click here to skip the menu and go to the page content
about | archive rss | atom
rebecca's pocket
guides: reference | web basics | computers | look | think | exotic
passions: books | film | domestic | gothica | music | gaia
ntk: weblog | handbook | other words | news | webloggia

.: 2003 --> october


:: In response to Tuesday's link, alert reader Mitchell Porter points me to a better description of the work of the U.S. Agency for International Development:

In the months since the fall of the regime, a panel of 37 Iraqi secondary school teachers working through the interim Ministry of Education has been reviewing the nation's textbooks, excising everything from math word problems about trench digging on the Iranian border to photos of tanks and rifles.
'They've gone through and removed Baath propaganda statements, photos of Saddam Hussein, discriminatory statements about groups,' said Dorothy Mazaka, a U.S. Agency for International Development education specialist, who is working as a liaison to the Ministry of Education.

Expunging Baathist propaganda from educational materials is very different from expunging all mentions of Saddam and his party, who played an important role in the history of Iraq. This story makes more sense.
[ 09/02/03 ]

:: Understanding Gravity: Strength in Weakness.

We measured the strength of all the forces, and gravity came in last. End of discussion. But that's not enough of an answer for scientists, and the real reason gravity is so weak may break open the next major advance in our perception of the universe. There are some tantalizing suggestions that gravity is, in fact, not weak at all, it's just diluted by having to act over more than our familiar four dimensions (three of space and one of time).

[ 09/02/03 ]

:: In the tradition of SETI@home, you now can volunteer your extra personal computer cycles to help predict climate change.

The results of the experiment will be sent via the Internet. The simulations will be used to test different model versions, and the results will be collated to predict the 21st-century climate.
'We can’t predict which versions of the model will be any good without running these simulations, and there are far too many for us to run them ourselves,' said Allen.
'Together, participants' results will give us an overall picture of how much human influence has contributed to recent climate change and the range of possible changes in the future.'

Download the software at
[ 09/02/03 ]

:: Bruce Sterling: 10 Technologies that Deserve to Die. (via anil's links)
[ 09/02/03 ]

:: Amazon is offering an interesting new feature:

Chamois: 'Manufacturers, merchants, and enthusiasts: Submit a product manual for this item.'

It's amazing to me that most manufacturers still don't offer product manuals for all their products online. As a renter, I never have the instruction manual for any of the appliances I'm responsible for maintaining, and as a human being, I often lose instructions for the things I own.

I hope Amazon will continue this initiative. It's a service that is sorely needed, and it's just the kind of thing the Web is perfect for.
[ 09/02/03 ]

:: My article Weblogs and Journalism in the Age of Participatory Media appears in the latest issue of Nieman Reports.

Instead of inflating the term 'journalism' to include everyone who writes anything about current events, I prefer the term 'participatory media' for the blogger's practice of actively highlighting and framing the news that is reported by journalists, a practice potentially as important as--but different from--journalism.

Nieman Reports is a quarterly journal published by the The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. I was the only non-journalist among a diverse group of writers invited to contribute to a section called 'Weblogs and Journalism'.

Sheila has put together a master list of the articles in this section with links to each writer's weblog.
[ 09/02/03 ]

:: A little weekend reading: In case you missed them, two very good (and somewhat overlapping) interviews with Paul Krugman who is currently promoting his book The Great Unraveling.

- a long, wonderfully contextualized calpundit Interview With Paul Krugman

Is Krugman merely someone who dislikes Bush and thinks his policies are horribly misguided? Oh no. In fact, in his most recent book, The Great Unraveling, he makes it clear that he thinks it's much, much worse than that. Here's a set of excerpts from the introduction in which he spells out exactly how he feels. Be sure not to skip past this if you want the interview that follows to make sense.

- the Buzzflash Interview With Paul Krugman

KRUGMAN: Again, I think it comes back to press coverage. Just this weekend, I was looking at something: There's an enormous scandal right now involving Boeing and a federal contract, which appears to have been overpaid by $4 billion. The Pentagon official who was responsible for the contract has now left and has become a top executive at Boeing. And it's been barely covered in the press –- a couple of stories on inside pages. You compare that with the White House travel office in 1993. There were accusations, later found to be false, that the Clintons had intervened improperly to dismiss a couple of employees in the White House travel office.
That was the subject, in the course of one month, of three front-page stories in the Washington Post. So if people don't understand how badly things are being managed now, and have an unduly negative sense of how things were managed in the Clinton years, well, there in a nutshell is your explanation.

