Sunday, June 29, 2003
The news desk
*News from NASA
NASA's qualms about its machinery after this year's shuttle disaster seem to be continuing. It has delayed the launch of a rover to Mars.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA postponed the launch of the latest Mars rover early Sunday because of concern about strong wind shear.
A new launch time for the rover, Opportunity, was set for 11:46 p.m. Sunday on a Delta II Heavy rocket that was being used for the first time. The weather was expected to improve late Sunday.
NASA twice missed opportunities to launch the rover. The first opportunity at 11:56 p.m. Saturday was bypassed because of concern that winds could blow toxic clouds into populated areas if there was a mishap, and because a boat was in a restricted area. The second lost chance was at 12:37 a.m. Sunday.
Opportunity, and its sister rover, Spirit, launched earlier this month, will act as robotic geologists during their three months of exploration on the Martian surface.
What is one to make of the new caution? Space exploration has always been as much about public relations as it is about science. Any additional bad news coming on the heels of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia Feb. 1 could be a setback on the image front. Though unmanned machinery has not been plagued by the design problems of the space shuttles, only three of nine previous launches to Mars have been successful. The care being displayed may be an effort to increase the possibility of success and improve the space agency's image.
Meanwhile, undamaged documentation of the Columbia's mission has been recovered recently.
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board recently determined the material was not relevant to their investigation. The imagery documents the STS-107 mission from the crew's perspective and includes almost 10 hours of recovered video and 92 photographs.
It includes in-cabin, Earth observation and experiment-related imagery. The shuttle carried 337 videotapes, but only 28 were found with some recoverable footage.
Investigation of the tragedy continues.
*Clinton hits a homer
Former two-term President Bill Clinton was very much himself at three-term Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson's funeral Saturday. His comments are an interesting antidote to the outpouring of complaints from some in regard to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the University of Michigan's affirmative action cases last week.
Clinton, in his characteristic folksy style, said Jackson had a "voice that could melt the meanness out of the hardest heart" and a "gift of gab that could talk an owl out of a tree."
"And he had certain convictions because he knew that politicians made choices that affect people's lives," he said. "He saw how much good affirmative action did for well-connected white folks and he thought it ought to be tried for other people as well."
"Sure enough," Clinton said, "it worked."
As mayor, Jackson pushed through a citywide affirmative-action program that required municipal contractors to take on minority-owned businesses as partners and pressured the city's major law firms to hire black lawyers.
"Maynard believed politics should be practical not radical, that we should all strive to be righteous not self righteous and that life was a search for the truth and that it was wrong to claim to have the truth and then use it like a stick to beat other people with," Clinton said.
It is almost unbelievable an American politician had the cojones to say that. The only thing that would please me more would have been Clinton saying it while he was in office.
*Porch collapse was preventable
So many of the bad things that happen to people are beyond their control that I become really miffed when plain old prima facie negligence stares me in the face. The nightclub disasters in which nearly 150 people died earlier this year are examples. This needless devastation of many lives in Chicago is another reminder.
CHICAGO (AP) -- A wooden third-floor porch packed with dozens of friends in their early 20s collapsed Sunday, killing 12 people as it pancaked onto porches below. As many as 45 others were injured in the fall, some critically, authorities said.
Police said as many as 50 people may have been standing or dancing on the porch when it gave way, and there may have been beer kegs there, as well.
Most of the dead appeared to have been crushed on the porches below, said Larry Langford, spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management.
``There was chaos,'' said Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce. ``There were people screaming and crying in the alley.''
After the fact, people are saying it was obvious the porch could not support the 40 to 50 people standing or sitting on it. However, there is no evidence anyone warned the party goers of the risk inherent in their conduct. That is in keeping with my own observations. Apparently, out of fear of being criticized, many, maybe most, people will not offer even common sense advice to others. I believe that to be grounds for shame. Accidents like this could be prevented if a few people would just speak up.
Friday, June 27, 2003
*When the 'personal' isn't
What is personal blogging? I use the term to mean blogging that focuses on minutiae about the person writing the blog. That is to be distinguished from the allusions to personal life that are part of any writer's oeuvre. I won't go so far as to say 'the personal is political,' being an '80s person, but the maxim is close to the truth. One simply cannot pare blog entries of all personal references. Nor do I believe doing so would be a good idea. Some personal detail needs to be present if the writer hopes to connect with the reader. The human mind functions that way.
And, no, I am not retreating from my preference for blog entries that are about more than the personal. Frankly, most of our personal lives are boring. If you are going to impose on my attention, I believe I deserve to learn something about a field I don't already know about or gain some insight from a perspective I would not have arrived at on my own. I owe readers exactly the same thing.
So, how can an entry about dating, for example, not be fully a personal blog entry? Because dating is too general a topic for it to apply to only me or you if it is discussed in a general sense. The phenomenon of the middle-aged dater, discussed in an entry earlier this week, is one of the most intriguing demographic issues of our times. Later ages at marriage and a high rate of divorce make it a hallmark of contemporary life. Discussion of typical pitfalls of dating is not personal per se. However, such material could be made very personal. If one opted to describe the intimate details of a date (assuming there were any) that would be a truly personal entry because it would focus on the individual's experience, not the generalities of dating.
*The blog as newspaper
Frank G. would like to know if blogs can substitute for the traditional weekly newspaper in small towns that no longer have one.
I've worked for two small town newspapers as a reporter. As mundane and sometimes goofy as the news can be, it is very important to those who live there.
I wonder if there are any dedicated bloggers out there who've made a concerted effort to create the equivalent of a "newspaper of record" for their municipality online. And if not, how do we encourage movement in this direction?
The content model is straightforward. You need town council coverage, a police blotter and community listings -- births, deaths, engagements and wedddings, national honor society rolls, military enlistments and assignments, fire hall bingo and bean supper announcements.
Kudos to Frank for coming up with a thoughtful suggestion. However, my thoughts in regard to the idea are skeptical.
Nah. Blogs are too opinion-oriented. People need to get as objective information as possible. Opinions should come second or third. Besides, if they already have computers and Internet access, they can read the paper from the closest city.
That zeroes in on the single most frustrating thing I find in reading blogs. Few bloggers grasp the difference between fact and opinion, something I had drilled into me in j-school. Not only that, but some of them will utterly freak out if one says their opinions are just that. For example, there is a movement in Bloggersville to declare autism syndrome illnesses not illnesses, because a few folks with autism in the family want it that way. Of course, the facts are the exact opposite. But, why let that get in the way? Because facts matter. Nor can I see any way that denying the facts will help people with the conditions at issue.
I suspect a blog as newspaper would have the fact/opinion problem on a grand scale. If the blogger(s) own dogs then their 'right' to have the run of the town leash free would be offered as fact, not opinion. (I've seen that done by dogowners in Portland, who have a long history of fouling public parks with canine feces.) If the blogger(s) is anti-fluoride, then fluoridization of drinking water would be described as a pinko plot. If he or she is a vegetarian, rants about the evils of eating meat would be offered as if they have a more solid basis in science than they do. Since I have next to no faith in most bloggers ability to distinguish opinion from fact, I have no choice but to be wary of the blog as newspaper idea.
Of course, I could be wrong. If you can think of convincing reasons why the idea might work, let me know.
*Chronicle Lite v. Blogger New
My API client for Blogger,Chronicle Lite v.1.2, is sort of working today. By sort of, I mean I can type into it and use its shortcuts. It hasn't been in postable condition for more than a week. However, the last couple days were the worst because it would not open at all. I laboriously typed every letter and symbol for those entries by hand. Chronicle seems to be half-way back because Mac-a-ro-nies has been transfered to Blogger New. For bloggers who haven't encountered it yet, that means the 'Dano' interface comes up instead of the traditional one. I will have more to say about aspects of the transition after I have analyzed it. For now, my main interest is in getting either Chronicle or some other Mac-compatible API client to work with Blogger New. So far, attempts to post lead to the dreaded "NullPointerException."
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Requiem for a heavyweight
Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson died Monday at the age of 65. To anyone who is genuinely dedicated to civil rights for all Americans, Jackson has been a towering figure in both the contemporary and historical movements for inclusion of minorities and women in the American dream. I don't mean the filmy, shot with Vaseline on the lens of the camera version of civil rights that everyone from George W. Bush to liberal racists claims to support. In that version of the dream, people talk a mediocre game and do absolutely nothing to actually advance the inclusiveness they claim to be in favor of. The war for civil rights Jackson supported is one in which that inclusiveness is to have a solid foundation in political and economic change. He realized that as long as African-American, Hispanic and Indian Americans almost always come into the world with none of the equity -- such as owning a home, having savings and access to good health care -- that most white Americans take for granted, talk of a colorblind America is hogwash.
A descendant of Irish immigrants and West African slaves, Jackson came from a group of people who had long struggled against a society which declared their very existence unacceptable. Both in Dallas, Texas, where Jackson was born and grew up, and in Atlanta, where he spent most of his adult years, Jackson confronted the realities of de jure and de facto segregation. While a student at Morehouse College, he was forbidden by law to ride in the front of public transportation, eat in restaurants that served whites or try on clothes in department stores, as all nonwhites were. People in his family did not respond the way most people of color did -- by adapting.
