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Month: March 2003

And one more note

Peter Arnett has found a home at the Daily Mirror, UK tabloid par excellence. Screw the silly treason charges; he’s pretty much blown any chance of being taken seriously as a journalist now. It’s fairly obvious that his priority is remaining in front of the cameras, and I think they teach you at journalism school that you aren’t supposed to be the story. Anyhow, the New York Times pretty much nails it. Note also this Walter Cronkite editorial.

Actually, the Mirror is kind of interesting. Incongruous to my US-born eyes, it’s a violently left-wing tabloid. There’s something you don’t see over here.


It occurs to me that the ideal system for a Malazan Empire game would be Hero Wars. Which makes more sense the more I think about it; the Malazan Empire is heavily informed by Steven Erikson’s background in anthropology and archeology, after all. Glorantha is right up there with Tekumel in the upper echelons of similarly-influenced worlds. It seems you can’t write this sort of fantasy without an understanding of the way the mythic touches the everyday, and Hero Wars is admirably suited for that sort of thing. It is designed to scale from the mundane to the realms of the gods.

This makes it a great framework for a world in which the gods are often mere mortals ascended to a new existence, n’est pas? I’d have to hack out a magic system. The Hero Wars system is plenty loose enough but none of the four systems detailed in the main rulebook fits the warrens. I’d also have to write up keywords for the world, but that’s easy enough. Malkazans, Wickens, Seven Cities, Barghest, Tiste Andii, Genabackis Free Cities, Rhivi, perhaps even T’lan Imass… not that hard. It’d be more time consuming figuring out the warrens.

Tactile posting

If you’re using Brad Choate’s Textile plugin for Movable Type, you’ve no doubt noticed it’s a pain to edit the pre-formatted <a> tag that’s generated by your MT bookmarklet. And if you haven’t, well, I have. Here’s how to patch your MT installation to make it all pretty and Textile-like.

  1. Edit the file lib/MT/App/ in your MT installation
  2. Go to line 631, which should read:
    $param{text} = sprintf qq(&lt;a title=&quot;%s&quot; href=&quot;%s&quot;&gt;%s&lt;/a&gt;\n\n%s),
  3. Replace that line with:
    $param{text} = sprintf qq(&quot;%s&quot;:%s\n\n%s),
  4. Go down 3 more lines, to the second instance of:
    scalar $q->param('link_title'),
  5. Delete that line (line 634 in an unmodified


In sharp contrast

Edit: quick primer for the Den Beste readers, since Den Beste himself didn’t bother to read any of my other posts…

  1. I think Arnett deserved to be fired.
  2. I think it would be exceedingly difficult to try Arnett for treason; it’s not as easy as you think it is.
  3. Faulting someone for providing readily available information to Iraq is silly (that’d be this post).

Back to your regularly scheduled post…

Den Beste has his own commentary on the Arnett issue, and completely misses, and I think it’s a bad enough miss to be worth some discussion.

His issue is with the portion of the interview in which Arnett says “So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.” Den Beste claims that Arnett’s interview — and specifically that interview — will encourage the Iraqi leadership to kill civilians in an attempt to turn public opinion against Bush.

I have to wonder how stupid Den Beste thinks Saddam is. Is he, perhaps, under the impression that Saddam has no idea what’s on CNN? What the front page of BBC News looks like? Saddam doesn’t need Peter Arnett to tell him or anyone that public opinion, particularly as it relates to civilian casualities, is an important factor in this war. Arnett’s error wasn’t giving Saddam information he already had. His error was using his position as a reporter to legitimize false information.

Den Beste’s condescending assumption that Arnett is telling Saddam something he doesn’t know smacks of the same arrogance that led our leaders to believe that the regime would collapse as soon as we invaded. They’re just Iraqis, after all. Treating an enemy as stupid, alas, is one of the quickest ways to wind up in more trouble than is necessary.

But there’s more than that here, because if you follow Den Beste’s logic a little further you’re forced to consider the possibility that anyone reporting on public opinion has the blood of dead Iraqi civilians on their hands. (“But if this does encourage the Iraqi government to start creating lots of death scenes to blame on us, then the people killed will actually be dead, and their blood will be on Arnett’s hands.”) This is the belief that by controlling the flow of information, you can control what people will do. It misses one very important point.

