Posts from June 2002

Homeland Security it is: I

Homeland Security it is
: I disagree with Mickey Kaus and half of Blogville already. Kaus doesn’t like the moniker “Homeland Security.” I do. He argues that “homeland” is too Teutonic — too much like the Germans’ “Heimat.” What, so anything German is now Nazi and verboten? No hamburgers for you! (This must be the first time that PC anti-defamation finger-wagging has been done on behalf of Germans.)

I like “homeland” — vs. the predictable “domestic” — precisely because it conjurs up the idea of our nation, our Heimat, our land, our America. It has a patriotic undertone. That is precisely what the Department of Homeland Security should be about: protecting America.

And as for fears that “security” is too Big Brotherish: Get used to it.

: So Peggy Noonan joins the campaign I started months ago: Putting Rudy Guliani in charge of Homeland Security. This bandwagon’s getting crowded.

: It amazes me that people who irritate you think that you then will want to do business with them.

If a spammer offered me the greatest product in the world for the lowest price, I wouldn’t trust them for a second, wouldn’t ever buy from them.

The latest popunder trick to irritate us: The ad moves all over your screen so you can’t catch up with it to close the damned thing.

Not-so-fast food
: The Guardian reports that McDonald’s and Coke are about to spend billions to convince us Americans to eat healthy (in an attempt, they say avoid cigarette lawsuits).

Makes a person feel sorry for the corporate giants. What silliness. What we eat is clearly our choice. Fast food is not an addiction (at worst, it is a bad habit — one I used to have). If you choose to eat burgers every day, you shouldn’t be able to blame Ronald McD for that. But, of course, someone will. If you get fat, its your fault, not theirs. Take a little responsibility, people!

So now we have companies forced to advertise not to use their products too much. What has capitalism come to?

: I do love fast food. Used to eat it all the time. But then I got older. I got married. I saw my father-in-law in the cardiac unit. I try to eat well. But I still love fast food. And my kids eat it. So now I try to find the healthy fast food.

I’m pissed at Burger King (the chicken nugget house of choice in my house) for they ruined their grilled chicken sandwich. The BK Broiler was great but they morphed it into the Chicken Whopper; the chicken is no longer marinated; it’s dull; its chewier; it’s just not as good.

I loved Taco Bell’s new grilled stuffed burrito (chicken).

And I’m very excited by McDonald’s new menu item: The grilled chicken flatbread sandwich (peppery grilled chicken, grilled onions — a very nice touch, pepper-jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, on a nice slab of flatbread). I’ll take two, please.

: Monkeys drinking Coke is an entirely different matter.

: Doc is in Munich, blogging away. He notes how wi-fi in public places makes computing social (an observation I saw elsewhere in recent days — thought it was Denton but can’t find it now):

having a wi-fi hot spot in a social space (the library on the boat, the lobby in the hotel) has social effects. Guests aren’t in their rooms, jacked to the Net in private. They’re working, corresponding and chewing fat, all at once. The social protocols are interesting, too. Sometimes people collaborate (“look up ‘munich bierhaus’ on Google and click on the third link…”). Sometimes they pound their keyboards in private. Others respect both the private and public behaviors.

What he blogs
: Kottke on the dreaded also-ran browsers that drive us web-site creators completely batty when trying to do anything new or nice for our users:

I agree, Netscape 4 has to go. Please get it out of my sight. It sucks because it’s not a browser as much as it’s a dirty bomb lobbed over the fence in the heat of the browser wars. If Netscape 4 were a car, they would have recalled it years ago.

But I’m not sure that Mozilla is any better. Mozilla is a toy built by developers for developers…a return to the days of Mosaic when some geeks in Illinois built browsers for other geeks around the world. Developers slobber over things like support for standards and XUL (which are cool), but end users have different needs and priorities.

