Putting a Bear in a Box

So: I, the fellow who just called for a worldwide Pax Americana; who just breezily dismissed the idea of national sovereignty currently enshrined in international law as a useless anachronism; who flat-out called for American military intervention across the globe: I, have Been Categorized.
“Warmonger” ?
Nope.
“Imperialist” ?
Nope.
“Jingoistic American Militarist” ?
Nope.
“Fascist” ? (there’s always somebody)
Nope.
Try Lefty Blogger.
Damn, the left sure ain’t what it used to be.

Foreign Policy TTLB Style:
The Bear Doctrine

Henry Shieh declares my argument against national sovreignty to be “bunk” in the comments section of my previous Do It Now post on attacking Iraq, and says:
“If you want to use the terrorist argument to prove that Iraq IS a threat, then why not topple Iran? They’re certainly more linkable to major terrorism than Iraq, Mylroie notwithstanding, and are much closer to developing nukes. What about North Korea for weapons proliferation and terrorist connections? “
To answer Henry’s questions, I present to you The Bear Doctrine. (Colin, Rummy, Condi and Wolfie: Feel free to steal any or all of this & pass it on to George. I don’t mind). I think if you apply these rules, my answers for each scenario Henry poses should be clear.
The United States should consider military action to effect a change of regime against a foreign power when:
1) That power has demonstrated that they are hostile to the U.S. and its citizens, either by directly attacking us; by threatening or planning such an attack, or by supporting other actors who have executed or have threatened such an attack.
or
2) All of the following are true:
a) We have the means to decisively execute such a military operation without significant casualities, to our own forces or to innocent civilians.
b) Deposing the regime is clearly in the best interest of its citizens, and our intention is to establish a democratic government upon completion of the operation.
c) Such an operation is in the selfish best interest of the United States (economically; politically, etc.).
On national sovereignty: to me, the concept is meaningless except between nations in which the citizenry have the power to effectively change their own government; i.e., are functioning democracies. (Henry hints at this same point himself, but in my view, draws the exact wrong conclusions from it).
So: until all nations on the planet are functioning democracies, I don’t see much moral use for the concept. And frankly, once that grand day actually did come to pass, it would basically have become irrelevant anyway, because democracies don’t generally ever have a need or desire to attack one another. (Yes, I know that’s not absolutely true, but it is generally).
And let me emphasize one last point. Before folks start crying out “Your doctrine is absurd, it would lead us to conclude we should topple a huge number of regimes!” as if that was an argument against it, let me answer the complaint in advance: yes, I know. You’re catching on now.
The days when a nation such as ours could afford to leave hostile enemies alone, simply because they posed no immediate threat to us, are over. We cannot allow any government to remain in power that will harbor terrorists, because even one such nation is sufficient to provide a base of operations that can allow such a group to inflict mass casualties across the globe.
This problem is not going to get better. The depravity and sorrow of September 11th was prelude; it was the beginning, not the end.
It is going to get much, much worse. Imagine for a moment the weapons that will exist, and will be available to terrorists like al Qaeda, fifty years from now. I have no way of predicting precisely what they will be, but I will sadly stand by a prediction that they will be capable of inflicting horrors that are beyond our worst nightmares today.
I wish with all my heart that I turn out to be wrong about this. I would pray for my own foolishness to be revealed, if I knew how.
We have to fix this planet. Now. And it has to be us — America — because nobody else has the power, nor the will.
I am not kidding. It is a New World for America: what remains to be seen is if it is a Brave one.
I eagerly await your counter-proposals for alternative doctrines and cries of outrage at my blatant imperialism. Commence rock-throwing.
Update: What, are you all chicken? Six hours later and only three comments? Well, no new posts for any of you until I see some good discussion — so there.
Or perhaps I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue — which would work better?
Less Whiny Update: Matt Yglesias says: “I’m filled with desire to endorse NZ Bear’s foreign policy doctrine that would say national sovereignty is essentially irrelevant when the nation in question is a brutal undemocratic regime. I worry, though, that if the US were to adopt it we’d wind up on a collision course with China that wouldn’t do anyone any good.”
This raises a good point. It makes me uncomfortable, but while I genuinely think the doctrine I present is a valid one, and could form the basis for U.S. policy, that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense for it to be our publicly announced policy. I agree with Matt that it would indeed raise tension with China; to what end, we don’t know.
International relations requires a bit of grey; put another way, it’s foolish to tell your enemies exactly what you’re going to do. Announcing our intentions far in advance can be beneficial sometimes — regimes can be ‘scared straight’ — but other times, it just gives our enemies time to plan.
And also: I focused on military power as a force to change dangerous regimes into democratic ones. By no means does that mean I think it should be our preferred tool: certainly, if we genuinely believe we can effect change through other means (trade sanctions for true misbheavors; deepening trade ties for regimes we think we can gradually lure into capitalism; whatever) then we should do so. We simply have to be honest with ourselves and not shy away from military action when other methods truly have no real chance of working.

