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February 25, 2003
No wonder they hate him: Paul Krugman lays it out:
So it seems that Turkey wasn’t really haggling about the price, it just wouldn’t accept payment by check or credit card. In return for support of an Iraq invasion, Turkey wanted—and got—immediate aid, cash on the barrelhead, rather than mere assurances about future help. You’d almost think President Bush had a credibility problem.

And he does.

The funny thing is that this administration sets great store by credibility. As the justifications for invading Iraq come and go—Saddam is developing nuclear weapons; no, but he’s in league with Osama; no, but he’s really evil—the case for war has come increasingly to rest on credibility. You see, say the hawks, we’ve already put our soldiers in position, so we must attack or the world won’t take us seriously.

But credibility isn’t just about punishing people who cross you. It’s also about honoring promises, and telling the truth. And those are areas where the Bush administration has problems.

Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America’s favor. Given Mexico’s close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox’s onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America’s column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush—a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters—in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.

Mr. Fox is not alone. In fact, I can’t think of anyone other than the hard right and corporate lobbyists who has done a deal with Mr. Bush and not come away feeling betrayed.

[12:17 AM : 24 comments]

February 24, 2003
Don’t get stroppy with me, sonny: Tapped leaves us hyperventilating just a touch with the casual revelation that “Most of what Tapped knew of [Ron] Ziegler we learned from reading old Doonesbury collections.” We’d marvel at this evidence of the passing years and our own imminent superannuation, but first we’d have to get across the room with this walker, and it seems ever so much easier to just lie down.

[11:09 PM : 7 comments]

You link me! You really link me! Electrolite has cracked the Technorati Top 100. Thanks to all the fine people who link to this site! As usual, direct your attention to the excellent links in the sidebar to the right. New ones get added regularly—a whole bunch got added just yesterday.

(If you don’t know from Technorati, take a look; it’s a suite of tools useful for weblog writers and readers alike.)

INSTANT UPDATE: Even before I could finish typing this post, Leslie Turek wrote to point out that I’m also #15 on Daypop’s “Word Burst” page (for “introvert”). Hey, this Semantic Web is exhilarating stuff.

[09:52 PM : 4 comments]

Taking things seriously: The estimable Calpundit says “My sense from reading the anti-war left is that they don’t really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously.”

Not to be too cranky about it, but “terrorism and unstable states” blew up a big chunk of my home town. Watching the ashes and personal debris of several thousand of your fellow citizens rain down on your neighborhood is not something you readily forget.

One of the more predictable rhetorical techniques in any argument about war or peace is the suggestion that those who oppose a particular war, or a particular plan for war, must be speaking from a pacifistic, hello-clouds hello-sky outlook. You’re either a hawk or a dove; it’s all about prior inclination. In antiwar circles, this expresses itself in the regrettably common and equally foolish notion that military people are all a bunch of General Jack D. Rippers dragging civilians to war. In fact many of the people I know who are most opposed to this war are former or current members of the military, and many of the antiwar civilians I know are, in temperament and outlook, martial as hell. We’re not pacifists, we’re far from opposed to every imaginable use of US power, and we’re clear on the danger presented by “terrorism and unstable states,” thank you very much. What we’re unhappy about is the overwhelming evidence that this war will make us less safe, not more; that it will diminish American power, not increase it; and that it will empower “terrorism and unstable states” to an unprecedented degree.

All the arguments have been hashed to death and surely Kevin Drum is aware of them. I don’t propose to re-hash them here. What I want to say is this: I may be right in my opposition to this war, and I may be wrong, but I certainly know that “terrorism and unstable states” pose a real threat. I saw “terrorism and unstable states” kill a bunch of my fellow citizens. Not a day has gone by in New York City since when I didn’t wonder whether today would be the day that “terrorism and unstable states” would kill me and my loved ones just as dead. The danger is real; the argument between people of good will is about how to effectively deal with it. Suggesting that people with my views are simply failing to recognize the existence of a threat is the kind of argument I would have thought beneath Kevin Drum.

[06:24 PM : 91 comments]

February 23, 2003
Really down under: Lots of bloggers linked to this photo of the Antarctic antiwar demonstration. Jonathan Edelstein of The Head Heeb provides us with a brief history of Antarctic political demonstrations and civil unrest. There’s been more than you might have thought.

UPDATE: Josh in the comments section directs us to the Antarctic-commentary site Big Dead Place, and Chris Barrus points us to 70 South.

