Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So Much for the New Republic

If the Aspers are running it, it's going to be roughly as progressive as the National Review.

For all TNR's past issues, this is an unfortunate development for American progressivism.

Oh-Em-Gee Soft On Terra!

I'm sure people have figured out by now that I'm not writing on Canadian politics as much as I used to. The liberal leadership race is over, and after all this time I'm still conflicted about what it says about the state of liberalism, as it was such an incredibly ideosyncratic exercise.

Still, I do have to ask this.

Why on EARTH does Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper think that yelling and moaning about how his opponents are soft on terrorists is going to work in Canada? Not only does it belie his (expensive) advice to not sound too American, but it's simply not going to have that great an impact on a public that does not share the United States' formerly laser focused concern about terrorism. Even in America the terrorist argument is weaker and weaker by the day, and the Conservatives are trying to use it on Canadians?


(And just as they were doing so well with those attack ads, too.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Get Well Soon, Steve

Best wishes and hope for a speedy recovery to Steve Gilliard, who is going in for open heart surgery in order to clear up an infection from his last surgery. Steve's always been a reliable and eminently readable blogger, and here's hoping hey can get back to that as soon as health permits.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Somehow I doubt this will work

While it is, perhaps, laudible that Bram Cohen, the inventor of the BitTorrent format, has gone legit, I somehow doubt that a service that doesn't even let you own the media you pay for is going to be successful, especially in the face of iTunes.

Plus, he's going to have to deal with the multitude of bittorrent traffic blockers that are out there nowadays. If his content gets through, the illegal content gets through, so no matter what happens he's going to have difficulty.

The worst aspect, though, is that as far as this article implies, the only media player that will play his files will be Windows Media Player. Those who, like myself, swear by third party media players will be out in the cold.

Good luck, Mr. Cohen. You'll need it.

Short bit on RSS

After being roundly criticized in an earlier post for filling up someone's RSS feed with all this meta stuff (hope the new entries are more to your liking?), I fired up the ol' RSS reader and realized that all I'm serving out is headlines.

So I've switched to full feeds.

(Speaking of which, I'm not sure if I'm that fond of my reader. Any recommendations?)

Oscar Post!

Not planning on going over it overmuch, but I do have to compliment (what the hell) President-Elect Gore and Mr. Guggenheim on their victory, and Forrest Whitaker for finally getting the recognition he has so richly deserved.

(Even if he didn't get that well-deserved Emmy for his turn on The Shield.)

Ditto for Scorsese and his wins for The Departed.

As for the Gore presidential thing... I personally think it's far, far less likely today than it was on Saturday. Honestly, since that would have been the best venue to announce, I suspect that he's not going to. I would like to be wrong on that, as I still think he would be an excellent candidate and a likely winner, but it feels like the Dem powers-that-be still can't get over the idea that everybody is to blame for electoral failures but themselves.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Iran launches rocket into space

So, it looks like Iran is able to launch rockets into space, according to the International Herald Tribune. They may just want it as a status symbol, but this isn't exactly going to defuse tensions with the US much.

A New Initiative I Support:

The independent bloggers' alliance.

Another Blogroll Entry

Upyernoz, while complaining that communities aren't movements, also pointed out that he linked to me for a good long time while I had never linked back.

My response, and correction is to your right. I'll freely admit that I didn't add as many people as I'd like. The reason's pretty simple- those links are hard coded, as I'd never gotten around to setting up and implementing a blogrolling account. Still, it was an oversight, as upyernoz is a decent blogger, albeit a little too inclined to defending "amnesty".

The offer remains: provided you aren't advocating killing off all the muslims or whatnot, I'll be happy to swap links. Not as a Kossack, or an Atriette, or a whatevertheheck people call themselves. As a blogger, and a liberal, and someone who believes that the internet can be a force for progressivism, provided we let it.

Is this a bass-ackwards jab at us exiled Atrios blogroll members?

In a post that's supposedly about Jeff G. ("pasty"), Atrios posts up a blogroll from 2002.

You'd think that he'd, um, be a little less inclined towards such things, all things considered.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rescuing from the Memory Hole

Haloscan has a way of making things disappear, so I figured I'd respond to a comment Skippy made on the blog itself.

Here's what he said in response to this entry:

well, demosthenes (and thx for the link, and the support, btw), i'd further suggest that if you spend time (in my case, 5 years) participating in a community, only to be told that the community no longer supports you, but you are expected to keep supporting the community, it becomes emotionally masochistic to continue to do so.

to be really, really honest, on a personal level, if kos had just sent me an email explaining his change in policy vis-a-vis the blog's newly focused direction, with a small apology and and a "thanks for your support in the past i hope i can count on it in the future," i, on a personal level, would not be so bent out of shape.

but on a macro level, i am infuriated that kos especially spent the last 5 years garnering progressive support (not to mention writing talent and traffic), only to suddenly switch directions into a dnc blog w/o so much as a by your leave (plus, suddenly all the munchkins in the land of kos are spouting the party line that it's "his blog" and he can "do what he wants" with it, when his previous proclamations were all about citizens taking back government).

he pretty much used the populous approach to get himself a chair at the table. huey long would be proud.

I don't disagree. Hell, I got purged too, albeit from a different site, remember? I'd always been kind of arms length, largely because of other commitments and the needs imposed by pseudonymity, but I like to consider myself part of the progressive community too.

(I'm not sure, but I believe I coined "conservatarian", so I'm even down with that whole Yes I Coined That Phrase thing.)

What Kos doesn't get is that he's a member of a community, not a leader of one. He (among others) have been seduced into to thinking that since their websites are sub-communities in their own right, they don't need to worry about the broader progressive community as a whole. Why worry about some guy with some random blog named "skippy" when you're creating this great big beautiful community? When you've got people falling all over themselves to provide content for your site in the form of those "diaries"?