TTLB: Banned in Saudi Arabia? Not Yet.

Not that this is a huge shock, but the BBC has a story today which points to research at Harvard that shows that Saudi Arabia is blocking access to many, many Internet sites from within their borders.
The research, conducted by Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman, is pretty fascinating to review: you can find their summary of results here, and the directory to URL’s that have been blocked here.
So has the House of Saud decided to directly block the warblogger community yet? So far, it doesn’t appear so. Edelman and Zittrain’s current research does not tackle weblogs directly as a unique category; but I didn’t notice many weblogs at all on the blocked list, and none that I saw of our own ‘usual suspects’, so to speak.
However, I have dropped the authors an email bringing our little corner of the Internet to their attention, and have asked them a few followup questions: so hopefully they’ll get back to me with additional info.
I scanned the list for interesting sites, and didn’t find much of relevance to the weblogging community directly. But here’s a few choice URLs anyway:
Amnesty International’s pages on Saudi Arabia: Savor the irony on that.
The Onion: Apparently they don’t think its funny anymore either.
The IDF Home Page: Big shock there.
Hizbollah’s Web Pages: That one’s a bit weird.
The Jane’s Addiction Page: Jane says: screw you.
The Tokyo Toilet Map: Ha-what?
religoustolerance.org: Well, duh.
Rolling Stone Magazine: Go figure.
submission.org, “The Best English Translation of the Quran”, by Dr. Rashad Khalifa Step away from our holy book, infidel.
www.tasteless-jokes.com: See lack of sense of humor.
Check out the full list, and I’ll update if I hear back from the authors…
Update: They are Internet researchers, and they operate on Internet time, baby! Jonathan Zittrain has sent a brief reply back to my message. I had asked if they had tested domains such as *.blogger.com and radio.weblogs.com: his answer was that he didn’t believe so, but agreed blogger.com was a good URL to add to future testing, both for Saudi Arabia and other nations (their research is not just on SA).
Also: You can sign up to get on a mailing list for updated information here. Zittrain and Edelman are developing a web application to “allow interested Internet users to receive from our servers a list of sites to be tested; to automatically and efficiently test access to those sites; and to report results to our servers for centralized and automated tabulation and analysis.” Check it out if you’re interested in participating!
And more: I swear I saw an item somewhere in the blogosphere yesterday which alluded to a software project underway to develop techniques which would allow Internet surfers in countries with filtering like Saudia Arabia’s to bypass the filtering. If anybody has a link or info on that project, please drop it in the comments.

Corporate Reform: Thanks for the tip, now shove off.

Nathan Newman points to an executive order signed by President Bush yesterday which, he claims, eviscerates the protection intended to be provided to whistleblowers who come forward against corporate fraud under the new act just passed.
On my own reading of the executive order, and a scan of the bill, he appears to be right.
You can find the full text of the bill here — I think this is the final version that was signed into law, but am not certiain — somebody with more Thomas experience than I, please confirm or correct. A direct link to the relevant part of the bill is here.
Bad President. No Treats.