Jackson's family was active in early voting rights efforts. His grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, was the co-chairman of the Atlanta Negro Voters League, and his father, a preacher founded the Georgia Voters League.
For people with hazy historical memories, that would have been about the time that the fathers and grandfathers of a couple Georgia bloggers who declare their own histories are devoid of racism, but whose actions say otherwise, likely had relatives in the opposing segregationist White Citizens Council. The apples haven't fallen far from the trees.
Jackson's first effort in politics were trammeled by such people.
Jackson lost to Sen. Herman Talmadge, a one-time segregationist, in the Democratic primary for the Senate in 1968.
A determined and stubborn young man, Jackson did not give up his aspirations despite the harassment and disdain he was subjected to.
But the next year, he was elected vice mayor and president of Atlanta's Board of Aldermen.
Five years later, at 35, he was elected mayor. The city was 51 percent white, but Jackson defeated incumbent Sam Massell in a bitter primary, getting 95 percent of the black vote after Massell took out ads saying, "Atlanta's Too Young to Die." The slogan offended black voters.
Typical of racists who deem themselves liberals or moderates, Masselll denied their could be any racial animus in his message. According to them, only conservatives can be bigots.
"It was never intended to be a racial slur, but it was seen that way," said Massell, now an Atlanta businessman.
The electorate was not swayed. What was to become a predominantly African-American city would continue to elect African-American mayors.
Jackson was not finished angering white Georgians, both conservatives and some who call themselves liberals. To please them, he would have had to drop his plans for real change in the lives of the state's predominantly poor population of people of color. Despite his own roots in the black bourgeoisie, that is something Jackson was unwilling to do. Instead, he initiated programs to include the poor, people of color and women in the economic infrastructure that was bound to grow as Atlanta became a world class city.
As mayor, Jackson called for strict affirmative-action policies. He held up a $400 million airport expansion by insisting that a portion of the action go to minorities and women. The bustling airport helped Atlanta become a major city.
Similar minority contract programs were set up in many cities, including Chicago and Washington. Jackson brushed aside accusations of reverse discrimination.
"There are some who are not friends, who resent the fact that I worked hard to get blacks into a position of equal opportunity," Jackson said in 1982. "My response is: To hell with them, and that's tough."
To this day, many white Americans sneer at the mention of Maynard Jackson's name. Even in 2003, it is impossible for them to accept that a man of color had an uncompromising dedication to changing, not just glossing over, the role of race in America and would not back down.
I had the opportunity of meeting and talking with Maynard Jackson in my youth as an intern at the Georgia Legislature and, later, as a reporter. Shy and still awed when in the presence of people of his stature, I said relatively little to him. About the only really important question I recall asking him is why he, someone who would have fared fine in the gilded black middle-class of Atlanta as a lawyer and businessman, without taking on the risks to his reputation and life an African-American politician does, had decided to make such sacrifices. His response was: "My life is not just about me."
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Off the Web
It doesn't take much to make me happy
And to make me smile within. . . .
-- Deniece Williams
Sometimes, all it takes is a new novel by a master writer. (I keep hoping there is a missing manuscript by Jane Austen, somewhere, but apparently not.) Mac-a-ro-nies reader Hector M.'s gift of Honore de Balzac's The Black Sheep promises hours in that elated state. I am running out of Balzac to read because only his most popular works have been translated into English and made available in the American market. So, this present is particularly appreciated.
The Black Sheep is part of the Human Comedy series in which Balzac attempts to probe both hereditary and societal reasons why people's lives turn out the way they do. Its protoganists are two full brothers whose personalities are exact opposites. Their fates are influenced from childhood by their mother's preference for the older brother, who resembles her in appearance, though he has 'inherited' her father's corrupt ways.
The novel revolves around the contrasting characters of the two brothers. Philippe Bridau, Napoleon's aide-de-camp at the Battle of Montereau, had a brief but glorious career in the army before the fall of the Emperor. A handsome and dashing figure, he is still more popular than his younger brother, Joseph, a man of less adventuresome spirit whom his mother considers a shiftless, good-for-nothing artist.
As in other novels in the Comedie Humaine, to be without money is tto be without power, almost without life itself; and in The Black Sheep it is a struggle to recover the family inheritance that entangles the two young men. In a hostile society in which you must kill to avoid being killed, deceive in order to avoid being deceived, the true nature of each brother gradually emerges. [End notes to Penguin Classic edition.]
I have only begun reading this novel, but know I will not be disappointed.
Let's briefly revisit last week's reviewed book, Thom Jones' collection of short stories, Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine. I want to draw your attention to the last story in the collection, "You Cheated, You Lied." This relatively long narrative is about the patients who frequent a third-rate neurologist's office, particulary two of them, a manic-depressive and an epileptic boxer who meet there and fall in love. Jones' captures the intersection between neurological illnesses and mental illnesses. (They often are so closely related there are dual diagnoses.)
He also reproduces the sped-up quality of some patients with neurological/mental health disorders. For example, an ALS victim can go from behaving normally to being unable to do more than blink his eyes in six months, with concomitant changes psychologically. The couple who are the focus of the story are like a whirling dervish. Just when you think their trail of mayhem is about to end, they get new energy and take off again. I recommend "You Cheated, You Lied," to anyone interested in realistic writing about people suffering neurological/mental health illnesses, which definitely are illnesses. I doubt it has been much anthologized because of its length, but the story provides grounds in itself for purchasing Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine.
My sinus problem has abated somewhat, partly due to help from Mother Nature. We had a break in the sweltering heat that had become the norm out here in the Pacific Northwest for a while. That allowed me to breathe more easily. I can still feel the nose more than I should be able to, but the feeling of having a vise clamped over it allowing air to neither enter or exit is gone for now. Saline nasal spray and Breathe Right strips may also have played roles in my semi-recovery.
After deciding I had become much too focused on blogging and the book I am trying to finish, I relented and went out on a couple dates. The first went well enough, but, as is often the case, the bad date was more interesting.
He invited me to a modest restaurant, a cafe, actually. (That in itself is not probative, though it makes a better impression if one is invited to a more than middling place, by suggesting the fellow thinks you are worth it.) Before we were halfway through the appetizers, he began to regale me with tales of his medical misadventures. Though he claims to be only 40,* he says he has had operations on his colon, esophagus and, most recently, heart. He described them in excruciating detail. Fortunately, I am a vegetarian. I was able to eat most of my main course, calzone, without the kind of visualization an omnivore would have engaged in.
When he had exhausted an almost non-stop description of his incisions, extractions and scar tissue, the man began describing the veterinary misadventures of his 12-year-old dog. As he was detailing her problem with ear wax, a friend saw me and insisted I come over to his table to look at some pictures from a trip to Brazil he had recently returned from. I was able to extend that visit to about 10 minutes. When I returned to our table, my date was clearly chagrined. He kept darting evil looks at my friend. I told him I was not hungry enough for desert and suggested we call it an evening. After some grumbling about having driven in from the suburbs for a barely two-hour date, he consented. Not wanting to be too rude, I walked him to his car, but said I had a couple errands to run in the neighborhood and did not need to be dropped off at home. I was hoping not to hear from him again, but he has left several messages.
*He has one of those pink, lined complexions, so I am unable to estimate his actual age. Hair was not a help because he is bald and fair-skinned men tend to lose their hair early. Let's guess he is between 40 and 55.
Some time ago, I came across a blog entry by a male blogger who offered advice to middle-aged men reentering the dating game. If I can locate it again, I promise to revive it. I'll consider doing so both a private and a public service.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
The Portland Seven:
Part VII: Maher 'Mike' Hawash
I previously wrote about Maher 'Mike' Hawash, 39, at the time of his indictment last month.
PORTLAND -- A former Intel worker pleaded innocent Monday to terrorism charges.
On Friday, a new indictment charged the so-called "Portland Seven" with conspiring to wage war against the United States.
They are also accused of aiding al-Qaida and the Taliban, and the U.S. Justice Department is seeking forfeiture of their assets.
Mike Hawash, who was most recently arrested in the terror plot, entered an innocent plea in federal district court Monday morning. [KOIN TV, May 5, 2003]
My coverage of Hawash, the last of the Portland Seven, is different from what I've had to say about the others because the media has given him the lion's share of attention. People can read material about Hawash plenty of other places. I am one of few commentators who has been interested enough in the others to try to explain who they are. The reason attention has focused on Hawash is that he has been perceived as less marginal than the other defendants. He is presented as 'honorary white,' and middle-class, while the other defendants, five of whom are of African-American descent, are dismissed as typical troublemakers by some of his supporters. His employment record as a software engineer for Compaq and Intel also helps regularize him in the eyes of middle-class white America.
Investigators say five of the Portland Six traveled to China after Sept. 11, 2001. They attempted to enter Afghanistan to fight U.S. troops. Hawash was reportedly with them.
Special Agent in Charge Charles Mathews told KOIN 6 News that Hawash stayed in the same hotel room as one of the accused.
Friends call it guilt by association. They say he frequently traveled to Asia on business.