Yet it is precisely that kind of community-building that the right seems to understand better nowadays. The point of blogroll linking is not merely creating a portable favorites list, but creating a shared community and shared sense of identity. If you share a link with someone, on some level you state "I am like them". Even when you link to conservatives, you inherently give them some degree of respect and shared identity; you state "yes, I think you're a putz, but I also think you're a peer. You can be both."

As we've seen, the shared progressive/liberal identity desperately needs this kind of reinforcement. because it is that lack of shared perceived identity that allows for self-proclaimed "centrists" to attack everybody to their left. If they thought "they are like me", they wouldn't do that, because they'd believe that every attack boomerangs back in some respect. They might privately say "shut up, putz", or might respectfully say "I disagree" in public, but wouldn't try to freeze them out.
Because they don't have that perception of shared identity, though, they keep on trying to score points on everybody to the left of them.

So, shared identity is at the core of a community. Here's the problem. By building and presiding over these communities, Kos (and Atrios, and Josh Marshall, and MyDD, and Arianna, and a lot of other "top-tier" folks) is reinforcing a division of identities and communities.

As I'd mentioned earlier, there is a fundamental distinction between a "diary" on a website like Kos and an independent blog. The former exists at the whim and will of the website's administrators; if somebody at Kos doesn't like a diary, they can take it down or even ban them. That power irretrievably prevents a shared identity between Kos and his diarists. He will always be more powerful than them, will always carry that identity of "community administrator/website owner", and they won't.

Yet, it goes both ways. Kos can never, ever be a Kossack. He can never engage them in a free and clear fashion. I'm sure he'd like to, but he cannot, because he owns that space. He can never be "one of the guys", no matter how much he'd like to. The same goes for Atrios and the Atriettes, Arianna and her various diarists and commentators, etc. Even if they can become administrators, that distinction will never go away; and if they become administrators, they too will become distinct from the userbase itself.

The situation is entirely different for, say, me and skippy. Even if Kos and Atrios and Glenn Greenwald no longer link to us, the fact remains that we are peers. I have a blog. Atrios has a blog. skippy has a blog. Kos has a blog. There is no proprietary relationship there; Kos can't kick me off his site, because this isn't his site. He can do whatever he pleases to my diary over there (which still exists simply as a funnel and introduction) and molest my comments over there to his heart's content. Were he to post a response here, I could log into Haloscan and do the same damned thing to HIS posts. And you know what? It wouldn't matter, because he has his own site too.

As much as Kos and Atrios might not want to, if they want to engage me and skippy, they must do it as peers, rather than as superiors. That's what a shared identity is built on, and that shared identity is what a community is built on, and that community is what progressivism and liberalism is based on.

And that, clearly, isn't what Kos and the top-tiers want anymore. For whatever reason, they've decided that they'd prefer to build their own little communities that they can preside over. They want Kossacks, and Atriettes, and whateverthehell people who post on TPMCafe and the Huffington Post call themselves. They want mutually exclusive communities of subjects, instead of a community of peers.

If they do link to other sites, they (apparently) want the power to pull that link at any time, for whatever reason, and to receive "amnesty" for it, no matter what it means to the community. They want to be able to extend and retract their favor, like Renaissance Princes, to whomever pleases or displeases them. Why do you think Atrios kept on going on and on about "helping out smaller blogs" They, bizarrely, appear to want to be patrons, not peers.

(And, yes, I'm aware that Kos wants his blog to be more "campaign focused". More the fool is he, if he thinks such a beast is even possible, let alone desirable. Retracting your favor for writing about the wrong thing is as much the game of a Prince as anything else.)

Say what you will about Instapundit. I probably have. He, at least, gets it. Every time he links to someone, he says:

"I'm a peer with this person. We're all part of the great conservative project together. Is he someone worth listening to, like myself?


No, I don't know where this comes from. Maybe Kos et al spent a bit too much time hobnobbing with the Powers That Be. Maybe they're a little embarrassed about being lumped in with the lowly bloggers, and want to place himself above them. Maybe, with Kos, he wants to be able to tell Dean that he has an army of people who'll do what he says, so as to get the DNC's extended favor.

It doesn't matter.

What matters is that it's like cutting off your arms so that your legs seem more useful. It's foolish, it's silly, and it's the finest news the Republicans could ask for.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

DRM Summed Up

(DRM is Digital Rights Management, by the by.)

From a random comment on an ancient Digg piece on DRM on the Xbox360 that I nonetheless loved:

"When i die do my digital rights die with me? Will my children be criminals for listening to music I paid to download?"

I had to think about whether that would be the case for a little while. I'm still not sure.

That sums up the issue, if nothing else does.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Objectively Pro-Terrorism

The Republicans (and their online sycophants) loved using that term in 2003. Unfortunately, apparently they should have been looking closer to home, as it looks like a major Republican donor and member of the "White House Business Advisory Committee" was, er, funnelling money to Al Qaeda.


(Original link was on Drink Liberally in New Milford.

More Kos vs. Skippy

Why? Because it amuses me.

Skippy, completely unable to "let it go",had been told by "mo betta meta" that Kos himself actually defended his blogroll purge.

Skippy points out one major big of strange wrongheadedness that's popped up here: that since having a long blogroll supposedly diminishes the value of each link, that justifies the pruning. Skippy saw it as silly and vaguely Republican to try to limit choice, but I personally just see it as (oddly enough) bad economics.

