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Ethel the Blog
Observations (and occasional brash opining) on science, computers, books, music and other shiny things that catch my mind's eye. There's a home page with ostensibly more permanent stuff. This is intended to be more functional than decorative. I neither intend nor want to surf on the bleeding edge, keep it real, redefine journalism or attract nyphomaniacal groupies (well, maybe a wee bit of the latter). The occasional cheap laugh, raised eyebrow or provocation of interest are all I'll plead guilty to in the matter of intent. Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

The usual copyright stuff applies, but I probably won't get enraged until I find a clone site with absolutely no attribution (which, by the way, has happened twice with some of my other stuff). Finally, if anyone's offended by anything on this site then please do notify me immediately. I like to keep track of those times when I get something right.


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Friday, February 14, 2003

AmPol provides another example of the propaganda machine in action vis a vis the supposed connection between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Here's the original version of an MSNBC web story.
THE SPEAKER on the tape, aired on the al-Jazeera Arab satellite station, described al- Qaida fighters in Afghanistan withstanding heavy U.S. bombardment by hiding in trenches.

"With all the might of the enemy, they were unable to defeat us and take over that position. ... We hope that our brothers in Iraq will do the same as we did," said the voice.

The speaker said the United States was waging a psychological war against Iraq and urged Muslims to stage suicide attacks on Americans.

At the same time, the message also called on Iraqis to rise up and oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is a secular leader.

He said Muslims who go along with the United States in a war against Iraq were infidels and should be seen as targets of a jihad, or holy war.

Here's the new version, scrubbed free of all the nasty doubleplusungood stuff.
THE STATEMENT also calls Iraqi President Saddam Hussein an "infidel," but stresses that the paramount battle for Muslims is with the United States and its allies. (An initial, extemporaneous translation mistakenly quoted the speaker as calling on Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein.)
The newer and obviously more careful translation undoubtedly has Bin Laden calling on Iraqis to throw flowers towards Saddam Hussein rather than overthrow him. The Cabal and its army of simpering sycophants is well on its way towards inventing a fourth category of lies.
posted by Steven Baum 2/14/2003 02:36:23 PM | link

Cryptome supplies an interesting tale of how the latest British report on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction is not only unconvincing, but also plagiarized. First, a bit of speculation as to why Blair et al. perpetrated this rather clumsy fraud.
It is suspected that the main reason that the British Government has been forced to use this material is that the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6 simply does NOT agree with Government claims of a direct Iraq-Al Qa'ida link, has no information to support it and refuses, in this case, to manufacture evidence to suit the British Government. Taken with the sparseness and poor quality of the evidence that Powell was able to present to the United Nations after 12 years of intelligence gathering by the CIA, NSA, DIA, NRO, Israel's Mossad, Turkey's MIT, Britain's MI6 and GCHQ, defectors, Kurds and the like, it would seem that Washington is also still desperately short of convincing, let alone 'Smoking Gun', evidence. Hardly a profoundly sound basis for war, unless this is only a smoke screen and the real reason is, as some critics have always claimed, to gain control of the strategic high ground and the regions oil reserves.
Then, a bit about the plagiarized sources.
The British government's latest report on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, which claims to draw on "intelligence material", has been revealed as a wholesale plagiarism of three articles, one of them by a graduate student in California. The compiler did not even clean up the typos or standardize the spelling.

The report, released by the British government last Monday, is entitled "Iraq - Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation". It is reproduced online.

The first sentence of the document claims that it draws "upon a number of sources, including intelligence material".

This is somewhat misleading.

The bulk of the 19-page document (pp.6-16) is directly copied without acknowledgement from an article in last September's Middle East Review of International Affairs entitled "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis".

The author of the piece is Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has confirmed that his permission was not sought; in fact, he didn't even know about the British document until Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge-based Iraq analyst,mentioned it to him.

It's quite striking that even Marashi's typographical errors and anomolous uses of grammar are incorporated into the Downing Street document.

posted by Steven Baum 2/14/2003 02:16:34 PM | link

Memory Hole item tells how some FBI records about Nazi war crimes that are being turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration, ostensibly so those who paid for their collection and will pay for their storage may actually see them, may remain classified - fifty years on. And why can't the proles see them yet, if ever? Because the CIA and the OSI (which handles Nazi-related matters) must first review them. Michael Ravnitzky, a staff member of the interagency working group that dealt with the matter, has released a list of the records released by the FBI, because:
In my opinion, it is useful for researchers to see which files are NOT opened as well as which files become opened.
It's quite the lengthy list, with one particularly large section being a list of countries involved in the flight of Axis capital. What's the old saying? Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.
posted by Steven Baum 2/14/2003 01:41:00 PM | link

Memory Hole tells me that the Yellow Times site was yanked offline by its host.
The dissident news-commentary Website, Yellow Times, was suddenly shut down by its hosting service during the first week of February 2003. The host claimed that Yellow Times was using up too many resources, yet when YT offered to pay for more service, the host refused. Making the claim even more ridiculous is the fact that YT is 100% text. No streaming audio or video, not even any jpegs. To say that an all-text site is using up too much bandwidth and other resources is nutty. It is almost certainly yet another (temporary) casualty of the War on Dissent.