Sullivan On War With Iraq

Andrew Sullivan provides several cautionary notes on opposition to an attack on Iraq today that are well worth reading. Sample:
“Those of us who think the majority of Americans decided last September that war with Iraq was essential to our present and future security had better be prepared. The opposition is determined and organized, and they are passionately opposed to using American power to defeat the forces of state terror.”
My one quibble with Sullivan’s work today is the headlines he’s used for the pieces today: “Stopping The War”, Parts I, II, and III.
The opponents of ridding the world of Saddam are not making a case to “Stop the War”. They are making a case for us to “Ignore the War”. Or perhaps “Concede the War”. Or yes, even “Surrender the War”.
We are at war; the only way to “stop” it is victory or the acceptance of defeat. Phrasing it any other way plays into the hands of those that, in Sullivan’s words, “campaign to protect Saddam’s weaponry.”

Tour o’ the neighborhood

Can’t sleep, damnit, but too tired to write. So it’s time to link!
Lair points us to an article on how porn sites are driving technical web innovation, and regails us with his own, er, personal experience.
Meryl lays it all on the table and ranks male superheroes by their dating potential.
(Hard up day in the Blogosphere, or coincidence? You decide).
Martin declines to provide any nookie, but instead dissects a NY Times op-ed which posits that the way to fight computer crime is — the government should fix it! OK ; Martin gets docked for lack of difficulty points, but his takedown is high on the artistic merit scale.
VodkaGuy said absolutely nothing today. But he said it in a really snarky, erudite yet earthy kinda way.
And lastly, PontifExMachina picks up my slack and, dismayed that I didn’t provide a more specific set of recommendations to prevent my 2014 scenario from coming true, provides The Paranoid Libertarian’s To-Do List.

War With Iraq: Don’t Do It Soon.
Do it now.

