Have you seen this item in the New York Times?
PUBLISHER RECALLS FOURTH-GRADER'S NOVEL AMID PLAGIARISM CHARGES
NEW YORK - Amid an escalating crisis over charges of literary theft, the publisher of a bestselling novel authored by a fourth-grader has announced it is recalling all copies of the book from store shelves and asking retailers to halt sales.
Simon and Schuster, publisher of the blockbuster novel "How Tissa Grabbed Katie's Lunch, Grabbed Her Hair and Grabbed a Life," yesterday reversed its previous defense of the book and said that it will withdraw and destroy all copies immediately. The publisher offered no reason for its abrupt change of position.
The "Tissa" novel, written by nine-year-old Connecticut grade-school student Mandy Tillerman, had an initial press run of 120,000 copies and reached Number 27 on the online extended New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List. Several Hollywood studios were said to have been interested in making it into a film, but this appears to have been scuttled by the plagiarism uproar.
The novel, Ms. Tillerman's first, was released earlier this year to nationwide fanfare, and she was hailed as a major new voice in the so-called "literary vernacular," a lucrative new genre of novels by non-writers, until the plagiarism scandal hit. According to the Associated Press, charges of plagiarism were first leveled in the PTA newsletter at Ms. Tillerman's school by the parent of a classmate, an avid reader of "vernacular" novelist CeeCee Starling, from whose work Ms. Tillerman allegedly lifted dozens of passages.
Nine-year-old Ms. Tillerman has acknowledged being "like, an amazing fan" of novelist Ms. Starling, a 10-year-old fifth-grader who has authored three bestselling books to date. But Ms. Tillerman insisted last week in a published apology that any borrowing of language was "not on purpose, okay? No way."
Ms. Starling's hit novels include "You, Too, Booger-Face," "Bite My Thong," and her latest, "How Liza Lost Her Lunch," from which Ms. Tillerman is alleged to have plagiarized. All three novels have ranked Number 30 or higher on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List.
Stanley Gilding, vice president of Simon and Schuster, said in a statement yesterday, "We admit no deliberate plagiarism. But we regret this incident and its effect on Ms. Tillerman's and Ms. Starling's work, and we wish to put it behind us so that both writers can continue to productively pursue their craft." He said that a revised version of the "Tissa" novel, with all questionable text removed, will be released later this year.
Ms. Starling's publisher, Ballantine, replied in its own statement yesterday, "We have reached a satisfactory agreement whereby the integrity and reputation of our author will be protected."
The alleged plagiarism victim, young Ms. Starling, when asked by reporters if she was angry at Ms. Tillerman, said, "I'm sure she didn't, like, mean it. I'm not going to go claw her face off or anything. It's not worth it."
Since the story broke, talk shows and blog sites have engaged in ceaseless and sometimes obsessively detailed scrutiny of the often striking similarities between Ms. Tillerman's and Ms. Starling's language in their novels.
Here are a few examples comparing excerpts from Ms. Tillerman's "How Tissa Grabbed Katie's Lunch, Grabbed Her Hair and Grabbed a Life" with Ms. Starling's "How Liza Lost Her Lunch":
"Stoomie is, like, such drool. He just stares at you across the lunchroom and you want to, like, wash off the spit. Some girls think he's cute but that's because they've never had to stand behind him in lunch line and smell the dookie in his dirty pants."
- Mandy Tillerman, "Tissa," page 24
"Stookie is, like, a string of drool with eyes. He looks at you across the lunchroom and you want to wipe off the spit. Some girls think he's cute but that's because they've never had to stand next to him and smell the dookie in his dirty jeans."
- CeeCee Starling, "Liza," page 32
"Tissa ran off the bus and tried not to cry. What a jerk that Katie was. What a stupid, barf-breath, booger-eating jerk. Tissa hated her. She hated that little bitch so much. Just wait, she said to herself. Just wait until lunch tomorrow."
- Mandy Tillerman, "Tissa," page 67
"Liza ran off the school bus and tried to not cry. What a jerk that Stacie was. What a stupid-assed, barf-breath, booger-eating jerk. Liza hated her. She hated that little bitch's guts so much. Just you wait, she said to herself. Just you wait until lunch tomorrow."
- CeeCee Starling, "Liza," page 58
"Oh, God, it hurt so bad. So bad. She stuck her face deep, deep into her tear-soaked pillow and hoped that she would drown."
- Mandy Tillerman, "Tissa," page 95
"Oh, God. It hurt so bad. So bad. She stuffed her face deep into her tear-soaked pillow and prayed that she would drown."
- CeeCee Starling, "Liza," page 101
If you haven't seen this article in the Times, it's because it hasn't appeared there.
You can, however, read in the April 28, 2006 Times about the controversy over a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore's bestselling novel (entitled "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life") being recalled after she allegedly plagiarized more than 40 passages from another bestselling novel (entitled "Sloppy Firsts").
(Posted 4-28-06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
On A Roll.
You've got to love it.
The White House Easter Egg Roll went off without a hitch.
Maybe you've heard: hundreds of gay parents, in a tactically brilliant move, lined up en masse days early to snag free first-come first-served tickets to Monday's annual Roll, traditionally an innocuous kiddie photo-op for grinning presidents and first ladies that is, at most, cute. But with this year's ingenious gesture by gay parents, the stakes instantly skyrocketed. A president who has allied himself with hard-right anti-gay forces found himself poised to be cast as the Easter Bigot. There he'd be in front of the cameras, barring the White House gates the way that segregationist Governor George Wallace blocked the doors of the University of Alabama 43 years ago, telling crying kids that they can't roll Easter eggs on the White House lawn because their parents are going to hell.
It was triangulation worthy of Bill Clinton at his savviest. And for poor feckless W, with his you-know-whats caught in a vise of his own cranking, there was only one honorable way out: Laura. Enter the First Lady, who announced sweetly to the press corps that the Roll would welcome all families. She was as good as her word on the appointed day, as were the gay parents who had pledged to not stage political theater and who identified themselves only with colorful rainbow leis. Eggs and cameras rolled, kids laughed, Americans saw yet more proof that gay families are simply families, and Team Bush sweated and waited for it to be over. Score one for the good side.
