Noosphere Blues

[ Tuesday, April 29, 2003 ]

Another object lesson on how the supposedly liberal punditry have made this the Chauncey Gardner presidency, in which the job of the official intelligentsia is to celebrate a simpleton. Friedman flip-flops on WMD, saying they don't really matter after all. (thanks to Cursor)
Phil [3:50 PM]

The Prince may have had his Machiavelli, and JFK his Neustadt, but this is Karl Rove's campaign 2004 theme song for GW. (thanks to wood s lot)
Phil [2:56 PM]

[ Monday, April 28, 2003 ]

Looking forward to the book Art Kleiner's working on, to be called The Core Group. It's posed as a sociology of how organizations, including but not limited to corporations, unconsciously (or at best half-consciously) formulate their purpose and goals through the tacitly shared visions, desires, relationships and values of an inner core group. Interesting in that it promises to demystify/deconstruct contemporary discussions of the elitism vs. populism dichotomy. It seems to show that no matter how philosophically anti-elitist, all groups are the product of some kind of elite. But also arguing that elitism doesn't necessarily imply a rigid hierarchical order, or a closed exclusive caste or class system, or even a power-monopolizing coterie. Which seems to suggest that the key to sustaining and growing organizations is to expand and include identification with and participation in the "core group".
Phil [2:38 PM]

[ Friday, April 25, 2003 ]

Somewhere between simple good old e-mail and the more complex, official (read corporate-bureaucratic IT) forms of group communications technolgy lies a rich, largely untapped interzone for new, simple, cheap technologies that help more informal, ad-hoc spontaneous creative collaborations gain traction without the need for centralized direction. So at least is the premise of the "social software" movement, an interesting, growing network of developers, theoreticians, dreamers and activists that now has its own group blog. Of course the movement is not without its high-profile skeptical debunkers.
Phil [3:29 PM]

[ Thursday, April 24, 2003 ] has started up an "Elect Peace" PAC (e-mail pasted below) designed to catalyze grass-roots efforts to throw the bums
(you know who they are) out in 2004.

"The war in Iraq is over; the U.S. occupation of Iraq has now begun. In an unnecessary war, victory is never sweet: American soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and Iraqi soldiers lost their lives in a conflict that never should have happened. That's not victory, that's tragedy.

The hawks in the Bush Administration see this as a vindication of their belligerent world view. Never mind that we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction; never mind that Iraqi democracy (or even security) is nowhere in sight. The hotter heads have prevailed: pre-emptive unilateralism is now the official policy of the U.S.. Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle are now thinking even bigger about the "projection of American power." In the chilling words of a senior official close to the Bush administration, "Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran."

Folks, we just have to stop this madness, and there's really only one way to do that: We need to throw these bums out. The good news is that over the last few months, we've built a base that just may be large enough to succeed. MoveOn's total membership is now over 1.3 million. We've taken out ads, written letters, delivered mountains of petition signatures, and taken action in hundreds of cities. And now we need to turn our attention toward one goal: regime change in the USA, the best way to repudiate Bush's policy of war.

We'll throw out Bush and the Republicans using every means available: by registering a wave of new voters, by organizing to make sure they get to the polls on election day, by raising enough money to compete with the President's mountain of special interest money, and by volunteering for political campaigns. We'll make it easy for you to play a part.

President Bush believes he doesn't have to listen to the American public -- which, even during war, has overwhelmingly been skeptical or strongly resistant to the idea of an American empire. He has decided that his faith in the military takes precedence over his faith in democracy. The election in 2004 is our chance to take our democracy back.

Polls show overwhelmingly that Americans do not trust President Bush to revive the failing economy. They're just as concerned with the Administration's assault on civil rights, civil liberties and the environment. Last week in New Orleans, Presidential Advisor Karl Rove said that this will be a "close, competitive" race. If all of us get involved, it won't just be tight. We'll win.

