Taliban attack was so heavy that no one could move, so for an entire hour he just had to lie there next to his dead friend.

'I hate my job, I can't function, can't sleep and I'm totally scared about this big op coming up.'

He has just turned 18 and this is his first tour. One of his superiors reluctantly agreed to let him see a psychiatrist, but said that if he's lying he'll be crawling around the camp until he's bleeding from his hands and knees. He's praying for malaria or a bullet in the foot so that he can go home.

read it

December 29, 2007

Hi, I'm Mike Huckabee and I want to be your next friggin' moron.

Remarks on Pakistan Are Tailing Huckabee - New York Times:

Explaining statements he made suggesting that the instability in Pakistan should remind Americans to tighten security on the southern border of the United States, Mr. Huckabee said Friday that "we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities, except those immediately south of the border."

Asked to justify the statement, he later cited a March 2006 article in The Denver Post reporting that from 2002 to 2005, Pakistanis were the most numerous non-Latin Americans caught entering the United States illegally. According to The Post, 660 Pakistanis were detained in that period.

A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security, however, concluded that, over all, illegal immigrants from the Philippines, India, Korea, China and Vietnam were all far more numerous than those from Pakistan.

In a separate interview on Friday on MSNBC, Mr. Huckabee, a Republican, said that the Pakistani government "does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists." Those borders are on the western side of Pakistan, not the eastern side.

Further, he offered an Orlando crowd his "apologies for what has happened in Pakistan." His aides said later that he meant to say "sympathies."

OK, let's pretend he did offer the "Orlando crowd" his "sympathies." What the hell is he talking about? Was it a largely Pakistani crowd? Had he managed to corral them behind a fence?

December 26, 2007

best line of the day


Mitt Romney ... America's first clip-art presidential candidate ...

The rest of the article is sophomoric in the labored lad mag vein and not worth reading, but that nails the creep. I knew I'd seen him somewhere.

December 24, 2007

what he said

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!" . . .

"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"
. . .

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, st 1 (1843) via

December 22, 2007

from the ashes

My Favorite Word

After an epic struggle with an incompetent/larcenous domain registrar, this site is being rebuilt with a new look. Swing by when you have a chance.

least-surprising news of the day

A 1950 Plan: Arrest 12,000, Suspend Due Process - New York Times

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans that he suspected of disloyalty.

shapes of things not good

Paul Krugman speaking at Google on December 14 about the sub-prime housing crisis. Long but fascinating (and by "fascinating" I mean, of course, "terrifying").

Part of Google's great At Google Talks series on YouTube.

December 19, 2007

Hillary does Martha with a hint of Christopher Walken

No one does creepy AND cloying better.

Unfortunately, the boxes are empty because she gave all the goodies to Big Pharma.

it's what cats crave


Modern Mouser

Update: Now in legible format!

December 17, 2007

it's my blog and I don't need a reason

The Jingle Cats - White Christmas

December 16, 2007

epitaph for a country

Report Says That the Rich Are Getting Richer Faster, Much Faster - New York Times

The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher.

Yes, you read that right. The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans over the two years from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans in 2005....

[much more at link]

December 14, 2007

metaphor of the week

Huckaboom to Huckabust? | Gerard Baker - Times Online

There's a desultory quality to the way Republican voters are eyeing their options. A poll for The New York Times this week found that not a single one of the eight main candidates had favourable ratings above 50 per cent. The Republican field resembles a kind of faded carousel, where each gaudy horse gets a brief moment in the sun before rotating off into the shadows. First it was John McCain, then Mr Giuliani, then Mitt Romney, then Fred Thompson. Now it's Mr Huckabee. Wait a few weeks and it could be Mr Romney again.

The particular problem for the new front-runner is this. Each candidate in succession has been propelled into the glare by a lack of enthusiasm for the others. But when the light shines harshly on his own candidacy, it shows up some of the rust and wear.


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