"The Mike we know was devoted to his family and helping people. He didn't travel to Afghanistan to help the Taliban. His family is here and in Palestine, and that is what he cares about," Steven McGeady said. [KOIN TV, April 29, 2003]
The truth, of course, is more complex. The Bilal brothers are basically Middle-Easterners like Hawash, as is the missing defendant, al-Souab. Patrice Lumumba Ford's academic credentials and intellectual ability are more impressive than Hawash's. None of the black defendants had any criminal record of note before the indictments for terrorism. Whatever the answer to the riddle of the Portland Seven, it is not that 'Mike' Hawash, former Intel software engineer and all-round 'good guy,' was tainted by his co-defendants.
My suspicion is that Hawash's peers at Intel don't really know his story. What they know is Mike Hawash's mask.
We Wear the Mask
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile;
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
For all Hawash's 'acceptance' by his born American co-workers, they knew a carefully edited version of him. In that version, he was the most agreeable of persons of color and Muslims -- why hardly even a person of color or Muslim at all. But, in the larger world, Hawash must have been less capable of erasing himself. The casual observer, or the cop cruising past him on the Interstate, did not see 'just another white guy from Intel,' but what appeared to be a mixed-race African-American or Hispanic man. The personnel in offices or stores he interacted with heard a foreign accent and saw a receipt signed with a foreign name and probably responded accordingly. Furthermore, as he began to associate with American Muslims of color, Hawash must have become more aware of their grievances and how close to those grievances were to his as a Palestinian set adrift in the contemporaray diaspora.
Born Maher Hawash in Nablus, Palestine in 1964, he is known as Mike in the United States. He has been a resident of the United States for 20 years, and a U.S. citizen for more than 15 years. Hawash has lived in or around Hillsboro, OR since 1992. Mike is the third child in a family of six children. Mike's family was exiled from the Palestinian Territory by the Israeli government in the early 1970s. Like many Palestinians, Hawash carried a Jordanian passport before he acquired U.S. citizenship. Hawash was raised in Kuwait. Members of Hawash's family currently live in Nablus as well as Kuwait.
Am I saying Mike Hawash is a terrorist? No. Based on the evidence, I can't say whether any of the Portland Seven are terrorists. They seemed more interested in making gestures to show their solidarity with the Muslim world than in actually harming anyone. The compelling question is whether they really intended to extend gesturing to taking up arms. What I am saying is that I don't perceive him as separate from the other defendants, as his supporters wish. His experiences have been similar to his co-defendants. The evidence against him, including the trip to China and possibly Bangladesh, allegedly in an effort to reach Afghanistan, is the same. Furthermore, because he grew up in the Middle East, it may be easier to link Hawash to training by Hamas or other organizations associated with terrorism. I am not going to predict the outcome of the Portland Seven case, which may break down into two or three cases, but I don't believe Mike Hawash's position is any less vulnerable than the others.'
Note: The poem "We Wear the Mask" was written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. It can be read in its entirety, here.
Friday, June 20, 2003
People are saying
*Sell off the FAA?
Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran tells us the recent deregulatory actions of the Federal Communications Commission are just a start. The Bush administration would now like to privatize the Federal Aeronautics Administration. According to the New York Times, the Bushites believe flight service stations and control towers would function better if run by private contractors. Jo explains why that is far from true.
*FAA has an inherent enforcement authority that helps keep pilots of all skill-levels honest about what they are doing; the last thing you want to hear from a controller is "Say Pilots Name" or "Call me when you land". Big Trouble most likely coming your way.
*FAA controllers are some of the most professional government employees that I have ever had to work with as a pilot (that's 30+ years now). Contract Tower employees are not always so, let's be tactful here, professional.
*FAA will never be worried about "bottom-line" results as they affect safety issues, a publicly-traded company might get a bit concerned about profits in their Air Traffic Control division, especially if management was not overly familiar with the systems and impose budgetary measures detrimental to public safety.
*FAA is accountable for what it does, to Congress. A contractor might not be, especially if they are "Bush Buddies".
To learn more about this bad idea, including the pilots group lobbying for it, visit the Democratic Veteran.
*What the WMD scandal tells us about Bush
Don't try to convince the blogger at Give It Back that poor, poor Shrub was just misinformed about whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
I just love this last-ditch defense being put out there: "Well, even if it's proven that the intelligence was wrong, it's OK because Bush didn't know."
We've all read the reports now of the "Team B" set up by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to selectively pick & choose shaky intelligence findings in order to make the case for war on Iraq:
*The Nigerian 'yellowcake' documents cited in the State of the Union address were forgeries.
*Bush cited information in an IAEA report that simply did not exist.
*We were told Iraq had chem/bio weapons ready and authorized for battlefield use. That was obviously false.
*We were told Iraq was on the cusp of developing nuclear capabilities again. There is not one reputable expert who agrees, and we have found not one piece of evidence to support this.
. . .It's the President's job to know what is going on under his watch and in his name. If he doesn't know, then he is either incompetent, or permissive of this behavior.
He is reaching the core issue I believe that people whose skepticism about George W. Bush is beyond recall need to focus on: What is the role of a president? The only way to prevent Shrub spending another four years in the White House is to convince more of the voting population that he is not capable of filling that role.
*Class action bills may have little impact
Victor at Balasubramania's Mania, which is now a Movable Type blog (reset bookmarks to this URL) is questioning the conventional wisdom that state courts are more friendly to plaintiffs than federal courts, in the class action lawsuit context.
Caught this observer piece lamenting the end of consumer redressing class action lawsuits ("Goodbye, Erin Brockovich, as class actions end") (the citizen.org page has a mass of links). Check out a Senate version here and a House version here. SO apart from moving certain class actions to federal courts and introducing additional procedures with respect to approval of settlements I could not really see what the hue and cry is about. I don't have much to to add to this but I would question the underlying assumption about federal courts being more corporate-friendly than state courts.
Victor may be on to something. The image of friendly, salt of the Earth jurors swayed by folksy, local boys done good lawyers to favor plaintiffs, who are just plain folks like them, in state courts, may be more the stuff of commercial novels and movies than reality. The lobbying pressures that can be brought to bear on state legislators by corporate interests cam be very strong.
*How Memefacture works
John Wehr of Memefacture wrote to explain how his ecosystem software works.
Memeufacture works very similarly to Blogdex and Daypop. It scans a group of weblogs, records how many times a URL has been linked to and by who, then shows the URLS which are the most popular, taking time into account.
(For example, if you dont take time into account, blogspot, blogger and movable type are the most popular links. If you ask what the most popular link is -today- you get a NYT article.)
The only difference between Memeufacture and Blogdex is that the latter takes a shotgun approach and scans 13,000 or some odd weblogs. Memeufacture scans several hundred topical and carefully selected sites.
So, to determine the top conservative weblog articles today I scan 300 conservative websites (they are easy enough to find) and simply count their links.
The "influential" rankings are a but more esoteric. Essentially it combines the 8 last link "finds" (where they are the first in the community to link to an article or site), and determines which ones are the most popular today. This tends to lean towards large, frequently updating sites, but it seems pretty accurate.
Thank you for that information, John.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Thoughts on "A Dream Deferred"
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
-- Langston Hughes
I have been following the news of the rioting in small-town Michigan.
BENTON HARBOR, Michigan (CNN) -- Heavy rains and a nighttime curfew helped bring calm Wednesday evening to this Michigan town, rocked by two nights of violence set off by the death of a black motorcyclist fleeing white officers in a high-speed chase.
As many as 300 officers from the Michigan State Police and surrounding jurisdictions had moved onto the streets of the economically depressed small town Wednesday, looking to restore calm. The city is under a state of emergency and a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew for children under the age of 16. Adults going to and from work are not affected by the curfew.
Ten people have been injured and five houses burned down.
The scenario is almost a rote one. Black motorist gets into altercation with police. Fights or flees. Ends up dead. (In this case, as the result of a crashing into a building, not police fire.) I feel like I already wrote about this episode, except for a few details, when I covered Kendra James' killing a few weeks ago.
Rioting has always seemed pointless to me because it is so obviously not a remedy. The blighted buildings remain afterward, but nothing else has changed. When I drive through neighborhoods in city's like D.C., where the damage from the riots of the 1960s can still be seen, that message is reinforced.
However, recent events lead me to sympathize with the frustration and anger the mainly minority residents of that community feel.
Many of the city's residents believe they are unfairly targeted by police from the more prosperous white communities that surround them, said Charlie Ammeson, a local attorney.
"The real underlying cause, in my opinion, is that we have a segregated community up here," Ammeson said. "The fear, the distrust that develops just gets blown out of proportion."
About 12,000 people live in Benton Harbor, a predominantly black city on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Though it was once home to foundries, boat yards and appliance factories, many of its jobs have evaporated and unemployment now runs above 25 percent, according to state records.
I can't imagine a predominantly white area being allowed to have an unemployment rate that high without extraordinary steps being taken to remedy it. Yet, because second or third-rate treatment is invariably seen as good enough for African-Americans, the situation has been allowed to deteriorate to a point of near hopelessness.