I have to say that back in the day I wouldn't have seriously imagined any NYTimes columnist doing interviews with bloggers to promote their book.
[ 09/03/03 ]

:: The Wooly Thinker's Guide to Rhetoric contains such gems as Be dismissive; Repetition; and Claiming is Succeeding. (via the always excellent Panchromatica)
[ 09/03/03 ]

:: I think Rush Limbaugh would explain his success on talk radio by asserting that he speaks for a disenfranchised majority of Americans. As you know, he was recently fired by ESPN for making racially insensitive comments. Limbaugh's comments were, based on my limited exposure to him, pretty mild compared with his usual fare, but he was doing what he does--and to some extent, what he was hired to do. That he so quickly and so badly misjudged his new audience sharply illustrates how very far from the mainstream Limbaugh really is.
[ 10/06/03 ]

:: Mapping Media Attention (via Media Diet)
[ 10/06/03 ]

:: Thomas Friedman: The Real Patriot Act. [NY Times: pocketpass, password: pocketpass]

In short, a tax that finances the democratization of Iraq, takes money away from those who would use it to spread ideas harmful to us, weakens OPEC, makes us more energy independent, reduces the deficit and overnight improves the world's view of us--from selfish, Hummer-driving louts to good global citizens--would be the real patriot act. (It would also encourage Iraq not to become another oil-dependent state, but to build a middle class by learning to tap its people's entrepreneurship and creativity, not just its oil wells.)
'Until we raise energy prices we really aren't fighting the war on terrorism, because we're doing nothing to deny the countries who fund terrorists the cash they need to destroy us,' says Philip K. Verleger Jr., the energy expert. 'We could use the excess revenues to fund a true Manhattan Project to cut U.S. oil consumption in half by 2007, thereby permanently making OPEC irrelevant. That would be a truly patriotic move.'

You're preaching my religion, Tom! [ 10/06/03 ]

:: According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, one sixth of the world's population lives in a slum.

[Dr Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of UN- Habitat]: '...We have to recognise that the poor are an asset, hardworking and decent people. But with policies that discourage them, how do we expect them to improve their lot?'

[ 10/06/03 ]

:: Understanding the jobless recovery: A Missing Statistic: U.S. Jobs That Went Overseas [NY Times: pocketpass, password: pocketpass]

The trade-off in jobs is not one for one. The work done here by one person often requires two or three less-efficient workers overseas. Even so, given the very low wages, the total saving for an American company can be as much 50 percent for each job shifted, even allowing for the extra cost of transportation, communication and other expenses that would not be needed if the work was done in the United States. That is the message of the nation's management consultants, who are encouraging their corporate clients to take advantage of the multiplying opportunities overseas.

[ 10/06/03 ]

:: A male contraceptive that is 100% effective--and with no side effects. Now, are you going to believe him when he says he had that shot?
[ 10/06/03 ]

:: I've always felt the weblog universe to be a fairly egalitarian place. Now it is confirmed: according to this survey, there are more weblogs maintained by women than by men.
[ 10/06/03 ]

:: For what it's worth, while I think the law allowing Californians to recall the Governor is poorly considered, I'm not a bit upset about the outcome of the vote. Schwarzenegger may have won on a policy-free platform, but that's the way the system works. We did get to vote on it. If Davis and his policies were at all popular, the recall would have been defeated.

...analysts...warn that the wave of voter frustration that toppled Gov. Gray Davis was not so much partisan as anti-incumbent--a trend that is mirrored in low approval ratings of many other governors across the country, and which could ultimately threaten Mr. Bush as well.
'The angry voter is back,' says independent pollster John Zogby. 'Angry voters were on sabbatical for almost a decade. Now they want results, they want a fix.'

