Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: May 2004

On relevance

I’d like to return, at this time, to President Bush’s UN address of September 12th, 2002.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

He also gave a speech at Naval Station Mayport on February 13th, 2003.

The decision is this for the United Nations: When you say something does it mean anything? You’ve got to decide, if you lay down a resolution, does it mean anything? The United Nations Security Council can now decide whether or not it has the resolve to enforce it’s resolutions.

I’m optimistic that the U.N. Security Council will rise to its responsibilities, and this time ensure enforcement of what it told Saddam Hussein he must do. See, I believe when it’s all said and done, free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society. (Applause.) I’m optimistic that free nations will show backbone and courage in the face of true threats to peace and freedom.

The message of 2002 and 2003 was quite clear. If the UN refused to authorize war against Iraq, it would become irrelevant.

Yesterday, Bush gave another speech.

The United Nations Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is now consulting with a broad spectrum of Iraqis to determine the composition of this interim government. The special envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government officials this week. In addition to a president, two vice presidents, and a prime minister, 26 Iraqi ministers will oversee government departments, from health to justice to defense. This new government will be advised by a national council, which will be chosen in July by Iraqis representing their country’s diversity. This interim government will exercise full sovereignty until national elections are held. America fully supports Mr. Brahimi’s efforts, and I have instructed the Coalition Provisional Authority to assist him in every way possible.

The United Nations has, apparently, remained fairly relevant despite refusing to support Bush’s war.

Who is congress.org?

So in the previous post, I debunked the draft rumor going around. I figured I’d do a little more poking and find out who was running Congress.org, the origin of the rumor. They do pretty shoddy research, whoever they are.

No big dramatic reveal here, alas. Congress.org is owned by a company by the name of Issue Dynamics Inc.. They’re a political consulting company that focuses on liberal causes; they’re big on grassroots, which explains why they’re running Congress.org. It’s presumably an effective means of encouraging people to generate letters to Congressmen.

They also do a lot of what they call “relationship management.” This translates into introducing companies to activist groups who have a common interest. Here’s a case study illustrating how they work. Here’s another, with a less positive spin. It’s a clever piece of work: IDI raises money from corporations, and gives it to activist groups with a good image, who then run ads with the money. It’s money laundering for lobbyists.

IDI says that groups like the Grey Panthers (in the second example) are only doing what they’d do anyhow if they had the money to do it. This is a reasonable defense, if you think that money never convinces anyone to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Hm.

Disinfopedia has a list of clients up; it includes both progressive organizations and big businesses.

None of this connection shows up on the Congress.org website, by the by. The trail there leads to a website called Capitol Advantage, which boasts:

No other company has delivered more messages to Congress. When your organization needs to step up and influence legislation or public opinion, we’re the only ally you’ll ever need.

I’m not sure that connection’s much better. It makes it pretty obvious that Congress.org, rather than being a benign public service web site, is a tool for making Capitol Advantage money. In the Congress.org FAQ, I noticed that the Congress.org “Action Alerts” are generated by web sites that subscribe to Capitol Advantage’s Capwiz service. And hey! The draft rumor was in fact… just another Action Alert!

So that explains where that came from. It was just someone paying some money to put a bogus story on an important-looking web site.

No, no draft

[Update 2: the original article wasn’t ever removed. A bit of software I use killed the link; the one I have up now works.]

Now Warren Ellis is getting sucked in by the draft hysteria. Time to grind out a counter-meme.

First off, the two bills in question are H.R. 163 and S. 89. The record shows that S. 89 was introduced on 1/7/2003 and was referred to the Committee on Armed Services the same day. H.R. 163 was also introduced on 1/7/2003 and was referred to the Subcommittee on Total Force on 2/3/2003. There has been absolutely no action on either bill since they were referred to committee.

H.R 163 was introduced by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and S. 89 was introduced by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC). Neither of these men support Bush. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that they would be working with Bush to institute a stealth draft scheduled for just after the presidential elections.

We also have the public statements of some supporters of the bill to use in reaching our conclusions. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), a co-sponsor of H.R. 163, made his reasons for co-sponsoring public.

It is my understanding that out of the 435 Members of this House and the 100 members of the Senate, only one — only one — has a child in active military service. Who are we to know the pain of war when we ourselves will not directly bear the brunt of that action? It won’t be us mourning the loss of a child or loved one. Maybe some of you in this Congress would think twice about voting for war in Iraq if you knew your child may be sent to fight in the streets of Baghdad?