If this story had occurred a week ago, I might have had something more optimistic to say in regard to it and race relations in general. Something along the lines of the residents should have organized a committee and tried to talk to the police departments in those allegedly hostile border towns. That they should have sought state and federal aid for the unemployment problem, perhaps forming coalitions with surrounding white towns. Or, maybe that it is time for Benton Harbor and one or more of its neighbors to consolidate to reduce the duplication of services segregation causes, thereby saving money.
But, that was then and this is now. After having had my own humanity thoroughly trampled on recently, I am not comfortable advising other people in the same situation. After all, I've seen the same kinds of potential remedies I would suggest ignored by the same kind of people the residents of Benton Harbor would be appealing to. They seem to prefer to alienate people of color. Perhaps each of us must choose his or her own way of living with dreams deferred.
*MacWorld's article on blogging
I almost turned a cartwheel when I took this month's edition of MacWorld magazine out of the mailbox. There 'it' was right on the cover, "Blog Bonanza: Weblog Tools Let You Build a Professional or Personal Website in a Flash, p.76." I mistakenly thought someone was going to solve my problems as a blogger who uses a Macintosh. Foremost among them is the lack of truly workable API clients for us, especially for those who use Blogger Basic. The article does include a semi-comprehensive list of API clients that are sometimes compatible with the Mac. However, it does not go in-depth enough. Persons who rely on that list will meet the same disappointments I did while researching API clients a month ago. Some of them don't work with Blogger Basic, period, or they work with only one weblog provider, such as LiveJournal or pMachine. Others require the latest Mac operating system, Jaguar, which many a blogger with an older computer may choose not to install. Movable Type is a preresquisite for others.
My advice to other Mac bloggers looking for solutions is to read everything you can find on the topic, (there isn't much) including the API clients' developer descriptions before getting your hopes up. (I would direct you to the two previous entries I've written about API clients if Blogger had not 'disappeared' them.)
That said, the article on blogging on a Mac is still worth reading. It contains information I wish I had known when I began commenting at blogs, as well as blogging.
In fact, I recommend this entire edition of MacWorld. The magazine can be very uneven -- something you glance at and toss aside one month and worthy of fifteen minutes the next. July's edition is a rare one that justifies a cover-to-cover reading. If you don't subscribe, you will want to snag it from the magazine counter at your local bookseller.
If you are only interested in the piece on weblogs, it is online. A Wintel user? I believe you will find the article worth reading, too.
*How to surf offline
Jason Parker of ZD Net's AnchorDesk has been thinking about programs that allow you to carry the Web with you without being connected. I used to be an avid fan of AvantGo for precisely that reason. I would suck up news and information from various sites via AG and have it to go on my Palm. But, after getting WiFi for my laptop, I've neglected the Palm, which is not wireless enabled. It is fairly easy to take my laptop with me and surf in real time instead of using the PDA to read aging material. Parker has software suggestions for laptop and desktop users who still want to surf unconnected.
. . .Another thing I like to do on my commute is surf offline on my laptop.
How do I manage this? Before I leave for work, I use a type of program I like to call a "Web sucker" to download Web content onto my laptop's hard drive. I usually don't download entire sites because they're simply too big. But I've found I can grab a few AnchorDesk columns and a handful of news stories without any problem. Before I know it, I have plenty of reading material for my trips to and from work.
These programs aren't just for laptop surfing, though. You can also use them for conducting research (to save the info you find) or for surfing the Web on a desktop PC if you have a limited amount of time you can be online.
He recommends three programs that will download pages or sites for offline browsing -- NetDrag and Internet Research Software for Windows and Web Dumper for Macintosh OS X. I will add NetNewsWire, both the paid version and the free Lite, which is compatible with the Macintosh if you use Jaguar, to the list.
To learn more about the first three products, follow the links in Parker's piece.
That leaves the question of what to do with my PDA open. Lately, I've been using it as an alarm clock, but it seems rather expensive for that purpose.
*WiFi's other use
The primary use of WiFi is, of course, to surf the Web without wires at home, in coffee shops, hotels or bookstores. Or, even while sitting in the park, if you live in a city with a free WiFi network as I do. However, there is a fast-growing secondary use for WiFi.
For most people, Wi-Fi networks are useful for doing work in coffee shops or allowing computers to share an Internet connection at home. But for Iris Junglas and several other researchers, wireless networks are also capable of keeping tabs on wandering computer users.
. . .Dr. Junglas and others are developing Wi-Fi networks that not only track computer users but also adjust what the computers are doing to suit the circumstances. By keeping constant track of a repair technician's whereabouts in a factory or office, for example, a network could increase efficiency by assigning the worker to the nearest job and transmitting an electronic version of the appropriate repair manual. In a hospital, a network could be used to upload a patient's medical records as a doctor with a wireless laptop approached the bedside.
Obviously, such a use of technology raises a question: What if you don't want to be found? Researchers have anticipated it.
Dr. [Asim] Smailagic and Dr. Junglas said that operators of location-sensing Wi-Fi networks would have to request permission to track users or risk a backlash.
"Over all, it's a question of giving up the privacy of where you are for the sake of someone else being able to locate you very conveniently," Dr. Junglas said.
I am not sure the privacy issue can be resolved that easily. Yes, doctors, who have significant clout with their employers, can probably negotiate whether they are required to leave their wireless cards turned on. But, I doubt a delivery truck driver or maintenance man can. His WiFi equipped PDA could become a form of security device used to log his whereabouts, even on breaks, at lunch or when using the bathroom.
This secondary use of 802.11 has potential, but the privacy issue will need to be addressed more completely.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Meet the Portland Seven:
Part VI: Patrice Lumumba Ford
He was a promising young man -- bright, well-spoken and a good worker. His path to success seemed as assured as that of any African-American's until two years ago. Then, married and recently the father of a son, he appears to have diverged from that path.
According to the indictment, five of the suspects set out for Afghanistan in October 2001 with the intention of helping al-Qaida fight U.S. troops but never made it through the Chinese border.
Patrice Lumumba Ford, 31, was one of the five.
Named after the African resistance leader and first president of Congo, Ford, 31, worked as an international relations intern in 1986 for then-Portland mayor Bud Clark and again in 1998 and 1999 for Portland Mayor Vera Katz, but no one at city hall could recall distinct memories of the soft-spoken man. "He was very quiet, very professional," Katz said in an interview.
. . .Ford also taught physical education at an Islamic school in the Portland suburb of Tigard, operated a private shuttle service and worked to resettle recently arrived Muslim refugees into the Portland community.
But by fall of 2001 his life became less prosaic. Witnesses say he sent threatening messages to the offices of one of the same mayors he had worked for, Vera Katz, a Jewish grandmother originally from New York turned politician.
Today, the boy once known as Patrick now goes simply by Lumumba. Interviews and Portland Police Bureau records combine to paint a picture of an intelligent, gentle, exemplary young man, well-known in Portland's African-American community, who was raised in an atmosphere of learning and political activism. But they also reveal a man who, just prior to the events of 9/11, was so upset by this country's Middle Eastern policy that he sent an email to Mayor Vera Katz's office that was troubling enough in its anti-Semitism to be forwarded to the Portland police. They reveal a man who bought a gun three days after 9/11 and, worried about this country's hostility toward his new Islamic faith, asked a cop whether he could use it in self-defense. It is possible that Patrice Lumumba Ford is the threat that the federal government claims. But looking at the charges through the prism of his life, something does not add up.
Ford is the son of parents who have been well-known in Portland's small traditional nonwhite area, Northeast, for decades. His father, Kent Ford, formerly headed the Portland chapter of the Black Panthers in addition to being involved in less controversial activism. The elder Ford has a portfolio with the police branch that surveilled suspected radicals in the city at least through the 1980s to prove it. There was other evidence of the family being watched, including a visit from an FBI agent posing as a meter reader. Ford's mother, Sandra, helped staff a clinic for the poor and participated in other minority efforts at self-help.
Ford had only one encounter with agents of the law before his present troubles arose. When he was 21, he got into a spat with a Portland cop over alleged reckless driving. The incident suggested that even a 'model minority' black youth had not escaped the message that he was unwelcome in his native country.
The 21-year-old Lumumba told Bailey [the cop] he "should be arresting car thieves instead of picking on him," adding that "I wasn't dealing with a bunch of stupid niggers,'" wrote Bailey, describing the arrest. "He was under the impression that the only reason I stopped him was because of race prejudice, and he said I didn't know what I was dealing with."
The anger evident in the police report seems rarely to have broken the surface; Lumumba is widely described as a gentle, mellow guy.
Ford attended prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta for two years before completing his education at Portland State University. He obtained a degree in Chinese and international studies. Part of his training included three terms abroad studying in Beijing. Muslim Chinese, who are considered oppressed, won Ford's empathy and respect. He became a convert to Islam.
Back in Portland, Ford continued to make a good impression.
Upon returning to Portland, Lumumba's newfound faith was not detectable, but his intellect was, says PSU professor Gerald Sussman, who had Lumumba in an advanced-level international-relations class. "He was head and shoulders above everybody in the class," says Sussman. "He was a very nice guy, smart and tremendously responsible."
Ford later returned to graduate studies in China, where he met and married a Chinese woman.
