August 31, 2006

Olbermann Channelling Murrow

I would normally not quote someone's words in their entirety but these are troubled times and the more readers the better. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC last night (video available here):

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis--and the sober contemplation--of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration's track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as "his" troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld's speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril--with a growing evil--powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld's, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the "secret information." It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld's -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England's, in the 1930's.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions -- its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all -- it "knew" that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic's name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History -- and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England -- have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty -- and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today's Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience -- about Osama Bin Laden's plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein's weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina's impact one year ago -- we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their "omniscience" as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire "Fog of Fear" which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have -- inadvertently or intentionally -- profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer's New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens-- must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart -- that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism."

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: "confused" or "immoral."

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular."

And so good night, and good luck.

Posted by brian at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2006

First They Ignore You, Then They Invite You To Pay Them Large Sums of Money for Five Minutes of "Fame", Then They Fight You, Then You Win. Or Something Like That.

I got an offer this morning from Ryan Carson, of Carson Workshops, the people who put on expensive seminars and conferences that attract Web 2.0 wannabes wishing to be in the presence of the creators of Flickr, Del.icio.us, and the like.

Here's the email, fully fisked for your enlightenment:

We'd like to invite you to demo EDVB at our large conference. (((It's been Eventful since September 2005.)))

You'll be able to get the entire audience of 900+ people excited about EDVB. (((It's Eventful. And how many of those "900+" people are not techie early adopters?))) It's going to be a powerful marketing and PR opportunity. (((Translation: you'll get a chance, just a chance, mind you, of getting Michael Arrington's attention.))) With companies like Google, Yahoo, Digg, IBM, Sun, Technorati (and more) attending, you'll be able to get your message out to the people who are shaping the industry. (((Have you noticed that the "shape" they're "shaping" this "industry" into is rather quite spherical, and rather quite fragile, shiny and translucent? I think it's called a, oh, what's the term... "bubble", yes, that is the term I was thinking of.)))

Our conference is called "The Future of Web Apps" and more info can be found at [http link removed] (((This conference actually is "The Current State of Web Apps", and doesn't really represent the future, in my humble opinion.)))

There are only five demo spots left (Sxip, Adobe, MercuryGrove, ThinkFree and Celum Imagine are already signed up), so please let me know if you'd like to be involved. (((What, no Kiko demo? Oh, wait, there's no more Kiko.))) The fee is $4500, but if you get back to me by Friday (Aug 25th), we'll knock $500 off that. (((Let me get this straight. For four thousand five hundred dollars, er, four thousand dollars if I act quickly, I could buy a five-minute ride on the TechCrunch Vortex Machine? Think of the fame! Think of the riches! Think of the nausea afterwards!)))

Hope to hear from you soon! (((Are you hearing me now?)))

Kind regards,
Ryan

Posted by brian at 08:10 AM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2006

Bringing Blogumentary to San Diego

I wanna see Chuck Olsen's BLOGUMENTARY documentary on the blogosphere. I wouldn't mind having the filmmaker show up too. In fact, if he showed the film then stuck around for a Q&A afterwards, that would be fantastic.

If you're in San Diego and you'd like to see this event happen, join this demand by clicking "Demand it!" below:

<a href="http://eventful.com/demand/D0-001-000010874-5/join">Demand Chuck Olsen in San Diego metro area with eventful.com!</a>Demand Chuck Olsen in San Diego metro area

If you're not seeing the flash object above, click here.

Or, if you want this event to happen in your city, just click "Demand it!" above and start a new demand in your city!

Posted by brian at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

Tech Headline of the Day

A story at Enterprise Web 2.0 entitled "What KnowNow Knows Now That It Didn't Know Then".

Posted by brian at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

Strong Angel

Dan Gillmor writes,

Brian,

I'm working on a project next week in San Diego, and hope -- with your help -- to convince some local bloggers to join in for a few days.

The project is called "Strong Angel." Several hundred people from a variety of fields -- academic, nonprofit, corporate, military and more -- are gathering for the week to experiment with how we can do a better job responding to disasters (natural or human-caused). Our goal is to find ways to communicate efficiently and get services to the people who need them. San Diego is the test-bed for next week's scenario.

Here's a site with a more detailed description:

http://www.strongangel3.net

My role is to induce, if possible, a bottom-up news flow that will be useful both to the responders and the people in the community. And it would be incredibly cool if we could get bloggers in the city to join this experiment in the following way:

1. Once or twice a day starting Monday morning, do a posting -- with or without photos -- from your neighborhood on something happening there. Obviously there's no disaster going on, and we don't want people to make things up. So they should post something that is a real occurrence or scene.