Think about it. Each additional blog entry, assuming that Kos is right (and it's a HUGE assumption with no basis in fact besides its usefulness to Kos, Atrios, and all the other purging majors) may diminish the number of hits for each other blog entry slightly. Here's the problem: unless each new entry diminishes the number of outbound visits to other blogs by more than it generates in and of itself, you're still going to have a positive effect on the aggregate.

If a Kos link to Skippy generated a thousand visits a week, then the only way to justify it would be if it reduced the number of outbound visits on all the other blogs put together by more than a thousand. Considering he only has about, what, 32 links to other blogs, that's one HELL of an assumption. Honestly, it's ridiculous on its face, not even counting the need to compensate for the amount of ill-will that something like this generates, and the problems with google rankings that he continues to studiously, hilariously ignore.

Most of the rest of the Kos entry follows an old pattern: A bit of "if you want to be visible, post comments on Daily Kos, post diaries on Daily Kos... really, just shut down that ol' blog of yours and come join the Kossacks" coupled with "how DARE smaller bloggers question me! The PRESUMPTION! I will grind them into PASTE", along with a touch of the Logan's Run-esque idea that any blogger that has been around for too long and isn't Kos needs to go the hell away to make way for the "new blood".

(Yeah, I'd warn that "new blood" to watch their backs, except that Arianna Huffington and Brad DeLong, along with the rest of 90% of his blogroll, ain't exactly new to the scene. So he's pretty much just lying to save his ass.)

My favorite argument, though, is "No, I don't have a responsibility to help other bloggers. Let somebody else do it." Well, no, not by law or anything. But the idea that the big guy should help raise up the "little guy" is pretty goddamned important in most liberal circles.

Jon Swift was right: the weirdest thing about all of this is that the conservatives are linking like you'd think a liberal would, and liberals are linking like you'd think a conservative would. Maybe that's why the Republicans tend to do better in elections- individualistic rhetoric aside, they know what wins elections and debates, and it ain't "I got mine, Jack, so push off."

Kos got his. We get to push off.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Best Thing I've Read All Week

A vignette from Second Life:

On Help Island, a naked man is performing a slightly horrifying bump-and-grind in the middle of the landing site, and he won’t stop screaming into the chat channel. “Help me! Someone stole all my clothes and now I can’t stop dancing! I’ve only been here twenty minutes!”

I honestly think this should be Second Life's new tagline.

Happy Lupercalia! (Edit: ancient variant of furries "yiffing"?)

It's too bad that so many nifty old Roman holidays were sanitized. Just as Saturnalia sounds like more fun than Christmas is (and Christmas is pretty fun), Lupercalia beats the heck out of St. Valentines day.

Sacrificial rites, ritualistic whippings, drugs, an ancient variant of the modern "key club", and Werewolves? I'll take that over little candy hearts anyday.

Edit: I'm not sure, but some sources I've read said that part of the ritual involved young men running around in wolf skins to symbolize the she-wolf spirit that Romulus and Remus nursed from.

If that's true, then that whole thing of people dressing up like vaguely anthropomorphic animals for sexual purposes may be way older than any of us thought.

(Wonder how the Second Life crew are going to celebrate?)

Say What You Will About The Man's Linking Policy:

You gotta love a guy who, consciously or unconsciosuly, uses Battlestar Galactica slang when ragging on Hillary.

Most of the presidential candidates have gotten the "I fracked up the vote" stuff out of the way last year. It's not the most compelling tack to take -- if their judgment was so poor as to vote for the darn thing, why should we promote them. We talk about DC being a place where people fail upward. Do we really want to encourage that within our own party?

But in any case, pro-war Dems who have unequivocally admitted their mistake don't have to offer tortured justifications for their war. They can honestly take Clinton pollster Mark Penn's advice...
Frackin' A.

Al Franken for Senate!

Yep, he's running in 2008.

I think he definitely has a shot. He's clearly trying to continue the legacy of Paul Wellstone's seat, so he won't need to compromise his liberalism, and has hometown cred. He's not quite as leftish as Wellstone was (one somewhat critical piece by Paul Hogarth noted that he supports NAFTA and was somewhat pro-Iraq in 2002). I honestly doubt that be a huge problem, considering Al's such a prominent Bush critic.

No, the most important issue is ensuring that he develops a strong relationship with the party apparatus in the state so that they feel like they have a say in his candidacy and his policies. High profile candidates have a way of overshadowing the bottom-up mechanisms that are the lifeblood of politics. He'll need to be careful to ensure that even if his celebrity gets him media exposure, he still takes the time to connect with the people who will be trudging around in October and November trying to convince other people to vote for him.

He does that, and I think the Senate will be a far more interesting place in 2009.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Silver Lining

Thanks to the Marcotte issue, every Republican with even a tertiary connection with a conservative blogger will be a target for the same sort of criticism.

After all, I don't know if you've read the bile coming out of, say, the Loud Goat Fornicator (y'know, LGF) contingent lately, but it'd be simplicity itself to hang it around the other guys' necks.

(Of course, Republicans tend to draw on people from BS "institutes" and think tanks. Fortunately, if they're the David Horowitz style of 'scholar', it's even easier to ferret things out than with bloggers.)

Good Marcotte Piece That Raises a Question...

I enjoyed reading this piece by Amanda Marcotte talking about the contradictions between the bilious attacks she's endured and biblical teachings.

(I was disappointed to read that she had resigned from the Edwards campaign. I have no doubt whatsoever that were she backing a Republican, the situation would be entirely different. I also have no doubt that this will do absolutely nothing to stop the right's attacks and accusations; they'll simply pull it out again and again to attack Edwards and ignore Amanda's resignation.

I don't think that this will help either the party or Edwards in the long run, as it'll simply embolden the smear artists, but it's Amanda's life.)