It is crazy, of course, for any of this to even be an issue. Imagine poker-faced reporters droning into cameras about the "controversy" surrounding, say, blacks being visibly present at the Easter Egg Roll. It is a testimony to the nation's broad acceptance of rank bigotry that we even treat such matters as subjects of debate.
Some folks in the Taliban wing of the Christian Right are still frothing over the perceived insult to Jesus and the Easter Bunny. There are histrionics about morals and tradition and role models for children. But to me the most striking, and revealing, statement in the entire brouhaha was a demure assertion made by one Mark D. Tooley of an outfit called the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who told the Associated Press, "I think it's inappropriate [for gays] to use a children's event to make a political statement."
Hmm. "Use" an event to "make a political statement"? Well, let's take a closer look at who is actually doing the using, politically speaking.
On the one hand, we have gay parents who want to be, well, parents. They want to raise kids. Some of them want to get married. They want to buy houses and care for each other in sickness and health and go on vacation and take their kids to Easter egg hunts without being abused or scrutinized or discriminated against. They want, basically, to not be politically singled out by society because of their sexual orientation.
And we have, on the other hand, those who make it their very purpose to single out gays for special treatment. They mount frantic political campaigns to tell gays, "You can't marry." They stage loud rallies to yell at gays, "You can't have equal rights." They preach from pulpits to tell gays, "Your sexual identity is a sin." They organize angry grassroots movements -- as a friend of mine in Ohio tells me is now happening in that state -- to tell gays, "You can't adopt children." At every turn, while gay Americans struggle to gain the same treatment as everyone else -- that is, to not be treated as if they are special -- the anti-gay forces continue to shriek to the heavens, and to every reporter within earshot, that gays are in fact special, that gays are different, that gays are a threat that must be politically targeted and morally attacked.
So who is it, exactly, who is making gayness into a "political statement?" As far as I can tell, it is not the gay moms and dads on the White House lawn.
As with many blacks of my parents' generation -- a group of people whose middle-class ambitions were cast as activism only by society's active obstruction -- the main force "politicizing" gayness in America is the obsessive, constant, and unwanted attention showered upon gays by the hard right itself. Somebody needs to tell Mark D. Tooley that if he thinks it is "inappropriate" to make political hay around issues of children and families, he ought to go tell the Bush Administration and Focus On the Family to knock it off.
Meanwhile, let the Easter eggs roll.
(Posted 4/18/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
Celebration of What?
Take a look at this April 5, 2006 story from the Democrat and Chronicle, the daily newspaper in Rochester, New York:
Police Say People Helped After Young Minister's Random Slaying
Sometimes a community will say enough is enough, and it looks as if last month's shooting death of Herschel Scriven was one of those times.
Rochester police Tuesday announced the arrest of three men in connection with the slaying of the 23-year-old minister and church organist. Acting Police Chief Timothy Hickey said outrage generated by the killing led to an unusual amount of cooperation from the street, which provided investigators with the information they needed.
'When the dregs of our society take the lives of those with so much promise, the tragedy is felt by every individual in this city and in the corner of everyone's heart,' Hickey said. 'It gives me great satisfaction to report this closure.'
newspaper story then relates the details of the crime. It's a
heartbreaker. Scriven, the minister, had just dropped off a 3-year-old
at home after attending a performance of the touring company of The
Lion King. He was backing his car out of the driveway when he
unintentionally blocked the path of three young men who, according to
police, were on their way to commit a planned armed robbery. One of the
men shot Scriven in the head. He died four days later.
For the record, the three "young men" we are talking about are, respectively, 19, 19, and 20 years of age. All are black. So was Scriven.
What the police and the local newspaper are celebrating here is the fact that residents of a poor black community, long mistrustful of police, put their collective foot down and began giving up information that ultimately led to the arrests. In the article, the police chief congratulated his officers and the citizens who fed them information. The victim's brother described the arrests as "a prayer answered." A community activist declared that the cooperation showed that "the community does have a soul." Community leaders described citizens' response as drawing "a line in the sand." A university criminologist made scholarly remarks about stimulating collective morality.
Make no mistake: there is a dire need in many poor black communities, including those in Baltimore, where I live, for citizens to rise up and get their collective hands around the self-destructive war-making of the young people who terrorize their neighborhoods. Nobody knows this better than the people who live in the midst of the carnage.
But let's take a closer look at exactly what Rochester police and journalists are celebrating.
Three black kids -- and yes, 19- and 20-year-olds are still very much kids -- grow up in a bankrupt and violent neighborhood. They learn to accept the idea that a handgun is the machinery of respect and that robbing people at gunpoint is an accepted gig. On their way to said gig one night, they unexpectedly meet a car backing out of a driveway into their path. Whether out of trigger-happy fear of an ambush or don't-fuck-with-me hyper-insecure bravado, one of the kids pulls a gun and blows away the driver, who turns out to be a big-hearted, community-minded young minister. The appalling amorality of the crime is sufficient to trump the long-held contempt of many residents toward police -- who the War On Drugs has molded into a deeply-resented occupying army -- so that citizens are for once willing to finger the suspects, and arrests are made.
In other words, kids who grow up virtually devoid of healthy father figures or self-esteem or hope of achievement respond, naturally, with anger and violent paranoia. We as a society then wait for them to hurt other people. When they predictably do so as young adults, we send them to prison for most or all of the rest of their lives. And a chief of police calls a press conference and happily reports this as "closure."
You can see that this approach raises a few questions.
What kind of "closure" is it, exactly, that leaves intact a perfectly-oiled assembly line of young black male aggression while intervening only at the end of the line to punish the aggression so efficiently created? What kind of "closure" sits with its hands folded while the souls of young black males bleed profusely from birth, but then acts with surgical precision to later carry out legal vengeance against the damaged and dangerous young adults who inevitably emerge? What kind of "closure" focuses its attention on catching and imprisoning adult offenders when, for every three whose capture is happily reported at a press conference, 300 more are created daily through a perfectly-neglected storm of joblessness, family disintegration, drug addiction, childhood trauma, and despair?
This is, in fact, no kind of "closure" at all. It is, instead, an open wound being treated with jail time.
