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.: 2001 --> november

november 2001
:: I'll be away from the web for the next seven days. In the meantime I recommend any of the fine reads on my portal. I'll see you in a week.
[ 11/04/01 ]

:: Happy Veterans Day. I so prefer the old 'Armistice Day' but that signifies the end of war, and we are just beginning ours. I simply cannot think of a more stupid way to settle things. So much loss....by the end of it both sides are so tired of incessant death that laying down arms is a relief. Armistice is not about winning a war: it's about ending it.
[ 11/12/01 ]

Check this out.
[ 11/12/01 ]

During my absence, Dave sent me a piece that is just gold. The USDA is thinking of dropping the rules that dictate the composition of frozen meat pizzas. Current standards prevent manufacturers from experimenting with variations and from lowering the fat content of the products the sell. From USDA agendas to arbitrary oversight, it's all here. Read, learn, and enjoy: Pizza Rules.

The rules, known as standards of identity, were intended in part to promote consumption of meat and cheese, said consumer advocate Carol Tucker Foreman, who oversaw the department's food regulation during the Carter administration.
....under the federal government's system for regulating food, USDA's regulations also don't apply to vegetable or cheese pizzas. Meatless products fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, which has no identity standards for pizza.

It all lends credence to Dr Willett's accusation that the USDA food guide pyramid is intended to regulate consumer spending, not public health.
[ 11/12/01 ]

Interesting: Media Research Center issues this report claiming 'ABC’s World News Tonight has devoted nearly four times as much of its newscast to allegations of civilian casualties as the CBS Evening News, and twice as much as NBC Nightly News.'

While all three newscasts have shown pictures of structures identified as damaged civilian buildings, ABC has repeatedly showed images of injured people, including children with facial wounds, and wrapped bodies. At the same time, ABC downplayed the American military’s dedication to keeping such casualties at an absolute minimum and the obvious benefits to the Taliban of exaggerating the number of deaths caused by U.S. bombs. In contrast, the CBS Evening News spent twice as much airtime covering these points as did World News Tonight.

It's worth reading the article and thinking about media bias. MRC clearly supports the NBC and CBS's news reporting policies, and comes just short of charging ABC with collaborating with the enemy. They report that Dan Rather 'correctly' points out that in an effort to win public opinion, 'U.S. military firepower and the damage it can inflict may be twisted by the terrorists.' The article fails to acknowledge that this damage may be minimized by the US government in their own public relations efforts.

Note that MRC is clearly a right-leaning outfit. This article makes that pretty obvious but scan a few more and peruse their Free Market Project, which is 'dedicated to the unique challenge of correcting misconceptions in the media about free enterprise.' That doesn't make their information bad, but it certainly does affect their presentation and conclusions. It's just very interesting to me to see such an openly biased article accuse a news outlet of outright bias.

(Certainly, some individuals and organizations are both biased and even-handed; this organization is not. And it's not just the right that does this. It's the big problem I have with a lot of alternative publications. I'll pick out a left-leaning article for you soon that does the same thing.)

I think it's also worth noting that they make a big deal about being quoted in the New York Times; when you're used to being taken seriously, you don't make a huge deal when someone does.

In response to this article, a member of media-l pointed out that CBS, owned by Westinghouse, makes weapons, and NBC, owned by GE, makes weapons. Now, how much influence do these corporations have on their news outlets? I'd love to really know.

(I'm a little confused, actually, about the CBS/Westinghouse connection, since CBS is listed as being owned by Viacom. Is Viacom also owned by Westinghouse, or did Viacom acquire CBS from Westinghouse in the last year or so?)
[ 11/12/01 ]

I have a question about the term 'terrorist'. I think it would be more neutral to always refer to them as the 'al-Qaeda', especially now that we are bombing them. The Governor of California recently issued a warning that there could be terrorist attacks on California bridges. But I want to know how the al-Qaeda exploding one of our bridges is different from the US exploding an Afghan bridge? I'm serious, now that we're attacking the country in which we believe bin Laden resides, wouldn't a US exploding bridge be simple, legitimate retaliation? Or is it only lawful warfare when you do it with your own equipment? If the al-Qaeda bought a truck (rather than renting it) and exploded one of our bridges, would that be equal to our actions in Afghanistan?