Anyway, she said something that intrigues me:

In fact, from everything I understand, much of the history of Christian misogyny is one 2,000 year long backlash against early female power in the church.
A quick question to my reader(s) out there: can anybody point to where this comes from? Amanda didn't cite anything specifically, and I'm not that knowledgable about this particular issue. Googling is an option, of course, but I figured I'd send it out there first.

A Useful Object Lesson

So, I assume everybody saw the AEI guy, Chris Horner on Jon Stewart. He was trying to claim that global warming is some kind of huge conspiracy. He didn't have much luck; Jon shut him down pretty thoroughly, and it wasn't exactly a huge moment in climate change policymaking.

That said, it WAS a great object lesson in that bugaboo of political discussion: talking points. Horner's comments were a textbook example of someone trying to obfuscate the issues by using deceptive talking points. Being textbook examples, I figured they'd be useful for a little friendly tutoring on both talking points and how to shut them down.

So beginneth the lesson.

Talking point the first: Global Cooling. He pulled out the idea that people have been going back and forth between saying that the Earth is cooling and the Earth is warming for a long time now. Like all good talking points, it included a specific and easily understood example: that people used the example of the Titanic, back in the turn of the century, to argue that the Earth is cooling. He then mentioned the idea that people thought that the Earth was warming back during the "dust bowl" period, then cooling in the 1970's, and now saying it's warming.

It's an effective talking point. It reveals a specific and abundantly silly example, and then quickly rattles off every switch subsequently, without even discussing the validity of the underlying ideas and science. He can't do that, because he's still pretty weak on that score, but by dropping that one example he can paint all the rest with the same brush.

How to shut it down? Simple: break down that connection. Jon Stewart did that by bringing up the science; that's how you break down the "we used to believe in global cooling" people too, by saying that the fact that that prediction was wrong does not mean much for the accuracy of this prediction. Indeed, if you know anything about science, you know that wrong predictions are part of the process, and the "global cooling" theory wasn't anywhere near as sound as global warming was. Once you've broken that connection, you can get to the science, and you're on far better ground. Fortunately, you can do it pretty much simply by mentioning the science, so it's not hard.

(If you wanted to mock it, you could say that we used to believe that there were only four elements. Should we chuck out atomic physics because alchemists were wrong then?)

Talking Point the Second: Jon asked how such a huge conspiracy to defraud the public about global warming could exist; were the scientists lying? Chris responded by saying "oh, no, not the scientists", but then started talking about how Enron was massively enriching itself through emissions markets. The goal here is to try to pull a reversal on global warming critics by claiming that they're the dupes of big, corrupt businesses, and used Enron as an example.

(One could call this the "guilt by association" trick. All of these use that theme of course, but this one focuses on name-dropping anything immoral even tertially related to the subject at hand.)

This is a kind of "defense through offense" talking point- he was preemptively insulating himself and his "side" against charges of being dupes of big business by saying that the OTHER guys are the dupes of even worse businesses. It plays on liberals' anti-corporate sympathies and makes them wonder whether maybe the (supposedly brave and individualist) anti-warming activists are simply "speaking truth to power". Of course, this is all wrong; Enron's failing was in deceptive accountancy, and has nothing at all to do with energy markets themselves.

How to shoot it down? Just press on the "uh, and this matters because..." idea, just as Jon did. All the organizations and scientists that AREN'T Enron have exactly as much credibility as they ever did, no matter what Enron did with their books. I don't even believe that highlighting Enron is necessarily a bad thing; it's intended as a quick, almost subliminal jab, and isn't supposed to be fully aired out. It's ridiculous, and even Chris knows it's ridiculous, so he tries to slip it under the radar. Pull it out, make fun of the "so, what, Enron's crooked accountants made all the scientists discover global warming" bit, and he'll lose credibility and likely get defensive... just as Chris did.

Getting defensive provoked talking point the third: "I heard this one guy say..." Chris, when pressed on the supposed communist nature of environmentalists, brought up a German environmentalist that said that "he wanted to see the day where you'd be punished more harshly for cutting down a forest than selling a child into slavery". Nasty stuff, right? Except for one thing: it's just one guy. You can find nuts supporting ANY cause, and Chris gave no indication that this guy was in any sort of leadership role. It's much like the other ones, in that it uses one specific case to tar a whole class of attitudes, but I see this as a specific type precisely because it's so common and allows for such a wide variety of uses. It's a VERY common and pretty effective rhetorical tool; people like it and journalists LOVE it when complicated issues are drilled down to interesting personalities, so they'll latch onto these personalities all out of proportion to their actual importance.

(Ferreting out comments for this purpose is the entire raison d'etre of MEMRI, by the way.)

Jon showed how to shut this down, too: point out that it's just one guy. Unless you can prove a bunch of people believe this or that he's in a real leadership position (ie, not a "community leader", but someone people actually derive opinion from) he's useless as any kind of an indicator. Again, doing this properly (with assertiveness and a touch of bemused humor) will play merry hell with the other guy's credibility; he'll try to save it by saying that this guy is representative, at which point he'll either go too far fighting back (as Chris did with a stupid Hitler comparison that torpedoed his credibility) or you can simply pull out somebody, ANYBODY else who has a different opinion, and all of a sudden their "representative" isn't representative of anything.

In any case, you get the idea. It's a good idea to keep an eye out for these sorts of games; when you find them, shut them down. Do it with humor instead of indigation, though. Jon is effective precisely because nobody can call him "shrill" and being castigated on his show doesn't give you the "politically incorrect" cred that comes from being criticized by a progressive in some circles. If you laugh at them, they'll realize you don't take them seriously; and above all else, these guys desperately want to be taken seriously.