And there is something else going on here as well. Take another look at the excerpt from the Rochester newspaper article, and you will notice a telling detail: at one point, the reporter refers to poor black citizenry as "the street" (as in, "...the killing led to an unusual amount of cooperation from the street."). If the phrase sounds familiar to you, it is because this is the same term used by Western observers and journalists to describe the masses of Arabic peoples whose beliefs and actions form the broad public opposition that so confounds America in nations such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Whether in the poor black neighborhoods of a city like Rochester or in the impoverished Sadr City area of Baghdad, "the street" is the American mainstream's shorthand for "downtrodden folks whose lives and ideas we don't understand." This is both an admission of our own perplexity and a crude caricaturing of the social fabric of communities that are feared and loathed by many Americans. When, for example, was the last time you heard the phrase "the street" used to describe the mood of the citizenry of Beverly Hills, or of suburban Atlanta, or of Orange County, California? And when did you last hear a criminologist making casually clinical observations about the morality of such non-urban, non-black communities?
Even as a nationwide battle rages over illegal immigration -- another magnet for many Americans' demonizing of others -- we have alien-ized an entire population of native-born American citizens: the urban black poor. For their problems, official society has defined "closure" as the clang of an iron cell door.
And that is nothing to celebrate.
(Posted 4/6/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
A Sorry Showing.
official chroniclers being so generous these days in dispensing the
mantle of "hero" (the title is now bestowed upon the tragic legacy of
virtually every uniformed American man or woman who dies following
senseless orders), the story of Rachel Corrie serves, like an ice-water
dunking, to shock us back into understanding the meaning of the word.
You might remember her: the 23-year-old activist from Olympia, Washington who was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer as she stood with outstretched arms, wearing an orange vest, attempting to block the demolition of the home of a Palestinian family amid Israel's campaign to clear-cut Palestinian border neighborhoods in the name of security.
As it turns out, Corrie was a writer of some ability as well as an activist, and her copious and revealing journals were edited into a play, a one-woman show titled "My Name is Rachel Corrie," which took London by storm last year. The play was the biggest sellout in 50 years at London's Royal Court Theatre, and has since moved to the West End, London's equivalent of Broadway, where it is expected to be a smash.
This year, New Yorkers were also expecting to be able to see the play until, weeks before its scheduled March 22 opening at the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), the theater suddenly announced an open-ended postponement of the play's debut amid intense pressure from groups not pleased with the dramatic message of a blue-eyed blond American pro-Palestinian activist. It seems that in an age of quisling liberals diving for cover from post-9/11 political vigilantism, these tickets were, in the words of a cover story in The Nation, "too hot for New York."
The outrage from theatrical luminaries was deservedly swift and widespread. The play's co-creator, Alan Rickman, proclaimed in the Guardian of London, "This is censorship born out of fear." Nobel literary laureate Harold Pinter, in a letter to the New York Times signed by nearly 20 other well-known self-described Jewish playwrights and writers, said that NYTW's claims of recent Mideast developments making the Corrie play too controversial "make no sense," and asked, "what is it about Rachel Corrie's writings... that New York audiences must be protected from?" Actress Vanessa Redgrave declared to Pacifica Radio that NYTW's failure of will is "an act of catastrophic cowardice." Famed playwright Tony Kushner, whose own work has been featured at NYTW, wrote in a letter to the New York Observer that he is "disappointed and disheartened by this decision and... baffled by the subsequent attempts to justify it."
The record, sadly, illustrates NYTW's willing surgical removal of its own spine in this matter. In response to early opposition to the play from some quarters, the theater's leadership, by its own admission in a March 22 interview on Pacifica's Democracy Now!, began a community "dialogue" process that involved pro-Israel partisans but no Arab-Americans. It began backing away from previously-agreed commitments to stage the play. It started to suggest, after the fact, to the play's British creators the need for audience "discussions" including pro-Israel scholars after each performance to place the play in "context." Most damningly, NYTW revealed its own lack of stomach for defense of artistic and political principle in the face of politically and financially influential opposition.
It is to their credit that, after the compost hit the fan, NYTW Artistic Director James Nicola and Managing Director Lynn Moffat agreed to do the Pacifica interview at all; the broadcast was a debate between them on the one side and the play's co-editor, Katherine Viner, whose sense of offense at NYTW's moral cave-in reflects the feelings of the play's other British creators and backers as well as of Corrie's parents themselves [full transcript of the debate is at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/22/1435259]. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is not known for lobbing softballs, and Nicola and Moffat, clearly no more morally steady on their feet than when they first took on the Corrie play, were out of their league. One might feel sorry for them but for the fact that the political cost of their cowardice is, for the broader artistic community, much greater than its personal cost for the two of them. Throughout the interview Nicola and Moffat betrayed, to their lasting shame, a feckless aversion to fighting back against the currently intimidating forces of cultural censorship.
I suggest that you go and hear (or read) Nicola's and Moffat's remarks for yourself. It wasn't pretty: Nicola stumbled, whimpered and equivocated through tortured attempts at self-justification by reiterating how very, very hard it is to try to mount a play when people get mad. And Moffat, for her part, stuck to a steely script of utter nonsense about the play's unique incorrigibility and the awful practical problems it posed. The British co-writer Viner, admirably restraining her likely desire to knock Nicola's and Moffat's squishy heads together, dispatched their hopeless arguments with civil precision. She also left them flat-footed by refusing, on the air, their plaintive offer to try to find some way for NYTW to stage the play; NYTW no longer merits any trust, she replied, and the play's creators have been inundated with offers from other American theaters to put on the play, one of which they hope to accept.
The heart of the matter, I think, is that theater people like Nicola and Moffat have been accepting toasts at cocktail parties and bowing for applauding trustees at board meetings for so long that they have forgotten how to take a flurry of punishing shots to the chops (or to the gut) for the sake of their mission. In the Pacifica interview, both Nicola and Moffat recited, like a mantra, that it was their Herculean task with the Corrie play to, in Nicola's words, make it "safe" for Corrie's message to be heard without its being "polluted" by the raging political argument surrounding the Israeli occupation. It is as if Nicola and Moffat hoped to shuffle mute audiences in and out of this political fireball of a play -- in Manhattan, no less -- with no muss, no fuss, and no need to take a fighting stance in the face of irate theater funders and infuriated political zealots. The essential and unavoidable need to stand up and fight in public for a work such as the Corrie play seems to have entirely taken these two by surprise. Even on the radio, one could sense their blinking disorientation. I think they are still in shock at having had such demands made of them.