When I wrote my 2014 piece, I knew that one aspect I wanted to include was the danger inherent in hesitation when it comes to dealing with Saddam. A little dramatic license and I conceived of a way to illustrate the point rather — shall we say — heavy-handedly by supposing that Saddam feigned interest in negotiations, when the time of the attack grew near, in order to buy time to carry out his own attack on Israel and the United States.
But it was only today that it crystalized in my mind exactly how I feel about the timing of the conflict.
I think we should attack Iraq now. Not in a few months, not soon, now.
Every day that we wait is one more day for Saddam to hire more suicide squads to be activated when we attack. It’s one more day for him to be wheeling and dealing with other terrorists for support through attacks of their own when the day comes. It’s one more day for Saddam, fate forbid, to make that deal to get that nuke from the old Soviet stockpile.
And what do we gain in waiting?
Er, well… we’re building up political support among our allies!
Screw our allies. This is definitely a time for them to put up or shut up. The Europeans can either get with the program or get the hell out of the way; it doesn’t seem to matter worth a damn as much as I can tell. The only nations that really matter in this game are those that can provide us staging areas, like Turkey. And I have great confidence if we explain rather clearly to the Turkish government — and others — that they really do not want to be on the wrong side of this conflict, and that the time for posturing and playing to the ‘Arab Street’ is over — it’s time to act like grown-ups now — they’ll see the light right quick. And the Brits — the Brits will come with us; they always do, and bless them for it.
Once you view the conflict as a two-front war — with one front internal to Iraq in as a conventional war, and the second front in the United States, Israel, and worldwide as a potential terrorist battleground — it seems pretty damned obvious that Saddam wins more with every passing day.
So why aren’t we beginning at least small scale attacks? We’ve got strike aircraft over his country every day — here’s an idea: why not just give those flyboys ‘weapons free’ and let them start engaging targets of opportunity?
I think we need to be creative here. We are not going to do another well-organized, multi-month buildup of the exact number of troops, planes, ships, portable latrines, and other materiel that we’d like to have before we go to war like we did the first time around. The simple idea of it is ludicrious on its face — do we seriously believe that Saddam is just going to sit there while we gather forces like that?
At the end of the Gulf War, Saddam gambled. Everyone was afraid of what he might do, when it was clear he was losing. Would he really cut loose with chemical weapons? But he didn’t. He gambled, quite correctly, that by holding back, Bush the Elder and the coalition would deem him not worth the effort of removing from power.
Very different game this time. He knows he’s finished. He knows that this time, there is no way out, period.
Do you remember what we started hearing about Clinton around ’99 or so?
He was focusing more and more on his “legacy”. He wanted to establish himself a place in history.
I think its hard to avoid the conclusion that Saddam is thinking the exact same thing right about now. And I really, really, do not want to find out what his idea of a proper place in history for himself is.
So why not start hitting him now? At least with air power. So all our forces aren’t in place yet — so what? Surely there’s some damage we can begin to do to him and to his miltary, isn’t there?
One reason I’m so gung-ho on this is that I strongly suspect that once the explosions really start, and it is clear that we are serious, I think we’re going to see some very interesting things start to happen within Iraq in general, and the Iraqi military in particular. I have to believe that those generals, colonels and majors are not complete and utter idiots. They know they’re on the losing side. And once we demonstrate that no, we weren’t kidding, I think we may be surprised by how fast we suddenly find allies popping up within Iraq itself. We may end up not needing to actually invade at all in the end.
I am not a military strategist, nor do I play one on TV. I don’t claim to know the effective ways we could start now — but I’ll bet someone reading this does. I’ve tossed out one idea that seems the absolute most basic — declare weapons-free for targets-of-opportunity for the existing air patrols. Let’s hear from folks on what we could do building up from there, and how fast we could do it. Preference, of course, goes to those actions we could take right now.
Begin commenting!
Update: OK, I will plead guilty to a wee bit of Guiness-induced hyperbole in my initial drafting of this last night. (Remember kids: Friends don’t let friends drink and punditize).
In a single turn Pejman earns my everlasting emnity and simultaneously puts my hyperbole in proper context when he declares in the comments: “I realize that you would like it if we did something, anything right now. Keep in mind, however, that this is a Clintonian response, with all due respect.” (“All due respect”? “Clintonian“? Bastard.)
Pej is right, of course. But I’m not arguing that we should do something for the sake of feeling better or just doing something for its own sake, though I probably made it sound that way. I’m arguing that, from my admittedly militarily ignorant standpoint, it seems to me that there may be some actions that we could be taking right now that would be both militarily substantive and of low risk to our servicemen and women: and I am questioning, therefore, why we aren’t doing so.
It seems to me — and again, asking for corrective instruction here from the peanut gallery — that our air power in particular could begin, even now, to inflict damage on Saddam’s infrastructure without significant risk to American soldiers’ lives. I am not arguing for just lobbing a few cruise missiles at random targets — that would be, shall we say, Clintonian. But let me ask this: Could we take out a significant percentage of their air defense network simply using the forces we already have in place? And if so, wouldn’t that be a valid step to take as a prelude to the larger campaign?
The benefit of acting now, to me, is twofold: first, it opens up the possibility that forces within Iraq will act to support us in ways that we can’t possibly predict accurately until the bombs start dropping. And second, every bit of energy we force Saddam and his forces to devote to defense right now is that much less energy they can devote to planning their future offense.
Because right now, it seems to me that they really don’t have anything better to do that plan how they are going to retaliate for the attack.
Update Again: Some great discussion going on in the comments section, thanks to all who are participating. I’m especially pleased to see folks opposing my views joining in. One brief reply to what I see as a central thrust in some of the ‘anti-‘ arguments: the idea that it if we believe that Saddam is not a direct threat to the U.S., it is therefore immoral to invade his country, even if we all agree that he does horrible things to his own people. ( I don’t accept that he’s not a threat, but I’m willing to posit it for the sake of discussing this point).
This to me is a classic ‘national sovreignty’ defense, and one which I find pretty morally bankrupt. I challenge anyone taking the ‘anti-‘ side of this argument to explain clearly why the sovreignty of a nation, such as Iraq, should be placed above the sovreignty of its people. This argument makes no sense to me, but I’m willing to listen.

