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January 04, 2003

It's sad when old friends fight

From the Guardian of London:
The Reagan administration and its special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, did little to stop Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, even though they knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons "almost daily" against Iran, it was reported yesterday.
The US provided less conventional military equipment than British or German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents, including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front organisation in Chile, the report says.

More. Article and photo both via Bartcop.


January 02, 2003

Even less promising than video blogging

Oh yeah. This is gonna set the political world on fire.

Let me just reiterate...

...in case the post gets lost down there--we raised more than three thousand dollars for Hearts and Homes. Since Sunday. During a holiday week, with lighter than usual traffic.

You people are okay in my book.

I live in New York...

...and I would like to read Gawker, if only to find out what the cool people are doing while my wife and I hang out at home and rent videos and play with the dog and stuff. But the site is a mess on both of the browsers I have installed on this computer, with links which overlap the entries and make the whole thing unreadable, and bizarrely placed margins which fill up most of the window with blank space before I can even get to the unreadable text.

So what's the deal? Is this the online equivalent of those New York fashion trends I can never quite keep track of, the stiff blue jeans with cuffs rolled up exactly four inches (or is it six?), the ugly glasses with thick black frames and yellow lenses, the extreme hip-huggers that ride about halfway down exceedingly fashionable New York City butt cracks--whatever it is this week?

Do you need some sort of special browser that only Manhattan hipsters know how to install before you can read this thing?

Or is the difficulty of the site some sort of metaphor for the difficulty of life in New York? You know: you've got to put up with a lot, but it's worth it in the end, wouldn't browse anywhere else, yadda yadda yadda?

Or maybe it's just that the version of IE I'm using is at least six months old, and therefore hopelessly bridge-and-tunnel.

Update: a slightly newer version of IE seems to have resolved the problem.

However, so many of you raved over Mozilla that I decided to give it a try--and promptly spent about an hour and a half dealing with crashes, hangs and installation problems. I wish I lived in that wonderful parallel universe so many of you apparently inhabit, in which new programs are easy to install and invariably worth the effort... but I do not.

A little shop talk

Now that we've finally dispensed with all the ludicrous get-rich-quick new economy bullshit of the nineties, it turns out that one of the killer apps of the 'net is elegant in its simplicity: people writing down their ideas and discussing what they think about other people's ideas.

And let us posit that this is a Good Thing.

But let us also posit that there are two common traits shared by many, though certainly not all bloggers--a tendency toward self-absorption, and a fascination with the latest Cool Tech. (And I'll plead guilty on at least one count, though I won't admit which one.)

These trends have recently converged to threaten us with something called "video blogging," or "v-logging."

And that's certainly the lesson to be learned from the popularity of blogging, isn't it? Let's take this marvelously simple and straightforward format and add as many unnecessary bells and whistles as possible, make people suffer through downloads and buffering time and digital video glitches--because if there's one thing people don't have enough access to in their lives, it's talking heads reciting copy which could be much more easily digested and pondered if presented as straight text with links. Yes, that's what we really need in this world of round the clock cable news and talk shows--even more droning commentators. Amateur droning commentators. Oh yeah. That's gonna take off.

You know what this sounds like, is one of those painful and quickly forgotten Inevitable Next Big Thing articles that Wired Magazine always used to run, back in the day. Video blogging. Jesus Christ. You know the old line about giving someone an inch and he thinks he's a ruler? You give some bloggers the slightest taste of public attention and they think they're freaking tv stars.

You kids are swell

The people from Hearts & Homes report that in the space of a couple of days, your donations have totalled more than three thousand dollars.

And I promise you, that's going to make a difference.

So go on, pat yourselves on the back. You deserve it. (And I'll keep you updated on further developments.)

(And by the way, go over to Wil's site and send some good tidings in his wife's direction. A day after he put up a note on his site about Hearts & Homes, he and his wife had to spend New Year's Eve in the emergency room because she was bitten on the lip by, yes, a recently rescued dog. Talk about cruel irony...)

It's Bloggies time

They're taking nominations.

Just in case anyone's, um, you know, interested.

Okay then.

Go say hello...

...to Digby. He's new in the neighborhood, and there's no better blogwarming gift than traffic. (Via Atrios.)


January 01, 2003

So we're most likely...

...going to send American troops into Iraq to kill and be killed--because Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction.

But as for North Korea:

Answering questions on his way into the only coffee shop in this one-stoplight town near his ranch, Mr. Bush issued no demands that North Korea halt the nuclear programs it has threatened to restart, and he did not mentioned the ouster today of the international inspectors who have monitored activity at the country's primary nuclear site.

"I believe this is not a military showdown, this is a diplomatic showdown," the president said, on his way to get a cheeseburger and to chat with his neighbors here.

If we know the country has weapons of mass destruction, or at least will within months, and yet diplomacy is still an option--well, it sure makes the rationales for war with Iraq look even thinner. It's almost enough to make you think that they're not being entirely honest with us about their motives for this thing (cough cough world's secondlargestprovenoilreserves cough cough).

I've seen it suggested around the blogosphere that cheap oil is actually a perfectly acceptable reason for war, or at least a happy byproduct to be embraced. Tell it to the families of the servicemen and women who don't make it home.

The Democrats finally get a clue...

...or at least, begin to think about maybe looking for one at some point:

Worried that their party has been outgunned in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities, influential Democrats are scouring the nation for a liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh and the many others on the deep bench of Republican friends.



December 31, 2002

Jihad assimilates McWorld

How about a nice refreshing Mecca Cola? (Login required, blah blah blah.)

Happy New Year, by the way. Let's hope it's a good one.