Nicola's blubbering, in fact, reached its absurd peak in the interview when he cited, as if pointing to a newly-uncovered neutron bomb, a friend's having told him of an online claim that Rachel Corrie was a registered member of Hamas. People are out to slander Corrie and my play! he gasped. Well, duh. A lot of people hate the cause that Corrie supported, and some of them lie on the Internet, and a few are flat-out wacko, and others will go all-out with their financial and political clout against a theater that takes a stand for a Palestinian-sympathetic production. Hello? Earth to Jim. This is part of the job description for a theater artistic director who has principles. It is high time more artists posed dramatic challenges to the orthodoxy of American support for the amoral militarism and self-excusing atrocities of the current Israeli regime.
Welcome to the new McCarthyism: an era of contagious and officially-mongered fear that, like the 1950s, separates the heroes from the, er, James Nicolas.
(Posted 3/27/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
Franz on the Front Page.
For a sense of how Kafka might have authored a single day's edition of a newspaper, take a look at the March 20, 2006 New
Two of the lead stories evoke as poetically horrific an image of the moral free-fall of a nation's political leadership as you are ever likely to see.
The first story:
New studies from Columbia, Princeton and Harvard show, with hard numbers, that young poor black American males, as a group, are hardening at terrifying speed into a caste with little or no connection to mainstream American life. Or, if you prefer the metaphor, they are becoming a separate country, like a black male Third-World territory whose presence within American borders is strictly a matter of geography. Its separateness is, of course, an entirely American creation. But the starkness of this separateness has now hit the front pages.
We have had years of warning about this in cities like mine, Baltimore, where studies going back more than 10 years, as far as I can remember, have shown (and still do) that more than half of the city's young black males have either been in jail or under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Walk or drive through parts of the city, and you don't need a study to tell you what is happening.
But the national breadth and gravity of the studies in the Times story have now made this issue of the leper-ized black male an Official Mainstream Shock. As it should be. To quote the Times:
"'There's something very different happening with young black men, and it's something we can no longer ignore,' said Ronald B. Mincy, professor of social work at Columbia University and editor of 'Black Males Left Behind' (Urban Institute Press, 2006).
"'Over the last two decades, the economy did great,' Mr. Mincy said, 'and low-skilled women, helped by public policy, latched onto it. But young black men were falling farther back.'"
can't quite get with Mincy's sunny assessment of the past 20 years of
"the economy" -- a term that disguises hugely disproportionate benefits
for the wealthy -- and its alleged boon for poor black women. But a few
statistics from the new studies cited in the Times dramatize the kind
of catastrophe we are talking about with young black men:
- In inner cities, more than 50 percent of black men drop out of high school.
- By 2004, 72 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20s were unemployed (unable to find work, not looking, or in jail), compared with 34 percent of white dropouts and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Add in black high school graduates and the unemployment rate was still 50 percent.
- By 2004, 21 percent of black men in their 20s who didn't go to college were incarcerated. By their mid-30s, 60 percent of black high school dropouts had spent time in prison.
It does bear mentioning (although it is not in the Times story) that is there is one glinting link that does perennially connect the mainstream with the culture of poor young black males: their music, currently hip-hop, which, like black musics before it, is now the mainstay of American (and global) pop culture, and which provides the soundtrack for the social lives of white suburban teen-agers who would, on any city street, run screaming from any actual in-the-flesh poor inner-city black male.
But that's another story.
What the studies show, in any color, in any language, is that there is an ongoing disaster in the lives of young black males. People who are in a position to know have been telling us for years what causes this: poverty, lack of access to a job market that is fleeing to the suburbs, self-hatred due to failure to live up to a patriarchal society's ideals for males, the appeal of drugs as an escape and as a high-paying employer, shredded families, boys with few healthy men to emulate. We also know a lot about what it would take to solve these catastrophic problems: a huge public investment in urban jobs projects (in effect, a modern WPA or CCC), a massive job training effort, funding for ample drug treatment and prevention, AIDS programs, comprehensive and affordable health care, day care, family therapy, mentoring, well-resourced schools with well-paid teachers, effective and well-funded programs to re-socialize ex-convicts to a free and legal life.
The total national cost to do this in every major American city? Anywhere from tens to hundreds of billions of dollars.
Which brings us to the second story in the March 20th edition of the Times:
In a two-minute statement to reporters outside the White House, a surreally optimistic President George W. Bush, in utter denial of the shambles of his Iraq policy, talked cheerfully about how well the war is going and then went back inside with his wife. Again, to quote the Times:
Times story goes on in awful detail: Bush speaking breezily of his
being "encouraged by the progress" of the war and evading reporters'
questions about how this could be so; Dick "Five Draft Deferments"
Cheney counseling grit and patience for the war effort; Donald Rumsfeld
prattling gamely (and insultingly) about the American mission in Iraq
being the equivalent of the Allied fight against Hitler.
Meanwhile, Iraq's once Bush-friendly former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, told the BBC, according to the Times, that Iraq was approaching a "'point of no return... It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people through the country, if not more... If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.'"
So far, this explosively failed enterprise has killed 32,000 to 37,000 Iraqis and more than 2,300 Americans. There is no end in sight.
The cost to date? $250 billion. A figure to keep in mind when considering our country's unattended domestic catastrophes.
If your hands shake and your jaw tightens as you write out your tax check to the IRS on April 15, I will understand.
All of which brings us back to Kafka, that merciless seer of the worst in human potential. For one day at least, the New York Times seems to have caught his knack for nightmarish irony.
Perhaps soon we will be greeted by a page-one story about President Bush having awakened one morning in his bed, inexplicably, as a giant insect.
It might bring an improvement, actually, in his skills in cooperating as a member of the teeming global community.
(Posted 3/21/2006 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
Hunt Innocent. Bush Guilty.I hope you'll bear with me if my posts are a bit more brief in the next couple of weeks. I am finishing a book and working
under (self-inflicted) killer pressure. But relief is near.
In the meantime, I was struck today by two harshly contrasting sides of humanity.