Wanted: A Loyal Opposition

There’s a great deal of talk these days about business scandals and the impact they are having — and will have — on the Republicans in general, and the Bush administration in particular.
Previously respected companies are dropping like flies; those that aren’t are ‘reassessing earnings’. The stock market is doing its best drunken sailor impression; weaving around quite a bit but overall, tending to fall down a lot. And both the President and the Vice-President have direct ties to potentially shady business shennanigans of exactly the type currently driving the scandals.
Tailor made situation for Democrats to rally the peepul and get ’em to throw the bastards out, right?
Wrong.
There is one story, and one story only right now that will engage the public, and that is the war. And no, I don’t think I’m taking a myopic view of things just because the war tends to be what I focus my own attention on all the time, thank you very much for asking.
A previous blogger made this exact same point in pithy fashion, so I won’t spend too much time on this. (And if you are that blogger, or know who it was, please send me a link and I will insert it here: I just can’t bloody remember). But here’s what’s going to happen over the next six months. Either:
a) A new significant terrorist attack will occur
b) We will begin our attack on Iraq
c) A new development in the war we hadn’t thought of (Saudi civil war, anyone?) demands our attention
or
d) Some combination of the above will happen
It will only take one of those things to make the state of the economy — and the stock market — look pretty damned irrelevant.
It is not the economy, stupid. Trust me on this.
So what should the Democrats be doing? The phrase ‘loyal opposition’ comes to my mind.
The Democrats should be addressing the core issue that is facing the country at this time: that is, duh, how are we going to win this war and ensure that we never again lose several city blocks of real estate and several thousand citizens.
The irony, of course, is that the Bush administration’s war effort seems to be about the only thing they aren’t willing to focus on these days.
And that’s a damned shame, because it needs focusing.
We desperately need voices in Washington — not just in the Blogosphere — asking the tough questions of the administration. Not to beat them down; not to score political points, but to make sure that we damned well get this right.
So Joseph, yes, I’m talking to you. You are a man of faith and deep moral conviction (says so right here in your press packet) — why don’t I hear you asking the President why he continues to coddle the Saudis — you know, the folks who have that little thing about oppressing any religion that doesn’t happen to be their particular stone-age-drooling-ranting-mad version of the Muslim faith. (Saudi Arabia: The Model-T Ford of societies: you can have any religion you want, as long as its Islam).
And Tom — could we have a little constructive debate on this whole Homeland Security department thing? And no, if you bring up civil service protections one more goddamned time I’m going to come over there and whack you upside the head, that is not what I meant.
Get it together, boys.
First word: Loyal. In other words, wake up and smell the war, and shut the hell up about your usual pet peeves. The unions and the rest of your traditional circus act will just have to suck it up and deal for a while.
Second word: Opposition. Challenge the administration. Don’t just lie there on the important stuff; show this country that you could do a better job prosecuting this war, protecting our citizens, than the Bush team.
And maybe, just maybe, if you show us you’re serious defending this nation, you might even win some votes.
Update: Blogger Tim Wilson emailed to bring his previous post “Bring Back The Loyal Opposition” to my attention, and asks if it was the one I alluded to above.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t; there’s a chance I might have read Tim’s piece previously but I don’t think I did. But check his thoughts out anyway — and I’m still looking for my mystery blogger…

Dead Sheikh Part III: The Talmud Weighs In

Was I right to insist that the Israelis bear responsibility for the civilian casualities they caused in the assassination of terrorist Hamas thug Salah Shehada?
The Talmud says yes!
Diane E. at Letters from Gotham raises the (pretty damned reasonable) question of what traditional Jewish religious law would have to say about the accidental civilian deaths.
And by doing her homework, she answers it, too:

About ‘accidental murders’:
Jewish law is not so quick to absolve the murderer. Although he is spared the death penalty (which is given to intentional murderers), he is punished. He must be exiled from where he lives to one of the designated Arei Miklat (Cities of Refuge), where he must remain until the death of the present Kohen Gadol (High Priest).
The Torah, it appears, requires us to take responsibility for everything we do. Even accidental mishaps are not without blame. He could have been more careful. He could have taken more precautions….

I hasten to add that I am NOT a Talmudic scholar and I may have taken this completely out of context. Perhaps during war totally different rules apply and I’d be interested to hear from someone who knows more. However, it does seem to buttress very solidly NZ Bear’s point, which is that the Israelis and the Israelis alone (and, needless to say, their supporters, of which I am a fervent one) are responsible for those civilian deaths.

Advantage: Bear!
Seriously and more humbly, though, Diane’s analysis is quite thoughtful; give it a read. She doesn’t claim to be 100% Definitively Right on her interpretation, and for the record, neither do I.

TTLB Future Truth: Multimedia!