Art Spiegelman has decided not to renew his contract with the New Yorker:

"After Sept. 11, there was period when The New Yorker was as confused as everybody else and it was possible to produce very interesting images," Mr. Spiegelman said. "More recently the magazine seems to have quieted down its covers for one thing. On the other hand, the place I'm coming from is just much more agitated than The New Yorker's tone. The assumptions and attitudes [I have] are not part of The Times Op-Ed page of acceptable discourse."

Story here. I've never had a contract with the magazine, though I was offered one at one point (the "right of first refusal" language made me uneasy, and I didn't pursue the matter), but I do have a standing invitation to contribute Back Page ideas. But--I think I've discussed this here on the blog before--it's been harder and harder to get anything I'm really interested in saying into the magazine since September 11, 2001. And with my weekly strip and my space in the American Prospect--both of which allow me complete editorial freedom, for better or worse--I just haven't been feeling very enthusiastic about The New Yorker. And as it turns out, I'm not the only one. (If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that Remnick recently rejected one of Spiegleman's cover proposals...)


December 30, 2002

Back to work

I've got a couple of deadlines staring me in the face and my brain is full of post-holiday cobwebs, so this site will probably remain on semi-hiatus for a few days. But please be sure not to miss this post about Hearts & Homes. I'm quite serious about this: thismodernworld.com receives somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors a day--and that's visitors, mind you, not hits, or page views, or any of the other obfuscational statistic-benders--and if every single one of you donated a buck, we could pull these people out of the hole.

We're powerless spectators, so much of the time these days, watching events over which we have no influence or control. Here's a situation in which the readers of this site alone could make a concrete difference. And that seems like a pretty decent way to head into an uncertain new year.

So go give 'em a buck or two, okay? As a favor to me, if nothing else. Let's make a small, but very real, difference.

Update: the response so far has apparently been huge. I'll post specific numbers when I have them, but it looks like we've raised well over a thousand dollars in a single day, and I don't think we're anywhere near through yet. I am extraordinarily touched, and my thanks go out to everyone who responded (with special thanks to Wil Wheaton for helping to get the word out on his site as well).

I'm sure the dogs would thank you too, if they knew how to use computers.

Not that it was about the oil, mind you...

...but it looks like Unocal got their pipeline.

The Bitter Shack of Resentment has some thoughts on the matter.

Update: well, somebody's getting their pipeline. Alert reader Bill Von Novak forwards this CNN story, which states that "the Japanese conglomerate Itochu has expressed interest in participating, but no company has joined the project. Unocal said it has no plans to do so."

Better late than never

The Washington Post plays catch-up:

High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What U.S. officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally.

Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis in defiance of international conventions.


Also, in case you haven't seen it already, here's the list of U.S. corporations that supplied Iraq's weapons program.

(Links via Cursor.)


December 29, 2002

About donations...

So Andrew Sullivan spent a week or so rattling the tip jar on his blog and apparently fattened his bank account by some eighty or ninety thousand dollars.

And it kind of makes you do a double take, if you're keeping a blog, especially a blog with a substantial readership. Hey, you think, maybe I should start rattling the tip jar. Hell, why shouldn't I try to get paid for my work? (And, to be honest, you think: eighty thousand f**king dollars? Jesus F**king Christ on a crutch!)

But you know what? I do get paid for my work. I'm already making a pretty decent living off of this whole opinionating business. Don't get me wrong, I really don't begrudge the average blogger his or her donations--it just doesn't feel right for me. If you really feel a need to support my work, you can buy a book or a print or something. At least that way, you get something in return.

Still, I'm guessing that if I were to add a donation button to the blog, more than a few of you probably would contribute a buck or two, if only on principle.

So what if we take that impulse and channel it in such a way that we can actually make some small specific difference in the world? Something more important than fattening an online yuppie pundit's wallet?

Specifically: there's a non-profit here in Brooklyn called Hearts & Homes for Homeless Dogs, which, as you might surmise, cares for and finds homes for abandoned and abused dogs. (Brooklynites have probably seen them out finding homes for their charges at Seventh Ave and First Street on the weekends, or at Court and Montague all week long.) If you've been reading this website regularly, you might already be familiar with the story of my own dog, the happy fellow in the photo below, who was abandoned as a puppy with scabies, and is alive today only by the grace of someone who cared enough to take him in and nurse him back to health. So the work they do at Hearts & Homes strikes a personal chord with me.

Of course, since this is the internet, I'm sure I'll get email from someone saying, why a dog charity, when there are so many other problems in the world? Well, I'm starting with this particular charity--and I hope this is only a beginning--because I support the work they do, and more importantly, because they are facing an emergency situation, and they need help, right now:

Unforeseeably, the shelter/home where Hearts and Home Inc. has worked from for the past 7 years has recently been sold. And now, they have only 2 short months to find adequate and affordable spaceónot easy in this economy! The costs of feeding and caring for an average of 21 dogs are staggering enough. But finding the funds to relocate everyone and everything could bankrupt Mel and Roseann, and they and their furry charges could wind up on the street.

So here's the deal: there are a lot of you out there reading this site, and a dollar probably doesn't mean much to most of you, one way or the other--but if every single one of you were to click here and donate a dollar or two to Hearts & Homes, then together, we could make an enormous, specific difference.

So come on. Who's with me here?

Updated 2/21: Yeah, so I ended up adding a tip jar. I was a feeling a little more nonchalant about my income a couple of months ago...before my car was stolen, I got hit with a five-figure back tax bill, and I was faced with the imminent loss of a significant sources of income. I'm a little less sanguine now. So sue me.


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