I'm quite willing to give the guy a chance. California budget problems seem nearly intractable to me, and I don't think it's going to be easy to for anyone to solve them. But Schwarzenegger will have plenty of advice from Republicans who have worked in politics for years, and--who knows?--maybe he'll be a natural. I believe he is quite serious about succeeding at this job, as he has been about his past careers. On the other hand, he's used to automatically getting his way on the movie set, so maybe he'll have some trouble adjusting to wheeling and dealing required to work with the legislature and it will all be a shambles.

I can't wait to see what happens next.
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: In California, the media allowed the circus to become the story.

In the beginning it was only natural that journalists sent to cover the mess would revel in the 135-car- pileup aspect. After all, politicians don't usually perform comedy acts where they smash produce with sledgehammers - well, maybe Jim Traficant. But at some point there's the matter of doing your job. 'The Terminator Goes to Sacramento' is a funny first-day story, but what about how he'll handle state budget problems, which are extremely complicated, or how he'll deal with a hostile legislature. That's the real question for the media. Is the job of the press, particularly the political press, simply to reflect the 'wacky' (a word used repeatedly in the past 11 weeks) state of American political discourse or is it to try to bring some sanity to it by pointing out the issues at stake?
As a presidential election draws near, this is a legitimate issue.

[ 10/09/03 ]

:: Hoorah! At 20 cents a watt, this solar energy is cheaper than conventional!
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: Individuals with resistant depression appear to have very different brain activity from healthy individuals.

The team found that people with depression processed their emotional response to the images differently from the healthy individuals. Some parts of the brain were less active in people with depression than the control group, while other areas showed greater activity. For instance activities in some regions of the brain, such as the rostral anterior cingulate, were reduced in people with depression compared to the healthy participants. However the team noticed that an area of the brain, the subgenual cingulate, associated with sadness in healthy people, was activated by the positive images shown to the participants with depression.

[ 10/09/03 ]

:: Nature plus Nurture News: A pregnant mother's diet may influence gene expression in newborns. [NY Times: pocketpass, password: pocketpass]

While DNA sequences are commonly compared to a text of written letters, he said, epigenetics is like the formatting in a word processing program. Though the primary letters do not vary, the font can be large or small, Times Roman or Arial, italicized, bold, upper case, lower case, underlined or shadowed. They can be any color of the rainbow.
Methylation is nature's way of allowing environmental factors to tweak gene expression without making permanent mutations, Dr. Jirtle said.
Fleeting exposure to anything that influences methylation patterns during development can change the animal or person for a lifetime. Methyl groups are entirely derived from the foods people eat. And the effect may be good or bad. Maternal diet during pregnancy is consequently very important, but in ways that are not yet fully understood.

[ 10/09/03 ]

:: Stress in captive carnovores may be due more to a lack of environmental stimulation than their inability to hunt.
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: A posthumous collection of Mr Rogers' words is just like having a visit with him, according to his wife. (And doesn't she look like she should be named 'Mrs. McFeeley'?)
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: Check out the Virtual Book Tour for Screening Party.
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: A little weekend giggling: A Casket Full Of Cheese Fries is Mark Morford's funny and agonized plea for self-awareness on the part of a US populace which is being courted by fast food vendors, demeaned and deceived by the diet peddlers, and in which super-sized caskets are a growth industry. [slithy popup!]

Don't miss the bonus link, the possibly not work-appropriate Breakfast from Hell, a hilarious blow-by-blow account of Swanson's Hungry Man Breakfast: [another slithy popup!]

The next food we're going to take a look at was my favorite of the bunch. Sausage has a new face, and it's not unlike the current face of what dogs leave on your front lawn.

Shut your office door and read it all.
[ 10/09/03 ]

:: A scathing George Will on the California Recall: A Conservative Travesty.

The odor of what some so-called conservatives were indispensable to producing will eventually arouse them from their swoons over Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then they can inventory the damage they have done by seizing an office that just 11 months ago they proved incapable of winning in a proper election under ideal conditions.