I'm not being flip, it just seems to me that a terrorist is defined by unprovoked attacks on non-military personnel. (Which takes the USS Cole out of the running as a terrorist attack, by the way, it makes it an unprovoked attack on a US military vessel.) But if our attacks on the infrastructure of Afghanistan, with the attendant regrettable civilian casualties, count as legitimate military action, and can in no way be characterised as terrorist attacks, then surely almost anything they do to us from that point onward can be described as retaliation. Legitimized, it would seem, by our attacks on them.
[ 11/12/01 ]

:: The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to adopt an amendment to the draft directive on electronic data collection and privacy to restrict the use of cookies. Advertisers complain.

I wish I lived in Europe with their fantastic privacy laws. And food.

The point for me is to be able to choose when a site sets a cookie; I may wish for Amazon to recognize me when I visit their site to make an order, but I may not wish for them to log my every move (good luck). In fact, I use Opera for just this reason, it allows me to refuse all cookies (except for Metafilter, of course) and to surf Amazon anonymously. When I need to make an order, I open up Internet Explorer.
[ 11/15/01 ]

Here's another example of how framing completely affects your reading of a news story. From the Drudge Report (of all places), this item on the NORC Florida recounts:


A vote-by-vote review of untallied ballots in the 2000 Florida presidential election commissioned by the nation's main media outlets shows Al Gore edged ahead of George W. Bush "under all the scenarios for counting all undervotes and overvotes statewide," the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
APCNNNYTWASHPOSTLATIMESNEWSDAYCHICAGOTRIB will splash in Monday editions an election review which will ignite total controversy during a time of war, publishing sources told DRUDGE on Sunday.

Now, compare this with, say, CNN:

Florida recount study: Bush still wins
Study reveals flaws in ballots, voter errors may have cost Gore victory

A comprehensive study of the 2000 presidential election in Florida suggests that if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a statewide vote recount to proceed, Republican candidate George W. Bush would still have been elected president.

or the New York Times:

Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote

A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

(Those rebels at Slate opine Everything the New York Times Thinks About the Florida Recount Is Wrong!)

Not all the major media felt the need to try and prop up the current administration (as if there would be riots in the streets if the public had proof that the current President is unelected!) This opinion piece from MSNBC (what is it about these Microsoft properties that makes them so fearless?) has the most truthful headline of them all:

Buried truth of a flawed election
Florida votes, media spins, and a troubled world turns

You would never know it from the confused, pre-crash coverage in the nation’s elite media Monday morning, but Al Gore beat George Bush in Florida by almost every vote-counting standard save the one that the Gore team managed to choose. This is consistent with the Democratic candidate’s hapless campaign. The Supreme Court did not have to take the election away from Al Gore: he and his campaign gave it away themselves. And in doing so, they helped George W. Bush and his minions undermine American democracy.

Same story, same set of facts, and in fact, an agreement on the facts; what differs is the frame and the spin.

Note that the article I linked a month ago, claiming that the NORC recount showed Gore winning by a wide margin was wrong. The results have been released, and Gore's winning margin is narrow.
[ 11/15/01 ]

:: This is fantastic: The Christian Science Monitor has figured out the weblog and created a daily war news weblog, which gives a summary of the day's news, provides context and links to a variety of sources from the BBC to Stratfor. It's terrific, one-stop shopping for news about the war, and it's a smart form of web journalism.

The web is a distribution vehicle that allows for a degree or mode of aggregation and juxtaposition that is not possible in any other medium, and it is exciting to me to see a major news outlet take advantage of the medium's unique strengths in such a smart and useful way. And this one is really well done, as good in its own way as the Guardian weblog was back in the day.

(Note that I am using the word journalism is the sense of 'newspapering'. I adamantly do not consider weblogs to be reportage: that requires fact-gathering, speaking with experts and eyewitnesses, and using primary sources to lay out for readers facts about the world around them. Although I aggregate and comment on news stories, Rebecca's Pocket is not a newspaper and I am not a journalist.)

