Saturday, May 03, 2003

Is it a good idea to put "bits and pieces" in one long post rather than a dozen separate ones, I wonder? Guess I'll get used to proper blogging one day.
You have to love the way Google matches its banners with the contents of $0-hosted blogs:
What if Iraq Attacked USA
Saddam plots revenge against U.S. after defeat. Read the new novel.
seen soaring over EuroPundits: Columns by notable Eurobloggers on politics, culture, and society.
Good news - the Blogger interface (the old one) functions with Opera 7 (user mode, pictures on). Well, almost. The new interface functions even with the images turned off. Now if they'd just fix the archives...
Blogosphere bits and pieces

  • Samuel Pepys, May 3, 1660:
    This morning my Lord showed me the King’s declaration and his letter to the two Generals to be communicated to the fleet. The contents of the letter are his offer of grace to all that will come in within forty days, only excepting them that the Parliament shall hereafter except. ... Upon the receipt of it this morning by an express, Mr. Phillips, one of the messengers of the Council from General Monk, my Lord summoned a council of war, and in the mean time did dictate to me how he would have the vote ordered which he would have pass this council. Which done, the Commanders all came on board, and the council sat in the coach (the first council of war that had been in my time),....
    Nearly 350 years later, we are still at it. Depressing.

  • Haggai links to an article detailing the Bush administration's attempts to block embarassing 9/11 inquiries. In case you didn't know it, intelligence material once released can become secret again. The transformation process is known as "reclassification", apparently obliging the general public to forget it ever heard of it. Or do I get it wrong?

  • Thomas Nephew, short and to the point:
    ...I could hardly believe my eyes: the WHO estimates that 3000 African children die each day from malaria. That's over a million children per year.
    ...back to our regular broadcasting.

  • Ah, the mysterious warbloggers. Stephen Green the Vodka Pundit:
    Sure, it might be nice in the future if continental Europe had a military able to fight alongside our own in some distant land. But there are two big problems.
    First, their proposal isn't just about sucking up to us. Of course Germany would like better relations with us again, and (believe it or not) so would France. But they still see a European Rapid Reaction Force as a counterweight to our military, not just an add-on to it. "You need us to help you fight," they'd love to be able to argue, "so we're going tot help decide where and when and how." A Franco-German RRF would more likely be used in the same way as France's UN veto than it would to act as an allied army.
    Second, it ain't gonna happen. Neither France nor Germany (the only two nations big enough to count) can afford a deployable military without slashing their welfare states. Cutting entitlement payments to populations as gray as theirs is about as likely as a crack ho getting a jumbo mortgage at 5.5%. Besides, Europe has been talking about these improvements for years without doing anything much to achieve them.
    Umm... just what if the ERRF initiators want a force that could operate independently of the US? With due respect, the world is still not completely revolving around America, there are some conflicts out there with no Marines in sight. So why call it a "counterweight", rather than a means of achieving more independence on security issues? With a country like White Russia around the corner, we might even need it. As for the feasibility - I wouldn't be surprised if they do cut the welfare spending one day.

  • Sam of the Pedantry blog takes words out of my mouth:
    I take a dim view of moralising, even in politics. Cries for morality in public affairs are usually cries for leaders who are larger than life, and that is the last thing I want to see in a politician. Give me a corrupt and flawed but competent and decent man over a towering figure of moral authority any day.
    Read what he has to say on the ERRF and a his almost serious (?) proposal to swap Britain for Canada in the EU

  • And finally, the Quote of the week from the Hasidic Rebel:
    I borrowed a book form the library called Essential Blogging published by O'Reilly. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for something that would give me ideas on how to use a blog to change the world. The book meanwhile just goes into boring detail on how to use the differet blogging tools available. Oh, well. ::sigh::
    I admit I have never read a line on how to blog (should I?). But then, I've given up on changing the world. Good luck to Rebel, who has what looks like a genuinely feasible cause.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Grr... I wanted a simple template. This one took minutes, in fact. But there is something wrong with the green tones. Too many of them? Or is it the grey? Damn it, maybe I should have just swapped the brown of the old site for a pale green? Or else...
Where is Raed?

The famous blog hasn't been updated since March the 24th, raising, among other things, speculations about the author's identity, yet again. Could he have been the son of an Iraqi diplomat, arrested in the US on espionage charges around the same time?

Frankly, I don't care. If the blog is partial fiction, it is a magnificient one. And maybe this was exactly what it took at that moment: the Iraqi population given voice by a half-outsider, someone in touch with both worlds. Salam sounded authentic, the way only a gifted writer can. Whether or not he was physically present where he claimed to be matters less.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part. Alternative explanations for Salam's silence are very painful to consider. (Also: a related "metafilter" discussion)

And now: WHERE IS RAED, the other guy from Amman Salam's blog was addressed to, who also had posting access to the site? Please, Raed, give a sign of life. Post a "hi" on the blog, if nothing else.