[01:22 PM : 1 comments]

Stark terror recollected in tranquility: I haven’t previously looked at the weblog Izzle Pfaff!, but idly clicking links I stumbled across a three-part memoir of the author’s high-school folly, full of needle-sharp recollections of the transcendent horridness of being a teenager. Context for the following: In a goofy moment in typing class, our hero has impulsively typed up a fake bomb threat, and then gone on to surreptitiously leave it in the school office. A little later, the school is evacuated. Uh oh.
Right about then, had any school official happened to look at my face, they would have been able to save themselves the trouble of the search, because I had the whole thing written right on my face. (And let me tell you how happy a lot of students were to have their lockers searched. Bye bye tobacco, booze and porn!) I felt a terrible sensation in my gut not unlike the feeling one gets when viewing a Steven Seagal movie; I wanted, on a cellular level, to die. I knew I was fucked; it was only a matter of time. And this was brought savagely home to me one moment later, when my friend Bill leaned in and whispered to me, “You’re my hero.” Because…oh yeah. Oh fuck. I had told people. Only two people at that point. But that was enough, and I knew it.

There was really only one thing to do, I realized. I could still make things better. So I immediately drove down to the river and drank beer with the rest of the student body. Things, I knew, were just getting started, and there was still ample time for me to make everything massively worse. So I did.

That’s from the first of the three long posts that tell the whole story. Particularly recommended if, like me, you’re about 2.75 blog mentions of “Thomas Friedman” or “inspection process” away from losing it.

[10:43 AM : 3 comments]

February 22, 2003
Our hour at last: Jonathan Rauch has decided to profile me in the Atlantic Monthly. Okay, not just me. But:
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out? […]

Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts.

My personal liberation movement is here at last. Up against the wall, extroverts. (Via soul brother Gene Healy.)

Cross-reference: Warhoon 28, page 564.

[09:37 PM : 31 comments]

A technical question for my many readers who grasp this stuff better than I do. I’d like my RSS feed to syndicate the full text of my posts, not just an excerpt. Movable Type offers a setting with which to specify the number of words in an auto-generated excerpt, so my first thought was to simply set this to an extremely high value, like 999. But the syndicated posts that result turn out to be stripped of important formatting, like blockquote tags. So I’ve resorted to manually copying the whole post into the “excerpt” box in the MT entry form, which is a minor pain, and keeps me from being able to use handy tools like NetNewsWire’s posting facility. Does anyone know how to make Movable Type simply syndicate the whole post without this kind of workaround?

UPDATE: Mike Scott has the answer, in the comments to this post. Seems to have worked fine.

[11:27 AM : 12 comments]

The moral clarity never stops: She’s not even dead yet, and Bob Novak already knows the contents of her grieving family’s hearts:
I hate to say this, but I just smell the sign of her relatives are building up for pain and suffering to get a killing, to get not $250,000, but millions of dollars for this. I mean, isn’t that what this is about?
What a disgusting piece of shit Bob Novak is. (Via Eschaton.)

[10:22 AM : 29 comments]

February 21, 2003
Here in the 21st century, I was about to leave for work this morning in Brooklyn, when Teresa called from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to tell me a giant explosion had just happened on Staten Island. Naturally, I didn’t immediately run to the window to look. Of course not! I loaded CNN and the New York Times into my browser, turned on the cable TV, and then I went outside.

The New York Times has a spectacular picture here.

[03:51 PM : 3 comments]

New World Disorder: Via BoingBoing, a BBC report that reads like a Bruce Sterling story.
The tiny Pacific island of Nauru has spent weeks completely cut off from the outside world after its telecommunications network collapsed. […]

The situation is compounded by the fact that when contact was last made, a battle was raging for power between President Dowiyogo and the man he unseated in January, Rene Harris. No one is quite sure who runs the island now.

Additionally, whoever is in charge is thought to have no budget with which to rule, while the official presidential residence was reported to have burned down last month.

Nauru’s main industry was phosphate mining, which is to say, birdshit. When that ran out, they appear to have turned to money laundering. They also struck a deal with Canberra to intern asylum seekers while their applications to live in Australia were processed. This also seems to have not gone as planned:
Late last year, Australian immigration officials admitted that the asylum seekers, mainly Iraqis, had been running their own detention centre since officials abandoned the site following a riot.

“Effectively you could call it a self-managed centre,” a senior Australian immigration official told an inquiry.

[12:18 PM : 9 comments]

American heroes: Those would be bookseller Michael Katzenberg and the other staff of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, who will purge customer purchasing records on request. Why? Well, as the CNN story reminds us:
The Patriot Act approved after the 2001 terrorist attacks allows government agents to seek court orders to seize records “for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

Such court orders cannot be challenged like a traditional subpoena. In fact, bookstores and libraries are barred from telling anyone if they get one. [Emphasis added.]