The people of YT are moving quickly to get their site back online. In the meantime, they've asked that The Memory Hole publish this important new article regarding the latest alleged tape from Osama bin Laden and the media's suspect reporting on it.

One wonders if the spineless provider was pressured into it or was doing what comes naturally to the spineless. Who was it that said freedom of the press belongs to those who own one? How long before the last "First Amendment Zone" (to be located in the middle of the Mojave Desert) vanishes?

Here's an excerpt from the new article, wherein some evil commie islamofascist has the gall to question the official Cabal propaganda about the latest Bin Laden tape, with the official bloviating heads version being that it proves that Bin Laden and Saddam are joined at the hip.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell dropped a bombshell at a Congressional hearing on Iraq and revealed that he had a transcript of an "upcoming" audio message from Osama bin Laden that betrays the links between bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

However, the White House may have put its foot in its mouth this time around.

Upon careful scrutiny of the audio message from bin Laden (and broadcast at 3pm EST on the Arabic News Network Al-Jazeerah), it appears the Bush administration may have been so desperate to pin anything on Saddam and bin Laden that they did not wait to actually hear the contents of the message, nor provide adequate and reliable translation.

The bin Laden message expresses solidarity with the Iraqi people, advises them to remain steadfast in the coming invasion of their country and declares that Saddam and his aides are not important. "It is not important if Saddam and his government disappear," the man thought to be bin Laden says. "This is a war against you, the Muslims, and you must take arms to defend yourselves."

Gee, next thing you know the folks at YT are going to be handing out maps of troop ship routes, and we all know what will happen when Saddam's navy gets hold of that kind of info.
posted by Steven Baum 2/14/2003 01:23:00 PM | link

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Some sort of explanation is probablly in order vis a vis my longer than usual absence from these environs, and the usual "well I went on a three day bender and had to recover" bit ain't gonna suffice as an excuse for more than a month long absence. Sure, there's the technical problems I've mentioned, but those could've been solved a month ago if I'd had the desire to do so. Basically, watching my dog Shiva slowly die over the latter half of last year drained me utterly, psychically and physically (as if we can separate the two). I didn't realize it while it was happening since I was focused only on doing everything I could to prolong her continued comfortable existence and my not at all unrelated continued absence from crushing grief. Over the last few months (until we put her down on the Monday before Thanksgiving) she was waking me up two, three and even four times a night to try to poop, an act that got ever more difficult as both the anal sac tumor and the related lymph node tumor got larger and served to increasingly block the passage of her waste. I got used to it and didn't really even notice it, but someone else was keeping track and told me after the end that while she didn't enjoy watching me slowly disintegrate, she knew I was doing what I had to do and would only interfere if a catastrophic situation arose.

Amongst other things, I also let my physical conditioning slip in the latter half of the year, which led to some very painful knees from my continued attempts to play ultimate frisbee with people half my age at age 43. A draining situation with a family member also popped up towards the end of the year. Basically, it's the old tale of the snowball, er, snowballing.

There's a happy ending to this tale of woe, though. Fortunately, the few marvelous people who've managed to make inroads into my crass and egotistical solipsistic universe are uniformly and unconditionally supportive, especially one who jumped on board during my immediately previous crisis despite Cap'n Solipsism's dire warnings of disaster and dragons ahead. She made me realize, amongst other things, that an increasingly nasty shortage of serotonin isn't the end of the world, but rather a chemical imbalance that can usually be easily handled, as it indeed has been.

I've also embarked on a brutal conditioning regimen since returning from the frozen north on Jan. 2. Why? Well, such things serve to increase one's serotonin level without external aid (which I assume will become more and more necessary as I shuffle further down the road so I'd rather build up a tolerance later rather than sooner). Also, I'm not at all ready to give up ultimate frisbee. An additional boost is provided by a dietary supplement consisting of glucosamine and chondroitin, a combination which has worked for several friends and which seems to be doing some good for me as well.

The upshot? I'm back, at least until the next personal crisis knocks me off my pins. I don't plan these things. As the buddhists say, shit just happens. Everything should be back to whatever the hell passes as normal hereabouts, although I'm pondering what to do about the political content. I've spent most of the evening reading sites I've not read in over a month, seeing how I've been reading no more than I've been writing. There are so many others currently more dedicated and energetic about such things than I am. And did I mention talented and diligent? Geez, I'm getting an inferiority complex. Not to worry, though, I'm sure the outrage will keep me going as it always has, although the political quantity may wane (and wax). I'm thinking of returning to the mix I had in the early days of Ethel (way back before the milllennium) for a while, and then letting the internal daemons take me wherever they may.