Let's elect a new President in 2004, and put an end to the politics of unnecessary war."

I agree, though not sure I'm so confident. But pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will, as someone once said.

Phil [2:05 PM]

[ Wednesday, April 23, 2003 ]

A textbook illustration of the stupidity and increasing irrelevance of much of old corporate media, especially of the Hartford, Conn Courant (sic).

Oh, yeah, and ditto for old Commie dicatorships. And theocracies.
Phil [2:57 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 22, 2003 ]

Psychedelic Republican trading cards. (thanks to Jakeneck)
Phil [3:16 PM]

An overdue appreciation of the journalistic inventiveness of one of the truly underrated American publications, TV Guide by Heath Row.
Phil [2:59 PM]

Doc Searls with some reasons to be cheerful, even in the midst of an economic slump and even deeper in a (reactionary) political funk.
Phil [2:42 PM]

[ Friday, April 18, 2003 ]

I'm not usually a big fan of psycho-sexual explanations of political-historical personalities and events. Even when there's some truth to them, which I know there often is, I can't buy the reductionism most of the time. But then again the media-stoked mass pseudo-euphoria over the conquest in the name of liberation in Iraq is just inscrutable to me, except as Dr. Susan Block interpets it.
Phil [2:42 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 15, 2003 ]

A reminder of just how fucking good blues-rock lyrics (and Van Morrison) can be. (thanks to Wood s lot ).

Timothy Leary is probably too well-known and cliched as a 1960s historical icon, and too little known as a superb writer. This 1980s vintage article on Hermann Hesse as cyber-era forerunner is worth 100 academic essays.

Another far-less inspiring (in fact damned diabolical) figure, but an under-rated writer also, is DH Rumsfeld. I'd at first avoided this Slate piece thinking it was going to be in the cheesy lame-ass mode of Jacob Weisberg's Bushisms. But no, these found poems are actually seriously good stuff (another sign that as miserable as U.S. politics can be, our pop culture at least offers pleasantly weird surprises). The poems beat the hell out of Chairman Mao's or even Uncle Ho's. Inspired of Hart Seely to have "found" them. Only one caveat. Seely rightly sees W.C. Williams as a relevant influence, but his citing of Frank O'Hara is way off the mark. The tightly gnomic, contortedly paradoxical utterances here resound with the Four Quartets.
Phil [2:42 PM]

[ Monday, April 14, 2003 ]

Nobody wrote better about the outsize hype of dotcom bull mania and its discontents than Michael Wolff. While his column seemed a bit adrift for the past year or so, it looks like he's finally found a topic and zeitgeist big enough for his skeptical literary-sociological-media critical imagination- the new bubble- American militarist triumphalism.
Phil [3:35 PM]

[ Thursday, April 10, 2003 ]

A pre-post, or then again maybe just post pre-next war, round-up.

Iraq War One brought among its unintended consequences the still barely acknowledged scourge of Gulf War syndrome, Timothy McVeigh and Al Queda. Rosenfield thinks about the next wave of hazards.

Michael Lind chronicles the history of neo-cons and their long march to power over U.S. foreign policy.

Gene Healy asks:If we don't find any serious WMD, isn't the Pentagon just going to ship in the chem/bio equivalent of the "throw-down" guns bad cops keep around?

Jeff St.Clair asks:This begs the question: if it was so easy, why was it necessary? How big of a threat was the Beast of Baghdad, after all? Did his rusting army, even the supposedly fearsome Republican Guard, really pose any kind of the threat to the US? Or even the pampered sheiks of Kuwait?

24/7 real-time battlefield cable coverage shaped mass perception of the war, but Natasha Walter believes the victor in the news wars has been the Internet. (thanks to Cursor)
The Daily Show moves to the undisputed leadership of left-leaning media satire. (Cursor yet again)
Pollack imagines Mohammed Said Sahhaf's next career move.
Oh yeah, and less whimsically he reminds us how under the fog of war intoxication the Senate (in the person of Joe Biden) is sneaking through a mutation of the Rave Act.