In the meantime, someone has taken down the comments on the site (no, this is not yet another of Haloscan's temporary disappearing acts)

Update: Silly me. Who is going to read this anyway?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

The mother of senseless political discussions?

(If you have visited this page a short time ago - sorry for the mess. Blogger and my computer were conspiring against me.)

There is a discussion permanently popping out of and descending back into merciful oblivion, namely that on a binational Jewish-Palestinian state. It has even found its way onto the normally well thought-out blog of Jonathan Edelstein (Blogger still hasn't gotten over some wacky programmer's April 1st joke, it seems. I cannot open Head Heeb's archive pages, let alone get the direct links to function. Jonathan, please republish your archives, it works.)

What is remarkable about this subject, is its complete uselessness, even by the typical criteria of political discussions. The binational state project in its present-day form is so completely devoid of any benefits for the Jewish side that it is hard to imagine Jewish Israelis supporting it. Feel free to correct me on this, but to the best of my knowledge, next to none actually do - an aspect the proponents of the binational state fail to appreciate.

Since we are speaking about a sovereign state, the interesting question is: how is this binational state supposed to become reality? Should, say, the NATO make war against Israel and occupy it, forcing the Jewish part of the population of the future binational paradise into submission?

And please don't tell me about apartheid South Africa succumbing to international pressure. All other obvious inappropriate comparisons aside, the anti-apartheid movement was pretty strong among the Whites within the country for decades. Yet to the best of my knowledge even the most dedicated and radical of all Israeli leftists and peaceniks don't want to wind up as a minority in an Arab-dominated state.

So what's the point of bringing up the subject over and over again?

Update: My answer to some of the comments can be found here, together with the now-functioning links to Jonathan's posts.
On the risks of blogging, and other Blogistan news from the time I was away

Diane of Gotham has resigned from blogging, following pressure from her employer. This is as sad as it is ugly, in what is supposed to be a free country.

Now, I can sympathize with the objections of an employer if the blogger uses his facilities (internet access, media database accounts) for what are obviously private purposes without explicit consent. Or, in certain situations (such as employees of media institutions writing on subjects related to their work or project managers working with problematic company customers), when the blogger makes his full name and workplace public, without co-ordinating this with the employer in advance.

What I fail to understand are the objections against anonymous webpages. How many people were able to make the connection between the cyberpersonality known intermittently as "Diana Moon" and "Diane E." and the real-world person? If there were not so many, it's anyone's guess what Diana/e's employer has found so disturbing about her blog. Could it have frightened away potential customers? Interfered with the workplace atmosphere? We will never know, I'm afraid.

The way I see it, the recipe for a blog, as for any internet appearance is to stay strictly anonymous, unless you intend to use the internet for self-promotion. This may be worth it for freelancers, politicians, or students about to graduate in search of a good job, but hardly for anyone else. But then you need to understand what you are doing, the manner in which every sentence you write contributes to your image. Constructing a public persona isn't everyone's thing. In worst case, you have to perform the mental swap of the highly intimate situation of clicking on your computer keyboard for the public one of, say, speaking on a TV talkshow - and act (write) accordingly.

To return to employees' situations - don't offer your company hard evidence of your connection to your site. Never log in via your office computer, neither to edit your site nor in any of the mailboxes and other services mentioned on it (sure, I trust my sys admin not to record passwords, although the network software logs all of them, and if he does, to respect my privacy and so on, but ... ), never offer a public description of the tasks you perform, your colleagues, or any other information that might serve to identify you uniquely among thousands of vaguely similar individuals - and there is no case from the legal point of view. You can always deny your authorship, period. (Ah, the protective labour laws of an imperfect, as in European, market economy...)

Then, of course, people change, both their views and their circumstances. Do you really want to preserve your short-term mental snapshots for eternity?

Update: The second part of this post has been altered and posted here separately.

Update II: creative quoting
Language and liberty?

Did all of my esteemed fellow bloggers who link to a "Foundation for the Defense of Democracies" (in Iraq and maybe elsewhere) take a look at its "about us" page? I get a kind of funny feeling when I see Newt Gingrich right on the top of an advisors list. Am I the only one?

Newt Gingrich, known to me first and foremost as the creator of "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control", a piece of teaching material on a site dedicated to propaganda analysis:

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."

That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

A much more serious challenge is not to speak/write "like Newt". I cannot help myself: each time I read "commitment", "courage", "legacy" and "moral" within two paragraphs I get a slight itch. On the other hand - is it possible to write an opinion piece without any of the expressions he lists?
Discovered on the Blogspot/Google advertising banner over Rinat's blog:

Har-El printers and publishers

Think of all the beautiful things you miss on paid Blogspot sites!