Shit will happen is about the only thing I can say with certainty. Other than that, all I can do is thank those who've expressed concern about Ethel (and its proprieter) over the last couple of months, and promise that something will most likely keep appearing here, at least until something happens that neither me or my handlers can fix.
posted by Steven Baum 2/11/2003 11:15:01 PM |

Well, maybe it's not the best ever, but it's the best news show going right now, even given its claim that it's only satire. Jon Stewart was "satirizing" the "orange alert" the Cabal is pushing to renew the desire of the proles to give up another Constitutional amendment or two. He played the following bit from Ridge's disseminations on the matter:
"We get general information and specific information, but none of the specific information talks about time, place or methods or means ... We don't get the specificity that we would all like to have in order to prepare."
After which Stewart acerbically comments about how information not containing anything about time, place, methods or means is by definition general rather than specific.

Did all the reporters present have brain slugs a la Futurama or something? Ridge babbles inanely about how their supposed "specific" information doesn't have the "specificity" they need, and nobody even indirectly comments about his lack of clothing? The basic problem is that while the administration doubletalks like Chico Marx during press conferences no one is willing to play the Groucho or Harpo role to foil the doubletalker with either his own medicine or a racous horn blast. Hell, that pack of "fierce watchdogs" would have to practice for a year to play even the Zeppo or Gummo roles.
posted by Steven Baum 2/11/2003 02:20:32 PM |


"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Goering at Nuremberg

Interesting supplementary reading material in the same vein can be found in I Shall Bear Witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1933-1941, an account of daily life in the Third Reich. A fine complement to Klemperer is William Shirer's Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Shirer's so good I can almost forgive the bastard for the idyllic summer he spent in Spain in 1934 before the shit hit the fan.

What have we done these past twelve months? Not too much. No great "accomplishments." We've swum, four or five times a day, from April to Christmas. We've hiked up and around the lower reaches of the Pyrenees that slope down to the village and the sea, past a thousand olive groves, a hundred cork-oak forests, and the cool whitewashed walls of the peasants' houses, putting off until tomorrow and for ever the climb we were always going to m ake to the peaks that were covered with snow late in the spring and early in the fall. We've read - a few of the books for which there was never time in the days when you had a nightly cable to file and were being shunted from one capital to another - from Paris and London to Delhi. Myself: some history, some philosophy, and Spengler's "Decline of the West"; Trotsky's "History of the Russian Revolution"; "War and Peace", Celine's "Voyage au bout de la nuit", the most original French novel since the war; and most or all of Wells, Shaw, Ellis, Beard, Hemingway, Dos Passos and Dreiser. A few friends came and stayed: the Jay Allens, Russell and Pat Strauss, and Luis Quintanilla, one of the most promising of the younger Spanish painters and a red-hot republican. Andres Segovia lived next door and came over in the evening to talk or to play Bach or Albeniz on his guitar.
"Oh yes, Andres stopped over last night and was a pickin' and a grinnin' all evening." Geez.
posted by Steven Baum 2/11/2003 09:11:10 AM | link

On a trip to Houston this weekend I stopped by Rockpile, a marvelous music store on Montrose that stocks mostly vinyl. The well-gotten booty:
  • The Art of the Modern Jazz Quartet: The Atlantic Years (2 LPs), Atlantic, 1973
  • The Freedom Suite Plus - Sonny Rollins (2 LPs), Milestone, 1973
  • Fat Girl: The Savoy Sessions - Fats Navarro (2 LPs), Savoy, 1977
  • Stan the Man: Verve Retrospective (1952-1961) - Stan Getz (2 LPs), Polygram, 1984
  • Quintet '80 - David Grisman, Warner, 1980
  • Live from the Showboat - Phil Woods Six (2 LPs), RCA, 1977
  • The Father Jumps- Earl Hines and His Orchestra (2 LPs), Bluebird, 1975
  • Blues Summit - Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges (2 LPs), Verve, 1973
  • Sonny Rollins and Thad Jones, Phoenix10, 1981
  • Verve Return Engagement - Oscar Peterson (2 LPs), MGM, 1974
  • Music with 58 Musicians, Volume One: ECM Sampler (2 LPs), ECM, 1980
  • Turn of the Century - Gary Burton (2 LPs), Atlantic, 1976
  • Buckeye Battle Cry, Fidelity, ?
That last one was a surprising find in Houston, and I picked it up in honor of my alma mater winning the national championship a month ago, i.e. an event I couldn't gloat about hereabouts due to the previously mentioned technical difficulties.

On a related matter, if anyone knows of a way I could get a copy of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Mosaic box set (5 CDs) drop me an e-line. By "copy" I mean a CD-R copy of the originals, which are out of print and go for $150-200 when they show up on Amazon. Attending a concert in a local music series last year that featured some Jones arrangements kindled quite an interest, although not quite a $30+ per disc interest. I've got quite a bit of good stuff I can offer in CD-R format as trade if anyone's interested. My Marantz CDR631 makes pretty damned good CD copies, i.e. not WAV files reconstituted from MP3s.
posted by Steven Baum 2/11/2003 12:02:42 AM |





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