[ 10/14/03 ]

:: Michael Pollan says that the current obesity epidemic isn't new at all--if you count our 200-years-ago national bender. [NY Times: pocketpass, password: pocketpass]

It turns out that we have been here before, sort of, though the last great American binge involved not food, but alcohol. It came during the first decades of the 19th century, when Americans suddenly began drinking more than they ever had before or have since, going on a collective bender that confronted the young republic with its first major public-health crisis -- the obesity epidemic of its day. Corn whiskey, suddenly superabundant and cheap, was the drink of choice, and in the 1820's the typical American man was putting away half a pint of the stuff every day. That works out to more than five gallons of spirits a year for every American. The figure today is less than a gallon.
But the outcome of our national drinking binge is not nearly as relevant to our present predicament as its underlying cause. Which, put simply, was this: American farmers were producing way too much corn, especially in the newly settled areas west of the Appalachians, where fertile soil yielded one bumper crop after another. Much as it has today, the astounding productivity of American farmers proved to be their own worst enemy, as well as a threat to the public health. For when yields rise, the market is flooded with grain, and its price collapses. As a result, there is a surfeit of cheap calories that clever marketers sooner or later will figure out a way to induce us to consume.

(He gets the Great Depression and Nixon in there, too!)

As you know, I tend to favor the 'combination' theory: pervasive corn sweetener plus an automated world plus super-sized portions plus a persuasive media. But it's a splendid article, and Pollan's argument is compelling--and you know how I love root causes.
[ 10/14/03 ]

:: Understanding the Federal budget: It's Even Worse Than You Think.

Were the federal government to account for its Social Security obligations under the rules of accrual accounting, which govern public companies, its financial outlook would be far worse. By the end of last year, the Social Security system owed retirees and current workers benefits valued at $14 trillion. The system's assets, in contrast, were only $3.5 trillion. These assets include not only the trust funds' current reserves ($1.4 trillion), but also the present value of the taxes that current workers will pay over the remainder of their working lives ($2.1 trillion). [...]
If Social Security were to present its finances on the basis of accrual accounting, the public would have to face the hard truth that the system is insolvent — and its deficit is increasing by hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Politicians would have more incentive to act. Indeed, voters might even insist that Congress and the president reduce the Social Security shortfall to a reasonable size.

If only some university or the American Accounting Association or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants would do this every year as a public service. (via the always excellent
[ 10/14/03 ]

:: It seems the work-week affects global temperatures.

After examining more than 40 years of temperature data taken from roughly 10,000 surface stations, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from the University of Reading in the U.K. found that temperature differences between day and night appear to follow distinct five-days-on, two-days-off patterns.
The scientists checked the data for all possible natural influences such as the lunar cycle as well as random variations and found neither to be at play. The only factor that could be causing the fluctuations was the Monday-through-Friday grind, they concluded in a recently published report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[ 10/14/03 ]

:: The Independent reports that some US soldiers in Dhuluaya have bulldozed local orchards as a collective punishment for residents not turning in members of the local resistance. As this comment thread at Electrolite points out, this particular action violates US military law, the Geneva Conventions, and Judeo-Christian law. Teresa Nielsen Hayden eloquently tries to put this into perspective:

I don't know how to explain how bad this is. It's too basic. It goes back too far.
Olive and palm and citrus trees take a long time to get going -- years and years -- but once they're established, they bear without having to be watered all the time, the way small short-term crops do. They may need some water, depending on your area. But it's not the same. Not at all.
Trees are shade in a country where shade is seriously important. People from cooler areas, or from humid climates, don't fully appreciate shade. Dry air doesn't hold heat the way that wet air does. High summer daytime temperatures are debilitating and can be life-threatening, but if you can get out of the direct sun, things are a lot better. The only thing I can compare it to is the difference between wind chill and no wind chill when the absolute temperature is below freezing.
...I'm not doing it justice. I can't explain it. But I know that no kid who saw us do that will ever think we're the good guys.

Please call the White House (202-456-1111), and your Congressional representatives; ask them to investigate these charges--and then put a stop to this if they are true.

Here are your references: Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Article 53; Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1), Article 54; US Department of the Army FM 27-10, The Law Of Land Warfare, Chapter 5, Section I, part 272; and Deuteronomy 20:19.

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Call for entries.

The Metropolis Next Generation Prize was established to recognize and encourage the talent of today's rising stars in design. The cash prize of $10,000 will be awarded to an enterprising individual or office who's Big Design Idea will benefit people and the environment, and will challenge design professionals to create human-centered products, environments, and communication systems.

