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Month: April 2004

On war

t.rev is cranking out some excellent stuff in the comment thread below.

In a war, you have a large set of actors and a much larger set of actions taken by said actors. Some actions will be heroic, some will be atrocities, many will be just grim violence, and the vast majority will be mind-numbingly tedious.

Some actions will be essentially unobserved (no one will survive them), most will be observed by a handful, and a tiny fraction will be observed and communicated on a wider scale.

Each side in a war will have what you could call an ‘atrocity-averseness’ factor, which is going to be dependent on two things: the expected number of observers of a given atrocity, and the damage that a given perceived atrocity will cause to that side (in morale, diplomacy, etc.)

I would argue that the US has an extremely high atrocity-averseness factor, for reasons that I think are obvious (or deserve a different essay, anyway).

And he goes on from there. I don’t normally go “hey, look at the comment thread!” but a lot of what he’s saying about the impossibility of stamping out all atrocities are things I’d like to say, except he already said ‘em better.

Old softie

Compare and contrast:

“Are we going too soft in Iraq? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I’m reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.”

That’s Glenn Reynolds, April 30th, 2004.

“It was American soldiers serving as military police at Abu Ghraib who took these pictures. The investigation started when one soldier got them from a friend, and gave them to his commanders. 60 Minutes II has a dozen of these pictures, and there are many more – pictures that show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners.

“There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English.

“In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other. And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.”

That’s CBS News, April 29th, 2004.

Good timing, Glenn.

Sorkin alert

From AICN:

Aaron Sorkin, giant-brained creator of “Sports Night” and “The West Wing,” has now gotten the greenlight from New Line to produce his spec screenplay for “The Farnsworth Invention,” which depicts a 22-year-old genius from Utah who invented television in the 1920s, according to Friday morning’s Variety. This project has long been a part of Sorkin’s agenda, so one assumes Sorkin will still return to TV at some point to oversee his long-gestating proposed series — a backstage show-within-a-show kind of thing depicting the the creators of a fictional late-night comedy show that bears more than a passing resemblance to “Saturday Night Live.”

Josh: “You’re telling me you invented television.”

Toby: “Yes.”

Josh: “Moving pictures, except in your house?”

Toby: “Yes.”

Josh: “Well, there’s no market for that. Donna, do you know where the market for that is?”

Toby: “Look, it’s a perfectly reasonable —”

Donna: “I think it’s in Poughkeepsie.”

Toby: “It’s not in Poughkeepsie.”

Josh: “Then it’s not likely to be in anywhere else, either.”

Probably it won’t be much like that, though.

I'm OK, you're not

Remember: commemorating Pat Tillman and his death is OK. Commemorating soldiers who didn’t give up millions of dollars to fight is wrong.

Also, photographs of anonymous coffins are an invasion of privacy in some fashion that does not apply when you’re talking about former NFL players.

Finally, the people of America must be protected at all costs from the evil liberal media, which wishes to use the deaths of soldiers in Iraq for political gain. The people of America, sadly, are not capable of thinking for themselves. They are so damned emotional that the liberal media can play any tune it likes on their heartstrings.

If it’s so obvious that Ted Koppel is only reading the names of the dead for manipulative purposes, why wouldn’t the average voter notice? I mean, come on. Doesn’t anyone have any faith in Americans any more? (Rhetorical question.)

Nota bene: I think that Ted Koppel should read the names of the Afghanistan dead in a separate program; it only makes sense to include them in the Iraq broadcast if the two wars are linked, which they are not. I also believe that Pat Tillman is well worth honoring. So are the 130 or so soldiers who died in Iraq this month alone.

Seen ghosts

Arlen Specter won the Pennsylvania primary over Pat Toomey by a very narrow margin. This is a loss for the hard right wing of the Republican Party. It may or may not translate into a boost for the Democratic Senate candidate; 48% of those who voted against Specter said they wouldn’t vote for him in the general election, but a lot of those people are going to come back to the fold.

No telling if the hard right wing will feel betrayed by Bush, who endorsed Specter. Specter is not well-liked in some quarters, however.


Being a music lover, I was quite pleased to accidentally stumble into the useful world of MP3 blogs. It’s a blog, see, but instead of ranting about politics, these people are posting MP3s and talking about music. The MP3s usually don’t stay up for more than about a week, which is enough time to give them a listen but apparently not enough time to get on the RIAA’s radar. It’s like a very very slow radio station. “This week, we’re going to play the new Prince single.”

I stumbled onto the concept via The Tofu Hut, which has a superb blogroll organized by genre. Also, the man I know only as forksclovetofu is insane as hell. Others that I’m currently loving: Copy, Right?, Fluxblog, said the gramophone, Moistworks, and music for robots. Then follow links. I might start buying a lot of music again if this keeps up.

Cautionary tales

Dave Winer warns that syndication feed arguments may have the same result as cell phone content format arguments. Namely, a fractured market in which it isn’t worth anyone’s time to support multiple formats. That’s definitely one possibility. The other comparison I’d make is email protocols, though. SMTP is deeply insecure, and as a result spam now represents a sizable percentage of the world’s email. We’d have been much better off if we’d switched away from SMTP before it was too late.

Of course, both cautionary tales might be true. Or neither.

Submarine cats

Movable Type 3.0 won’t have subcategories, and David Raynes’ SubCategories does not screw up the basic database structure, so I took the plunge and put in subcategories on this site. You can see them; they’re the indented smaller categories in the category listing on the right.

If you look at the Gaming category, say, you get to see all the entries in Gaming and in the subcategories of Gaming. If you look at Game WISH, you only see the Game WISH entries. This suits my organizational nature.

I am still fiddling with the navigation on the category archive pages; it’ll likely change again at some point. I may tweak the top level category navigation as well. Suggestions are certainly welcome.