Yeah, remember them? The end users? The ones that you’re building the software for? They don’t care about your damn cross-platform interoperability…they want fast, they want features to help them browse the Web, they want an interface that was designed by someone who knows about interface design, and they want a good user experience.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger
: Arnold Kling at Corante’s Bottom Line asks — with some help from John Hiler and Dave Winer — whether blogging is really just the decentralization (or, as we’d say in the ’70s, devolution) of news and media. That is, at the start of the last century, every town had its own local paper and we didn’t have big broadcasting conglomerates; does blogging cut all our media centralization back down to size so, thanks to bloggers, you can find the best story that interests you regardless of the source or publisher or distributor?

This is a corollary to the decades-old debate over whether the mass audience is dead. I used to be part of that debate when I was a TV critic, witnessing the growth of choice thanks to the remote control and cable and the VCR (and now satellites and the Internet, too). Never again, it was said then, would all of America ask the next morning, “Who shot J.R.?” because we now had far more choice; some of us would be watching MTV or CNN or TBS instead. True. But the mass audience did not die; it only shrank; it only became harder to reach; it changed the economics of entertainment media.

So Kling is wise to add an important question to Hiler and Winer’s speculation: The economic question: “Somebody has to figure out how to get money to flow to the reporter in Pakistan, the musician, and probably to the more useful recommendation services or weblogs.” Right, and nobody has figured it out, least of all me. It’s what Bill Quick and I talked about over coffee the other day; it’s what we all talk about.

It might sound cool to say that bloggers replace publishers but that misses the fact that there is no money in blogging and the only way there will be money is if its consumers pay or if it becomes big enough — yes, mass enough — for advertisers to pay attention to it and if these advertisers have easy ways — that is, through convenient conglomerates — to market through it.

It’s not a brave new world yet.

Joke’s on who?: I fear

Joke’s on who?
: I fear that bin Laden exec Abu Zubaydah is playing us like a sitar.

The NY Times today quotes American officials saying that we’re getting valuable intelligence — including hints that took us to the alleged, would-be dirty bomber.

But note Nick Denton today saying that bin Laden et al would not have have trusted a Chicago hispanic street thug and USA Today yesterday saying that Ashcroft oversold the threat of the dirty bomb.

And I have to believe that Zubaydah is chortling every time he launches a scud of disinformation our way. Sometimes, it leads to panic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Sometimes, it could lead to us arresting somebody he probably didn’t like — namely, the dirty bomber. Sometimes, what he says really will happen. And we won’t know what’s what.

He’s getting the last laugh.

Life at the speed of blog
: Had a nice cup of coffee today with Bill Quick in Manhattan this morning. Between wracking our brains to find some way to make this wonderful blog thing pay, I mentioned that I had just discovered N.Z. Bear’s Blogosphere Ecosystem and Bill said, “You’re so late, Jeff.” I braced myself: Had this been around for a year and I just found it? No, about two weeks, Bill said. That is late in our world. I stand humbled.

Anyway, Bear’s rating system of links within our world is fascinating. I find I’m pretty high on both incoming and outgoing links (“ultimate link slut” is the official term) and that’s the way it works: quid pro quo.

See also Denton’s discussion of links vs. traffic and the differences between blog elves and war bloggers.

Blog reading tools
: See also Bear launching off of my post on the NY Times blog story to some good ideas on what else is needed to make blogs grow — including better tools for reading (read: tracking) blogs. I know somebody smart working on something like this….

9 Months After: Tired: It’s

9 Months After: Tired
: It’s nine months after and I have nothing to say to mark the anniversary. I’m tired of the anniversaries, the ceremonies, the fear, the sadness, the anger, the uncertainty, the war that won’t end because it won’t start, the nightmares, the pain. I’m tired of being tired.

The Nya Nya Brotherhood: The

The Nya Nya Brotherhood
: The alleged feud between geek bloggers and war bloggers — a nonstory that became a story in the NY Times today — is silly to the extreme and perhaps even destructive.

Folks, if weblogs remain the domain of one club or the other — or even both — and do not grow past that, then they will die; I’ll put them on my shelf of dead things next to my eight-track, my Osborne One, and my Modo wireless entertainment guide.

