Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dodging the draft.

This is a response to a post by Dave Winer at Scripting News: "Dodging the draft is what young men were doing in the late 60s and early 70s. You got out of the draft any way you could."

Not all of us, Dave.

The true draft dodger was simply afraid. Or too self-absorbed to comprehend what "obligation" meant. The number of people whose motivation to resist serving came out of moral courage was quite small, in my opinion. It's ok to be afraid, it makes sense to be afraid sometimes (even Gen. Macarthur noted that "Courage is fear that holds out just a little longer."). What's not ok is to duck out and let the other poor bastards take the risks. What's not ok is to duck out and pretend that the motivation  was created by a morally superior position when in fact it was just cowardice. I don't have a problem with people who at the time were acting out of real moral courage and conviction, and I never did. I do have, and always did have, deep problems with cowards who only acted out of fear.

All wars are hard, whether they are just or justifiable or not. Viet Nam wasn't an evil undertaking by the U.S., it wasn't even immoral. It was ill-advised, it may even have been none of our business, but the South Vietnamese were fighting for their freedom and the North Vietnamese were the aggressors, not the U.S. Viet Nam was Korea Part 2. It is what would have happened to the Kuwaitis when Saddam Hussein invaded them, had we not stopped him. It bothers me no end that people apparently still do not understand that. If someone thinks that other forms of government, particularly Communism as practiced in Cuba, China, and Viet Nam, are "ok" or that there is no difference in life under other systems, then that person simply does not comprehend how lucky they are to be living in the U.S. In Viet Nam, we lost to ourselves, and in many respects we have not come to terms with that yet.

Even George Bush served. He did not "dodge the draft" in the sense of evading service altogether. He put on a uniform. He took an oath. I believe he would have done his job if he had been sent to combat flying. True, he didn't see combat, and true, he seems to have joined the Guard in order to reduce the possibility of seeing combat, but he did actually serve. The distinctions are only in degree. I joined the Navy in 1964, and stayed on active duty until 1978. I served in a destroyer escort that did Market Time Patrol and gunfire support, among other things (including support for the Swift boats). We were in less danger from hostile fire, including counter-battery fire when we did close-in support missions, than we were from our own old ship's machinery and from the sea itself. I served in a carrier on Yankee Station as an assistant to the Operations officer. Again, while our pilots were in danger every day from hostile fire, most of the 5000 men on the carrier were in more peril from the same dangers that face a ship's crew in war or peace - equipment failures, fire, accidents. John Kerry actually asked to go in harm's way, and when he came back, he did what a citizen with his experience should do -- he called for an accounting by his government and by the military. There is nothing wrong with what George Bush did, with what I did, or with what John Kerry did (although I admit to being mad as hell at Kerry at the time -- 30 years of reflection and maturity have helped me get over it), but the degrees to which we served were certainly different.

Which brings me to the point of this rant. In truth, none of this Viet Nam stuff has a damned thing to do with the real issues in this Presidential race. If it's "character," I maintain that Bush and Kerry both have passed the test, with any difference being just in degree, not in quality. I think the media stirs these Viet Nam service questions up and keeps them alive. It's part of the culture of negativity the media have created and from which they draw their profits. Who controls what you see on the news? Given three or five or a dozen angles to cover, why do they choose the one that they do? Shame on us for letting them sucker us into watching, let alone giving a damn what the "news analysts" have to say.

We have serious problems in this country, and we're about to make a decision to put someone in charge of fixing them. We need to pay attention to:

1. How do we finish what we started in Iraq, without wrecking our economy further to do it, and without incurring massive financial obligations to rebuild Iraq that will last for the next 50 or 100 years?

2. What do we do about the real terrorists and the Islamists who would like to reduce us to poverty and subjugation? (And if someone thinks that's not their aim, that person just has not been listening to what they have to say.)

3. How do we restore our relationships with the rest of the world -

a. to help with 1. and 2.;

b. to deal with coming problems (e.g., North Korea, which is about to start selling nukes to the world. Nort Korea will make Osama Bin Ladin look like a mere nuisance);

c. to get our economy back in working order.

4. How do we handle our internal problems:

a. erosion of our privacy and our essential rights;

b. economy, and issues of intellectual property, ethics, and accountability that impact it;

c. education

I'm not hearing much about these issues, yet they are the factors I must base my vote on. What I get from George Bush is slogans delivered in that annoying high-pitched nasal whine of his. What I get from Kerry is combative rhetoric that just panders to people's dislike of George Bush. I wonder whether either of them is capable of the leadership it will take to resolve the things that (it seems to me) are most important. What a mess.

1:35:15 PM    
 Friday, February 27, 2004

Let it be.