So just laugh at them, while pointing out just how goofy their talking points are. THAT, they're not equipped to handle.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wanna Be a Writer?

Here Ya Go, courtesy of Charlie Stross, who details exactly what the writer's life is like.

A sample (of the lengthy but compelling piece):

Somewhere in those several hours you will hopefully write something. Unless you're already an A-list writer who can pull advances in excess of $50,000, you'd better either pump out an average of 1000 finished (polished, edited) words of prose per working day, or go looking for a day job. There are roughly 250 working days in a year (I'm assuming you take a couple of days a week off, and have vacations and sick leave), so that's 250,000 words, which is about two ordinary-length novels and a couple of short stories. Some writers do a whole lot more than 1000 finished words per day; some do fewer. If you do fewer and you're at the low-to-middling end of the pecking order, you will not be able to earn a living at this career. Many writers do 250,000 words a year and still can't make a living. They may have part-time jobs, to make ends meet, or a full-time job and do the writing thing in the evenings and at weekends. It's a treadmill.

In addition to writing you will:

pore over copy-edited manuscripts, correcting editorial mark-ups
grovel over galley proofs, looking for typos
keep track of your expenses and petty cash and do all the 1001 things that any small business person has to do to keep HM Revenue and Customs off your back
enthusiastically deal with the press and interviewers, no matter how small or obscure the outlet — publicity is always a priority unless you're big enough to hire a PR manager
deal with correspondence to your editor(s) and agent in a prompt, professional manner because if you ever get yourself a reputation for being difficult to work with you are so screwed ... (luckily editors and agents know that only lunatics and eccentrics want to be full-time writers, so no small amount of their time is dedicated to insulating you from the demands of other publishing folks, and vice versa)
persuade your bank to accept cheques drawn on currencies they've never heard of
learn more than you ever wanted to know about international double taxation treaties and the associated exemption forms
answer your fan mail (if you're lucky enough to have fans)
did I say "write" often enough? I meant "write, even when you're sick to the back teeth of it, when the current project is an interminable drag, when you can't even remember why you ever agreed to write this bloody stupid book, when your hands ache from RSI and your cat's forgotten who you are and your spouse is filing for divorce on grounds of neglect".

And that's just for starters.
So, uh, yeah. Enjoy!

(He does admit that there are positive aspects; you're doing what you love, for one, and its one of the few jobs where it's advisable to structure your work life around your social life, rather than the other way around. But it's not easy.)

Edit: Even if you don't want to read the entry, you MUST all read the comments. Everything from an embittered game designer to rants about the value of MBAs to wedding photography to S.M. Stirling being, well, S.M. Stirling. Anybody who remembers what Usenet used to be like will know what an entertaining show THAT is.

Gotta say: I really miss having incredibly long, intense, interesting comment threads like that. I should see if the old YACCS account is still up.

Monday, February 12, 2007

So You Know How Every Idiot Supporting Torture Uses '24'?

Yeah, apparently that's no coincidence. The writers over at Fox who create the adventures of SuperJack are, well, let's just hit the money quote:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who participated in the discussion, praised the show’s depiction of the war on terrorism as “trying to make the best choice with a series of bad options.” He went on, “Frankly, it reflects real life.” Chertoff, who is a devoted viewer of “24,” subsequently began an e-mail correspondence with Gordon, and the two have since socialized in Los Angeles. “It’s been very heady,” Gordon said of Washington’s enthusiasm for the show. Roger Director, show creator Joel Surnow’s friend, joked that the conservative writers at “24” have become “like a Hollywood television annex to the White House. It’s like an auxiliary wing.”
So, yeah, 24 (which was once a pretty good suspense thriller) has slowly devolved into pro-war and pro-torture agitprop.


Surnow has been confronted again and again by real military personnel who have real interrogation experience trying to tell him that what he depicts on the show doesn't work in real life and is negatively influencing real interrogators in Iraq, but he can't be bothered to listen, busy as he is conferencing with the likes of Roger Ailes about future shows. So Jack keeps torturing.

Now, I'm pretty strident about freedom of speeech- even more so that I used to be. Surnow has every right to put out his show. But, of course, we now have every right to remind people about that "auxiliary wing".

(Me, I was done with 24 a while ago. If I want science fiction and superheroes, I'll choose Battlestar Galactica and Heroes; and if I want "gritty", I'll choose The Wire or The Shield. Vic Mackey's way more interesting as a torturer anyway.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A few new blogs added to the roll

Two belong to Martin Wisse, Wisse Words and Prog Gold. One is My Left Wing, because MSOC's rant about Kos was freakin' glorious.

Anybody else want on board this little ship, just drop a line.

Another question you should be asking...

I love Digby. Don't get me wrong. He's Edit: she, apparently, my mistake one of the best bloggers out there, and has been since he flew solo on his site. She deserves every hit he gets. I'm exceedingly proud that I'm as well-placed on her blogroll as I am, and try to comment on her site when I can.

That said, why is she on Kos' blogroll, when skippy isn't? Both are outspoken mid- to long-length pseudonymous web diarists. Both started around the same time, and neither are resolutely campaign-focused (which is what Kos was supposed to be all about with that blogroll, right?)

I'm not saying Kos should delink Digby (nor would I EVER,), but inquiring minds...

edit: I'd never actually asked about digby's gender- figured it was male from the male pseudonym. Error corrected, and if you see old posts that say "he", just chalk it up to the failure of standpoint feminism.

If my point wasn't proven...

the fact that some random diarist, whom I'd never even heard of, decided to remove the tags "intro" and "kos" from my self-introductory diary entry on Daily KOS says everything I ever could have written about exactly how important, and how necessary, independent blogs really are.

