8.03.2002

Well, Andrew Sullivan's been calling for a public debate on the Iraqi Issue. His wish has been granted (somewhat) by the lords of AOL.

On the welcome screen, beneath a picture of Powell waving his arms expressively as he rejects the Iraq's latest offer, is a hyperlink that says "Vote: Support Attack on Iraq?".

The tally so far:

62% yes
26% no
9% not sure
1% other

Take that, WarBlogger Watch*!

*I must be behind the times. I didn't realize how violently anti-Israeli they were until today.

8.02.2002

It's interesting that, in these times, magazines still sell. I mean like People , InStyle , and Sports Illustrated for Women .

I guess it's about the lipstick meter, which is something EsteƩ Lauder thought up: The worse the economy, the more people (or, to be totally politically correct, lipstick wearers) buy things that make them feel better but aren't wildly expensive, like lipstick.
Little Green Footballs has a few pictues up depicting celebrations in Gaza following the sickening attack on the University (click on the boxes to see the pictures).

It's fittingly ironic sign the children are flashing -- the victory sign in their parlance -- is the same as our sign for peace.

8.01.2002

I'm sure by now everyone's heard of the American Taliban song. It's gotten me thinking of what my brother once told me was a defenition of "patriotism." We argue a lot; I sit on the right, he on the left. But he told me that he considered himself a patriot because he wanted to work with the US to make it better for others who would live there. We then got into an argument about what that was, but the defenition is a good one.
Now why can't little Johnny Walker Lindh grow up and, instead of running away to Pakistan, write a letter to his senator?
Another reason why whoever came up with the business plan for Pressplay needs to be fired...

Pressplay works with this things called a portable download (PD). A PD is a file that the consumer has the use of - and they stress this - even after their membership expires.

Meaning, of course, that any non-PD file downloaded is not usable after a membership expires (which in itself is a problem -- who wants dead files cluttering up their hard drive?). Additionally, any non-PD file cannot be transferred to an mp3 player or burnt onto a CD. And, as might be expected, users are charged a premium for PD's.

The obvious limitation of this is that because the basic membership allows for only 10 PDs a month, the user is unable to burn a complete CD without paying more. I can assume that the record exec's logic was that people would pay up for added PDs which would, and this is devious, equal to their paying the same amount as they would for a regular CD.

A typical 80 min blank CD can hold nearly 20 tracks. If I were to buy this many PDs from Pressplay, it would cost me $18.95. A normal CD -- with jewel case, cover art, and physical disk -- normally costs $17.00. Ergo, I actually pay more to use Pressplay than to simply buy a CD.

Which is, I must logically conclude, the point of Pressplay: to convince consumers that they really do want to be shutting down the laptop and going out to the record store. Unfortunately for the RIAA, this latest scheme is not likely to work any better than their plan to attack consumer's computers will.
Pressplay announces that it is going to begin allowing users, for an annual fee of $179.40, to download an unlimited number of songs, a change from its previous plan of allowing users to download 50 songs monthly.

I don't think it's going to work.

Anyone with basic computer skills (or the ability to click here) can still get unlimited music for free. There is only one reason why someone would pay to use Pressplay: morals. Artists, struggling artists, and other industry folk who pity the musicians are, I predict, among the most common subscribers to Pressplay.

For everyone else, Pressplay is still a bad decision. There's the obvious: Kazaa is free, Pressplay is not, and Kazaa has more music than Pressplay. For a little experiment, I selected ten musicians to see if Pressplay carried their music. The results:
Weezer: No
Sleater-Kinney: No
Tenacious D: No
Santana: Yes
Dixie Chicks: No
Alison Krauss: Yes
Ben Fold Five: Yes
Beatles: No
Allman Brothers: No
Limp Bizkit: Yes

4 for 10. So, for free, I can get more music than I can if I were to pay. But that is only half the problem.

The music industry misses a large point of the P2P networks: the P2P part. It's a network of fans. Just yesterday I was able to download, off of Kazaa, a taped version of a live Weezer show. The day before I downloaded a remix of an Aretha Franklin song. My friend has an mp3 of "Fat-Bottomed Girls" in German. Yes, a lot of songs downloaded are radio singles, but a not unsubstantial portion of what is downloaded is comprised of B-sides, mixes, live tapes, rarities, and other, more obscure tracks that no record exec would ever be able to compile cost-efficiently. The reason that Kazaa and Napster are so popular is that, because they are made by fans, they are a marketer's dream: a perfectly tailored product.