Heh. Speaking of not taking oneself too seriously:
A few folks commented that Future Truth (it doesn’t really have a title, but I guess that’ll do for a label) was a bit heavy handed in parts. (They were probably right).
You want heavy handed? We’ll give you heavy-handed!
Try going back and re-reading the piece while listening to
the theme from “The Terminator”
.
Da da da-da-da DUM!
Da da da-da-da DUM!
Da da da-da-da DUM!
Heh heh heh….

Taking oneself far too seriously

Glenn says he caught some flack from Christians who emailed in their displeasure at his slightly lighthearted announcement of the new Blogs4God site, updating his original post:
“Some people thought there was a hint of anti-Christian mockery in the item above, and one noted (angrily, and in all capital letters) that the site nowhere says it’s ‘definitive.’ “
This irked me, as I’ve had numerous interactions with Dean Peters, founder of the new site and author of HealYourChurchWebsite, a weblog devoted to — of all things — preaching the gospel of good web design to Christian bloggers and web designers.
Dean has always displayed great courtesy and a sense of humor, tightly coupled with a healthily strong aversion to taking himself too seriously. As a result, I’ve consistently enjoyed our interactions, despite the fact that we disagree dramatically with regards to religion, and I’m sure in many other areas as well.
So anyway, my first reaction was to dash off a comment to Glenn stating that I thought he let the compaliners off way too easily.
My second reaction was this: is the lack of a sense of humor — and in particular, a self-deprecating sense of humor — the defining characteristic of a fanatic?
My gut says “yes”. (And for the record, no, I’m not saying everyone or even anyone who wrote to Glenn is a fanatic; the incident simply spurred this line of thought in my mind).
I think if you lose the ability to laugh at yourself; to see the foolishness inherent in your own actions, you’ve sacrificed one of the major internal checks that nature (ok, or God) has equiped us with to ensure we don’t go completely insane.
Humor directed at ourselves — and at our beliefs — is one key way that we ensure that we don’t fall into the trap of believing we’re always right; of ensuring that we have those santity checks on our own behavior that keep us from just proceeding blithely along our way, safe and secure in the deep conviction that we are completely right. It’s the anti-hubris, so to speak.
Thoughts?

An ode to my overnight visitors

Every morning I arise to find some traffic has flowed to the site overnight. Although most of my audience seems to be in the U.S., I get a few Brits now and again, as well as other Europeans, and a nice smattering of traffic from folks down under like Tim Blair.
But I was thinking last night: what about those folks who aren’t overseas… but who are just surfing their way through the night?
Wouldn’t they like a song to guide them through their overnight browsing?
“Nightsurfing”
With apologies to Michael Stipe & REM

A Ray of Hope – or at least sanity

PatioGuy points us to a MEMRI translation of a column by liberal Tunisian columnist Al-‘Afif Al-Akhdhar in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat. A brief exerpt:

The Palestinian ‘Failure Neurosis’
“What caused these leaders, primarily the Palestinians among them, to lead their peoples to perdition?
[I believe] it is the ‘Failure Neurosis’ that compelled them to do everything within their power to punish themselves and their peoples with failure where success was certain. Their ‘Failure Neurosis’ has several symptoms:
Conceptual Stagnation, making them incapable – at every stage of the struggle – of reading the regional and international balance of powers, and incapable of drawing the necessary conclusions, so as to make a political and military decision in keeping with the situation…
Political Backwardness, preventing them from changing their means of struggle, way of thought, and goals which are not compatible with the political changes…
The Mania of the Armed Struggle, with all its terrible ramifications – transforming the armed struggle from a means serving the ultimate goal of a viable Palestinian state into a goal in and of itself…
Inability to Define the National Interest, Are we talking about the liberation of Mandatory Palestine, or about regaining what can be salvaged of the Palestine occupied [by Israel] in the 1967 war? What are the optimal means of armed struggle for actualizing one of these two options…
Fiinally, a [last] symptom of the ‘Failure Neurosis,’ which forces these Arab leaders to act without knowing what their enemies want from them, is the Prohibition on Free Internal Discussion and Moderate Discourse – which usually arise from a serious analysis of the data. The verbal radicalism sweeping our culture and the emotionally charged words … fills the vacuum created by the lack of analysis and the vacuity of thought…”

Wow. Like, what he said.