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Pictures of the past: Ancient World Mapping Center. (via anil)
[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Down on the farm no more.

Tough times on the farm are hardly new, many observers point out. The story of civilization, after all, involves people leaving the land in search of opportunity. 'We've gone from having 95 percent of the population on farms to having 5 percent, which allows us to have huge amounts of nonfarm goods and services,' says Dennis Avery, director of the Center for Global Food Issues in Churchville, Va. 'Farms today are larger, but they're still essentially family farms. And they're better managed than they used to be, both for sustainability and for safety of production.'
But Professor Lasley - and others - see intrinsic value in having America's food supply in many hands. They point to food security, to shrinking rural towns, to the greater care that goes into a smaller, diversified farm. The challenge: finding the policies to preserve smaller farms, say participants at the Ames conference, sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Agribusiness Accountability Initiative.
[ 10/16/03 ]

:: A new study concludes that organic farming practices can significantly retain carbon in soil--making the soil more fertile while reducing global warming--but some scientists think their estimates are too high.

Paul Hepperly, research manager for the Rodale Institute, said that converting the nation's 160 million acres of corn and soybeans [to organic practices] would significantly reduce the carbon dioxide produced each year by the United States.
'That's a low-hanging fruit. Get it,' said Rattan Lal, professor of soil science and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University. 'These things are applicable right now, and they're good for the soil and good for agriculture and good for land.' [...]

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: The allergy/antibiotics connection.

Giving children even one antibiotic before six months of age more than doubles the risk they will have asthma by their seventh birthday, a new study shows.

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Take that, you guilt-inducing joggers! Mice that are addicted to exercise are poor thinkers. [slithy popup!]
[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Yikes! The extremely obese are getting fatter at a faster rate than the rest of the population.

The number of extremely obese American adults -- those who are at least 100 pounds overweight -- has quadrupled since the 1980s to about 4 million. That works out to about 1 in every 50 adults.

[ 10/16/03 ]

:: Frog that hopped with dinosaurs found.
[ 10/16/03 ]

:: A little weekend reading: The Observer has made a list of the essential fiction from the past 300 years. (That link explains the project; here is the list of The 100 Best Novels.) I suppose I've read about a quarter of these. And hoorah for including Three Men in a Boat, one of the funniest books ever written!

Instead of spending your weekend surfing the Web, why not go to your local bookstore, pick up one of these masterpieces, and spend the weekend in the company of a great novel? (via the same river twice)
[ 10/17/03 ]

:: Antique winter kimono.

While winter kimono continued to be used as outdoor garments, they also developed into what has come to be known as the 'sleeping kimono'. This thickly padded garment (also for the lower class) was made exactly the same as an outdoor kimono, but was extra long - as long as a person, and even thicker. Its purpose was to act as a blanket.
With batting up to 8" thick, Lane-Saber says, 'It was almost impossible to move in one of these extra heavy sleeping kimono when standing. 'But,' she adds, 'I have read that in ancient times the samurai class males who were on the move would wear the padded kimono all day and sleep in it at night.'
Surprisingly, winter kimono were the uniform of choice for 18th and 19th century firefighters. The cotton garments were soaked in water, then donned, along with helmets with eye slits, leggings and gloves. While they were extremely cumbersome, they could be wet down if they began to smolder.

[ 10/17/03 ]

:: Do not miss this The Smithsonian feature on The Shakers, Living a Tradition.

'We, who came here, knowing nothing about the Shakers except that they made stunning furniture,' write the Wolkomirs, 'are surprised at what we are learning about those old ways. In their heyday, we have discovered, Shakers were business go-getters and technologists. They invented prolifically, and they were aficionados of all that was new and useful, from snapshot cameras to linoleum. Celibates, communists, they lived apart from ordinary society. Yet, in other ways, they were quintessentially American.'