Any "official" response from the record industry is going to have to be more than merely a way to let ethical people pay and get less. Their response is going to have to be comparable with the P2P networks, which means they are going to have to stop attacking the fans, and start working with them.
Rachel Zabarkes' article in today's NRO began nicely. The topic is college recruitment of homosexual students; Zabarkes makes the point that homosexual students do not add more diversity to "elite liberal-arts schools" which already have high percentage's of gay students. She also questions whether gay are "particularly disadvantaged", which is one of the main reasons colleges give preference to minority groups.

Her ending, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

High-school students are undoubtedly impressionable when it comes to their sexual inclinations, and in light of recent cultural trends they hardly need more encouragement to "try out" being gay....The real issue is that giving special treatment to gays and then celebrating their "perspective" sends a signal to high-school students that homosexuality is desirable in and of itself...With television specials, colorful parades, and plenty of vocal celebrity representatives, there's something almost glamorous about being gay nowadays.

In that one paragraph, Zabarkes manages to firmly place herself in the camp of conservative intellectuals who think that TV shows such as this are tainting the minds of impressionable students everywhere. I agree with Zabarkes' assertion that there is something queer about college's recruiting gay students -- what exactly do these colleges think they are getting from recruiting such students? However, her assertion that this will "convince" high schoolers that it's "cool" to be gay is such a laughable premise that it's hard to take the rest of the article seriously.

Jackson is now in the Middle East pretending to bring peace to the world. That makes just as much sense as President Clinton becoming the voice of chastity, morality and marital fidelity.

It doesn't say anything new, but it's a fun read.
Sonia Arrison has a fantastic article on Tech Central Station on the proactive stance Hollywood wants to take against users of P2P networks. She says:

Many of Hollywood's Internet pirates are also paying customers in real space, putting Hollywood in the strange position of wanting to attack its own customers.

Strange doesn't even begin to describe it.
How did I miss this?

As much as Dowd's writing has gone downhill, I have only increasing respect for Safire.

7.31.2002


Palestinian society, with its suicide moms, exploding teenagers and babies swaddled in dynamite belts, is obviously off its rocker.

No, the article is not as shallow and biased as that shocker pull-quote may suggest, and is absolutely worth a read. And note that the author doesn't say that Palestinians as individuals are loony, but rather that their society (and, more importantly, their society's values) are morally and ethically skewed. Amen.
Time out. When did the name here change?
I'm reminded of those Calvin and Hobbes comic strips in which Calvin writes 100 times on the blackboard "I will not throw spitballs during class". And then pelts Susie with a snowball in the very next strip.

I hope this "severe admonishment" will be a bit more effective. I hope, but I think not.
For all that this article on Tech Central Station provides a detailed diagram for the chaos in Africa, it misses what must be the central point of any solution.

The author says:

Africa seems to suffer from two crises: a food crisis and an HIV/AIDS crisis. Closer scrutiny reveals they are symptoms of the same political sickness.

The author, James S. Shikwati, recognizes that the HIV/AIDS problem and food problem primarily stems from obscene government mismanagment. And he recognizes that foibles of these governments "will remain to plunge the populations into another catastrophe."
The flaws in the author's logic is that he places too much importance on the negative impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural productivity. Yes, the workforce is being ravaged by the virus, but that is not new. Ever since the AIDS pandemic has touched down on the African continent, the workforce has been severely reduced. The problem is that there is no motivation for anyone to check the pandemic.

The West provides aid out of pity; ever since the end of the Cold War territory battles the West has had no need for Africa. It provides little to the West that cannot be acquired more cheaply through other channels. It is the responsibility of the African governments to look out for the own people, but it is not beneficial to the governments to do so. When the Swaziland governemnt is able to purchase "an executive jet for the King worth 28 million pounds," life, in the Kings eyes, cannot get much better. The only way the African governments will ever help their people is if it will provide them with a perk which merely being a tyrannical dictator cannot. And with Western aid flowing into the corrupt coffers of these governments, the perk must be ideological rather than tangible. A working democracy, perhaps, or a stable government.

