Posts from March 24, 2004


: Britt Blaser and I talked about war under the sun in San Diego and he reprises our conversation today after seeing my post, below, on the unseemly side of the 9/11 hearings. Britt writes:

I lobbied for this notion that we somehow need to separate one’s personal fate from one’s actions, that the battle plan must be consistent and smart, not hostage to a few casualties. I believe our nation’s battle plan is to live according to the Bill of Rights, even if it costs some of us our lives once in a while….

[He quotes my post below.]

This is where Jeff and I diverge in how to wage war well. Rage hampers your ability to function in combat, and we are in combat. One prevails by respecting the enemy, not in seeing him as inhuman. Further, I’m convinced that no one is soulless, though many on both sides are deluded by fundamentalist leaders and happy to kill in their personal quest for meaning. Just as our vets have been to Viet Nam and met and hugged and wept with their former enemy, someday Iraqis and Yanks will sit down in Baghdad over sweet tea and grieve for the lost days of their youth, seeking to maim each other.

In his comments, I replied:

We don’t disagree and we do disagree.

I certainly believe that the terrorists are soulless — just as I firmly believe that Hitler and his henchmen were soulless. Not recognizing that — not recognizing that they can stoop to depths we cannot imagine — only weakens our defense.

We do agree that we can sit down in Iraq over tea as friends. We can do that today. We liberated the Iraqis from a dictator; we are making friends on the street and online; we have every reason to be friends, especially if we get our act together and help build their democracy and economy.

And I certainly agree, as I said in my post, that there is value in reviewing mistakes so we do not make them again — but there is no value in fingerpointing at either the Bush or the Clinton administrations for perceived political benefit.

The truth is, as a colleague of mine said today, there is no political benefit in this. If you say that Bush dropped the ball then you have to say that more drastic action was necessary from both Bush and Clinton: We should have invaded Afghanistan long ago on our own, damn the political and international consequences; we should follow the Blair doctrine to preempt terrorism and tyranny before it can attack us and others and thus if we believed that there was the capability of weapons development, we should have invaded Iraq; we should invade North Korea… all that comes out of sniping at Bush for dropping balls.

I am no fan of Bush but I am no fan of turning 9/11 into political taffy.

We disagree about one more thing: I defend the Bill of Rights as strongly as the next patriot and I believe that we do not need to harm the Bill of Rights to defend our nation against terrorism, but we also do not need to be stupid.

I have no objection whatsoever to airlines handing over every bit of personal information they happen to gather about me, for example, if they do so for everyone flying and if we manage to catch the next terrorist. My rights will not have been violated but if I am killed the next time they strike, my rights and those of my children will most certainly have been violated.

We must know our enemy. We must fight our enemy. We must not fight each other as we fight our enemy, united.

Plaxo paranoia

Plaxo paranoia
: I’m not a paranoid guy but I never respond to a Plaxo contact-updating request because I just don’t know enough about the company. Jason Calacanis reports that this came up at PCForum; Plaxo responded to his questions on their business model in his comments. I still don’t trust it.

Terror foiled

Terror foiled
: Bomb found and disarmed under French railroad.

Reputation manipulation

Reputation manipulation
: Smart Mobs sends us to RepCheck, a new venture to manage reputations; it “allows users to review, rate and search our database of people’s reputations for both business and social purposes.”

Now this is frightening.

Sounds like it has the potential to become systematized libel.

Imagine if all the Howard Stern haters trolling in the comments went in there and rated me (don’t get any ideas, guys!). Imagine what right-wingers could to do lefties and vice versa. Imagine what competitors could do. Imagine what former lovers could do.

Oh, it sounds cool. But this is another artificial — and scary — social network, one that can be used against people. What a sucky idea.

I was going to delve in and see what was there, but I’ll be damned if I’ll give them my personally identifiable information.

The truth is that the Internet is already a reputation management system for those who know how to use it.

And I find it amazing that the people behind this don’t put up their names and don’t put up their own “repscores.”

As NASA begat Tang, Dean begets social software

As NASA begat Tang, Dean begets social software
: Zack Rosen, who helped create Deanspace, has just set up a new venture to bring the power of groupware to nonprofits and such with software and help. Dan Gillmor reports, quoting Zack (the nephew of proud uncle Jay, by the way):

We want to create a much cheaper, open, and powerful option for these kinds of services. The goal is to have a full-time development shop that spearheads projects inside open-source communities working on the applications these organizations need, and a consulting firm that can support the toolsets. This is a much more efficient and productive way to do this kind of development.

This is great. The possibilities for this are endless — and international.

From free to cheap… to free?

From free to cheap… to free?
: Music can’t catch a break. So music was expensive. Then it was free on Napster. Then Napster was killed and it was cheap on Apple. And now it’s cheaper at Walmart, which just undercut Apple et al with 88-cent songs. Walmart insists that it’s not a loss-leader at that price and that it will make a profit on music (and thus that it’s not dumping music on the market, in essence) — but even if that’s true, it’s probably true only for Walmart. So, once again, the profitability of music is sliced and the price of music slides back toward zero.

: Of course, good often comes out of disruption and the CBC speculates about the kind of music we’ll be listening to in five years, thanks to the age of the download. MIT Technology Review summarizes the questions:

Will lowering the barriers of entry to the music market encourage more grassroots participation? Will the ability to issue one song at a time enable musicians to become even more topical, serving, as Chuck D described it, as the black man

NPR: Age discrimination?

NPR: Age discrimination?
: NPR is ousting Bob Edwards as the host of its morning show. Time for a change and all that. New role. He’s 56 and has been there from the start and has done a good job from the start (no matter what you think of NPR’s politics, he’s a pro). In the Times story, he’s as politic as he can be and his colleagues don’t dar call this what it is: Killing the graybeard. I’d expect that from commercial networks (except, in fact, they do leave Andy Rooney Dan Rather in the job long past the time they became bores). But NPR? Tsk-tsk.

9/11 commissions and books and politicking

9/11 commissions and books and politicking
: I haven’t said much about the current blame game going on over September 11th in books, hearings, and political speeches.

The terrorists came within a matter of yards of killing me.

But I don’t blame the Bush or Clinton administrations for that. I blame the terrorists.

Could we have stopped them? Only with some damned lucky breaks. We can’t make believe that any system would have guaranteed catching them before the act.

For we have to remember that these are pathologically insane and evil beasts and it’s impossible to guess how low they will stoop.

If we were lucky enough to have intelligence inside their devil’s cult, then, yes, we might have foiled their plot. But that’s obviously hard to do.

If we were lucky enough to have stopped one of them for speeding and locked them up, then we might have foiled their plot. But that’s like counting on a lottery ticket.

What matters now is learning the lessons we can learn — and to that extent, the hearings are valuable — to protect us as best we can.

But I find the blame game going on now unseemly and divisive and unproductive and distracting and just a little bit tasteless.

I saw people die that day not because of anything we didn’t do but because of what a bunch of soulless murderers did do. Let’s never forget that.

It’s us against them, not us against us.