One side is that of Darryl Hunt. His story is best told by this blurb from his website [http://www.darrylhuntproject.org/], from which he runs a project dedicated to freeing prisoners wrongly convicted of crimes:
"Before his second trial in 1990, Darryl Hunt rejected a plea bargain that would have immediately made him a free man. In 1994 DNA tests performed on semen samples did not match that of Darryl Hunt. But, he was denied a third trial. The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the denial 4-3 and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
"In response to a petition by Darryl Hunt's attorney a Superior Court judge finally ordered that the DNA specimens found at the crime scene be matched against a database containing information on violent criminals in North Carolina. This resulted in a match to another individual proving Darryl Hunt's innocence.
"In February of 2004 all charges against Darryl Hunt were dismissed. He subsequently received a full pardon from the Governor."
heard Hunt on the radio on March 2 on the Marc Steiner Show, a gem of a
program on NPR station WYPR in Baltimore. Hunt's case, long since
documented, was a nightmare of misidentification, racist presumption,
and conspiratorial concealment of his innocence by police and
prosecutors to avoid bureaucratic humiliation. It is a horror story of
the first degree, and yet another devastating argument for abolition of
the death penalty, a perfectly irrevocable punishment invoked by an
inherently flawed system. If you read about Hunt's case in detail, it
will likely bring you to tears.
What moved me most about Hunt's radio interview was his ironclad and regal compassion. When asked if any of the many police officers, attorneys, judges and witnesses who railroaded him have since apologized or admitted moral culpability, he replied that no, none of them have. But he then went on to say that he expects no apologies; the people truly owed an apology, he said, are the family members of the murder victim, who were lied to by the state for 20 years -- and who still, in their blind rage, blame Hunt for the crime despite DNA proof of his innocence and the subsequent confession of the true perpetrator.
This from a man who was wrongly imprisoned for 20 years.
If you are prepared to be both infuriated and inspired, get the entire story at his website.
On the flip side of humanity, however, is the latest bulletin concerning our mendacious president, who an AP-acquired video has now revealed to have lied yet again, this time in his claim four days after Katrina that neither he nor other top officials anticipated the breach of the levees. In fact, as the video proves, Bush and others were fully briefed on the likelihood that the levees would break and that federal response would be insufficient.
In the August 28, 2005 video, Bush sits with his elbows on the table while being warned of impending disaster, asks no questions, and then replies with empty homilies about how the feds will stay on top of things. The video is remarkable, among other things, for revealing the near-frantic concern of then- FEMA chief Michael D. Brown, who is now beginning to look more and more like a fall guy for an administration that simply didn't care.
For the full story in the March 1 issue of Editor & Publisher, go to [http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002114558].
(Posted 3/2/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
If ever there were a case of university presidential suicide, it has to be that of the now ex-chief of my alma mater, Lawrence H. Summers, who resigned from Harvard February 21 before being fired or facing a second vote of no confidence from the university's undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
five-year tenure was the shortest of any Harvard president since the
Civil War, according to the university daily Harvard Crimson. It is
certainly the stormiest in my memory. And although I claim no special
knowledge as an alum -- I haven't had any substantive contact
with Harvard in at least 20 years -- it is pretty clear to me that
Summers designed, built and hoisted himself with his own petard. He is
an object lesson in how not to approach an elite, opinionated and
We can begin with Summers's ill-advised decision early in his presidency to get in the face of well-known African American scholar and speaker Cornel West, telling West in a private meeting that West was inflating grades and that he had better stop writing about culture and stop making rap CDs and start being a serious scholar, according to the Washington Post [2/22/06]. I know nothing about the alleged grade inflation. But I'm a little bit familiar with West's work, and it is not clear to me how his many published works and his writing about culture are not "serious," nor how his having made a rap CD is at all relevant.
Let's just say that West was, uh, pissed as a result. He told Summers where to go, told the press that Summers was "messing with the wrong black man" (again according to the Post), and left for Princeton. It was a disaster and an embarrassment for Harvard. At that point the score became Miscalculation 1, Summers 0.
Then, in 2005, Summers moved on to the issue of women's innate abilities. Having apparently left his brain on the front seat of his car, he walked into a conference and gave a talk in which he said that the shortage of women in math and science may be due to their "intrinsic aptitude." A near-riot ensued. Summers went into an apology-loop in the following weeks. But the damage was done. Miscalculation 2, Summers 0. He never recovered.
Add to that Summers's reportedly abrasive and authoritarian management style, and you have a recipe for a vote of no confidence from the undergraduate faculty of America's most prestigious university. Which is exactly what he got in 2005. He was headed for no confidence vote number two when, reading the tea leaves from the Harvard Corporation, which signs his paycheck, he announced his resignation, effective at the end of this semester. He says he will return to Harvard as an economics professor after a year off. His acting replacement will be 75-year-old Derek Bok, who happens to have been Harvard President while I was there in the 1970s.
What is interesting to me is that Summers remains highly popular with students, who in an online Harvard Crimson poll backed him three to one. There is obviously a gulf between what students and undergraduate faculty want, and if I were to hazard a guess (based on nothing but a hunch), I would say it might have to do with students seeing him more as a decisive corporate CEO while faculty members view him as a politically-challenged peer who does not play well with others.
Me, I sent my alumni letter to the Harvard Board suggesting that they fire Summers last year.
What is the moral of the story for a university president? I don't know. Maybe, "Be critical but don't be stupid." Or, as an advertising creative director told me years ago after I badly screwed up, "You want to try to not set fire to your clothes."
(Posted 2/28/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
thoughtful commentary on the flames now licking at the Western world in
the wake of a series of Danish cartoons, one of which featured the
prophet Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb, I suggest Gary
Younge's "The Right To Be Offended"
[http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060227/younge] in the February 27 issue
of The Nation.
Younge raises two points that need to be heard above the self-righteous responses of the West. First, he explains, the "clash of civilizations" mainstream claptrap put forth as a Western explanation for Muslims' anger -- that is, the idea that Islam cannot coexist with free speech -- is false:
And secondly, Younge, points out, all of the Western head-shaking and indignation at the ensuing Muslim violence entirely
misses the point as to why the cartoons matter in the first place:
is right on both counts. If you live in a society that values free
speech, you don't get to slather public space with rank ethnic or
religious slurs -- as with that certifiable crank Ann Coulter -- and
escape lawful condemnation. Nor do you get to duck the acknowledgment
that the ensuing rage -- or even violence -- stems more from historic
injustice than from some sudden inability of the complainants to take a
joke. This is not a rationalization of violence. It is, actually, a way
of addressing it.