Also: I was a Teenage Shaker.
Shaker Music: A Foot-Stomping, Toe-Tapping Culture.
Shaker Food: The Secret to Eldress Prudence's Ambrosia Cake and Other Principles of the Shaker Kitchen
and the magnificent Shaker Works Gallery.
[ 10/17/03 ]

:: I'm taking the week off, and likely won't be updating at all. Allow me to recommend dangerousmeta, wood s lot, nobody's doll, and panchromatica, and fragments from floyd while I'm away. If that won't hold you, you can't go wrong with any of the fine publications listed on my portal.
[ 10/19/03 ]

:: Send a thought or a prayer for Jack and Anita, who is now home, recovering from her surgery. Anita has been blogging since way back when it was still 'weblogging' and she's been an enthusiastic and generous supporter of the extended weblog community for as long as I've known her. Never mind that she maintains a damn fine weblog.
[ 10/19/03 ]

:: The Economist: The End of the Oil Age.

'The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.' This intriguing prediction is often heard in energy circles these days. If greens were the only people to be expressing such thoughts, the notion might be dismissed as Utopian. However, the quotation is from Sheikh Zaki Yamani, a Saudi Arabian who served as his country's oil minister three decades ago. His words are rich in irony. Sheikh Yamani first came to the world's attention during the Arab oil embargo of the United States, which began three decades ago this week and whose effects altered the course of modern economic and political history. Coming from such a source, the prediction, one assumes, can hardly be a case of wishful thinking.

A tremendous package from the Economist including OPEC: Still holding customers over a barrel and Buried losses: The journey from plant to coal wastes a lot of energy. [ 10/28/03 ]

:: Thomas Friedman, a supporter of the Iraq invasion, sees a few problems with our occupation as it currently stands.

I've often pointed out the good we have done in Iraq and unabashedly hoped for more. No regrets. But some recent trends leave me worried. Unfortunately, there are few Democrats to press my worries on the administration. Most Democrats either opposed the war (a perfectly legitimate position) or supported it and are now trying to disown it. That means the only serious opposition can come from Republicans, so they'd better get focused -- because there is nothing about the Bush team's performance in Iraq up to now that justifies a free pass.

[ 10/28/03 ]

:: I can think of something else that might come back to bite us, encapsulated nicely by NPR's Marketplace on October 13: Please listen to this astonishing report on contracters who hope to profit from the Iraqi reconstruction. It's about 5 minutes long, and I can't encourage you strongly enough to listen to the whole thing. (via talkingpointsmemo)

Can you say carpetbaggers?
[ 10/28/03 ]

:: It starts at the top. Paul Krugman on Bush cronyism in the Iraqi reconstruction.

It's rarely mentioned nowadays, but at the time of the Marshall Plan, Americans were very concerned about profiteering in the name of patriotism. To get Congressional approval, Truman had to provide assurances that the plan would not become a boondoggle. Funds were administered by an agency independent of the White House, and Marshall promised that priorities would be determined by Europeans, not Americans.
Fortunately, Truman's assurances were credible. Although he is now honored for his postwar leadership, Truman initially rose to prominence as a fierce crusader against war profiteering, which he considered treason.

Doggone, I expect more from my government than this.
[ 10/28/03 ]

:: A physically fit old age may make you wiser.
[ 10/28/03 ]

:: The Republican machine is actively trying to disenfranchise democratic voters. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Jefferson County Republicans are planning to 'place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly black neighborhoods.'

This is, frankly, unpatriotic and unAmerican, from either party. That willingness to manipulate the polling process was my huge complaint with the Florida recounts, too. Leave, for the moment, charges that electronic voting results were manipulated (and I wish the media would thoroughly expose or debunk this allegation). I will never forget the disgraceful spectacle of partisans speciously challenging honest poll workers who were doing their level best to accurately read and hand-count the cast ballots. I understand the right and need for party representatives to ensure that ballots are counted accurately. But introducing doubt where there is none, and seeking to win, if necessary, by technicality is a different pursuit altogether. In general, everyday Americans can be trusted to do this work with honor and integrity--it's the political parties who are willing to subvert the process in order to give themselves an advantage.

I understand that everyone wants to win, but spuriously challenging votes and voters who are likely to support the other side is anathema to democratic process. Once we get to the polls and cast our vote, it should be entirely out of the parties' hands. The voting booth is the altar of Democracy, and voting is one of its sacraments.