Of course, no one in government would never actually use these powers inappropriately. We know this, why, because they say so:
U.S. Attorney Peter Hall played down concern that government agents might soon be darkening the door at Vermont bookstores and libraries.

“Only in very rare and limited and supervised circumstances would anyone be seeking that sort of business information from a bookseller, a library or a business of any sort,” Hall said.

If you find these promises less than reassuring, you might want to consider giving some of your own bookbuying business to Bear Pond Books. Predictably, right now their web server is being overwhelmed by traffic generated by the CNN story, but I phoned and a staff member confirmed that yes, they do sell books on their web page, so please keep trying! (Alternately, I’ll bet they’d be happy to take an order or two over the phone; it’s 802-229-0774.) “A lot of people around here are very concerned about this,” said the staffer. Good to know.

[CNN story via Nathan Newman, whose weblog I sometimes have to restrain myself from quoting wholesale. Check out this and this while you’re at it.]

[10:30 AM : 9 comments]

February 20, 2003
Tom Tomorrow has another.

[11:10 PM : 2 comments]

Also in our comment section, Kirstie points out this fine parody of the Homeland Security web site. “ Helping America Prepare for Fiery Death.”

Though along these lines, the champion blog response has still got to be Matthew Yglesias, marveling at the revelation that it’s better to be farther away from a nuclear detonation:

See I’d always thought you wanted to be as close as possible to the center of a nuclear explosion in order to survive. Now I know better and I’ll make sure that the next time terrorists tell me where they’ve hidden their nukes I’ll stay far away.

Thanks Tom Ridge!

[08:37 PM : 2 comments]

From Our Comment Section: Timothy Burke makes an observation that seems worth, well, highlighting:
Unfortunately, the people who remember the lessons of fractured opposition to fascism in the 1930s usually seem to forget that it was the pathological inability of the far left to defend the admittedly flawed and compromised Weimar democracy against fascism that was so costly. They were so caught up in the need to go out and have a macho fistfight with a fascist in the streets and they ignored the more subtle battles inside the houses, the churches, the companies, the civil society as a whole. Because that might have taken compromise and persuasion, a willingness to listen sympathetically to someone besides the labor unions that were the core of the Weimar left’s support.
I can think of a few people, all of them well-meaning and some of them friends of mine, upon whose forehead I’d like to emboss those remarks. With all due loving kindness, of course.

A duly licensed practitioner of the historical arts, Burke also adds:

History is a good teacher, but if you just go looking for the lessons you want, I promise you that you will always find them, and learn very little in the process.

[08:20 PM : 4 comments]

If you’re confused by the many fine illustrations on the new Department of Homeland Security web site, Kieran Healy can explain them all.

[05:54 PM : 3 comments]

On a more cheerful note, Erik V. Olson sends us to this National Science Foundation press release, discussing a breakthrough in electrical resistance that may lead to mass storage in the terabit-per-square-inch range. The press release describes this as “50 or more DVDs on a hard drive the size of a credit card,” from which we can extrapolate that a normal-sized notebook computer hard drive could casually carry around the text contents of a fair-sized public library. It’s almost impossible to guess at the second- and third-order social effects of something like this.

[09:08 AM : 14 comments]

Zizka puts forth the case for a posture of deliberate, considered, and judicious paranoid hysteria:
Usually accusations of hysteria come along, in a sort of mopping-up operation, a little after the accusations of paranoia, conspiracy theory, and intolerance. It isn’t supposed to bother us, for example, that neo-Confederates and Armageddon Christians play a big behind-the-scenes role in the Bush administration and are a major part of his core constituency. And when we are accused of treason, or when vague death threats are made against us (e.g., by Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh), we’re supposed to have a sense of humor about it. Urbane conservatives are always happy to explain to us that they personally pay no attention to these people, and that they don’t understand why we seem to care so much. And that we’re hysterical.

This is all fine. But look what’s happening right now. First, President Bush has proposed an economic policy that makes no sense whatsoever and seems certain to lead to disaster. Second, we are beginning a war, supposedly against Iraq, which gives every evidence of being open-ended: we have no idea what the objectives are, who the enemies will end up being, or how long the war will last. And third, a multitude of administration proposals — bills passed by Congress, bills to be proposed to Congress, and executive orders — have vastly increased the police powers of the state and its powers of surveillance, while diminishing the rights of defendants and creating several classes of people with no rights at all: people who can be disappeared after a secret trial. […]

Already we liberals have had to get used to the accusations of treason. Once the war starts, these will get worse. The Bush administration has already made comparable accusations against unccoperative Congressmen. We can expect that to get worse too, and the Democrats seem incapable of resisting effectively. If the war goes badly, God forbid, things will get worse yet; and when the economy stalls on top of everything else, as it seems very likely that it will, we can expect a further escalation of unofficial and official attacks on us.