Some of us here in the North American wing of Denmark have been saying this about talk-show slurs and sensitive political hair-triggers for years. It's not that fruitcakes and racists and homophobes and misogynists do not have the constitutional right to say horrible things. They do. But they also have the constitutional obligation (precisely for reasons of free speech) to suck it up when they get pounded with enraged reactions that are within the law. Moreover, they have the moral obligation to face up to the institutional injustices that make a cartoon or an ethnic joke so explosive.
The Los Angeles Rodney King riots and the O.J. Simpson trial were entirely about this very phenomenon. If L.A. were an environment where blacks had a history of fair treatment by police, a guilty verdict for O.J. might have taken a jury an hour and caused a furor only among paparazzi, and King's videotaped beating by cops (and the verdict that followed) would have caused outrage but likely not insurrection. But L.A.'s history, instead, has been one of abuse, corruption and contempt when it comes to the treatment of African American citizens by the police. The resulting rage has been palpable. And so, after the King videotape and the Simi Valley verdict exonerating the officers, L.A. was "suddenly" in flames. And O.J. was "not guilty." And countless white Americans were shocked, shocked at the bizarre behavior of those black folks.
To paraphrase every high school commencement speaker in America, with fundamental rights come great responsibilities. With the right to speak abusively comes the responsibility to understand that your abusive speech may inflame long-standing injustices. Or, as Younge puts it, "If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in antiracism should be no less so."
So, along with freedom of speech, how about freedom of predominantly-Muslim countries from American economic and political hegemony? How about freedom of Iraq from American oil-motivated occupation? How about the freedom of Palestinians to seek statehood and hold elections without American support of the current hypocritical and jack-booted Israeli regime?
Now, that would be democracy in action.
(Posted 2/22/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
Dirty Politics Redefined.
Well, I can't say this is one of my prouder days as a Marylander.
Maybe some of you non-Marylanders have seen the surreal CNN footage on the story I am about to relate.
Our state's current comptroller (and former governor and Baltimore mayor) is an 84-year-old piece of work named William Donald Schaefer known for outlandish and insulting behavior. I would tell you his whole story -- how he was a cult hero as Baltimore mayor, cruising the streets in his limo and calling in on his mobile phone to lop off heads when he found a large pothole or a pile of uncollected trash; how he had half the bus-stop benches in town painted with his name; how he has insulted everyone from people of color to women; how he had a longtime (out of wedlock) partner named Hilda Mae Snoops (seriously, that was her name) who moved into the Governor's Mansion with him but is now deceased -- I'd tell you his entire unbelievable story, but there isn't time or space. So let's just say that Willie Don, as folks here in Charm City like to call the man who has settled into his later years as comptroller, is a strange critter known for strange behavior.
But this week he outdid himself. As I said, maybe you caught the footage as it ran again and again on CNN. Here is an account from the Baltimore Sun [2/17/06]:
"'Walk again,' he said, and as she obliged, the comptroller appeared to gawk at her as she left the room.
"Schaefer unleashed a string of harsh words at journalists who asked about the incident later. She 'ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door,' Schaefer said. 'The day I don't look at pretty women is the day I die.'"
Sun story went on to quote various infuriated onlookers and political
sages as to how it is that Schaefer seems able to get away with such
pre-Neanderthal conduct. The consensus seems to be that everyone
expects him to be an ass and that the Maryland electorate has
gotten accustomed to it. Amazing, but, I believe, true. No doubt his
legendary (and popular) crotchety charisma also makes him hard to
But the other factor, I think, is Marylanders' historically low expectations for their politicians. This is the state, after all, that brought us not only Spiro Agnew (yes, I admit it) but also his felonious fellow governor Marvin Mandel, who, unlike the "nolo contendere" Nixon henchman and tax evader, actually did time for mail fraud and racketeering.
Maryland's compost-like political cachet is further ripened by current Governor Robert Ehrlich, a beady-eyed Bush-Lite Republican already known for his administration's Rove-inspired sleazoid tactics -- coercing state employees to toe the hard-right Republican line; having an assistant who spawned an Internet campaign of vicious and untrue allegations of marital infidelity regarding Ehrlich's arch-rival, Baltimore's popular Democratic Mayor Martin O'Malley; Ehrlich's issuing an edict permanently forbidding all state employees to speak to a particular Sun reporter who had been critical of Ehrlich -- if you're not from Maryland, trust me when I tell you that Ehrlich sleeps under a rock.
In the case of Schaefer's above-mentioned public humiliation of Ehrlich's young female assistant, Ehrlich's response to date, rather than to demand Schaefer's apology or resignation, has been to shrug and tell everyone to get over it. Local pundits seem to think this is because Governor Ehrlich covets the favor of the conservative Democrats loyal to Comptroller Schaefer, whose votes he will need in a tight re-election race against his challenger, the previously mentioned Mayor O'Malley. (Are you still with me here? Drink some coffee.) How's that for a classy boss: hanging his sexually-harassed female assistant out to dry for the sake of political calculus.
The young woman has, so far, been silent, although there are reports that her father is madder than hell.
I tell you all of this only as a way of saying that Maryland, my current state of residency, is a political outhouse. So if you are wondering how it is that a state comptroller can politically survive such vile behavior, and why a sitting governor would let him, you'll find the answer in the heavy stench hanging over the Baltimore Harbor on windless days.
But it's a nice place to visit. Truly. The blue crabs here taste great. If you don't think about what they eat.
(Posted 2/18/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
Cheney Hunting Diary.
- See Dick Stand. See Dick Duck.
Drinking the Black Kool-Aid.