Political Parties out of my Polling Place!
[ 10/30/03 ]

:: From the horse's mouth: Behind the scenes at FOX News.

The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious - information on who is where and what they'll be covering - there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors' copy. For instance, from the March 20th memo: "There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan's remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are 'with the Iraqi people." One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought.' Can there be any doubt that the memo was offering not only 'food for thought,' but a direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go? Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary General's remarks as 'utterly incomprehensible'?

Read this (and weep) immediately, as it will eventually scroll off the page. (via
[ 10/30/03 ]

:: Jakob Nielsen on information pollution.

The entire ideology of information technology for the last 50 years has been that more information is better, that mass producing information is better,' [Nielsen] says.
But the net is now so much an machine with all the answers instantly, it has mutated into a 'procrastination apparatus', which spews information without much prioritisation Dr Nielsen argues. [...]
Time is a non-renewable resource. Once that day is gone, it is never coming back.

Yep. For the last year I've been calling the Web a 'procrastination machine', but I'll be adopting Dr Nielsen's lovely, assonant term from now on. Recall the Tyranny of Email, which I linked in March.
[ 10/30/03 ]

:: If you've read my recent article, Weblogs and Journalism in an Age of Participatory Media, you know that I use the term 'participatory media' to describe weblogs and the practice of blogging. You may not know that I adopted the term from Greg Ruggerio of the Immediast Underground, quoted in my September 2000 essay, Weblogs: A History and Perspective:

Media is a corporate possession.... You cannot participate in the media. Bringing that into the foreground is the first step. The second step is to define the difference between public and audience. An audience is passive; a public is participatory. We need a definition of media that is public in its orientation.
I wonder whatever happened to Immediastism? Here is the Immediast Manifesto by Hakim Bey:
Fully realizing that any art 'manifesto' written today can only stink of the same bitter irony it seeks to oppose, we nevertheless declare without hesitation (without too much thought) the founding of a 'movement,' IMMEDIATISM. We feel free to do so because we intend to practice Immediatism in secret, in order to avoid any contamination of mediation. Publicly we'll continue our work in publishing, radio, printing, music, etc., but privately we will create something else, something to be shared freely but never consumed passively, something which can be discussed openly but never understood by the agents of alienation, something with no commercial potential yet valuable beyond price, something occult yet woven completely into the fabric of our everyday lives.

And Seizing The Media, the only one of the The Immediast Underground Pamphlet Series that I can find on the Web.

We no longer tolerate being besieged with manipulative messages that we don't want to hear and cannot respond to. We no longer tolerate an inaccessible State that censors, blocks, denies information to the public. We no longer tolerate the spectacle that ultimately serves to absolve criminals like Poindexter, Bush, North and their lickspittles from crimes of international violence and domestic debt. The time has come to turn the ecology of coercion on itself. The time has come to veto, overwhelm, and subvert the messages of all airborne commercial broadcast media until they are returned to complete public direction, access, and control. How long should we wait to liberate public spaces from the blister of billboards and advertisements? The air is public domain, and the airwaves are ours to hear our own voices, see our own colors, enjoy our own conversations, and celebrate in the vast community of cultures. Remember: dialogue offsets the hegemony, and intimacy empowers.
The time has come to restore the democratic power and public space that have been coopted and colonized by commercial media.

Heady stuff! In a way, you'd think these people would be all over the Web, and especially the weblogs. But I think they would argue that link-driven weblogs, by their very nature, are just a grassroots form of spectacle media, disseminating paradigmatic mainstream messages from various sides of the same corporate spectrum.

The Immediast Revolution is never going to happen--no one has the time or the means, or even the interest, to seize the media in a meaningful way. We need something different: media literacy...

and critical thinking skills.

The ideal critical thinker is disposed to try to 'get it right', to present a position honestly and clearly, and to care about the worth and dignity of every person; furthermore the ideal critical thinker has the ability to clarify, to seek and judge well the basis for a view, to infer wisely from the basis, to imaginatively suppose and integrate, and to do these things with dispatch, sensitivity, and rhetorical skill.

Weblogs--which are used most often to promote a party line rather than investigate the truth--can be a perfect vehicle for those activities.
[ 10/31/03 ]

comments? questions? email me