The other path was apparently taken shortly afterward. First, there were the threatening emails to the mayor's office, which were investigated by the police. Then, Ford was among a group of five Muslims who attracted the attention of law enforcement while engaging in target practice in rural Oregon weeks after the historical date of Sept. 11, 2001. On Sept. 14, he had purchased a shotgun. But, supporters point out that buying a weapon for self-defense is not proof of an interest in terrorism.
"I have a shotgun for the same reason," the 63-year-old [Kathleen Sadat] says with a pointed stare. "You can't be surprised by the fact that black people in this country still feel very vulnerable to the hateful views of some whites."
In October, Ford traveled to China, allegedly as part of a plot to enter Afghanistan and join al-Qaida in its fight against Americans. His country may have lost the allegiance of the man who had held such promise.
[6/17/2003 9:48:14 AM | J. G.]
*'Spear-wielding natives' revisited
I am not the only person discomfited by the way news from the Second and Third Worlds is reported sometimes. In an entry earlier this week I described the problems I had with an article about an attack on a Swedish manager by spear-wielding Indonesian workers.
What about this story? The foreigness of the manager is key to understanding the conflict. It appears the men are attacking a symbol of foreign ownership instead of seeing him as a person. Not saying he is Swedish would be misleading. I also can't think of a way to eliminate the use of spears from the lead and headline. The novelty of the weapons is what made this a story international wire services picked up. I would have let the story run pretty much as it is, despite my reservations about the image it projects.
Pork, the whole hog, is also intrigued by how the 'haves' versus 'have nots' plays out in the context of international news. He thinks I was too easy on First World media.
My own two cents on this story (so fresh, I can?t yet find it in the Indonesian papers): I?m not sure I completely agree when she says that the piece ?might be gruesome and conjure unpleasant stereotypes, but it is news.? Often these kinds of stories are mostly what the wires (increasingly the source of foreign news for U.S. publications that won?t invest in foreign reporting) provide and the papers print. If you read an ordinary daily paper in the U.S., the Third World comes across largely as a place for the weird, the exotic, the primitive and the catastrophic. Cogent analyses of international politics don?t merit as many column inches, so you don?t get much understanding of why such things happen ? and how the First World is also inescapably tied up in the problems. So the more readers see these kinds of ?contextless? pieces, the more disassociated they become from their actual involvement in the rest of the world (which they?d prefer not to think about first thing in the morning).
The rest of Pork's analysis of the issues is equally impressive. He brings first-hand insights to Indonesian labor problems and the riddle of how the rest of the world should be covered that very few bloggers can. Read his entry.
*When is a weblog 'new'?
Jaquandor at Byzantium's Shores also takes me to task. (Though not for causing the invasion of Iraq, though I wouldn't be surprised if someone did.) He believes I had an advantage in winning the Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase and that other newish bloggers who already have an audience will have a similar advantage.
There's a weekly contest called the New Blog Showcase , which is just that: a showcase for newly-started blogs, to help them get some promotion and traffic. (It's run by the same guy who administers the popular Ecosystem, on which I am now a "Flappy Bird".)
. . .What's my complaint? It just strikes me as one of those "There ain't no justice" moments that a blogger whose blog has, in all likelihood received more hits in less than two months than mine has in nearly a year and a half, has won a contest whose stated purpose is to generate traffic for newly-minted representatives of Blogistan.
I briefly responded in his comments section.
Actually, I sort of agree with what you are saying. I mentioned it to another well-situated blogger who did well in the showcase, Venoumous Kate, more than a week ago: Shouldn't a contest for Microbes BE for Microbes? Since Bear thinks otherwise, I entered in hope of attracting some new readers. I don't know if he can change the rules without offending people now. We will see what happens.
Is there a better measure of how new a blog is than when it was started? (By the way, that in itself can be misleading on Blogger Basic, at least. The 'start' date will appear to be the first day one set up a Blogger account and began to learn how to use it, so blogs appear to be older than they are. The day one actually published a blog for the public to read, is of course, the real start date. However, I am not aware of how it can be registered instead of the account date).
What about last week's entries in the contest? I was so distracted that I didn't have time to read them, though I had intended to. I will try to read at least a sampling of this week's so I can pass on my opinions to my readers. I will have to reconsider how to critique them if I decide to do so at all. Thin skins in the blogosphere have resulted in at least one person whose blog I critiqued setting upon me tooth and nail. Ironic, considering that my entry from Mac-a-ro-nies was belittled by some and I barely gave it a thought. Maybe it is because I am used to my writing being criticized, usually by people who do a much better job.
Several readers have inquired via email why I write about several different topics: journalism and the media, creative writing, legal issues, civil rights and most recently, the blogosphere. The simple answer is because I am interested in all of them. My sister looks skeptically on a tendency I've had over the years to be interested in multiple fields and calls it 'flitting.' I've also have had people criticize the trait as meaning I have a short attention span, a fear of success and a desire 'to know everything.' I don't believe any of those claims are accurate. In fact, I don't believe a person being curious about more than one subject area, and taking the time to become educated in several, is grounds for criticism at all.
With age, my flitting does seem to be settling into the writer vocation. So, I'm happy to accept that description as the one I value most.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Whatever happened to. . .?
*Ray Brent Marsh
The young owner of a crematory in Georgia became national news when more than 300 bodies was found on the property where the facility was located last year.
The younger Marsh is under house arrest, charged with 338 counts of theft by deception and 64 counts of abuse of a corpse after 334 bodies were found buried and strewn about the Tri-State property in February and March of 2002. Marsh's case is scheduled to go before a Walker grand jury June 3.
. . .The civil trial is set to begin Oct. 6 in the federal courthouse in Rome.
The Marshes were last in the news because of the death of Brent Marsh's father, Tommy Ray Marsh, in May, of cardiac arrest.
Though forensic research continues, the identities of many of the remains were never determined.
Out of the 334 bodies found, 108 remain unidentified. By the end of the month, those bodies are to be buried in a donated cemetery plot. The grave markers will have numbers, not names, as identifiers.
Mourning the 108 unidentified bodies are several hundred families that used Tri-State Crematory over the past decade.
No reason has been given for why the bodies were left uncremated. Tests of Tri-State's oven revealed it was functional.
The man wrongly accused of a terrorist attack at the Summer Olympics in 1996, Richard Jewell, is not satisfied with the mere arrest of suspect Eric Robert Rudolph recently, according to his spokesman.
ATLANTA - The attorney for Richard Jewell, who was investigated in the 1996 Olympic bombing and named by a newspaper as a suspect, said the only thing that will ease his client's mind is the conviction of the real bomber.
"The arrest of Eric Rudolph does nothing to change the injustice suffered by Richard Jewell," attorney Lin Wood said Saturday. "It will be interesting now to be able to see the government's evidence against Mr. Rudolph in connection to the Centennial Park bombing."
Jewell is now a small town cop somewhere in Georgia.
He was considered a hero for helping evacuate the park just before the bomb went off, but three days later The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the FBI was investigating him.
Jewell was cleared by the FBI three months later and eventually filed a civil suit against the newspaper that is still pending.
Rudolph faces trial in the bombing and other violent acts.
*The Chukwu octuplets
The children, born in December of 1998 are now pre-schoolers who reside in League City, Texas. Each child weighed about a pound at birth. (One sibling did not survive.)
The babies, born at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston to Nkem Chukwu and husband Ikye Louis Udobi, were the world's first live-born set of octuplets.
The Chukwu's also have a younger child, now two.
Legal appeals for Andrea Yates,' who was convicted in the drowning deaths of her five children two years ago, will attack Texas criminal law front and center.
Harris County prosecutors used the death penalty to pre-select jurors less likely to accept an insanity defense, stacking the deck against Andrea Pia Yates, her attorneys will allege in their appeal.
By seeking the death penalty, prosecutors were able to disqualify jurors opposing execution -- those that Yates' attorneys say were most likely to be sympathetic to an insanity defense. They don't expect the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to think much of that reasoning, but they hope the U.S. Supreme Court might.
Her attorneys argue the prosecution sought the death penalty not because it believed Yates should be executed, but to prevent more sympathetic members of the pool from which the jury would be selected from making the cut. They assert that if a jury must be death qualified, then the persons most likely to be sympathetic to an insanity defense will be eliminated. The linchpin for their argument is that Texas law requires there be a risk of future danger from a defendant to seek the death penalty. They say there was never any such evidence in regard to Yates, so the death penalty gambit was a pretext.
Prosecutors say that Yates' crime, absent any criminal history, was heinous enough to be evidence of future danger.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal dismissed Parnham's and Odom's allegations, saying they are "grasping at straws."
Expert psychiatric witness, Dr. Park Dietz, who presented important testimony at the trial, is also a focus of the defense's appeal. They contend Dietz mislead jurors by claiming Yates imitated a crime from a television program that never existed and using evidence from a competency hearing that should have been excluded. It wasn't discovered that the television show didn't exist until after the trial, so jurors may have partly relied on the false assertion in reaching their decision.
Today Yates dwells in an isolated cell 23 hours a day at the state prison system's Skyview psychiatric unit in the east Texas town of Rusk. She is receiving expert mental health care, said her attorney, George Parnham, albeit within the confines of the prison system's overriding priority -- security.