Gathering the flock

Dean Peters over at HealYourChurchWebsite has a new project launched: Blogs4God.
It’s a very spiffy portal site with categorized links to Christian bloggers. Dean has also built in a rating system, hit tracking, and some other bells and whistles — damned impressive. Er, darned impressive.
Great example of blogosphere sub-ecosystems in action, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but you’re on my page, so I claim ‘implied consent’.
-NZB

Return of the Soccer Mom Bloggers

Playing catchup tonight & sorting through posts / email that’s been piling up. One such item comes from Chad over at Steelypips: he counters my call for more bloggers with a call for fewer pundit bloggers:
“The “blogosphere” is overrun with journalists and pundits and wannabe journalists and wannabe pundits presenting their view of the world. We’re swamped in political opinion pieces, most of which end up looking very similar, even when they come from different parts of the political spectrum…
But what I’d like to see is more occupational blogging. I’m getting tired or journalists and pundits, and people pretending to be journalists and pundits. Let’s get some more people writing about what they do for a living in other areas– teachers talking about education, editors talking about editing, caterers talking about catering, detective talking about detecting, garbagemen talking about trash collecting. 90% of such web logs will be crap, of course, but the 10% that are good will probably be fascinating in the same way that ‘True Porn Clerk Stories’ is.”

Well, I don’t know about that — porn’s pretty interesting, and all. But Chad’s point is well taken, and not at all in conflict with my original rallying cry.
I just want more bloggers, writing about whatever it is on Earth (or elsewhere) they find interests them. If that’s their career, great. I don’t promise to read them all, but I’ll be happy to know they are out there.
It’s hard to argue that there’s a lot of armchair punditry going on, and that much of it is — well, redundant is probably as kind a word as I can use accurately. But one point I was trying to make in my earlier post was that especially now, in a time of war, I think it’s important to have a healthy and open public debate on issues that affect us all.
You don’t have to be a pundit to express your feeling about what kind of society we should be: where you feel the best balance between security and freedom lies, for example. It’s that kind of contribution, not necessarily the Monday-morning politicking, that I think each and every person can make, if they choose to.

The Truth Laid Bear: Future Truth

Something a little different today, if it wasn’t obvious already.
To present this post (well, posts, really) the way I envisioned it, I decided it needed its own template. So the link to the actual body of the post itself is here.
To allow folks to comment & trackback it, however, I’ve created this entry.
I present the post without comment for now, but would very much welcome feedback, comments, and thoughts.
-N.Z. Bear
By the way: One source of inspiration for one of the major threads of the piece was Tom Holsinger’s StrategyPage piece on the potential impact of a smallpox attack (which Glenn linked to last week). And if you’re still wondering, yes, the kind of worst-case scenario described in Holsinger’s piece is (one of) the ghastly future events I’m presenting.
Update 7/29 AM: Thanks to all who have linked! (And to those who haven’t: please? Pretty please?). Still haven’t hit Blogdex or Daypop, but I’m hopeful. I’ll be a lot more excited to see this piece getting wide visibility than I was with that stupid TIPS satire. (Side note: I’ve even gotten hits from a Spanish-language journal on that one: it’s gone really far and wide…)
One thought I wanted to throw out: I find it interesting that (to my perception at least) folks seem to be reacting most strongly to the “we might end up building our very own totalitarian state” aspect of the piece. This is interesting to me because I thought the other part of it was kind of scary too — the fact that the scenarios I’m posing imply billions of people have died worldwide.
The core idea of the piece is that it’s possible to sacrifice our freedoms and lose the war. But it seems like folks are picking up more on the former, and less on the latter.
Not sure if that’s just a failure of writing clarity on my part, or if it says something more meaningful about the mindset folks have brought to the table in reading the piece…

The Ecosystem or Just *A* Ecosystem?