Today, someone I work with sent me an article that was a pretty vile and ugly attack on my personal religious beliefs. I think it was done intentionally, with intent to cause pain (this person knows my views and beliefs), and as far as I am aware it was done without any particular provocation on my part. So I said a prayer for the sender, and one for the writer, and I let it go, or tried to.

But because I was taking it personally, it got me thinking about all the other times people have said nasty things about what I believe in. Then it occurred to me that over the years, people have said ugly things to me when they found out:

  •  - my religion
  •  - where I live
  •  - where I grew up
  •  - my military service
  •  - that I helped set up race relations programs in the 70's
  •  - that my children married outside my religion
  •  - that I don't agree with them about everything
  •  - that I willingly work with people who are "different"
  •  - etc. You name it, somebody has taken a shot at me about it.

So it's really foolish (and possibly prideful) to take this stuff personally, or to feel compelled to "say something back" to individuals who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to put me "in my place." It isn't about me, it's about them.

Dawn D. said something on her weblog the other day that also came to me in the middle of this: "I know they suffer just like I do, and they think that [people like me] are the reason they are suffering." (not an exact quote, but close enough)

Thanks, Dawn -- I needed that.

6:31:02 PM    
 Monday, February 02, 2004

Don't like the trash on television? TURN IT OFF!!!!

Seriously, it's time to go find something better to do. A washed-up singer flashes the audience for two seconds at the end of a raunchy duet with another second-rate "talent" and  for two days after it's all over the Web and television news? Geez, get a freakin' life. There is nothing, I repeat NOTHING on the toob worth your time. Not reality shows, not Ted Koppel, not Oprah, not Tim Rosser, not The View, none of it.

Send a message to the sponsors. Turn off their programming and use a few minutes of the time you get back to write them a letter and tell them what you've done.

11:07:51 PM    
 Sunday, January 11, 2004

And I thought maybe I imagined it ...

Dave Winer in Boston saw the same Meet the Press that we got here in Dallas. I don't know which group I loathe more - pols or press. -- BB

Meet the Press had a particularly clueless segment on blogs. Typical BigPub arrogance. One guy says he has a blog, but his is different -- he posts columns instead of pancake recipes. Oh. Okay. I guess you're smart and we're stupid. Thanks. [Scripting News]

2:29:29 PM    
 Friday, January 09, 2004

Social network software.

Social network software has been getting a lot of attention lately. Is it a good thing or not? I think it's always good to add a channel through which people can find you, especially if you are a small business. Some people are suspicious or nervous about sharing their rolodexes. My view is that those who share thrive, those who hoard die. I'm on LinkedIn - search for me as William Brandon, and please add me to your network. -- BB

What YASNSes bring.

Jeremy Zawodny:

"Get yourself out of the mind set of social network software for the sake of social network software and start thinking about how adding a social networking component to existing systems could improve them."

Follow the links from JZ's post to find a lot of discussion surrounding this debate.

And see the argument that my colleague Stephen offers to the view that there is a disincentive to sharing one's connections:

"If the value you create is based on 'knowing', then your livelihood will be undercut by someone who has the same knowledge - in this case, the same (or similar) network of contacts - and who shares it freely."

(By the way, my primary point of presence in social networking systems is here, on Ryze. Ryze is one of the oldest systems alive today - it was launched in 2002. Worth a login if you have yet to try one of those systems...)

[Seb's Open Research]
9:49:40 AM    
 Sunday, January 04, 2004

View other people's feeds.

"Share Your OPML: A commons for sharing RSS Feeds" You can upload an OPML file from your aggregator that identifies your RSS subscriptions (or point to the place on the Web where your aggregator stores your subscriptions). This allows people who read your weblog to also view your subscriptions in a convenient way. You do have to join the service -- this is because the OPML files themselves will be aggregated in various ways (Dave hasn't said what those ways are, yet, though he is showing the top 100 and the number of subscribers to each, for example). I suspect it also allows him to deny access to any individual who might choose to abuse the service in some way.

This is one more reason why I stay with Radio, in spite of its warts. The more I look at how it's put together, the more impressed I become. Also the more embarassed about my own clumsy use of it. Well, we can't all be Robert Scoble or Joi Ito.

2:34:29 PM    
 Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Two more reasons I don't watch television.

Michael JacksonThe NY Times asks if CBS paid Michael Jackson $1 million for the 60 Minutes interview. "In essence they paid him" for the interview, the Jackson associate said of CBS, "but they didn't pay him out of the 60 Minutes budget; they paid him from the entertainment budget, and CBS just shifts around the money internally. That way 60 Minutes can say 60 Minutes didn't pay for the interview." [Scripting News]

9:21:40 AM