Yates was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Did towns like that actually exist in the South? Or, was the truth more complex? Consider whether white men from Georgia are the best of sources about the history of the state and race relations there at Silver Rights.
People are saying
*What's in a meme?
The blogging marsupial, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, directs our attention to Memefacture, where he was recently declared among the most popular bloggers on the 'Left."
I have dropped into Memefacture from time to time, but I don't understand how it works. Sure, I get the basic modus operandi, a bot crawling registered blogs for incidences of concurrent or recurring usage of words and phrases. What I don't grasp is how one is to decide what weight to give the results. I could make a point of arbitrarily inserting 'wild horses' into every entry I write for the next few days and ask blog pals to do the same. But, we wouldn't be saying anything about 'wild horses.' So, how does Memefacture distinguish between that kind of substanceless mention and actual discussion of a topic?
*Moby moves on
The Guardian interviewed Moby and reached this conclusion: The well-off musician prefers to live like bourgeoisie. They reporter seems to be surprised.
. . .Now he is headlining Glastonbury on the final day - a measure of how far this unlikeliest of pop stars has come.
Not only is there the appearance (small, bald, totally unremarkable except for the crucifix tattooed on his neck) there is the ideology (veganism, Christianity, socialism, pacifism, celibacy and a nice green world free of cars). But it's more confusing than that - there is also the Moby who boasts about screwing around; and the Moby who likes to talk about sensible investment; and the Moby who is happy to use his songs in commercials to sell cars and make the world a dirtier place.
The settling down aspect seems pretty normal to me for a 37-year old, though most can't afford country houses. There is also something to be said for living like a bourgeoisie in order to get one's work, which may not be bourgie, done. I'm moving in that direction myself. It is easier to concentrate on my writing with the bills paid and some certainty about where I will be and what I will be doing.
Alan at Stardust Times, who shares an abhorrence of capital letters with Skippy, won't cut Moby any slack.
he really does himself no favours. there's not one particular thing i dislike about moby. it's the whole package. he's so very, very sincere and dull, with hugely idealistic pretensions but will sell his "art" to the highest corporate bidder at the drop of a hat. a hat he should be wearing to cover that offensively shiny dome, incidentally.
No visits to the country house for him.
*More crazy white folks
Okay. I admit it. I am a bit of a prude. I rarely curse or raise my voice. However, the
Mad Prophet, Brian LaVigne, gets down.
Fucking White Suburbanite Cunts.
Timi had a bad experience with WSK (White Suburban Kids,) the other day, and on behalf of white people everywhere I'd like to apologize for the yuppy dickheads.
The offending youths are described at USS Clueless, Timi's blog.
Just Another Negro...
I'm so tired. I've been awake since 5:30am. This morning we helped to serve breakfast to the homeless at 3rd Street Church of God. That was rather interesting. A group of about 30 kids came in to visit AFTER we set up the food & stuff. They all sat together and were staring at all the homeless guys like, "I'm here to help all of you homeless negros." It upset me because these kids were taking pictures of the homeless people and they made their rounds in the place...you know the welcomes white suburban kids give when they're in a setting with poor black people to show that they really do care. It was so patronizing.
I was so angry at this group of kids and their leaders. Their leaders were doing the same thing. It was like they were only there just to go back home to their friends and say, "I helped poor black people in the ghetto for a day."
Another thing that pissed me off upset me was how these kids ASSUMED that all the black people seated in the church hall were homeless. This young guy approached me, placed his hand on my shoulder & smiled. Another young woman walked over to me and said, "Ma'am are you ok? How are you?" in a very condescending tone. I explained to her that I wasn't homeless...in fact, I'm one of the staff with Here's Life Inner City that was introduced to them at the beginning of the service!! Shows how much they paid attention!! I proceeded to give her my credentials because even after I told this girl that I was staff, she proceeded to talk to me as if I was retarded. I was like "BABYDOLL I HAVE A DEGREE!!!" When she realized that I was educated she changed her tone. The girl who accompanied her left me alone when she learned that I wasn't the type of negro she came to the church to see. I actually got a kick out telling them who I was. The look on their faces was almost priceless.
As I was talking to this girl, another white gentleman approached me & said, "Ma'am aren't you going to get food?" I took a few minutes to exhale. Then I responded, "NO...I'm staff, I'm not eating anything." He looked at me stunned & replied, "Well staff can eat to." His face turned so red. I refused once again & he too left me alone. This group of suburban lilly whote kids came in AFTER everything had been set up, they dispersed & patronized the black folks in the place, they ate, left their trash & bounced! These people are supposed to be christians too. Someone needs to teach them to be hospitable GUESTS.
I wonder if those youths are related to some of the utterly shameless white adults I have been observing in the blogosphere lately. And, Timi, there is no need to refer to such a person as a 'gentleman.' I would no more call him one than I would James Capozzola.
Meet the Portland Seven
Part V: The brothers Bilal
By the time federal authorities moved in and made their arrests of the first four of the Portland Seven on October 4, 2002, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, 22, was living in in Dearborn, Mich., when in the United States. He was arrested there and
extradited to Portland.
Bilal is an American citizen, but much of his family is in his native Saudi Arabia, according to federal authorities. He also once lived in Portland.
Authorities say Bilal has traveled extensively.
Bilal was described by a government prosecutor as unemployed. But she said he had traveled recently to Hong Kong, China and Indonesia, had "substantial ties to family in Saudi Arabia," and posed a flight risk as well as "a danger to the community."
His brother, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, 24, is also an American citizen who grew up mainly in Saudi Arabia. He was taken into custody in Malaysia in October 2002.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- An American charged with conspiring to assist al Qaeda and the Taliban in waging war against the United States has been arrested in Malaysia and faces deportation within days.
Bilal turned himself in after seeing reports of the arrests Friday of his alleged co-conspirators on CNN, police sources said.
Like the other Portland Seven defendants, the Bilal brothers are charged with conspiring to offer aid and comfort to an enemy.
The four-count indictment alleges a conspiracy to levy war against the United States, a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda - the group Washington blames for the September 11, 2001 attacks - a conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and possession of firearms to further crimes of violence.
While in Portland, the Bilals were known in the Muslim community. However, they were not members of the Portland Islamic Center, the mosque considered the most radical in the area.
Muhammed Bilal, 24, and his 22-year-old brother, Ahmed, are natives of Saudi Arabia who at one point attended a Beaverton mosque where they were known for their fluent Arabic, said Shahriar Ahmen, president of the mosque.
The brothers are said to have worked at odd jobs and attempted to set up a hauling enterprise with another suspect, 'Mike' Hawash.
None of the defendants ever reached Afghanistan, though some did get as far as Bangladesh before giving up and returning to the U.S. If convicted, all of them could be sentenced to life in prison.
The Bilals and October Lewis, 25, are the youngest of the defendants.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
White liberals and black genius: Alice Walker
African-American writer Alice Walker's name is now a household word. Even people who have never opened one of her books recognize the name. She has had a Pulitzer Prize firmly in hand since 1983. Oprah Winfrey's production of her novel The Color Purple made her name recognizable to people who aren't readers, one of her goals. Her political activism has made her somone people in the know recognize as more than a writer, much like Nadine Gordimer's has.
But, it wasn't always that way. Walker's first publication, which occurred while she was in college, came relatively easy. She showed some of her writing to a professor and he was able to pull the strings that led to a book contract. But, subsequent books, before she became famous, were much harder for her to present to the public.
In the interim, Walker worked at various jobs, including community organizing in Mississippi, as a legal assistant at a law firm and as a contributor to several magazines. Those work experiences were marred by her clashes with some white people. Well, she was in the South and these events would have been occurring during the 1960s and '70s, when desegregation was still being opposed in places like that, you're probably thinking. You're right -- to an extent. Walker spent more than a decade in the South during the worst of the abuses of people fighting for an end to racial discrimination. She married and lived with a white man, which was illegal in much of the South at the time. And, she never checked her mouth, her pen or her political involvement. Strange cars driving back and forth in front of her house were not unusual. She regularly received threatening notes in her mailbox saying things like, 'the Klan is watching you.' When white folks were being particularly restive in Mississippi, Walker's husband and the black men in their neighborhood would sit on their front porches, drinking sweet tea and fanning -- with their shotguns loaded and by their sides. That demonstration of not bowing to pressure to shut the hell up and stop agitating may have saved their lives. It definitely gained them the political rights they have now.
But, Walker's career problems were not caused by supporters of either the Klan or the White Citizens Councils. They were caused by white liberals. An incident that occurred while she was a correspondent for Ms. Magazine is typical. Walker penned an article in which she mentioned, in passing, that she and her husband had purposely planned the birth of their daughter, Rebecca, so that it would prevent him from being drafted and possibly sent to Vietnam. The largely white liberal female readership of the magazine fell on her like wolves on a lamb. They said she had shown that she was not a patriot, not even a true American. That she was being selfish. That black people needed to earn their right to full citizenship by supporting the war. Her response didn't please them. She maintained her right to make her own decisions and not have white bosses calling themselves liberals make them for her.