To survive and succeed, weblogs must be embraced by many, many interests and their communities. I’ve seen some good food blogs. We need more entertainment blogs. I can’t believe there aren’t many more sports blogs, from pro all the way down to Little League. I hope to see local blogs and ethnic blogs and, of course, biz blogs.

And nobody should give a rat’s rump who got there first. There is a very big graveyard in California today filled with tombstones for first movers and early adopters. Being there first plus $1.50 gets you a chance to ride the NY subways and get nerve-gassed.

I live on both sides of this alleged divide. I was there early. Nick Denton introduced me to Blogger and, as a result, my company invested in Pyra and I also ended up on the board of

Personally, I did not start blogging until September 11 — because I didn’t have something to say until that day and after that day, I had so much to say and needed a place to say it. Blogger provided the incredibly easy tools to make it easy for me to join.

The war bloggers should be grateful to the tech bloggers for helping invent the simple tools. The tech bloggers should be grateful to the warbloggers for helping to spread this wonderful technology. And both sets of bloggers had damned well better hope that all kinds of new bloggers follow and if they have half a brain, they’ll be generous and welcoming to every one of them.

: Let’s quickly add that the story is a good thing for the world of blogger. It’s publicity. Publicity is good. We’ll all be famous with 15 links.

Rudy! Rudy!
: Mickey Kaus joins the campaign to put Rudy Guliani in charge of Homeland Security one way or another. Ditto Joyce Purnick in the NY Times.

: Rossi, one of my favorite writers hereabouts, has an amazing story on Jewsweek about the time she spent among the Chasidics. Most often you read about parents who try to get their kids deprogrammed from some cult or religion. Rossi’s parents did the opposite: They shipped her to Crown Heights, Brooklyn in the futile, as it turned out, hope of extinguishing what they thought was her rebellion but was really just her. It’s a fascinating and compelling piece. I recommend it. (Ditto Rossi’s own story about continually trying to find what’s next after 9.11 on her site.)

: The American Library Association has links on deep linking. [via Die Zeit]

What nerve
: OK, I’m not paranoid. Last week, we heard warnings of nerve-gas attacks on major metro subways. This morning, I’m on the PATH train when the lights go out and stay out on my car. I’ll admit that I start thinking paranoid thoughts: Did someone cut the lights to set a nerve-gas bomb in place? Silly? Not anymore.

Touche times two: Reaction to

Touche times two
: Reaction to the Coleen Rowley post below from Patrick Nielsen Hayden et al (see also Yglesias).

I’m accused of being an East Coast snob (and I see why) even if I am a Midwesterner myself.

OK, fine, so I’m a snob. But I still found Rowley somewhat insufferable. She may be right. Her bosses may all be bozos. But I’d hate to be stuck on an elevator with her as she explains to me how to hit the buttons.

: More: Andrea Harris attacks (if nicely).

: Folks: It’s not her twang or glasses or gettup or gender that makes her insufferable. It’s her. You watch the tape of her testimony and then tell me that if she worked in the cubicle next to you, you wouldn’t roll your eyes behind her back; you wouldn’t dread her next opinion; you wouldn’t make fun of her in email.

As mad as I am at the FBI for f’ing this all up so badly, I have to say that I’m not sure I would have listened to Rowley. She’s hard to listen to. She strikes me as the agent who whines wolf.

Cultural divides
: Took my daughter to see Spirit today. Can’t start too soon training girls to like chick flicks.

: Not a bad movie; emotionally smooshy but still exciting in many spots.

But since when did the white settlers and citizens become so thoroughly, utterly, completely evil? OK, there were some bad guys among them — among us — and we did some bad things.

But what’s going to happen to this generation’s American self-image? Shouldn’t they at least watch F Troop, too; shouldn’t we all try to lighten up?

Will it soon be necessary to have white appreciation courses to counteract a generation of training in racial, cultural, historical self-loathing?

We’re treating the history of the West not unlike the way the Germans treat the history of World War II: as a big whisper. Isn’t that overkill?