So yeah, I’m paranoid and hysterical. If you have a problem with that, bite me. In certain periods of history it’s been the paranoids who survived.

[08:55 AM : 44 comments]

February 19, 2003
As regular readers of Electrolite’s comment section will have noticed, Timothy Burke is a sharp fellow and a strong writer. Now Burke, a young history professor at Swarthmore, has acquiesced to the inevitable by starting Easily Distracted, a weblog of his own, and it’s good stuff. Currently on top: a thoughtful piece about chasing the “fully realized Habermasian public sphere” through multiple successive online forums, which I certainly found interesting since so much of Burke’s experience parallels my own, right down to the specific “places” in question. Underneath that, an excellent reflection on the need to “jump clusters” now and then in order to stay smart and fresh. Needed: permalinks. I’m sure Burke will get on it.

Elsewhere in the world of really good weblogs that not enough people seem to read, Emma of Late Night Thoughts has three remarkable posts addressed to anyone concerned with actually rolling back the radical right in our lifetimes.

[02:58 PM : 6 comments]

Among Danny O’Brien’s various projects is the admirable Evidently, one large organization availing itself of’s services had some difficulty following instructions. O’Brien’s post is the kind of response you really don’t want your business behavior to incur.

[02:41 PM : 3 comments]

February 18, 2003
F Train on My Trail: I’ve been so busy with work, travel, and other distractions over the last few days that I’ve neglected to mention that Whisperado will be playing a bunch of that electrificated music stuff at 7:00 PM tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 19th, at Bar-B, 188 Allen Street, just below Houston Street in gritty old lower Manhattan where the Cosmopolitans flow freely and life is cheap. Why, one midnight at the Baggot Inn, Jon Sobel shot a man just to watch him die. So you never know.

[09:18 PM : 3 comments]

The World’s Online Informer: Ernest Miller of LawMeme quotes and discusses an address by Joseph E. Sullivan, Director of Compliance and Law Enforcement Relations for eBay. Boasts Sullivan:
EBay has probably the most generous policy of any internet company when it comes to sharing information. […]

Our policy is that if you are law enforcement agency you can fax us on your letterhead to request information: who is that beyond the seller ID, who is beyond this user ID. We give you their name, their address, their e-mail address, and we can give you their sales history without a subpoena.

We also do other things to facilitate your [law enforcement] investigation by looking around and doing some searches on our own, typically to see if there are some other user IDs associated with that thing.

Remarks Miller:
Remember when everyone got excited about the bookstore that was subpoened by Ken Starr in order to determine what books Monica Lewinsky purchased? Remember how the bookstore fought the subpoena? EBay doesn’t even require a subpoena. EBay would have turned over the info with a mere request.
A mere request, I might add, from any law enforcement agency that sends a fax on their letterhead. Or, for that matter, anyone with a fax machine, a copy of Pagemaker and a few decent-looking fonts. There’s secure authentication for you.

But never mind the quibbling. This will seem problematic or not depending on how much you trust our fine prosecutors and police. Certainly I can’t imagine any news stories in the last few years that might make me less than totally enthusiastic about expanding police power indefinitely, and if you can, it’s probably because you’re guilty of something, citizen.

[04:59 PM : 11 comments]

February 17, 2003
Back: Sorry for the lack of posts. Just as we were getting ready to leave for Boskone, Teresa got word that her maternal grandmother—99 years old, and a tremendously important person in her life—had died. After a quick consultation over schedules we decided to go to the conference in Boston anyway, and thanks to the help of several friends and the generosity of one friend with a lot of frequent flyer miles, Teresa flew from Boston to Phoenix today, in time for the funeral tomorrow and a couple of days of visiting after that. And I’m home, having been driven back to NYC by another friend who works part-time as an EMT driver in northern New Hampshire and who was thus unfazed by the prospect of driving several hours in near-blizzard conditions. Goodness, that was interesting.

Boskone was frazzling. On top of the impact to Teresa of a major death in her family, we also ran headlong into the belated realization that we’d committed to organize an evening Tor Books party without considering the fact that, this particular time, we wouldn’t have any assistants or junior editors around to help hew wood and draw water. And meanwhile we were scheduled to speak on roughly 47 different program items. So Friday and Saturday were Way Too Rushed, and we owe about a dozen friends serious thanks for helping us make bricks without straw. On top of it all, on Saturday afternoon it was relayed to us that we really ought to be at the convention awards ceremony. Really. Huh? Okay, we went, even though our party was scheduled to actually start around then. And they gave us this.