We don’t live in that era anymore. You cannot control information flow. Weblogs, smart mobs, embedded reporters — information (both true and false) will flow no matter what you do, and arguing about how best to control and contain it is a futile game.

People like talking to each other. Give the world a megaphone, and it will collectively use it.

Are we not men?

Peter Arnett gave Iraqi television an interview over the weekend, and got fired for it. My first reaction to the news was, well, he ought to be fired for giving a propaganda interview. He’s supposed to be a reporter. Would that MSNBC routinely fired people who gave propaganda interviews; god knows we’ve seen enough of ‘em on Fox.

Let’s break down the transcript. First off, he gives Iraq credit for being cooperative and courteous; probably untrue but meaningless fluff. Second, he says there’s “growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war.” He also says “It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.” The first is true, mostly due to media coverage of recent events, and the second — well, if we fired people for saying that, we’d have to fire Ann Coulter.

Second statement: “… the population is responsive to the government’s requirements of discipline…” That’s pure propaganda and I’m kind of uncomfortable with it.

He then goes on to discuss the marketplace bomb, and points out that both the US and Iraq are pointing fingers; true enough, and I don’t see anything objectionable there. He follows that up with more discussion of the danger of civilian casualities. All accurate and true.

Finally, he says that the administration misjudged the likely resistance and that they’re rewriting the war plan. You can read similar statements in the New York Times and the Washington Post; can’t find anything to fault there.

So is the bit where he talks up the resistance of the population enough to fire him for? Not, I think, if he said it on the air on a US station. But with the knowledge that it would be broadcast on Iraqi television as a propaganda piece for Saddam? I think he was walking really close to the line. Arnett has been eager to get back into the spotlight since CNN fired him and I have to wonder how far he’d be willing to go to get good stories.

Running jumping standing still

If you happened to read Global Frequency this week, you might be interested to hear that Le Parkour is not something Warren Ellis made up — it’s a real little urban subculture, originating in France but spreading to England, Russia, and no doubt other places.

If you didn’t read Global Frequency, Le Parkour is a sort of extreme athletic activity that involves doing incredibly foolhardy things on rooftops without a net. If you’ve seen those Nike commercials, that’s Le Parkour. And of course Luc Besson’s gotten his hands into it. Cool looking stuff.

Twice is

Well, that’s interesting. I figured when the Solomon Islands politely extricated themselves from the coalition, it was just one of those things and a good excuse to poke some fun at Bush. A diplomatic error but not a really important one.

So what do I say when it happens again? This time, Slovenia is saying “Hey, wait, include us out.” This time it’s after we accidentally included them in the wartime budget. No kidding; we were slated to give ‘em four and a half million until the Prime Minister of Slovenia said they didn’t want our money.

Give till it wounds

My dear friend Kit is biking for clean air, which benefits the American Lung Association. I gotta recommend sponsoring her, even if she’s pretending to be some kind of a wacky Alaskan hobbit in the first chunk of that entry. Um, wacky Alaskan mutant hobbit pursued by Sentinels, I think. Don’t ask me.

And now that I’ve highlighted a good cause, I’ll highlight a selfish one: I’m gonna go ahead and get that Stratfor subscription cause hey, why not? I have six bucks in the donation fund right now (someone else sent me five bucks), and I am not in any way dependent on donations to get the subscription, but if you wanna kick in some cash then go right ahead.


This story on a couple of Iraqi soldiers who surrendered in Umm Qasr is revealing all the way through. Start with the fact that they were both recent conscripts, one only seventeen years old. Notice how they didn’t feel safe surrendering until an old Iraqi who’d been through the first Gulf War told them it’d be OK. They were really happy to surrender once they thought it was safe, though.

On the other hand, they wouldn’t call their parents to tell them they were OK because their father would have been disappointed in them. And who’s willing to handle prisoners? The British; the Americans didn’t want ‘em.

I’m glad these two (and others like them) are OK.