If our nation is to go to war, it is only right that all Americans share in the sacrifice of war. It is time we truly comprehended the consequences. I urge my colleagues to support a universal draft which I believe will make votes for war much more real for many of my colleagues.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), another co-sponsor, expressed similar sentiments. Finally, you can read the CNN article run at the time the bills were introduced. It is perfectly clear that Rangel’s intent was to remind everyone that rich kids don’t tend to serve in the military.

This hubbub has done nothing to prevent the draft, because there is no threat. However, it has driven a ton of traffic to Congress.org, a website featuring both Google ads and a banner ad at the top.

Next post: who is Congress.org?

Not a terrorist

Sadly, this time it’s a guy on the left abusing the definition of terrorist. Putting this in perspective: the KKK is closer to being a terrorist organization than the NEA, but nobody went to court to get the NEA legally defined as a terrorist group.

The particularly vexing aspect of this case is the numbing effect it’ll have. The next time a real domestic terrorist is accused of terrorism, there will be plenty of people who’ll say “Oh, sure, like that KKK guy the professor wanted to muzzle.” Boy who cried wolf.

Ghetto-think

“Today we have elves, stormtroopers and now superheroes,” Koster said. “We need to break out of the geek ghetto. No offense … I am one.”

Wired is running the old mainstream acceptance article, except it’s about MMORPGs instead of comic books. And yeah, we all know how unpopular stories about elves, stormtroopers, and superheroes are.

#2 movie of all time: Star Wars. #4 movie of all time: The Phantom Menace. #5 movie of all time: Spider-Man. #6 movie of all time: Return of the King. #9 movie of all time: The Two Towers.

If and when MMORPGs break mainstream, it’s not going to be because of a change in subject matter. It’s going to be because of gameplay, which needs to be more tuned to the mainstream user, and ease of play, ditto. But there are no problems at all with the genres they’re mining.

GenCon Schedule

For the curious, my GenCon schedule follows.

Thursday

Iron Ref (Judge/Player), 2 PM — 8 PM

This is run by a couple I’ve sort of kind of known for a long time, and whom I had a great time gaming with last GenCon. The concept is also terribly cool. Quasi-fortunately, my other first choice for this slot filled up two hours after registration opened, so I didn’t have to make a choice.

Beneath the Astrolabe (Dread), 8 PM — midnight

I’ve always wanted to play Dread. Maybe I’ll get lucky and score a copy… OK, while looking up something else I just discovered that this is not the Dread that Rafael Chandler wrote. Well, crap. And I already bought the ticket. Well, it sounds kind of interesting anyhow.

Friday

Whirlpool of Blood (Shadowfist draft), noon — 4 PM

I am not ever going to be a top-notch Shadowfist player again. I’ve pretty much come to terms with this. I don’t play enough, I don’t obsess about it enough, and my play style is sufficiently different from the play style of the designers that I don’t get that many cards which support my play style. Mostly, though, I don’t play enough. So I’ll do one draft event and have fun, but I won’t do the World Championship this time.

Fireborn: Become the Dragon, 4 PM — 8 PM

The setting sounds kind of cool but I really want to find out what the system is like.

Saturday

The Frogs of War (Adventure!), noon — 4 PM

Heard good things about this GM from friends of mine, plus it’s Adventure! so how could I miss it? I got the last ticket for this. Phew.

Real Men Wear Tights (Four Colors Al Fresco), 4 PM — 8 PM

I am very intrigued by superheroes in a historic setting. The system is also pretty fascinating — it’s different, and I’m a neophile.

Sunday

Dragon Bone (Everway), noon — 4 PM

Another GM recommended to me by friends. The same friends, come to think of it.

I also failed to sign up for a Black Company preview. I’m going to try and get into it anyway. I really want to see what Green Ronin does with Black Company.

Talking points creep

A week or so ago, the WEEI morning radio jocks were pushing the “it’s no worse than a frat hazing” talking points on Abu Ghraib. This morning, though, there was some interesting mutation going on. Dennis and Callahan spent a lot of time talking about how admirable the people who tried to prevent it were, and how little attention the media was paying to them — which is tacit acceptance that a lot of the soldiers did do something wrong. They went on to talk about the psychological tensions that might lead to abuse, once again accepting the postulate that abuse did occur.

I don’t think the “frat hazing” talking point is sticking.

Suntan

A reliable source informs me that, while it is not advertised on their site, the Renaissance Hotel Aruba has both wireless access and plenty of power outlets on their private island beach. Said reliable source spent part of his vacation playing City of Heroes while drinking marguritas and tanning.

I’m both horrified and delighted.