As I managed to say at the time, “This can’t be right. This is the kind of award you give to someone who’s been in the field for dec—oh, shit.”

[08:52 PM : 45 comments]

February 12, 2003
Just one interesting note from many in David Remnick’s terrific New Yorker profile of Vaclav Havel:
In the mid-seventies, Havel had to make his living by working in a brewery, and, in “The Power of the Powerless,” he recalls a dispute at the plant. A worker there spoke out to his bosses about ways to improve production. He was not an intellectual or a political rebel, just someone with an idea on how to produce beer more efficiently. But he had dared defy his bosses, and that could not be tolerated. All too often, Havel wrote, living normally “begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
Spot on. Because the desire to avoid extra effort is such a powerful part of human behavior, we tend to assume—when we’re thinking loosely—that humans generally want to avoid work. But the desire to be effective and the desire for one’s efforts to be meaningful are powerful as well. Those in power habitually underestimate how radicalizing it is when individuals find themselves frustrated in their sincere attempts to do good work.

[10:20 AM : 16 comments]

If you’re in fact confused about the whole business with the latest “Bin Laden” tape, as well you might be, Mark Kleiman has a useful summary here.

[07:54 AM : 19 comments]

Noted Arabist Neal Pollack has provided his own translation of the latest “Osama bin Laden” tape:
Also, we are definitely teaming up with Saddam Hussein to destroy America. Ever since the infidel American forces began blowing up our caves in October 2001, our first priority has been a partnership with an unstable secular dictator whose wholly illegitimate government will crumble within six weeks in the face of the largest global military action since World War II.
That certainly would be my first move.

[07:42 AM : 4 comments]

Vestigial spine discovered on Capitol Hill! So it looks like the Senate provision blocking the “Total Information Awareness” program is actually going to survive the House-Senate conference committee. The telling paragraph in the Times story:
One important factor in the breadth of the opposition is the fact that the research project is headed by Adm. John M. Poindexter. Several members of Congress have said that the admiral was an unwelcome symbol because he had been convicted of lying to Congress about weapons sales to Iran and illegal aid to Nicaraguan rebels, an issue with constitutional ramifications, the Iran-contra affair. The fact that his conviction was later reversed on the ground that he had been given immunity for the testimony in which he lied did not mitigate Congressional opinion, they said.
In other words, it turns out that if you lie to Congress, members of Congress don’t trust you. Interestingly, we’ve become so inured to watching Congress roll over for the Executive Branch that this actually comes as a surprise. Which says quite a lot about how divorced from everyday common sense our politics have, overall, become.

[07:32 AM : 2 comments]

February 11, 2003
What about the boy? While you’re thinking back to those heroic days of 9/11/2001, think about this fascinating story in today’s New York Times. Or, at least, until they scrub it, the way they scrubbed the latest “Bin Laden” story.

[Rockville Centre is the Catholic diocese just east of Brooklyn and Queens, composed of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.]

A grand jury’s assertion that the Diocese of Rockville Centre secretly battled to protect priests while pretending to extend a pastoral hand to sexual abuse victims goes beyond anything seen since the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church erupted a year ago, victims of abuse and their advocates said yesterday. […]

While masquerading as sympathetic listeners, the officials were actually doing everything they could to fend off dozens of victims, keep their charges quiet and keep abusive priests in the ministry, the grand jury said in the report, which was released on Monday.

“I have not frankly seen a team that is so sinister and dedicated to the purpose like this,” said one lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, who added that he had pressed cases in more than half of the nation’s dioceses. […]

In one instance, the official told a parish employee who reported suspicious behavior that the priest would be sent for treatment, the report said. What about the boy, the employee asked. The grand jury report said the official replied: “It’s not my responsibility to worry about the boy. My job is to protect the bishop and the church.” […]

While his name never appears, Msgr. Alan J. Placa’s shadow hovers throughout the grand jury report.

Monsignor Placa was the architect of the diocese’s legal strategy, a national expert in the field and the crucial member of the intervention team. Several months after the panel was ended in April, he was suspended from the ministry after being accused of abusing children. Monsignor Placa is a close friend of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor, and works for Mr. Giuliani’s consulting business.

The grand jury report does not mention names. But it often refers to a priest who is a lawyer as dealing with victims. The description fits Monsignor Placa, and lawyers for victims have said he is the author of confidential legal memorandums quoted by the grand jury.

Monsignor Placa, who has defended his work on the panel and denied misconduct, did not respond to a request for an interview yesterday.

You didn’t hear it. You didn’t see it. You won’t say nothing to no one, ever in your life. You didn’t hear it. How absurd it all seems without any proof.