Despite their efforts, the white liberals who found Walker such an objectional Negro and one who's success should be thwarted, were unable to prevent her from making a living, and of equal importance, continuing to write. When publication in magazines and writing because difficult because of whispering campaigns by them against her, she took up adjunct teaching at different colleges. The jobs put money in her pockets, but again, she often clashed with her white liberal counterparts. Office mates sometimes refused to speak to her. Jobs were short-lived. She was excluded from networking.
Eventually, Walker became physically and emotionally exhausted. Some people would say she had a nervous breakdown of became mentally ill. A few might use the word psychotic. (However, people reading this entry who believe African-Americans with brains and minds of their own should be put in their place, who apparently aren't rare in the blogosphere, should not cheer yet.) A move away from the South, where she was constantly battling day-to-day overt discrimination in addition to job-related problems, helped. A divorce soon after freed her from what had become a troubled union. After some wandering, Walker was able to settle down and intensely focus on her career as a writer, without distractions. The rest is history.
Why did Walker, a pretty, petite, soft-spoken woman who seems to go out of her way to understand other people, have so much trouble with white liberals? Well, the woman is a genius. That is rare and when it occurs people expect to see it in a white man, probably someone from the upper-classes. White people, regardless of political stripe, often aren't comfortable with black genius because, from their viewpoint, someone who is supposed to be beneath them has surpassed them. In addition, Walker is a person who will not go along to get along. If she had accepted being patronized in those teaching positions or been careful to write nothing that readers might take offense at as a contributor to magazines and journals, her life would have been less stressful.
One way in which Walker dealt with her problems with white feminists was by creating a new category for women of color with feminist values -- womanist. By doing so, she distanced herself from the women who had sought her out as a token black feminist while refusing to treat her as the equal she is.
Alice Walker's stature is such now that few, if any, liberals would dare to attack her. If she were to start a weblog, which she probably has absolutely no interest in doing, I don't believe she would encounter the 'echo us or shut up' attitude other minority bloggers are often often treated with in the blogosphere. A lot of teeth gritting would ensue, emails bursting with objections to what she has written on a given day would bounce back and forth, perhaps the few bloggers who have a little name recognition outside of the blogosphere would be beside themselves that a really famous person, and a black one who would tell them to stick it where the sun don't shine, had taken up the avocation. But, there would be no attack of the white liberals because Alice Walker is not a lamb anymore.
I have a lot of nerve writing about Alice Walker because I haven't treated her right. I briefly had a correspondence with Walker. Her advice to me was: Stop pursuing an interest here or an interest there and concentrate on your writing of literary fiction. I never really followed her advice, and, as you can see, still am not doing so. So, I let the correspondence sputter out rather than continue looking like I did not respect her, which I do.
I have used the phrase 'white liberals' very generally in this essay. I realize there are white liberals who would not have treated Walker as a second-class citizen required to kiss their backsides back before she became a 'name.' I just wish there were more of them.
Blogospherics: Template troubles
I'm still receiving emails about color problems with my template for Mac-a-ro-nies. I am more than aware of them. In Internet Explorer for OS X, the colors look as well as they ever do. The only problem is the gold print in the description not standing out enough from the background, which I altered to a lighter blue to make the page less dark when some readers requested a brighter blog. However, in Safari, the colors are a disaster. There are two greens, neither the one that should be there, and no blue. The red is a muddy magenta. Safari offers no way to change how colors are viewed within the browser as far as I can tell. The same appearance occurs in Netscape, which Safari is based on.
What do I plan to do about it? Not much for now. I would love to fix the color problems, but I don't know that I can as long as I am on Blogger Basic using one of its templates. I may fool around with color charts a little. But, the template I have pasted in for Mac-a-ro-nies is not even the real one. That one disappeared one day without a trace. Call it the Invisible Template. And, it is not clear which template controls the blog. The previous tenant still seems to have a presence. Some of what is there, such as a gap between two blogroll listings, comes from the old template. But, blogs I have added to the blogroll since the real one disappeared show up, too. Feel free to explain this to me. Under the circumstances, doing much of anything to the template is likely to lead to an unpredictable result.
Meme Cauldron is a blog I think has really good content, but I have trouble linking to it. It is difficult to copy what I need to use in an excerpt. The same is true for some other blogs, especially Radio Userland blogs. I don't know if the problem is something about the frames or that there is so much going on on the page. For that reason, I think of them as busy blogs. Each blogger gets to make the decision about how his or her blog looks and operates. However, maybe owners of busy blogs might want to reconsider their busyness just like I need to fix my colors when I can do so without causing further damage. (The site link for MC seems not to be working.)
In Internet Explorer for Mac OS X at least, some blogs, this one for example, load with a third to half page of code at the top. An example:
Warning : fopen("semaphore.ref", "w") - Permission denied in /usr/local/psa/home/vhosts/jayreding.com/httpdocs/lgf-reflog.php on line 35
Warning : flock(): supplied argument is not a valid File-Handle resource in /usr/local/psa/home/vhosts/jayreding.com/httpdocs/lgf-reflog.php on line 36
Warning : fclose(): supplied argument is not a valid File-Handle resource in /usr/local/psa/home/vhosts/jayreding.com/httpdocs/lgf-reflog.php on line 48
No offense is meant to Jay. He is already aware of the problem and I am sure he would love to solve it. If anyone has the knowledge to solve the strange code problem, please email him and me, and post the solution to your site if possible.
We struggle to make our blogs as technically proficient and as attractive as possible, but there are these and other template stumbling blocks in the way.
Friday, June 13, 2003
On and off the Web
Off the Web
Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine, short stories by Thom Jones. I feel guilty about not having read much of Jones before. He is an author from the Pacific Northwest who I know a little from having attended conferences and readings he also attended. Of more importance, he has been a writer other writers consider someone to watch for years. So, I really don't have an excuse for having neglected him.
Many of the stories in Friend are set in Vietnam, during the war. They focus on the men in a Marine reconnaisance squad. This is not the war as politics. It is the war of hallucinations, foot rot and killing that is as likely to be uncalled for as it is to be soldiering. I find myself comparing the gritty details of a real war to recent U.S. invasions. As far as I know, there is no literature of the Gulf War. Nor do I think there will be a literature of the latest invasion of Iraq. Why? It seems to me that war writing requires the larger conflict be epic, even if epicly wrong. That requires real 'warring.' Those invasions pit Goliath against
David, with David not standing a chance. They are a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Steven Hawking. A shooting contest between a blowgun and a cannon. So, the soldiers are not caught up in conflicts of man against society or man against himself. The reasons veterans have to question their involvement in Vietnam probably do not cross the minds of most contemporary veterans and active duty personnel. The sell of war as computer game may have succeeded too well.
One of the more striking stories in the collection is "Fields of Purple Forever." The protagonist, Ondine, is a veteran of the reconnaisance squad, whose ankles, broken when an escape plane was shot down, trammel him on the ground. But, in the water he is merman. He has taken up long distance swims, including the English Channel. Naked but swathed in Vick's Vapor Rub he reenters the primordial element of humankind -- and belongs there.
On land, Ondine lives with ghosts, something he began to do in Vietnam, where he was almost murdered by angry villagers armed with pitchforks and hatchets, and raped and killed randomly himself. But, he realizes the 'beast' is not just himself, viewing his fellow men and women with a wary eye.
But what do they want? Why is it they falsify to you, and why is it you falsify back? You got to do it. I know it. One day they might whip out a guitar and sing "We are the children of the world," and then, when they can't think of nothing better, they start fighting each other. Hard to sort things out. Peoples are half devils. Three-quarters. i live among them, but I don't have the first clue.
This is a short story that should not work. The protagonist is not engaged in fighting anything other than the genreal horde he describes and he does that in a removed way in the actual time of the story. He seldoms interacts with other people. The dialogue is limited to an exchange with a customs inspector. But, the character alone is enough to carry the story. The reader becomes intensely interested in what Ondine thinks and does. It take a master of the genre to pull that off. Jones is a master of the genre.
A fiction blog. One of the things I took up blogging for was to have a place to publish fiction that does not find a place in a short story collection or novel. I have file drawers full of it and some of that pile is not so bad people would not find it worth reading. A fiction blog would allow that without requiring the administrative duties a regular blog does. I've mentioned this in passing before, but now seems a good time to do it. I am not exactly impressed with the antics of the self-described liberal leaders of the blogosphere. They are increasingly striking me as puffed up blowhards whose hypocrisy exceeds that of a nun who is secretly a prostitute. I came to the blogosphere to do something much different than the daily wind blowing about how wonderful and progressive they are that has them convinced them they run the world, when in fact only a handful of people know blogs exist. Getting my fiction blog up is a way to distance myself from the blight before I catch the disease. Getting it up will mean a lot of scanning and reformmatting to make the material fit a blog, but I think it will be worth the trouble.
That sinus problem. It seemed to end with Spring over, which made sense to me. The pollens and other irritants were at their height then. But, it recurred a few days ago. I feel like a 120-pound nose again. The pressure across the bridge just won't let up and I've gotten a couple sinus headaches. I'll be buying some more of the liquid saline readers recommended at the store today.
On the Web
*It shouldn't be 'legal'
Trish Wilson, who has just had a piece accepted by an important publication, is doing something worthwhile that will actually make a real difference in people's lives -- taking on a phony diagnoses that has gained footing in the judicial system as recovered memory did a few years ago.