2. Tag each post with this Technorati tag: (stands for Strong Angel III 2006)

3. Make the posting title the street address closest to where this is happening.

We are going to try to pull the results into a map that gets automatically updated and annotated during the week with neighborhood-level information.

We have no idea how all of this will work, but we think this experiment has at least a chance of producing something really interesting, and maybe valuable.

There will be media coverage of Strong Angel, and I suspect this could become a topic of interest.

I hope you will participate, and also spread the word among other San Diego bloggers.

Thanks,

Dan

--
Dan Gillmor

Director, Center for Citizen Media
http://citmedia.org/blog
Author, "We the Media"

Well, there you have it. San Diego bloggers, you've been called to duty. Want to "explore innovations in humanitiarian response capabilities"? Want to test the "interoperability, reliability, and flexibility of proposed social and technical solutions"? Have you been itchin' for an "adverse environment designed to maximize learning, sharing, and experimentation"? Well now's your chance.

Frankly the whole thing sounds fairly creepy in a Military Industrial Complex kind of way, starting with the moniker "Strong Angel" -- oh, wait, that's "String Angel III". Sounds like the second sequel to a 80s B-movie which was itself a knockoff of Top Gun.

The Strong Angel website is a piece of work. Dense multisyllabic prose right out of some Pentagon assessment report. Also interesting are the sponsors: Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Office of the Secretary of Defense... that's a nice combination right there.

Check out the Microsoft blurb: "Microsoft Humanitarian Systems (MHS) is an expeditionary team under Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, tasked with investigating and building working models of advanced solutions to address collaborative aspects of some of the most vexing, emotionally-charged, and least-served human interaction problems, including relief, development, conflict resolution, human trafficking, and human rights. The team is founded on the premise that significant, forward-looking collaborative solutions can emerge when they are designed for - and developed in - complex environments where networks are unreliable, equipment fails, trust is lacking, training is minimal, users are highly mobile, and information overload is the norm."

What Strong Angel III needs is not San Diego bloggers to cover it, but none other than Bruce Sterling. His report is something I would enjoy reading.

Posted by brian at 08:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2006

Those Pesky Republicans

Somewhere in the world there is a computer hard disk drive spinning around vigorously and on this disk drive is a data file and in this data file is my name and contact information. And somewhere in the world there is a computer whirring away while running a piece of software that the Republican Party is using to access the information from the data file that is on that disk drive. Including my information.

The result?

Unwanted paper junk mail (like this) sent to my mailbox from Republican candidates and causes. Unwanted email spam from Republican candidates sent to my email address.

What is notable about the spam is that NOWHERE is there any mention of the word "Republican" or "GOP" or anything that would indicate what party affiliation these people have.

For instance, I just got an email from the organization trying to get Lynn Swann elected Governor of Pennsylvania. (I live in California. Why I get emails from the Republican candidates in Pennsylvania is beyond me.) Here it is:

Initially I was wondering, "who is Swann Matthews"? Sounds like an anchorman on CNN or something. And what is that red blob stuck between the "a" and the "n" in the logo? Oh, I guess it's the red state of Pennsylvania?

Amusingly, the disclaimer at the botton of the email says, "You are receiving this email because you or someone on your behalf signed up to receive email updates from our campaign." Heh. It is so nice to know that someone went to all that trouble and acted "on my behalf" by signing me up to receive emails about a candidate for governor of a state I do not even live in.

And then there is the mystery. Nowhere in the email does it say what party affiliation Swann has. I don't follow Pennsylvania politics so I have no idea.

So I went to his site. Here's the home page:

Nowhere on his home page does it mention he is a Republican. Nowhere on his "About" page does it mention he is a Republican. I had to go to Google Advanced Search and scour Lynn Swann's website to find any mention of the word "Republican". It's in there, but it is in very deep obscure pages and mentioned in some press clippings and testimonials. The casual visitor to the site is simply not going to find it.

Of course, Wikipedia's page on Swann mentions it in the first sentence of the first paragraph. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Why is it these Republicans are so reluctant to identify their party affiliation? Could it be because to do so is hazardous to one's chances of winning an election? Me, I think they're just embarrassed to admit it. (After all, they've pretty much given up on their Republican oath).

Posted by brian at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)
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