And Rudolph Giuliani is a national hero. You didn’t hear it. What about the boy?

[11:37 PM : 13 comments]

February 10, 2003
More problems of modernity. It may be routine for my readers to load Electrolite and discover new posts, but for me the experience comes as something of a surprise. Anyway, that fine post about circulation patterns in Tia Maria cocktails has now been moved to its intended place on Making Light. Thus the perils of two blogs, one MT installation. (Yes, before you ask, we do have separate MT logins, but we each have authoring privileges on the other’s weblog, so we can do routine maintenance tasks for one another like backing up the database, correcting typos, and the like. All the little chores of 21st-century domesticity, you know, washing the dishes, fixing lunch, flaming the Bush Administration, tweaking the CSS style sheet.)

[01:38 PM : 15 comments]

February 09, 2003
Deploying the Lazy Web: James Gleick’s New York Times Magazine overview of the ongoing spam crisis praises SpamAssassin, a tool for filtering spam on Unix mail systems based on a variety of tests. Which reminds me of a question I’ve meant to pose to my many readers who are more technically competent than I am.

My ISP offers SpamAssassin as an option, and I’ve enabled it; I’ve even figured out how to “whitelist” certain addresses from which I want to always receive mail, even if the mail nominally flunks SpamAssassin’s various tests.

My problem has to do with the emailed copies I receive of posts to Electrolite. For whatever reason, SpamAssassin zaps some of these. I can’t “whitelist” them by originating address, because they come from many different addresses. And while they all have the string “[Electrolite] New Comment Posted” in their “Subject:” line, I can’t divine, in the thicket of SpamAssassin’s (and procmail’s) Unix-obtuse documentation, how to (in essence) “whitelist” something by subject line.

But you know something? I’ll bet someone reading this knows the answer.

[09:14 AM : 13 comments]

Unbelievably, the New York City powers-that-be are throwing up obstacles to a perfectly unexceptionable antiwar march on February 15.

Remember the New York Sun? First new newspaper started in NYC in umpty-blivet years? Focus of blogospheric excitement and general tra-la? I saved a copy of the first issue. Well, here’s the intellectual and moral caliber of the New York Sun.

Here’s where Jim Henley is keeping track of the pro-war bloggers with the cojones to repudiate that disgusting exercise. A short list, but a noble one.

Here’s a New Yorker—indeed, a Brooklynite—displaying city residents’ traditional attitude toward being told when and where we’re allowed to say what we think.

Here’s where you can tell New York City officials what you think of this exercise in bureaucratic obstructionism. What unbelievable wankers.

[12:06 AM : 17 comments]

February 07, 2003
Condition Orange. Your South Knox Bubba has the lowdown.

[11:32 PM : 5 comments]

February 05, 2003
Those wacky lawyers. Sam Heldman is beside himself.
Big big news—big enough that Lou Dobbs was laughing about it on CNN a little while ago, expressing incredulity. Big big news—big enough that even though the suit was filed in Florida, it made the newspapers in New York, Kansas City, and other places. Those darn plaintiff’s lawyers with their crazy new theories are out of control! Somebody actually sued a McDonalds franchise for selling them a bagel that was so hard that it broke their teeth! Ho ho ho, ha ha ha, tort reform. The only problem, of course, is that (as anybody who’s passed the first year of law school can tell you), such lawsuits have been a recognized and settled part of basic law for decades if not centuries. If you sell somebody food to eat, you are giving an implied promise that it’s fit for the purpose it’s sold for—i.e., eating—and you are liable if that promise is not kept. In nearly every state, this is in fact a matter of statute, under the Uniform Commercial Code. Ho ho ho, ha ha ha. Can you imagine, that somebody actually filed a lawsuit to enforce their rights against a corporation that injured them? Ho ho ho, ha ha ha. Next up, after this commercial: somebody actuallly had the gall to call the police when their car was stolen! What will those darn lawyers think of next? Ho ho ho, ha ha ha. Liberal media, ho ho ho, ha ha ha.

[12:15 AM : 59 comments]

February 04, 2003
Eric Alterman promotes his new book, What Liberal Media?, out today:
Because the regular media is a bit preoccupied this week, I’d like to encourage bloggers who are not on typical media mailing lists to write to Basic Books, my publisher, and request a review copy.
The heck with that. This blogger who is “not on typical media mailing lists” went out and bought a copy at Barnes and Noble, full price, on its first day on sale. Speaking from inside the whale, I assure you that this does a lot more to help rev up Basic Books’ promotional machinery than any dozen bloggers trying to leech a free copy.