You may want to bookmark this for a quick source of news about the war. I've added it to the left under WTC News.
[ 11/16/01 ]

:: The Kiwi Bloke's Guide (via metafilter)
[ 11/18/01 ]

I have three long articles for you which I find to be interesting and substantial. I won't be updating again until Wednesday, so please come back to read them later if you don't have time just now.

Timothy Garton Ash recounts his meeting with Ali Ahmeti, tries to define a useful way of separating 'freedom fighters' from 'terrorists', and asks Is There a Good Terrorist?

After a few minutes of preliminary conversation, I told Ahmeti that...'some people would say you are a terrorist.' How would he answer them?
As my question was translated, his bodyguards shifted slightly in their seats. Ahmeti replied calmly and quietly. I expected him to say words to the effect 'No, I'm a freedom fighter,' but his response was more thoughtful. 'That person cannot be a terrorist...who wears an army badge, who has an objective for which he is fighting, who respects the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Tribunal, who acts in public with name and surname, and answers for everything he does.... Someone who is aiming for good reforms and democracy in the country —and that people should be equal before the law.'

via the CSM warblog
[ 11/18/01 ]

Also via the CSM warblog, Egypt's Hani Shukrallah explores why he thinks terrorism is the antithesis of self-determination.

Fundamentally, the one salient feature of terrorism (irrespective of the relative legitimacy of the cause in defence of which it is pursued) is its anti-democratic nature. Its point of departure is the political apathy of the oppressed people whom the terrorists set out to 'liberate.' The people are called upon not to act, but merely to cheer on the heroic 'saviours' acting on their behalf; sacrificing their lives to 'awaken' them. Intrinsic to a terrorist political strategy is a deep contempt for the people's ability to appropriate knowledge and political awareness -- let alone to determine their own future.

Now, is that true? If it is, how does one go about acquiring new recruits? Is this the same as the notorious apathy of US citizens (measured by voter turnout) and if it is, what of it?

I find it interesting that Shukrallah's observation are rather the flip side to Mr. Clinton's in his October 6 address at the Yale University Tercentennial.

America should continue to promote democracy. One particular problem we have, in the present crisis, is that so many people who hear the siren song of radical Islamic fundamentalism, with its twisted reading of the Koran, live in countries growing ever larger, ever younger and ever poorer, where there is no democracy or chance to express dissent or even assent in a normal political way. That keeps the populace in a state of sort of permanent infancy, in which they never have to take responsibility for their own lives and making them better because they never get to take responsibility. Therefore it is very easy to listen to someone say your problems were caused by America's success.

Both of these pull quotes fail to provide the breadth or even the gist of either article, so take your time with them, because both make points that I think are well worth pondering. Both men's political biases are blatantly obvious (and mostly unacknowledged) but there is much here of substance.
[ 11/18/01 ]

:: Sorry. Life intrudes. I'm ill (nothing serious). I'll be back to updating as soon as I can.
[ 11/25/01 ]

Happy Birthday, Twa.
[ 11/25/01 ]

'On a street corner in Jalalabad...we stopped passers-by at random — street urchins, ragpickers, farmers, tradesmen, freelance gunmen — all shattered by fighting and praying for peace. We took their portraits and spoke with them while the negatives developed.' [NY Times: rebeccas_pocket, password: pocket]
(thanks, bruce!) [ 11/25/01 ]

:: The ear infection is much better; I hope to be able to update regularly next week. Thanks for your patience. Meanwhile, the Lizard dug this up for your enjoyment. [ 11/30/01 ]

Hungarian! Pig! Shock! Horror!

The annual pre-Christmas swine slaughter in a southwestern Hungarian village came to a shocking end after one man died of electrocution while trying to stun a pig, whose owner then died of heart attack.
Celebrations at the pig-killing party in Darvaspuszta took a turn for the worse on Saturday when an unnamed visiting Croatian man shocked himself to death while trying to knock out a pig with a homemade electric pig stunner [ed note: !!!!!], national news agency MTI said.

[ 11/30/01 ]


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