Here is a headline from the front page of the January 28, 2006 Washington Post (it's the same day's Post that contained the topic of my previous blog; I'm getting a lot of mileage out of that day's news coverage. Anyway, here is the headline):
The story, by Post reporter Matthew Mosk, details how, following a ruling by a Baltimore circuit court that Maryland's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, an ugly conflict has arisen between black Maryland politicians (and constituencies) who oppose the rights of gay Americans and those who support them. As reporter Mosk puts it:
Mosk is right in the sense that black voters and leaders are fighting about this. The anti-gay-marriage factions, led chiefly by prominent black pastors who claim authority from chosen passages in the Bible -- and some of whom see in the gay issue an opportunity for demagogic self-promotion as moral warriors -- condemn same-sex marriage as a fouling of the church's tradition as a bastion of black moral strength. Anti-gay feelings are also fed by a palpable fear among some blacks that gayness constitutes yet another attack on black manhood, already under siege in a society that criminalizes and disempowers black males. On the other side, blacks who support gay rights claim the moral high ground in supporting civil rights for all, and denounce the hypocrisy of blacks who would fight for their own rights while turning their backs on the struggle of another oppressed minority.
But where Mosk is wrong, and where many reporters who cover such black political conflicts make their mistake, is in relying on fictional, meaninglessly broad phrases such as "their communities' bedrock religious convictions" in describing black sensibilities. As a black American, I guess I qualify as a member of one of Mosk's alleged black "communities," and yet neither Christianity nor its claimed preclusion of gay rights figure in my "bedrock convictions," nor in those of a number of black people I know. I am an African American who happens to have a very nice spiritual relationship with the divine, thank you very much, and my "community" is not represented by demagogues who rail against the scourge of gay marital rights. Nor is there anything remarkable about the fact that my position on this differs from that of, say, one of my cousins or a black colleague. We're human. We differ.
And that's the rub with this "the black community is divided" bugaboo. I've heard it more times, on more issues, than I want to remember, and it always puts me in mind of other ethnic voter-division stories I'd love to see on the front pages of the Post and other newspapers but never do. Say, for instance:
WHITE VOTERS SPLIT ON PUBLIC TRANSIT ISSUE
"White voters in edge-city subdivisions are deeply divided over transportation issues, which force them to choose between their bedrock need to decrease traffic congestion and their long-held community traditions of self-reliant transportation..."
ABORTION DIVIDES WHITE COMMUNITIES
"In many white American communities, the abortion issue has opened up an ugly rift between two bedrock values: a long-established cultural reverence for the miracle of childbearing and an equally long-held belief in individual liberty..."
I am still looking to see stories like these in major newspapers. They will never appear in print, however, and you know why: To treat it as big news that American whites differ widely on public transit or on abortion would be absurd. It would be nonsensical because we all understand that whites are a varied group of human beings with diverse experiences and opinions. We respect the variety of white experience too much to make the ridiculous mistake of expecting a sameness of opinion.
So why is it front-page news that black "communities" and their political representatives differ on same-sex marriage?
I'll admit that this is not an entirely fair question. Differences among blacks on the civil rights of gays do seem more interesting than differences among whites on the same topic because the issue of civil rights itself has been so central to the progress of blacks in America. It's a man-bites-dog story: members of a group who successfully fought to be treated equally are now fiercely denying equal treatment to another group. I can understand why reporters and pundits are drawn to the irony, and why self-righteous passions run so high among blacks on all sides of the issue. For a people whose very survival has hinged on the question of civil rights, "bigotry" is a high-stakes word.
Moreover, the increasing upward mobility of African Americans into the white-dominated mainstream is creating more and more diversity of opinion among blacks where once there was something closer to unanimity. Time was, during an era of legalized lynching and segregation, that voting for a platform of aggressive federal government protections and services for the disenfranchised was, for nearly all blacks, an article of faith as a matter of both principle and personal survival, especially on southern back roads after dark. Not so, however, in the 21st century for many educated suburban blacks who drive SUVs, fear the urban poor, and resent what they view as the wasting of their tax dollars to coddle the black underclass. Bill Cosby, take your cue.
So I am not claiming that the "blacks on gay rights" flap is not a story. In fact, I would have no problem at all with the Post story if it weren't the eleventy-millionth press account I've seen over the years trumpeting the "news" that blacks embrace clashing opinions on some burning issue or other. I am sick and tired of the tendency to label diversities of opinion as aberrations or fratricidal wars when they happen within black populations.
You'll recall the shocking 1980s "news" that some blacks voted for Ronald Reagan (my father, an entrepreneurial store owner, was one of them, and man, did we argue). And the startling revelation that many of today's middle-aged educated and prosperous blacks, having been born into middle-class life in the 1960s and 70s, feel little connection or loyalty to drug-ridden black inner-city neighborhoods -- except when they want good barbecue or a beautician who knows their hair. Now we also have the ostensibly astounding spectacle of a black Secretary of State, groomed by a right-wing political machine, who happily shills for the agenda of that machine. Not to mention the all-too-common "black voters are conflicted" silliness seen in front-page stories about black candidates vying against each other in mostly-black districts.
Once, when I appeared on a radio talk show in the Midwest discussing race, the white host asked me, with some incredulity, how it is that when blacks assimilate into the mainstream they sometimes abandon liberal politics. "Blacks move to the suburbs," he exclaimed, "and they get conservative! I don't get it. What's going on?" I told him, with as much restraint as I could muster, that becoming more conservative and self-centered is what middle-class suburbanites tend to do, period, regardless of color. It goes with the turf. He took this as a remarkable insight about black political versatility.
So, with probably more optimism than I am entitled to, I'll now put forward the following attempt at a rebuttal to the stupidly pervasive idea of a lockstep black multitude:
We black folks do not all drink the Kool-Aid. We do not even necessarily drink from similar containers. We consume all manner of political and moral concoctions from all manner of sources, and some of us refuse all proffered flavors in favor of our own creations, and others simply do not imbibe at all. We do not line up at the barrel to drink the Black Juice, and it is not news that this is true.
But we can talk about this next year, when there will likely be a need to discuss it again.
(Posted 2/1/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)
The Bullshit Life.An unlikely little bestseller is now making the rounds.
It is a tiny volume entitled "On Bullshit" (Princeton, 2005), written by Princeton emeritus professor Harry G. Frankfurt. I have not read it, but I have leafed through a friend's copy -- it's just about the cutest little damned volume you'll ever see -- and I have heard plenty of the talk about its surprising rise to pop notoriety. The story goes that it was a scholarly paper of Frankfurt's that attracted such a cult following over the years that he finally adapted it into a small book. The rest is media history, to the point where last summer even The New Yorker ran a piece [August 22, 2005], a sort of history-of-bullshit muse, based on Frankfurt's book.