Hey, you know, this looks like a pretty shit-kicking book, too. Excuse me, I’ll be back after I’ve read just another couple of chapters.

[11:31 PM : 13 comments]

Room at the table. The Slacktivist addresses a point often raised at times of mourning:
Inevitably when something like this happens, someone will feel the need to point out that seven other people somewhere else were killed the same day and we’re not making a big deal about them. There may be some value to this egalitarian sniping about priorities, but this is probably not the most constructive way to raise this point. This argument reminds me of the communion scene from Places in the Heart and I imagine Sally Field and Danny Glover breaking bread with the Columbia astronauts, and with the nameless Nigerians killed in that bank explosion, and with Gus Grissom and Ed White and Roger Chafee, and I remember that there’s room at the table for all the forgotten and the honored dead and all of us, the living.

[05:42 PM : 19 comments]

Say hello to the Republic of S&M.

Says Lucy Huntzinger in AIM: “Let’s design their flag!”

[05:08 PM : 5 comments]

Moral Clarity Watch: While rallying support at home for war on Iraq, Fox News is forking over thousands of dollars a day to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Via Jeremy Scahill on, here’s the scoop:
Here are the bare minimums for journalists operating in Baghdad:
    $100/day fee per journalist, cameraperson, technical staff etc.
    $150/day fee for permission to use a satellite telephone (which the journalists have to provide themselves)
    $50-100/day for a mandatory government escort
    $50-100/day for a car and driver (some networks have a fleet of vehicles)
    $75/day for a room at the Al Rashid Hotel
That’s already $500 and that doesn’t include the thousands of dollars daily for each direct live satellite feed for TV networks. Nor does it include the bribes and “tips” shelled out left and right. Nor does it include the money handed over at border crossings and the airport. The networks don’t like to talk about how much they actually spend, but one veteran of the media scene here estimated the cost for a major TV network at about $100,000 a month. Others say that is a low estimate. Almost all of this cash (except a few “tips” here and there) goes directly to the Iraqi government. Once you add up the bill for the TV networks alone, we’re talking perhaps millions of dollars in revenue a month for the government.

There is a joke here that the major media outlets are now competing with oil smuggling as the number one money-maker for the Iraqi government. It is particularly ironic that while Rupert Murdoch’s “troops” from FOX News Network rally for the war, dismissing antiwar activists as dupes of the Iraqi regime, the “network America trusts” is paying “Saddam” (as they refer to Iraq) hand over fist tens of thousands of dollars every month.

“Ironic” might be one word for it. Another might be, what was it? Oh yes. “Icky.”

[01:24 PM : 19 comments]

February 03, 2003
Texan. Republican. Antiwar. The always-interesting Texas Observer interviews Ron Paul, possibly the most off-the-reservation Republican in Congress.
TO: So how do we break through the dominant paradigm? The so-called “liberal media?”

RP: Yeah, who is the liberal media? From my viewpoint, Fox is a bigger threat than CBS. Fox is the bigger interventionist. All the major media in television are like that. How do you do it? I do it my way. I write articles and give speeches and send out letters. The other thing that I do is to make sure everybody knows up front exactly what I believe in. Because if I get elected, I want to make the claim that they elected me knowing fully well what I believe. Not only do I want to be elected under those conditions, I want to follow those rules, never vote to bend them, and get reelected with a better percentage.

I understand that the anti-war movement is a lot stronger than anybody would realize by watching television; that it is stronger compared to where we were when we moved into Vietnam. Then they were killing for five years before the campuses exploded. Now the campuses are sound asleep and there is a strong anti-war movement in the suburbs. It’s out there.

Recommended reading for overseas readers who think American politics fall into an easily-parsed narrative of “cowboys,” “Yankees,” etc. We are stranger than you imagine, and probably more dangerous.

[07:48 PM : 32 comments]

February 02, 2003
Via our neighbor the Talking Dog: The Palestinian Authority has extended its condolences to the families of all the Columbia astronauts, including Israeli astronaut Ilon Ramon. (Story in the Jerusalem Post, login cypherpunk, password cypherpunk.) “Anyone who dedicates his and her work efforts and lives for scientific development to help humankind and the world is very courageous, whoever he is,” said Arafat adviser Bassam Abu Sharif.

Take it for what you will. But kindness can happen even between enemies, and should never be discouraged.

