Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blogging 101: Attention Conservation Notices Conserve Attention

(((Attention conservation notice: Cory Doctorow, blogging, RSS feeds, drawing and keeping readers, writing headlines/post subjects, writing ledes.)))

Actually a good little interview with Cory Doctorow, which the summary provided at the link above, while essentially true, doesn't do justice to. I was particularly happy that he mentions Bruce Sterling's "Attention conservation notices" that he's used pretty much forever in the Viridian emails and in his Nettime posts. They're a good idea and I never wanted to use it, because it felt like ripping him off. Which I kind of do, above, but that's schtick. OTOH, it's pretty helpful, isn't it?

How Not to Get It

This would make me think they'd been taking lessons from the Bush administration, if it weren't so characteristic of them, already. Indeed, so much so that the Iraq War looks like it models itself on an Israeli policy. Anyway, looks like the Gaza rockets have finally crossed a line. Or something.

Israeli cabinet ministers on Wednesday voted unanimously to declare the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” in order to shut off fuel and power to the 1.4m Palestinians in the impoverished enclave if rocket attacks continue.

Since June the territory where 40 per cent of Palestinians live has been ruled exclusively by Hamas and its borders have been open only for humanitarian aid.

So we thought it would be a good idea to make sure the humanitarian workers had more to do, which is sure to stop those rockets, since we're seeing that choking harder has slowed them down so much. Oh, wait,

Timed with the arrival in Israel of Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, the move by Ehud Olmert’s administration shows exasperation with continued Palestinian militant rocket fire against the Negev.

Yep, clamping down is clearly working for Israel in the Occupied Territories, just like it always has. Not.

Three dozen young soldiers were wounded last week when rockets struck their base, sparking a public outcry for retaliatory action.

Oh, no! Not soldiers! Only terrorists would fire at soldiers!

Gradual sanctions, imposed by Israel in stages if the rockets do not stop, would allow in only enough fuel to power electrical generators at Gaza hospitals. The borders would be opened only for essential food and medical supplies. Water supplies would continue flowing at present levels, however.

Lawyers also advised the cabinet that any disruption in electricity should be restricted, to avoid violating international law by inflicting collective punishment on the civilian population. More than half the Gazan population is under 15 years old.

Ahhhh, I knew I saw the hand of Alberto Gonzales; at least he's found new work! If less than half the Gazan population were under 15, it would be acceptable to starve them. As it is, it is only possible legally to make them really, really hungry. Even if they did vote for terrorists.

Despite Israeli air strikes and Israeli Defence Forces forays to root out the rocket launchers, which have killed a dozen people in seven years and terrified thousands of citizens in Sderot, in northern Israel, homemade rockets rain down almost daily on Israeli soil.

Almost daily attacks that kill an average of two people a year? Hasn't anyone in Hamas figured out that those are pretty inefficient numbers? Maybe the strategy is to keep the pressure on without, in fact, killing lots of people, but I don't know that you can target those rockets accurately enough to reliably aim not to kill or hurt people.

Tzahi Hanegbi, defence committee chairman, told Israel’s Army Radio there was no need to “pamper” Gazans with fuel and electricity, and that a new incursion into the strip was inevitable.

Yes, fuel and electricity are examples of those modern American luxuries, like private jets. I mean, it's not like they won't have water.

What? You got a problem?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greening Guantanamo, the Sheryl Crow Way

I guess someone was listening. This is an excellent example of how a really great idea from a rockstar that gets pooh-poohed in the mainstream media can nevertheless find new life:

For guards on the front line of the U.S. war on terrorism at Guantanamo, that often involves tedious chores such as counting out toilet paper rations.

"Noncompliant" prisoners who violate camp rules are allotted 30 squares a day because bigger wads of tissue can be moistened and dried to make crude papier-mache-type shanks for use as weapons to attack guards, said Army Staff Sgt. Jerry Rushing.

Ah, the tedium of prison guard life. They should just shut the prison down. Except that would probably embolden the enemy. Much better to have prison guards shanked by dried toilet paper. Now that's American ingenuity . . . from people who hate our freedom . . . to, I don't know, be ingenious or something.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

That's a "Fresh" Rating on RottenTomatoes

From Meteor Blades's DailyKos Diary:

Data from the respected British marketing research firm Opinion Research Business, indicate that as many as 1,220,580 Iraqis have died as a result of the war and occupation of Iraq since March 2003.

A representative sample of 1,461 adults 18 or older answered this question:

"Q: How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (i.e, as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof."


None - 78%
One - 16%
Two - 5%
Three - 1%
Four or more - 0.002%

As a friend notes, "But every last corpse was at least free from Saddam's tyranny."

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Moral Equivalent of [Religion]

Just reading a very interesting interview with Stephen Duncombe posted by Bruces to nettime.

His comments (quoting William James) reminded me of my efforts (documented on this site) to argue with programmatic/dogmatic atheists that you don't bring people over by telling them they're stupid or even simply by telling them they're wrong (and even "proving" it). Duncombe sez:

There is an essay that has stuck with me. I remember reading it when I was 18 and I went to a War Resisters meeting in San Franciso, we had herb tea and sat on the floor. It was William James’ “A Moral Equivalent to War.” James’s point was simple. Speaking to a group of pacifists, he said, “If we keep addressing pacifism by saying ‘war is bad, peace is good,’ we’re not going to get anyplace with any people except for people who already agree with us. What we have to figure out it is why people go to war.” And he says “look, whether we like it or not, war serves the purposes of honor, sacrifice. Of patriotism, and so on and these things are good qualities; what we have to do is figure out a pacifist equivalent that can actually allow people to feel honor, allow people to feel sacrifice about giving for the all, allow people to feel patriotism, but not in a way that kills other
people or gets people killed.” And then says “Once you acknowledge that, then you can move the point towards your own politics.” And that stuck with me.
Could say much the same thing to Thomas Frank and like-minded progressives re: Kansas . . .

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The Ministry of Truthiness

Wikipedia, that is. And who is the Minister of Truthiness? Why, you are.

It is a sort of dictum of the postmodern left that power is everywhere and everywhere contested. It is tempting at times to emphasize the latter and play down the former. But the recent news about—or, more importantly, from—WikiScanner reminds us that when everyone is anonymous, so are corporate and government agents. At its best (which is to say, when contributors edit entries both honestly and knowledgeably), Wikipedia is an interesting and even important experiment in open source content.

Unfortunately, the reality is much more problematic, in two ways. First, there is the opportunity for governments and corporations (and, frankly, any other organization with a vested interest in an entry, including non-profits organizations and institutions, other political entities, etc. etc.) to manipulate ostensibly "grassroots" information source in a very astroturf-y kind of way.

So, that's the Orwellian part.

But then there's the Tocquevillian part, the part where the truth is what most people believe the truth is. Stephen Colbert, whom we know and love, hits both of these elements in a recent segment: video, transcript.

I don't contribute code to, say, the Linux or BSD codebases. Better programmers than I do that, and I let them do it. Because it makes better code.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Genetic Imperialism and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Or did somebody plan this?

Researchers from the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) said that the global market was dominated by a few breeds, selected for their high-yield characteristics.

They added that a report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 90% of cattle in industrialised nations came from only "six tightly defined breeds".

But these breeds, from northern temperate regions, were displacing long-established farm animals that were able to cope with conditions found in many developing nations, which was home to 70% of the world's breeds.

They warned that Uganda's indigenous ankole cattle could become extinct within 20 years because it was being displaced by the holstein-friesian, which was able to produce more milk.

However, they said that some farmers had lost their entire herds during a recent drought because the friesians were unable to walk long distances to reach the nearest water supply.