To use some vulgarity in quoting a favorite character of mine, Warren Ellis' Spider Jerusalem: "No fucker rewrites ME."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Just For the Record

Pandagon's a great blog, and Amanda Marcotte a great blogger, no matter what reactionaries and opportunists say.

(Even, unlike skippy, they don't link to me yet.)

You Know When Something Has Become Disastrous?

When it provokes something like THIS. My God, I thought skippy was pissed. Maryscott O'Connor has torn a strip off Kos that will almost certainly NEVER heal. Among other things, she points out something that guys like Kos and Atrios (and their defenders) often miss; that the traffic from their blogrolls that they see as miniscule is actually vitally important to other, smaller sites in order to introduce new readers.

Clearly, there is no "Amnesty" here. There wasn't ever going to be. It was a fantasy or an excuse, but it never truly existed.

Me, I just have one question: why? Were I Atrios, at this point, I'd toss the whole kit 'n caboodle back up and simply divide them between "current reads" and "old friends" or the like. Ditto with Kos. No matter how you feel about "community building"...

(and if Kos thinks that not building a progressive community online is important as Maryscott implies, He. Is. Insane.) have to at least realize that making progressive enemies for reasons that are utterly foolish and facile is unbelievably bad PR.

And, in many respects, the same goes double for Duncan/Atrios, who doesn't do all that single-site community building stuff on his blog that is still, at its core, the same Blogspot blog that it ever was. He can't pretend that he's building this giant Myspace-style community like Kos is, those 400 page long comments threads notwithstanding. Why did he even bother with this?

More importantly, barring a kind of wounded stubbornness that is unseemly in adults, why continue it?

I Love Irony

The original reason Atrios gave for The Great Purge of '07 was that he wanted to promote smaller, overlooked blogs.

By and large, that didn't happen, as a quick perusal of his blogroll reveals. Most of the blogs listed are the Usual Suspects, the big group blogs that anybody who's even heard of a blog can type from memory or already has an RSS feed of.

Yet, by removing skippy and provoking him into an absolute torrent of linking, Atrios has somehow managed to introduce at least one reader, yours truly, to more good blogs through skippy's site than I've read in a good while. I imagine I'm not the only one.

So, uh, thanks?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More Medieval Than Advertised?

You know that armor that the military is trying to ban? Dragon Skin? Here's a video of it:

(I'd embed, but Youtube isn't behaving.)

Notice something? The Dragon Skin... is Scale Mail!.

The more things change...


Edit: Just finished watching this. It's astounding. That Kos diarist (Occam's Hatchet) is right... why the HELL isn't this stuff standard issue?

Kos Diary

Since I started a Kos account in order to write comments on that site, I put up a little diary entry explaining who I was and what this is. For those interested, it's here.

And no, it's not going to be replacing this site in the slightest.

Skippy on the Warpath

Skippy (a great individual blogger that I'd been remiss in not linking to earlier) has been on an absolute tear over this "screw the little blogs" thing. Most of it is because he didn't take his delinking at Eschaton as calmly as your host did ("frothing rage" would be a better description), but he's pointing out all those issues of egalitarianism that are really bothering me about this whole thing.

It's really turning into a "big vs. little" conflict. Chris Bowers at MyDD was the source of the "screw you, kiddies" sentiment that seems to have turned this nuclear, Kos has been thrown into it, and it's turning into a huge slapfight all around. So it's not doing the liberal blogosphere any favors. For once, their conservative counterparts actually look good, because if there's one thing Instapundit is good at, it's linking to the little guys.

(Even if they're absolutely insane.)

There are other problems here, though, with this shift from independent blogs to group-blogs and subsidiary "diaries". I already mentioned that the one that bothers me the most is editorial freedom. If "diarists" are forced to choose between toeing the party line or languishing out in the wilderness, that's going to get reflected in their writing, and how readers perceive it. That charge against Kos from the wingnuts saying that he controlled the blogosphere was ludicrous because of independent blogs, not the Kos diaries, where he really could exercise that kind of control. The same is true of all sites that have subsidiary diaries, like MyDD and TPMCafe.

Another, more ominous issue is a financial one. Let's face it: if you're writing a popular diary, you're not seeing a dime. It's all going to the site admins. They might maybe share a little, but the advertising dollars are headed their way. There's a real problem there: administrators could start making a point of not linking to other sites' diarists and subtly encouraging their diarists to "keep it in the community", in order to maximize ad rates, clickthroughs, and revenue. The act of delinking an independent blog opens you up not only to the charge of being censorious, but the charge of trying to rub them out for financial gain... and even if you aren't intentionally doing that, the charge is going to happen.

This is a website design truth as old as the hills. Once you have a reader, you're supposed to try to hang on to them, unless they decide to click through something that you're going to make money on. That's also the absolute worst way to try to build a broader community; taken to its conclusion, it hives the Internet off into gated enclaves with strict moderation and little connection to the "outside world". Kos is already starting to kind of feel this way; The Huffington Post (as good a read as it is) definitely is. That's not what blogging is about, not at all.

Besides, if you want a big gated community, you should probably just go to the Something Awful forums. The actual Something Awful satire website, I feel, never quite survived the loss of Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka as a regular contributor, but the forums are probably the best (and certainly the biggest) around. Kos, MyDD, TPMCafe and the like aren't going to catch up to huge forums like this or uber-social sites like Myspace and Facebook, but that seems like what they're trying to do.

And, of course, it's a blow to internet pseudonymity, because the administrators can easily make real-world identification a condition of entry. Kos doesn't now, but Huffington does, and fear of lawsuits brought on by the complete lack of anything like common-carrier status might make that inevitable.