[06:56 PM : 6 comments]

An interesting point from Max Sawicky in the middle of his self-described “budget wonk response” to the shuttle disaster:
In politics, the use of tragedies to score policy points is routine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s how you make decisions in a democracy. I would say it really depends on the substance. For instance, using the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to motivate the improvement of occupational safety was entirely laudable. The martyrdom of civil rights workers advanced civil rights legislation. Using the crimes of a tyrant to justify a just war is appropriate. Obviously the question is whether the cause is just, and whether the link is well-founded. One thing is certain—anyone who accuses someone else of exploiting a tragedy for political aims is in the same game. Exploitation is really a question of whether the case is sufficiently plausible to merit further investigation. Some cases are pitched to the uninformed or geared to prejudice.
Max’s whole post is very much worth reading.

[06:45 PM : 2 comments]

Kevin Drum has a new look. Kieran Healy comments.

[12:37 PM : 1 comments]

I hadn’t looked at alt.muslim lately, but Max Sawicky linked to it, so I’ve been catching up on the site. Here, check this out: Blogging Takes Off in the Muslim World. “Wired Muslims all over the world, tired of having kings, dictators, and Osama speaking for them, take to the net with their own voice using weblogs.” Bunches of linkage. Go, explore.

[11:35 AM : 1 comments]

February 01, 2003
Posted to by one Rilla Heslin:
I am still listening to the news, and they just were talking to Buzz Aldrin. He said he wanted to read an excerpt from a song by Dr. Jordin Kare and even spelled Jordin’s last name. He read the last (?) verse of Jordin’s, “Fire In The Sky,” …. “and they passed from us to Glory riding Fire In The Sky.” And as he read his voice started trembling and he began to cry.
If you have a copy of this, audio or video, Jordin Kare would like to hear from you.

[11:13 PM : 5 comments]

The New York Times reports from Nacogdoches, Texas:
John Anderson, 59, found close to 80 pieces of debris on his 14-acre patch of grass and woods, mostly pieces of tile, from minute up to two feet long.

Mr. Anderson said he saw the one that landed on his front porch first, recognized it and knew what had happened before he turned on the television.

“We heard this low-frequency, high-energy sound, an enormous release of energy, sort of a ragged boom,” he said. “I hadn’t even remembered that the shuttle was landing today. Unfortunately we have gotten to the point of thinking of them as completely safe and commonplace. Then I remembered it was landing today, and I was afraid maybe something happened.

The awful thing, he said, was “the realization that what you had thought possibly could be the case from what you had felt, was obviously the case. We had the TV on, and by that time they were reporting there had been no communication. But we already knew.”

[11:04 PM : 1 comments]

From William Gibson:

When I was a little boy I believed passionately in space travel. I had a book by Willy Ley, with illustrations by Chesley Bonestell. The hard covers were slick and glossy, and if you ran your fingernail over them, hard, the cardboard beneath the glossy coating dented. Eventually the coating broke, and started to peel off, and the glossy night behind the stars was dull, and sticky as tar, collecting lint.

The grown son of my mother’s best friend was a pilot in the Air Force. He came to visit us, in uniform, and I showed him my Willy Ley book and told him about rockets, missiles and space travel. He said it wasn’t possible. Would never happen. That Willy Ley was wrong. That you couldn’t do that with rockets. I argued with him. It was the first time in my life, probably, that I openly disagreed with an adult.

Later on, I built kits like these:

The Monogram Space Taxi was a particular favorite, and I kept the space-suited figures long after the taxi itself had broken up and vanished.

Broken up and vanished. In the sky over Nacogdoches County. And I’m sad all the way back to the little boy with his stiff black book and his Bonestell rockets.

But Willy was right, and nobody ever said it would be risk-free.

If it were, it wouldn’t be glorious.

And it’s only with these losses that we best know that it really is.

(Thanks to Sam Gentile for the pointer.)

[06:45 PM : 0 comments]

Like everyone else, I’m just waiting for more space shuttle news. This is awful.

UPDATE: From the AP story at the New York Times:

On launch day, a piece of insulating foam on the external fuel tank came off during liftoff and was believed to have struck the left wing of the shuttle. NASA said as late as Friday that the damage to the thermal tiles was believed to be minor and posed no safety concern during the fiery decent through the atmosphere.
Re-entry has always been a dangerous thing, and we’ve never lost anyone during it. Looks like we may have just run out of luck.

FURTHER UPDATE: Attached to this post on Teresa’s weblog is a comment from John M. Ford that is a must-read. And lifelong space activist Tim Kyger has a comment to this Electrolite post which brings up something I hadn’t thought of.

MORE: A roundup of what we know so far, from Spaceflight Now.

MORE: The debris track, as seen by NOAA radar. Oh my god.

MORE: Of course, dozens—probably hundreds—-of bloggers are tracking this story. Seth Johnson is doing a very good job of linking to diverse information. Jim Henley’s observations are very much worth reading.

[09:57 AM : 56 comments]