There are serious questions to be knocked around here, such as whether bullshit is defined by the intent to bullshit (is a truth unintentionally told by an attempted bullshitter still bullshit?) or by the intrinsic meaninglessness of the bullshit itself. And there is an ongoing debate -- mostly among people who have plenty of real food and possessions -- about whether or not the very idea of reality is bullshit.
But what most people in the discussion seem to agree on is that bullshit is most dangerous when the bullshitter has utterly lost his or her regard for the truth.
Sound like any sitting American president you've heard blustering lately?
I don't mean to put all of this on the Bullshitter-In-Chief. He is merely the ripe tip of a very deep pimple. What this entire bullshit conversation is really about, it seems to me, is that we Americans have found ourselves at a point where the great mass of our public life is now, well, bullshit: a pus-white expanse of thick, poisonously meaningless goop. And we know it. And we don't like it. I mean, do you enjoy knowing that virtually every shouted claim banging against your eardrums -- new improved taste, more attentive doctors, superior pain relief, greater security against terrorists -- is an utter waste of your attention? Does it give you pleasure to understand that you are bathed in untruth at nearly every turn of the news and commercial dial? Do you like the feeling of expending so much of your cognitive energy on pointlessness? I'll wager that most Americans do not, and I'll also wager that the makers of Prozac and Paxil are taking a good chunk of the resulting malaise to the bank.
To be sure, paying attention in America is no fun. But that's just the beginning of our problem. It's not just that it feels so lousy to move through days and years in which nothing is worth believing. It's also that this kind of life -- our culture of bullshit -- does real damage to us as human organisms.
Bear with me on this. Here's what I'm talking about.
For starters, a lifelong diet of bullshit breeds selfishness and a contempt for the human project. American suburbia, for instance, with its interchangeable edge-city wedges of anonymity and its blur of constant forgettability, is basically an engineered domicile for bullshit: a honeycomb of green compartments within which a smug derision toward collective meaning can be safely and privately entertained. Active neighborhoods? Forget it. Shared social enterprises? No, thanks. In any way of life where the shared experience of the many is trusted and honored, suburbia as we know it could never exist.
But the damage done by the bullshit life goes even deeper. Living on bullshit numbs the part of us that chooses to feel the world, the part of us that remains open in its desire to embrace and believe. That neglected part of us, our quality of openness, is like an arm that we no longer use. Like Lenin used to predict about the state, it withers away. Go out and stump door-to-door for a cause? That's for crazies and suckers. March on your town hall or your nation's capitol? Sure, if you're one of those physically unattractive true-believer misfits who has no life. Meet with other citizens to talk about how the political system could be better? Yeah, if you can't get a date and you can't afford cable. We have succeeded, it seems, in stripping public life of its publicness. Today, in the era of My Computer, our public space has become a mall that we walk through on our way from one private consumer experience to the next -- while talking on our cell phones. It's all about me, multiplied by about 300 million.
Which brings us back to the Head Me ensconced in the White House. What I find myself wondering, after Iraq and the secret torture gulags and the NSA spying program, is if George W. Bush is in fact a true bullshitter or if he is a mere liar.
A true bullshitter, under Frankurt's definition, is someone whose intent is neither to evade the truth nor to embrace it, but instead to simply pursue or promote a line of thinking for its own sake on the premise that there is, in fact, no truth to be found in the world. To the bullshitter, the dynamic of truth and lies never comes to mind. It is simply a matter of getting what one wants. In that sense, a pure bullshitter -- or, alternately, a raving crazy, which Bush could conceivably be -- occupies a self-intoxicating reality without the burden of conscious deceit. A bullshitter's world is one in which the very idea of truth versus lying seems distant and irrelevant.
But a liar is a different animal entirely. A liar knows truth, and makes it his or her conscious, devious business to conceal it or to circumvent it. A liar operates in the same arena as a truth-teller, but from the opposite side of the field. He or she is out to beat the living hell out of truth in order for lies to prevail, often by any deceitful or abusive means available.
My guess, made without the benefit of private audience or access to psychoanalytic records, is that Bush is a bullshitter and Dick Cheney is a liar.
Bush is the classic demagogue: a middling, muddled kind of guy who, by luck of lineage in his case, has gotten his little-bully hands on the world's most powerful machine and is thrilled to euphoria with the resulting joy ride. He looks, talks and acts like a boy caught up in a perpetual personal fantasy, like an only child in his bedroom acting out a drama with plastic army men who has, for the time being at least, lost sight of the line between play and reality. He is possessed by the game. True, one can make a case, as I've said, that Bush's ramblings are more battiness than bullshit. But I'll stick with my contention that he's a bullshitter. Bush is no nut. He is simply consumed by the needs of his own story.
Cheney, on the other hand, comes across as a good old-fashioned, ice-blooded liar. He assesses. He calculates. He conceals. He asserts, then denies, with no change of facial expression. He stands before the microphones and brazenly contradicts his own past statements with that steely "I dare you to go dig up the tape" glare at reporters. He coolly defies subpoenas from committees and confidently tells a senator in the full chamber to fuck himself. He cocks his head while speaking so that the whirring of the gears is practically audible as he thinks three lies ahead of each sentence. He is as natural a liar as has ever taken the public stage.
But, bullshit or lies, what it all comes down to is that to a lot of Americans everything now means less. The world is fake. Nothing matters. Which means that a good portion of what the human animal was built to do -- to pay attention, to reason, to feel, to understand -- is inclined to shut down, since seeking meaning and truth has seemingly proven to be a frigging waste of time. I'd call that serious damage.
There is a scene in Woody Allen's film "Take the Money and Run" in which the Allen character, as a child, reads in a science book about the existence of entropy and promptly gives up on life. He stops doing his homework, won't obey his parents, and ceases to care about anything because, no matter what he does, the universe is inevitably grinding down toward nothingness. When a child psychologist tries to urge him to participate in life despite the fleeting nature of the universe, the young Allen shrugs indifferently and asks, "What's the point?"
At least the movie was funny.
(Posted 1/21/06 by Bruce A. Jacobs)