I don't think this is a positive development, and I'm absolutely shocked that Instapundit can see it and Kos can't.

In any case, I've added skippy to my own tiny blogroll, and I'll repeat his promise: link to me, I'll link to you. assuming you're progressive and your content doesn't make me want to punch something. I didn't have that rule before, and manually adding these things is a pain (I really need to set up a damned blogrolling bar) but heck with it. Let me know.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

MyDD on the evolution of blogging...


Now, more than three years later, it has come to the point where the early structure of the progressive political blogosphere has been almost entirely done away with. The days of the major, solo content generator, pundit blogger are all but over.
A quote about cold, dead hands springs to mind. As I said over on Atrios' site, there's going to be at least one, dammit.

In any case, I'm very uneasy with the idea that at the end of the day blogs are essentially going to be little more than online magazines, with multiple writers, sections, collective mastheads, investigative journalism, huge forums and the like. All that is well and good, but it's also essentially The Washington Monthly or Newsmax or the like, except with shorter, differently arranged articles.

That's not what a weblog is.

At the end of the day, a weblog is just a journal, and the essentially egalitarian and individual nature of the enterprise is what makes it valuable. You lose that at your peril.

More Floor Crossing Madness in the Great White North

Garth Turner, the firebrand former Canadian Conservative who was kicked out of the party for not playing ball with its rather imperious leader, is now, apparently, a Liberal.

(And yet, somehow, not a single Republican in the Senate has moved to give the Dems that Joe-less 51 seat majority. )

(You'd think 2008 would be looming large.)

In any case, I'm not sure exactly how this affects Canada's rather precarious minority government, but I THINK it means that NDP leader Jack Layton is probably weeping behind a bottle of scotch right now, because for a few glorious weeks he controlled the balance of power and now he doesn't.

(Hat tip: Oliel again, who called it early.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Does anybody still take Joe Klein seriously?

I think, at this point, that the credibility is pretty much shot.

Then again, I've thought that before, and here we are.

(Hat Tip: Atrios)

Web 2.0

Found kind of a nifty presentation on what "Web 2.0" is supposed to mean on Youtube.

It feels a bit too much like a circa 1999 Wired article, but it's nifty enough. The "teaching the machine using tags" stuff is a bit much, but the points about ease of content posting and the differentiation between form and content is at the heart of the whole blogging phenomenon. People use blogs, at their core, because they're an incredibly easy way to present a constant, readable flow of content without having to muck around much with HTML. That's really all that "Web 2.0" is- the technology facilitating user-created content. It's not about labels "teaching the machine" or any of that folderol.

(And no, I'm not disparaging labels just because I don't want to go through my archives and label everything now that I've switched to the New Blogger.)

(That's a big part of it, of course, but not the only reason.)

By the way, I'd encourage all my readers (all three of you) to go bug Atrios to keep me on his blogroll. OG bloggers need to stick together, dawg.

Yglesias Summarizes Privatization

I'll just let the man speak:

The trouble with government work, as opposed to the private sector is that there's a lack of efficiency. It's important to understand, however, that there's nothing intrinsically efficient about private sector work. No magical "it's the free market" dust comes and renders private enterprises effective. Rather, the idea is simply that an inefficiently run private enterprise (and there are many) would simply go out of business. An inefficiently run government office, by contrast, goes out of business when it loses political support and sees its budget grow as long as it maintains political support. Thus, you see public sector dollars flowing to whatever there's a strong political constituency for, whereas private sector dollars flow to wherever well-managed firms are meeting demand.

Then enter government contractors which, as The New York Times points out, have exploded to unprecedented levels under George W. Bush and the late unlamented Republican congress. Here you have private enterprises displacing government. Why? For the private sector efficiency, of course! But you don't actually get that efficiency. It's still a government program. Funding is still being determined by political support. The cash doesn't go to companies that can do a really good job, it just goes to companies that have political clout -- i.e. ones that recycle a share of their profits into campaign contributions. It's essentially the worst of both worlds, since you get the inherent problems of the public sector plus the need for owners to be taking a slice off the top in profit margins. It is, however, a very good deal for politicians interested in union-busting and for politicians interested in raking money in from government contractors. Shockingly, the GOP loves it.
Bingo. This is the main reason why everybody should look at sole-source contracts and hidden bidding processes with enormous suspicion. It doesn't really take that much time or change before something that once seemed honest turns into political cronyism. The fair-minded people who might have propelled privatization aren't necessarily going to retain control of the process, and those that acquire control will usually have friends and supporters who want a little taste as a reward for all their hard work.

Besides, as someone pointed out in Matthew's comments, the key is not "private sector", but "competition". There is nothing efficient about a monopoly, even though they're private entities. The desire to maintain monopolies itself often leads to political rent-seeking, because the last thing an inefficient monopoly wants is real competition, and if it's cheaper to buy political clout instead of making the business more efficient, that's the choice they'll make.

(A good thing to remember the next time you hear someone bleating about wonders of "The Market".)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On a More Serious Note

I haven't linked the IPCC report yet, and I should. So here it is, or at least the policymaker's brief.

(Warning: it's a PDF. I know those things can get a little error-prone.)

So if you're gunning for that sweet AEI dollah-dollah payday, that's where you start.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I Should Read Conservative Bloggers More Often...

It's really, really funny when someone tries to take down Joe Wilson and pulls a boner like this:

Like Bond, Joe went to Niger, a country only known for yellowcake and junk email...
I almost don't want him to know that Niger and Nigeria are different countries. It's so much FUNNIER that way.

Hilarious Follow Up to That AEI Bit...

Watching reactionaries try to defend it is almost as funny. Endless verbiage to make one simple (yet dumb) argument: "the scientists need to be paid by somebody, so why not Exxon?"