Political correctness is just another form of oppression.

: After the movie, my daughter and I went to the nearby Starbucks (Lileks is more of a real American; he and his daughter go to the cookie place in the mall). This theater and this Starbucks are in the richest town around (I don’t live there); very society, very overpriced, very old, very big-house, mostly white … on this side of town.

So anyway, the white chick behind the counter asks the black guy behind the counter whether he’s “into Enimen.” He shrugs and answers politely and without commitment; she’s dabbling in real-time stereotyping: you’re black, you must like rap, even if it comes from a white guy. The guy lets it pass.

But he’s not off the hook yet. Next the white, tennis-mom customer ahead of me picks up the thread and asks the guy behind the counter what he thinks of Enimem and whether he has the new CD and whether he thinks she should get it for her 13-year-old daughter, yaketty yak. If I were him, I’d be tempted to say “yes” just to try to corrupt the youth of this Richville. But he’s nicer than I am. He says the daughter is likely to hear it anyway but he’s not sure he’d buy it for her because “Eminem likes controversy.” Deftly put.

I’m not sure whether he’s more embarrassed owning the Eminem CD or being presumed by sight to be a rap expert.

I felt as if I were watching a game of racial 3D chess; can’t tell the players without a color code.

: When I grew up, we were taught that the ideal state of being was colorblindness; I was proud of my parents that they had shucked their racist upbringings and taught us otherwise; back then, the melting pot was the ultimate American valhalla, whether we truly believed it or not.

Of course, the melting pot is dead.

Instead of a smooth racial roux we are a chunky ethnic stew.

Ethnic pride trumps assimilation — leaving melting-pot babies like me out in the cold (I am such a mix of ethnic everything — English, Irish, Scotch, German, and hillbilly fill-in-the-blank — that I have no root, no core, no identity other than “American” and that’s what I say on the census forms, damnit).

: I just wish that a kiddie movie about a wild horse in the old West didn’t have to overcompensate for cowboy-and-Indian (pardon me, cowperson-and-Native-American) history.

I wish white people in Starbucks weren’t so obvious and embarrassing.

I wish that we could carry on one legacy of 9/11:

On 9/12, Americans of every background and ethnicity started flying the American flag. We were defiantly proud about our nationality. People started taking pride in what we are today — American — over pride in what we happened to have been yesterday.

I used to think that nationalism is dangerous — and it can be. But the lesson of our era has to be that allegiance to ethnicity and religion is more dangerous: witness Palestine and Pakistan and most anywhere that Muslims have neighbors.

I am American and white and as meltable as Velveeta and I’m just find with that.

A Republican solution
: I’ve come to see that George Bush took a pure Republican path in setting up the Department of Homeland Security: He didn’t want to add a single headcount. So he threw together anything that remotely fit under a security umbrella — even if only occasionally (most of the work of the Coast Goard, Customs, and FEMA have bupkus to do with security).

Meanwhile, he didn’t fix the FBI, which is urgently necessary.

He didn’t fix the CIA.

He didn’t bash their heads together.

He didn’t take the ballsy move of creating something new — for that might have meant new headcount and, like a corporate executive managing a downturn, headcount is evil.

But this is the wrong solution.

Nick Denton says Bush should have just handed over anti-terror security to the CIA but I say that won’t work here because we are paranoid about the CIA operating internally; we’d far rather have them creating coups among foreigners. We don’t have an MI5 in this country. We don’t want one.

No, Bush needed to create a Department of Homeland Security — I’ve been waiting for it to happen, to give us dedicated resources and accountability — but he should have created a new agency that took authority — full authority — for domestic security away from the FBI (at last) and shrunk the FBI accordingly; it should take chunks of other agencies if necessary; it should have the authority and resources to deploy manpower to do what the FBI has been f’ing up: getting intelligence and going after suspects to prevent attacks. Bush’s agency does not have the authority or the resources.

The hardest part of this for any agency is figuring out how to make it work with the CIA and share its secrets. That’s why God created bosses.