15 February 2003
Abraham Lincoln. "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." [Quotes of the Day]
8:04:01 PM  #   your two cents []

Today, Dave says this:

A common response from across the ocean. Unlike the US, France and Germany know what war is like. There's the disconnect. Click here. Clue: That's not Germany or France. 

Well, you could also include Pearl Harbour. But I think this not the point of the comparison. In both cases, these were solitary and extremely unusual events within the borders of a country that has not seen actual battles fought on US soil since the Civil War. As terrible as the Twin Towers strike was, the death toll was well under 3,000 people. Over 135,000 people died in a single event in Germany in WWII, in the bombing of Dresden, which was not militarily or strategically important in any way whatsoever. And that was just one event in a long war with huge numbers of deaths on all sides, not to mention six million Jews.  Let's not have a more-of-a-victim than thou contest about such things, but the reality is that the US has always carried on its wars outside 'the homeland', as it is now termed, and a single day of incidents, no matter how horrific, is quite a different experience than a war fought day by day over many years with an enemy within your own borders.


8:00:06 PM  #   your two cents []
Lily Tomlin. "Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then--we elected them." [Quotes of the Day]
7:24:33 PM  #   your two cents []
Viewers turn traders in fame game. The price of fame has finally been quantified by a BBC internet trading game that turns celebrities into commodities. [Guardian Unlimited]
7:23:02 PM  #   your two cents []
Problems in Open Source Licensing. "It is all too easy to assume that open source software licences are valid and enforceable.", writes Jeremy Malcolm in a paper for ilaw.com.au. "Many of them have been written by lawyers, and even some of those that haven't, seem to have stood the test of time pretty well. But the truth is that to assume that a software licence is not only valid, but valid throughout the world, and safe from being revoked, is not merely optimistic but certainly wrong." [kuro5hin.org]
7:07:58 PM  #   your two cents []

From the NYTimes, Washington Advises Against Sealing Doors and Windows"The Bush administration tried today to calm a jittery public after a week of heightened terrorism warnings, with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge saying that 'we just don't want folks sealing up their doors or sealing up their windows.'" 

Well, then, don't just go around issuing terror notices without telling people what they mean and what people are supposed to DO. No explanation until nearly two weeks later of why the government raised the alert level to orange. And what the hell does it mean? What kinds of activity are people supposed to be alert to, if any? Should they make any kind of preparations? It took days for the administration to add, "Oh yeah, you might stock up on some food and water and duct tape." Then there's this great sentence in the Times piece: "Clearly worried that some people had gone too far in responding to the government's recommendation this week that they buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal doors in the event of a biochemical attack, Mr. Ridge said he wanted to remind the public that the emergency supplies should be kept ready but not used."  What!?Well, you DO tend to panic when told to prepare for a biological attack, Mr Ridge!! How unconstructive and pointless a system could the administration possibly have -- unless it's being deliberately vague to keep the hearts and minds of a nation vaguely fearful.

After 10 days in California I was utterly shocked at how the American media (primarily television and radio) largely presents all serious issues about Iraq and terrorism as a kind of Hollywood action film. From CNN to the local networks, this wasn't reporting -- it was a low form of cheerleading to excite an audience used to film special effects and good vs. evil storytelling. Nowhere else but in countries with totalitarian regimes would a story be presented against the background of a huge rippling national flag with Us vs. Them storylines and slogans, and theme music that incites (I kept thinking, Iraq is being covered as if it is Monday Night Football!). Viewers/listeners/readers are rarely offered anything nuanced, complex, or considered. People are much smarter than this, but they aren't being given much space to think -- it's hard to consider any issue more broadly when the people who are supposed to be offering analysis, perspective, and the multiple sides of the story -- yep, us, the media -- instead seem to be pitching a B-movie plot to a jaded Hollywood director. Once the media stops presenting different voices, different angles and different perspectives in its coverage, a paper, magazine, TV or radio station becomes a shallow form of propaganda, not a source of news.


6:03:56 PM  #   your two cents []

Salon  may fold: This is dire news about a great online zine that has always had verve and guts. I wrote for them a bit when they started and what a breath of fresh air they were in their demands on their writers -- be sharp, smart, witty; talk up, not down; never underestimate the intelligence of your reader; and by all means, get your personality into the piece.  I interviewed them for a profile for The Guardian newspaper around... '97?... but my ulterior motive was to get a foot in the door to write for them, a scheme which, thankfully, worked. I very occasionally and very pleasurably wrote for the ultra-sharp tech editor and now, ed-in-chief Scott Rosenberg. I hope a white knight that understands the value of this unusual publication arrives in time.

"Although its news coverage and commentary have attracted a loyal audience, Salon has not been able to make money. The company said it lost $1.2 million during the final three months of 2002, bringing its cumulative deficit to $81 million."

Salon's history says everything about both the promise and the failure of the web. Something I want to think through in more detail.


5:34:43 PM  #   your two cents []
BoingBoing points to these (a day late for me to post, but hey, I was at 37,000 feet for V-Day and not because I was high on love!): From Despair, Inc, who also do great calendars: "When cruelty and holidays collide, the weak-willed find solace in self-pity and comfort foods. And now, Despair Inc. is pleased to announce that we've combined BOTH into a radical new offering. Introducing "BitterSweets(tm)". The Valentine's Candy for the Rest of Us."

5:12:35 PM  #   your two cents []
Alternatives to copyright. Why should we stick with copyright, when we could come up with something else that would work better for digital media? Lawrence Lessig is working on it. [WriteTheWeb]
5:07:04 PM  #   your two cents []

100,000 people have turned out in Dublin to march in protest against a war in Iraq. That's a pretty significant showing in a country of 3.5 million and one of the largest public marches ever in the city's history. An Irish Times poll today says the large majority of Irish people are also against the military use of Shannon airport for refueling to bring US troops through to the Middle East:

Some 54 per cent disapprove of the current policy of allowing planes land at Shannon. Some 36 per cent approve, with 10 per cent having no opinion.

If the UN Security Council passes a new resolution backing military action against Iraq 49 per cent would still disapprove of US planes landing, 42 per cent would approve with 9 per cent having no opinion.

Opposition to US military use of Shannon would be strongest if there is no new UN resolution. Just 21 per cent would approve, 68 per cent disapprove with 11 per cent having no opinion.

I was going to head in to see the march but my plane from Calif only arrived a few hours before the march started, and I was just too tired to function at that point.


4:56:03 PM  #   your two cents []