The answer, equally simply? Because they aren't being paid for their insights, they're being paid for having the "right" results. For all that these "Big Lizards" tools fulminate about leftie academics, no university does this, and reputable think tanks don't do it either. They might pay for researchers to do work about subjects they agree with, and might even hire ideologically-compatible researchers. What they don't do is buy results. If, say, Brookings gives a research grant to a Ph.D, they don't say "and make sure you come to the conclusion that Iraq was a fine idea".

They say "research Iraq and tell us what you find". At WORST they might bury poor results, but that is worlds different, and while researchers might not get future grants from, say, the Sierra Club, you'd have to be profoundly naive to think that they couldn't find an employer.

(Like, say, the AEI!)

And Universities are, of course, different beasts entirely. The whole tenure system exists because this very idea of paid results would cause 99% of legitimate academics to break out in hives. Academics tend to become more successful by going against received wisdom, not for it.

I realize that this is a terrible day for the right blogosphere- the IPCC smacked down pretty much every argument by the deniers and the AEI has just been thoroughly discredited. Still, you'd think they'd do better.

All Right- This is Handy!

Now we have a simple way of ensuring that those who we really shouldn't listen to on Global Warming are easily identified.

All you have to do is check to see if they were involved with this:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
I trust I don't need to explain why this is very, very bad science, or the pall that it would cast over the careers of anybody who accepted this money.

The best part, though, is that it pretty thoroughly discredits the American Enterprise Institute. They can't even pretend that they're a neutral, scientific group anymore, or that their research is worth the paper it's printed on. This announcement makes it impossible to verify that any AEI study is scientifically worthwhile; if they're doing this now, there's no reason to believe that they haven't done it before and that they won't do it again.

Were I even peripherally involved with the AEI, I'd make a serious point of disassociating myself with them RIGHT NOW. This is, from a conservative researcher's point of view, beyond disastrous.

(I couldn't be happier.)

Iran attacks in the next few weeks?

US News:

The US News Political Bulletin has learned Democrats on Capitol Hill are increasingly concerned that President Bush will order air strikes against targets in Iran in the next few months or even weeks. They cite as evidence the tough warnings from senior Administration officials, including the Commander in Chief, that Iranian help for insurgents in Iraq is leading to the deaths of US troops and Iraqi civilians. Democratic insiders tell the Political Bulletin that they suspect Bush will order the bombing of Iranian supply routes, camps, training facilities, and other sites that Administration officials say contribute to American losses in Iraq. Under this scenario, Bush would not invade Iran with ground forces or zero in on Iranian nuclear facilities. But under the limited-bombing scenario, Bush could ask for a congressional vote of support, Democratic insiders predict, which many Democrats would feel obliged to endorse or risk looking like they weren't supportive of the troops. Bombing Iran would also take attention away from the troubled situation in Iraq and cause a rally-round-the-president reaction among Americans, at least for a while. But Democrats add that an attack on Iran would probably be condemned around the world and would precipitate an Iranian response that could dramatically worsen Mideast turmoil and have unforeseen consequences that could be extremely damaging to the United States.
First, to reiterate what may be a tired point, can someone PLEASE MUZZLE THESE IDIOT "INSIDERS"? They're wagging the dog themselves by setting up the "feel obligated" line for the Republicans and sabotaging any message control by the Dems.

Anyway, here's hoping the Dems aren't that dumb. 2002 wasn't THAT long ago, the should still remember the lesson from that: that it doesn't matter what you do, you're gonna be slimed as unpatriotic anyway. Especially since public opinion on this is going to likely be somewhere between poisonous and murderous.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Looks like the very first industry-funded attack on the IPCC report just got leaked, courtesy of DeSmogBlog.

Only read a bit, but it seems like it's the same old, same old. "Too complex to really understand", "the sun is getting hotter", "all the data is taken in urban heat islands", etc. There are some new ones (I personally liked "climate scientists aren't using proper econometric methods and it invalidates their findings, but we won't say how or why"), but for the most part it seems like the same crap that has been rebutted on over and over again.

Still, it IS pretty detailed for a rebuttal of a report that hasn't come out yet. Which makes sense, because they've actually been writing this for a year now:

Finally, Weaver pointed out that the whole Fraser Institute analysis is based on a document that is almost a year out of date. “I was most surprised that this analysis was written based on our second draft” (released in Spring 2006), said Weaver. “We incorporated changes in response to well over 1,000 reviewrs' comments before preparing a final draft last fall.”
Unfortunately (or fortunately), it's very likely that anything that these guys have cooked up that might seriously damage the science of global warming has already been raised and responded to. That makes it really unlikely that this is going to sway any scientists.

Of course, it's not supposed to. It's supposed to provide academic cover for business to continue doing what they're doing and ideologically biased legislators to support them. That's no surprise; that's what the Frasier Institute is for.

What I'm concerned about isn't that, but whether the media is going to portray this as he said/she said. Considering they likely have little idea what the science is and are still (at least somewhat) cowed by loud conservative mouthpieces, I'd say the odds are pretty good.


Gore's on a roll

First the nominations. Then selling out stadiums. And now, Al Gore has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Honestly, this just seems to get more and more bulletproof. The Nobels, as the article said, are chosen in November and announced in December. Thanks to the accelerated primary schedule, many bellwether states will be holding their primaries around February.

It is concievably possible that Al Gore will go into those early primaries having just won the Nobel Peace Prize a few months earlier. Unless Hilary saves the world from an asteroid hit with her laser vision or something, she's going to be REALLY hard pressed to compete with that.

Campaigns or no, the stars seem to be aligning for Gore/Obama '08.