Until the African powers -- possibly motivated by the AU -- that be want such a thing, however, I doubt the West will see much movement towards a solution to the HIV/AIDS crises.
If I can find a link to this awful editorial I read in my local paper, I'll have something on it later. It's by a guy named Daniel Kurtzman and it's all about how President Bush is Big Brother (As in the guy who's watching you, not the TV show). I hate stuff like that.

7.30.2002

For a follow up to Becky's post, click here. Seems they want to take our system down with them.
I just realized I used the word "link" three times in the first sentence of my post. Welcome to the technological age, I guess.
I can't find a link to this great story from Time Magazine, but it basically says that someone hacked into the Al-Qaeda website (I'm not going to link to it) and changed all its links to porn.
The ever-so-holy webmaster has pointed the finger at "Western Infidels."

I can' t believe they actually let them use the Internet.

7.29.2002

I'm with you on the whole Saudi problem. Wouldn't you assume that al-Qaeda already has a presence in "Saudi" Arabia?
Britons fear the House of Saud could fall to al-Qaeda.

This is a country which has known connections to terrorism, which supplied the world with many of those who carried out 9/11, which even supplied the mastermind of said attacks...and we're only now thinking it might fall into the influence of al-Qaeda?

This is more to this than my superficial sarcasm can encompass. The divisions within the House of Saud do reveal a deep-seated anxiety in the society -- recall the NYT's article about the few scholars who dared to consider embracing the West. This, in my opinion, is not unrelated to the divisions in Iran at the moment. Western eyes are watching the Islamic world like a hawk, and a few Arab politicians are being forced to seriously reconsider their stances. Many still ignore the West as a vast unwashed heathen lands, but not all. As I've said before on this issue, the US needs to capitalize on the crack in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and soon. Fooling around in Iraq will provide the needed fireworks and civilian casualties for the media to latch onto, while real work can be done in Riyadh and Tehran.

(link via Ocean Guy)
Maybe they should have gotten him driving lessons.
Michael Novak has an interesting argument in the NRO today about what, exactly, the Somerset rescue mission demonstrated. I agree with most of his article, especially this segment:

But virtues such as those on display in Somerset are not delivered by storks; they have to be taught, appropriated in personal actions day after day, exercised, intelligently explained and developed against rival courses of action, and constantly perfected.

However, I am reminded of a piece of Derek Jarman's excellent movie Wittgenstien, in which Keynes yells at Wittgenstein, who had convinced one of his Cambridge students to get a job in a factory. Keynes' point had been that Wittgenstein was allowed to ideolize the "common man" only because he was not one.

Novak's article is, on the surface, an eloquent tribute to the dedication of the rescue squad, but, in reality, it is insulting to them. By deifying the people of Somerset, Novak shows how shallow and superficial his sense of morality is. His statement that virture needs to be imbibed daily is almost as nostagically misguided as that of liberals who think that people are "pretty good" underneath the superficial nastiness.

But too few acknowledge the basic fact that Shehada did not have an idle mind nor idle hands and that every additional hour he lived he was preparing another enormity against innocent life. This is the difference between the Israeli and the Palestinian ways of war. In fact, the Palestinian polity's distinct contribution to world politics--from Arafat almost four decades ago until today, from Munich to the bombing in the old Tel Aviv bus station last week--is the utter routinization of the savage killing of innocents, "the banality of evil" in another era. And Shehada was the ultimate routinizer.

Wonderful argument on TNR on why Israel doesn't deserve the flak it's getting for assassinating Salah Sheheda.
This is a very interesting take on Al Sharpton's public image. The most intriguing is the African-American artsit, Chris Dukes, who has "no problem with Al Sharpton," and who would "like to vote for him for president, no because he's the best candidate, but because the election...would open doors to more and better candidates."

It's an interesting idea. Sharpton would surely open doors to other African-American candidates, which would be a wonderful thing. But, and this is the critical point, does it have to be Sharpton? No. In fact, it cannot be Sharpton. As Princess Angus, a student from Brooklyn said, "He's a very controversial man who picks issues out of nowhere to fight for. Everything with him is racial. We should be moving forward, trying to get along."

I love my generation.