Phil [2:50 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 08, 2003 ]

David Winer prophesies the melding of Napster and blogs as the real revolutionary insurgent-app of digital music.

Larry Lessig thinks the RIAA's suit against four students for file-sharing might be a blessing in disguise, an over-reach providing the basis for making a national issue of their reactionary (in the literal sense of the term) strong-arm tactics. If so, he believes, public education/agitation might create an opening for new policies appropriate for a new technological era.
Phil [3:09 PM]

[ Friday, April 04, 2003 ]

Friedrich Engels (at least that's who I think it was) wrote in the 19th century about how quantitative changes can cross a threshold and become qualitative changes. In contemporary terms that notion has come back (and perhaps truly come of age) with the idea of the Tipping Point. Think Robert Metcalfe's Law (the value of a network equals the square of the number of users) or David Reed's (the value of a social network equals the square of the number of possible connections between individual users). In a follow-up to his New Rennaissance piece (blogged the other day) Douglas Rushkoff posits a comparable (perhaps even more important tipping point) occurring now in communications media. Call it Rushkoff's Law: (something like this) the potential of democracy in media is the relationship of "the sum total of computer processing power and media dissemination technology in the hands of real people to the sum total held by government and corporate conglomerates". Due to the ubiquity of affordable camera, microphone and network-enabled cell phones and wireless computer devices the numbers have tipped for the first time in favor of decentralized people's vs. centralized information power. Rushkoff riffs inspiringly on the qualitative implications of that quantitative shift.
Phil [3:41 PM]

[ Wednesday, April 02, 2003 ]

Stopped by for the first day of the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Manhattan. A pretty vital mix of about 250-300 civil libertarian lawyers, activists, crypto-freaks, radical geeks and a bunch of the rest of us fellow travellers. Among good things I caught-

Networking security guru Bruce Schneier on how to think about security these fearful days- more systematically, rigorously rationally and analytically, he says, in terms of realistic risk,threat, cost and benefit assessment. Those aren't terms that naturally appeal to my literary sensibility, but they're a well needed intellectual antidote to the current reign of security hysteria.

Ira Glasser, grand old NY ACLU liberal icon, reviewing the hidtory of American civil liberties and periodic attacks against them, discerned four historical "laws":
1) During periods of political turmoil, especially war-time, governments (whatever their ostensible ideology) always seek to consolidate and aggrandize their power.
2) During such periods creating the perception of safety is a more important political imperative (and result) than actually increasing safety.
3) Loss of liberty always exceeds gains in actual safety.
4) The bulk of the costs of creating the perception of safety are borne by selected ethnic, racial and politcal scapegoats.

Anthony Romero of ACLU and Navar Shora of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee examined immigration law as the "weak link" through which intrusive electronic surveillance and other practices (e.g. Biometric ID at the border) are introduced throught he back-door.

Jim Dempsey of Center for Democracy and Technology called eloquently for new alliances between civil libertarians and industry (which teamed up effectively in the crypto-wars of the late 80s early 90s), and immigrant communities. He also called for a radical reform in legal theory and practice (comparable to Thurgood Marshall's work in the 1950s which over-turned the Seperate but Equal doctrine) overturning the notions, codified in the early 1970s, that private transactions like phone calls and bank records have no privacy status under the Constitution.

Maybe my favorite segment was a high-geared debate on Total Information Awareness pitting ACLU-ACM critics against conservative Heritage Foundation-Manhattan Institute advocates.

I left before the Patriot II Act panel got started, but all of the proceedings will be online (link to follow) and worth perusing.
Phil [3:40 PM]

[ Tuesday, April 01, 2003 ]

There we go. Just a little more of a sign (from a culture scout with a good track record) that not too far beneath the economic jitters and political nightmares of the present, some very positive creative forces are ready to stir.
Phil [3:18 PM]