I've just had an article accepted for publication by the pre-eminent feminist magazine, off our backs. I submitted a piece entitled "The Use of Psychological Syndromes Against Mothers In The Courtroom" for OOB's "Women and Psychiatry" issue, due to be published later this summer . I address the use of "junk" science such as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as well as the way court-ordered psychological evaluations in divorce, visitation, and custody cases have become a lucrative business. When the issue comes out, I'll post about it here.
This article is especially timely due to the death of Dr. Richard Gardner, who coined PAS. I've recently learned that Gardner had committed suicide.
Visit Trish's blog to learn more about the man who fashioned Parental Alienation Syndrome.
*The property owner as God
James McLaughlin at A Skeptical Blog is getting embroiled in a continuing debate with a rigid sounding Libertarian -- again.
At the time I started debating Andrew [Langer], he was working for the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. We believe that consumers are best helped not by government regulation but by being allowed to make their own choices in a free marketplace. Since its founding in 1984, CEI has grown into a $3,000,000 institution with a team of nearly 40 policy experts and other staff.
In other words, it is a Libertarian think tank. When it says consumers are best helped out by a free marketplace they mean that government should not regulate business at all. This is especially true of environmental regulations.
James has a lot more patience than I do. In my experience, one has to practically reinvent the wheel to get the slightest opening of the mind of this kind of opponent. James is going to try to draw the fellow away from his belief "the property owner is the best protector of the environment." It is amazing to me that Langer and his cohorts could ever have arrived at such a belief in the first place. Why would a factory owner, say, be the best protector of property rights when he can maximize his profits by polluting not just his site, but everything thing near it with emissions or deposits of carcinogens into nearby streams or rivers? Good luck to James in reinventing the wheel.
*Fear of reading
Tarek at The Liquid List clues us in on the story of an inmate thrown into the hole, i.e. solitary confinement. His infraction -- reading.
his AP item recounts the story of a prisoner serving time for protesting at the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, in Columbus, Georgia. (Care to guess the worst place I've ever been stranded during air-travel, in my life? Worse than Rabat? Worse than Newark? Columbus, GA.) While serving his sentence, he received some news clippings from the Readers Digest, New York Times, and other publications. He was then removed to solitary confinement.
William Combs, who is a bit of a protest gadfly, is represented by a BIll Quigley:
Bill Quigley said the minimum-security prison camp transferred his client, William "Bud" Combs, to the Santa Rosa County Jail for eight days of solitary after friends sent him anti-war and social justice articles from The New York Times, "Readers' Digest," "Newsweek," The Los Angeles Times, the BBC and the British newspaper The Guardian.
"Even in prison you're not supposed to be punished for reading the paper," Quigley said in a telephone interview from New Orleans, where he is a Loyola University law professor. "This gives us an idea about the arbitrary power, and what people consider political activity, in prison."
When people are put into solitary confinement for reading "Readers' Digest," there's got to be something wrong.
I can imagine how Combs annoyed prison personnel. A lot of people are made uncomfortable by clever folks. An inmate who is always reading would catch their eye. Of course, I wasn't there, but anything they could consider being smart-assed to his 'superiors' probably aggravated them, too. And, to them, punishment of a prisoner who does not know his place would seem justified.
A sane response to a crazy accusation
I have written an entry in response to an old, dusty accusation from five months ago, when I had been participating in blogs for one week. However, my archives are so unreliable I have not been able to retrieve it. So, a brief summary of the most pertinent part of that entry and an update.
The allegation of an attack on Sharansky's wife? To anyone who has actually read the conversation, which started when Sharansky attacked Oliver Willis for saying blogging needs to be more diverse, the little snippet Natasha C. went to a Gene Expression site, copied and posted to her blog is taken completely out of context. Sharansky trotted out his wife to prove that his often bigoted remarks don't mean he has a problem with race. I responded that he was treating her like property, similar to what owners of slaves had done. You know, 'See, I have a loyal colored person of my own right here.' What he was doing was even more offensive because it was also treating females as property. If the woman had been white, I might have asked Sharansky (who more recently called a white teacher heroic for abusing black students by calling them niggers) if they had 'master' and 'slave' tee-shirts. Snarky, but it gets the point across.
After a couple of back-and-forths, I made the remark about ordering her to emphasize he was treating her as property. Obviously, since Natasha C. and Gene Expression were able to mangle the brief excerpt into something it is not, it would be better if I hadn't said it that way. However, to call that some kind of monstrous attack on Asians is ludicrous. I have written about injustices against Asian-Americans just like I do about other persons of color. In fact, I was the first blogger to say Katrina Leung should not be treated worse than her fellow espionage defendants because she is Chinese-American. Other blogs picked up their interest in the case from me. (Leung is still being discriminated against -- made the scapegoat for both her involvement and the others'.)
When I see a snippet of 'information' being used as an argument against anyone in any context, I ask: Where is the rest of it? I wish more people would do the same.
From the news desk
*Asian workers attack European boss
Disgruntled former employees of a car dealership in Indonesia responded violently in a dispute over wages, injuring a foreign supervisor.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Fired workers from a local Volvo dealership in Indonesia attacked their Swedish boss with spears after negotiations over severance pay went awry, police said Friday.
Michael Olsson was stabbed in the back and slashed in the face at a meeting with the workers last week in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, police said.
Four men have been arrested in the attack. Three were among 31 workers who had recently been fired from the dealership, police said. A fourth was a member of right-wing youth group known for thuggery, they said.
Whenever I see a story like this one, I am ambivalent about linking to it. Look at the headline. It conjures up images of primitives in some backward country. The article itself also reflects that image. First-world man, a Swede, attacked by Third World people, Indonesians, and -- with spears.
I spent my share of time on the copy and news desks when I was a full-time journalist. I tried to eliminate any references that seemed racist or culturally insensitive in copy, if I could do so in a way that did not alter the truth of the story.
What about this story? The foreigness of the manager is key to understanding the conflict. It appears the men are attacking a symbol of foreign ownership instead of seeing him as a person. Not saying he is Swedish would be misleading. I also can't think of a way to eliminate the use of spears from the lead and headline. The novelty of the weapons is what made this a story international wire services picked up. I would have let the story run pretty much as it is, despite my reservations about the image it projects. However, if challenged by people who were concerned about the imagery, I would have understood their complaint.
I haven't posted any entries about the recent claims of cannibalism in the Congo and North Korea for the same reason. But, if I were still working for a newspaper, I would have quieted my qualms and hit the Send button. It might be gruesome and conjure unpleasant stereotypes, but it is news.
*Innocence Project frees three
Barry Scheck has done it again. He and his students are the ticket to freedom for three men wrongfully convicted of rape.
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Three men imprisoned since 1986 in the rape and murder of a teenage roller rink worker had their convictions thrown out Wednesday after advanced DNA testing failed to link them with the crime.
John Kogut, 39, John Restivo, 44, and Dennis Halstead, 48, were ordered to post $300,000 bail before they could walk out of prison for the first time in 17 years.
The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York City, which consists of Scheck and his students, facilitated the testing of DNA found on the body of the victim. It claims credit for exonerating 130 persons inprisoned for cimes they did not commit.
"Once again, DNA testing has exposed the tragic fact that innocent people are accused, tried and convicted on a regular basis in the American criminal justice system,'' Scheck said.
Prosecutors have alluded to retrying the men and insisted they be released on bail. However, the response suggests that any additional evidence the three are guilty is not convincing enough for authorities to oppose their conditional release.
*Springer launches pre-campaign site
A former Cincinnati mayor with credibility problems that rival those of some "liberals" in the blogosphere has not given up his hopes of returning to politics in a larger role. Though polls have revealed high negative impressions of Jerry Springer, a host of rowdy talk shows who embarassed himself with an admission of using the services of prostitutes, he seems to be determined. He has now opened a web site dedicated to his political ambitions.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Television talk show host Jerry Springer launched a Web site Wednesday to test voter support for a possible U.S. Senate campaign.
T-shirts, autographed photos and compact discs of Springer playing a guitar and singing country songs will be sold on the site, said Mike Ford, his political adviser.
Springer is considering a run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. A competitor for the nomination has dismissed his latest move as "a cynical attempt to manufacture support."
Even if Springer gets the nomination, the race will be an uphill battle.
The Democratic candidate will take on incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, who isn't expected to have serious competition.
You know, I thought Jerry Springer was older than 59. It seems as if he has been around forever, in one role or another. I am of two minds about his candidacy. Despite unsavory aspects about him, he seems to have the fire in his belly needed to launch a strong campaign. But, what are we saying as Democrats if we need Jerry Springer to carry our mantle? Is there no experienced politician from the party who could challenge Voinovich without undergoing the hits he will on his sleazy sexual history and talk shows? If not, why not? Where are the candidates who should have been nurtured for possible senatorial races 10 or 15 years ago?
Thank you notes
Again, thank you to all the readers I have received supportive email messages from. They reassure me that there are people who can see through a smokescreen just as well as I can.
A special thanks to Richard E. for the gift from my Amazon wish list.