Dave Winer’s noticed he’s in the Ecosystem, and makes a point I’ve mentioned before, but which bears repeating:
“It’s interesting, because it’s only one of several ecosystems. In their world I’m Hard To Get, in terms of the number of sites I point to. In my original ecosystem I bet I’m a total Link Slut.”
Yup. The Ecosystem started out very heavy on the political-blogger / warblogger side, given that I seeded it from VodkaPundit and Instapundit’s lists. But it has now grown to over twice its starting size, and is spiraling outward through the political-blogger community and beginning to draw in other folks, like more techically oriented bloggers. Hence, Dave.
As the list grows larger and larger, I’d really like to do some more graphical representations — because that’s what will actually be more interesting than the raw lists as they expand to cover more ‘sub-ecosystems’. I suspect even now, with the right graphing tools, we could see some interesting sub-groupings beginning to emerge.
I did do a graph on the very first run of the Ecosystem, but haven’t gotten time to do it again… perhaps at some point. (And if anyone is a graphing wiz and wants to take their own shot — go for it! You can find the raw data files on the Ecosystem page).
-NZB

Ecosystem Madness!

At long last: another run of the Ecosystem is complete. And they said it couldn’t be done!
This last run was a major pain in the neck, as I think y’all figured out from my whining last weekend. Over 100 new blogs have been added to the lists, bringing the total to 432. In addition, I tweaked the process in a couple of significant ways to improve its accuracy:
1) I spent a good deal of time reviewing suspicious-looking results by hand. In a number of cases, this resulted in modifying slightly the URL I was pulling data from for a blog, because the previous URL — while valid for a browser — was confusing my data pulls. So some blogs that just weren’t getting their links scanned properly before now are.
2) The process now supports Radio weblogs properly. For technical reasons, they would have confused the process before, but I’ve added some extra steps to the data cleansing phase to ensure they get handled correctly now. And to honor the occasion, I added Dave Winer himself to the list, even though he didn’t ask. (Hope you don’t mind, Dave!).
3) I discovered last weekend that the existing process was utterly failing to handle blogrolls for weblogs that used Blogrolling.com. The reason was obvious once I took a look at it: when you use Blogrolling, you don’t actually have the links themselves in the ‘source’ of your page — you’re just invoking a script to pull them from the blogrolling server. This is the problem that threw me into a fit of despair last weekend. However, with a clue from Jason DeFillippo himself, I figured out a way to add yet more steps to the process to pull Blogrolling links for those blogs that use it. There is a catch, however: these links are added to other blogs inbound totals, but they don’t show up on the blog’s outbound totals. So if you use Blogrolling, you’ll see your # of outbound links on the Hall of Link Sluttage is lower than you’d expect. Why am I counting them for the Inbound list but not the Outbound? Because it was an even greater pain in the neck to figure out how to count them for outbound, but at least this way, the Ecosystem list — which everyone cares most about — is as accurate as can be. Sorry; that’s life.
I also added a number of new subcategories to the Ecosystem list, since it’s getting so huge. Several of them came at the suggestion of Dr. Weevil. So there, Doc — and you thought I’d never get around to using your suggestions!
At this point, it is likely that this will be the last run for a few weeks. The process is now essentially completely falling apart, I’m afraid, due to the large volume of blogs I’m now trying to process. The end results are now more accurate, I think, than they’ve ever been — but it’s requiring a massive amount of manual work to get there. So, be warned that until I get enough time to do the major re-engineering effort I keep planning on doing (rewriting the whole deal with scripts), this may be the last run for a while. (If there are any hardcore UNIX scripting folks out there who want a challenging project to take on, let me know. Particularly if you’re a PHP/MySQL type, although I’ll take what I can get at this point).
Anyway, ’nuff said for now. Enjoy the lists, don’t take it all too seriously, and remember: no wagering!
And by the way: I have found a way to quash the defiant microbes who dared to stage an uprising a few weeks back: Their ringleader, Lynn, is now a Flappy Bird, and her minion Floyd has already ascended to the level of a Crawly Amphibian.
Looks like you’ve been co-opted by The Man, kids. There goes your street cred.
[Mr. Burns Voice]
Exxxcellent.
[/ Mr. Burns Voice]
Update: Lynn’s minion Floyd is neither her minion, apparently, nor Floyd. He’s actually Fred, and he claims to have been de-minionized on account of his failure to pay union dues. Hmph.