And, Rinat, did you know that balagan is originally Turkish (some say, Persian) and has most probably entered Hebrew through Russian? It used to mean the entertainment tents on fairs, with all kind of nonsense going on inside, and evolved into more or less the same it means in Hebrew.
Another mystery

- - the proliferation of money-collecting blogs, to pay for the hosting, we are told. Around my place, keeping a blog like mine under a separate domain would cost 5 to 10 euros a month (roughly the same or slightly less in dollars), and I doubt that there are many blogs that exceed typical data transfer volume limits for such accounts. Come to think of it, free and $15 Blogspot accounts are said to have such limits as well - anyone ever encountered a problem with this? I can well understand that bloggers who write a lot cannot always afford the unpaid worktime, especially when they perform research for this, but hosting costs, other than for high traffic blogs? Sorry, I don't get it.
Hi, Brian, good instinct!
OK, I can access about half of what I need.

Thanks for all your mails. I hang my head in shame for not having replied to all of them.

this doesn't apply to several hundred spam mails
for Blogger, Worker's Day equals April 1st:
Under Construction
The site you were trying to reach does not currently have a default page. It may be in the process of being upgraded.


Please try this site again later. If you still experience the problem, try contacting the Web site administrator.

try about 5 reloads. it works
Now here is an amusing trick. A site offers e-mail services. For free, no known restrictions other than the volume. You have a full mailbox there, contacts, registration information for other websites and all. You try to sign in. Forget it. Unknown user ID, the service is restricted to paid subscribers only.

Welcome to the world of advanced capitalism. What a brilliant way to make absolutely sure that your free customers will never become the paying ones.
I'm back into a blogging hiatus thinking up a worthy subject for The First Serious Post
notes to myself:

  • where have you been?
  • make this a pblog. or maybe not
  • where have you been all the time? think something up. an undercover mission in Iraq in search of Salam Pax?
  • real-world life has a habit of getting unpleasant. keep away from it whenever you can
  • have a life
  • it's all a matter of healthy balance
  • I'm sick of the comments bingo. what was I going to install, Movale Type? I mean, get a decent provider first. no, it was b2, but the developer seems stricken by the same affliction I (am) was. or is life just too nice on Corsica to spend your time in front of a computer?
  • in Russian they call it departure English-style. send mails to all of my dear old blog pals?
  • find these damned passwords for your mailboxes! surely there are nice mails waiting for you
  • I have developed an entirely different idea of what a personal internet site should look like than the one I had at the beginning of the year
  • keep it simple
  • ... ?
Bits and pieces on (online) writing

(transferred from here)

(OK, OK, this post should be reorganized. No, I won't do it. Or maybe.)

How to misinterprete Google search results from via CyberJournalist

Update: More interesting stuff from/via both sites, of marginal, if any, use for blogging:
  1. Online Storytelling Forms (the links!) and Writing News Online

  2. Dueling columns on journalists' right to blog and J-Blogs: a directory of journalists' weblogs

  3. (Roy) Peter Clark's classic "How to Write a Good Story in 800 Words or Less": the original version and the shorter remake.

  4. By the same author: If I Were a Carpenter: The Tools of the Writer, Two Ways to Read, Three Ways to Write, Thirty Tools for Writers and, in retrospect, some of his articles on 9/11-related journalism written in Sept.-Oct. 2001 (How to Cover the Big, Big Story, Journalism of Why, Truthful Propaganda, Framing the Struggle, The Name of the Dog, Nearing the Saturation Point on Bio-terrorism Coverage, The Post Traumatic Press)

  5. ...and, of course the life-saving Fluent Writer:
    ... "Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." ...
    ... "Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." ...
    ...I’m about to write something you may not want to read, that The Writer’s Struggle is over-rated. The struggle turns out to be a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse in the world for not writing.

    “Why should I get writer’s block?” asked veteran newspaper columnist Roger Simon. “My father never got truck driver’s block.”

    Imagine these excuses for procrastination:
    • Fire Fighter’s Block
    • Paramedic’s Block
    • 7-11 Clerk’s Block
    • Casino Dealer’s Block
    • Ditch Digger’s Block
    • Surgeon’s Block
    • Postal Worker’s Block
    • President’s Block

    This little essay will not deny the periodic utility of The Writer’s Struggle...

    ...Let’s be honest, we writers are invested in the struggle. We become writers (or senior scholars) to avoid heavy lifting. Our hernias are mental. But because physical work aversion is considered unmanly, we’ve created a mythology about our craft. The writer’s life is so hard, Hemingway and his ilk taught us, that only drinking, drugs, and infidelity forestall the dissolution that awaits us. ...
  6. sure...

  7. So it all boils down to a good language instinct and lots of exercise, like any other craftsmanship. (Surprised? Miranda, why don't you just go ahead and delete all of these links?)

  8. From the rest of the world: Guide to Online News in Iran (April 2002), U.S. May Take on Role as Anti-Censorship Champion, Afghan's Thirst for Web Access, Kazakhs Crack Down on Journalists

Update II: The other search engines list, and don't forget Northern Light