Friday, January 16, 2009

Back / Caught you lookin' for the same thing

Herein sits an argument against democracy. Margaret has a vote:

Margaret (Bay Of Plenty) No if he can't live by the laws of this country then he should not be here. His behavior should not be tolerated. We don't want these problems tranferred to this country. Israel rather harshly is defending herself from the over 3000 rockets Hamas has fired into Israel over the last year. The problem is because Israel is a country of Christians surrounded by Muslim countries they don't want her to exist. The Crusades in the Middle Ages were about ridding Jerusalem of Muslims. What has changed in almost a thousand years?

[From Do you support the cafe owner's actions in refusing to serve Israelis? - 16 Jan 2009 - Your Views - NZ Herald Blog]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tell Me / Oh, what can I do?

Three videos that caught my fancy today, the first two resoundingly ancient, and one rather newer.

I'd not seen either of these two Beatles clips before and they're notable firstly for the fact that, unlike most other Fab Four clips, they actually consist of a performance instead of crowd noise with four bobbing mop-tops; and secondly because the performances, most especially from Lennon, are rather good, which runs counter to the oft spoke theory that they were no good live after Beatlemania began.

The first is in Melbourne, on the Asia-Pacific tour that took them to NZ too. The date is June 17, 1964, and it's the first gig back on the road for Ringo after he'd been laid up in hospital with tonsillitis (and was replaced by the now obscure ring-in, Jimmy Nicol).

The second is from the NME winners gig, in Blackppol in 1965. Forget the rest, just look at, listen to, Lennon and McCartney. So fucking cool...

And, slightly more contemporary, Pantha Du Prince , with the vid of Saturn Strobe, from his 2007 album, This Bliss. I love this track. I love this album. He has a new one due.....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A little part of it in everyone / But every junkie's like a setting sun

I watched Bill Kristol and Karl Rove on a re-run of December’s BBC’s debate on Bush’s presidency on Saturday. Rove is so thoroughly disgraced that his name drew cat calls from what seemed to be a thoroughly middle class audience, and I suspect it would get the same just about anywhere on the planet.

Kristol is distinguished by the fact that he’s been completely wrong about so much so many times and yet is able to carry on, with that dull, arrogant grin. His championing of Sarah Palin last year was pretty firm evidence that this man is less of a, self proclaimed, conservative intellectual, and more simply, just resoundingly stupid. They way he and Rove responded to Simon Jenkins and Jacob Weisberg was simply to carry on as usual, with sneers, innuendo and intentional misrepresentation, not least when these two clowns of the ugly right, thought they had one up on Jenkins when he said that the US simply didn’t have to confine and process it’s detainees that way it had. There was a better way. In their sneers they simply looked small.

And the statement of the debate came from Kristol, who continually proclaimed victory in Iraq because:

we lost 55,000 people, we lost a war, 2 million people plus died in Vietnam and Cambodia, it was an unbelievable catastrophe, which the region took a long time to recover from, it was a terrible humiliation moral and political for the United States. That’s like Iraq? Where we’ve only lost 4,000 soldiers…

I guess non-Americans don’t count, something that seemed to be a recurring theme for both in their arguments.

But mostly they just relied on slogans, lies or convenient half truths. It’s a tactic which has served Rove well over the past decade and it seems he’s not about to move on from it, in the knowledge that the media rarely call him on such.

So it’s not really surprising to see their boss go out on similar note with his truly bizarre press conference yesterday:

But he offered no evidence he takes personal responsibility for any of those failures. The only two areas where he seemed to acknowledge that errors in judgment had been his were his penchant for cowboy rhetoric, such as saying "Bring 'em on!" to foes in Iraq, and his decision to pursue partial privatization of Social Security immediately after his 2004 re-election.

and, this howler:

Most angrily, Bush dismissed "some of the elite" who say he has damaged America's image around the world. "No question, parts of Europe have said that we shouldn't have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate, but those are few countries," he said.

Read through, it’s like something from an unfamiliar parallel universe where the past eight years veered off on another course altogether.

As he leaves the office the question is still whether this is just simple delusion or dishonesty. His fanbase, most vocally the likes of Rove and Kristol, love to say that jury is still out on Bush, and point to Truman who left office on quite a down. I’m thinking that the only part that the jury is still out on is that last question.

There are much better overviews of the Bush presidency, from better minds than mine, all over the media right now, but a week before we rid ourselves of the man, this assessment of the costs of the his years is worth a flick through.

Gosh, I wonder who is running the USA

Upon receiving word that the US was planning to vote in favor of the resolution - viewed by Israel as impractical and failing to address its security concerns - Olmert demanded to get Bush on the phone, and refused to back down after being told that the president was delivering a lecture in Philadelphia. Bush interrupted his lecture to answer Olmert's call, the premier said.

America could not vote in favor of such a resolution, Olmert told Bush. Soon afterwards, Rice abstained when votes were counted at the UN.

[From PM: Rice left embarrassed in UN vote | Jerusalem Post]

And who's ben running the place in recent years?

Monday, January 12, 2009

They'd seen his face before / Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of lords

Over at The Atlantic, Michael Hirschorn is thinking out loud about a possible world without The New York Times, in its printed form.

The Times, as has been fairly well documented, is both on decline as a printed newspaper (although it’s booming online), and in some financial trouble:

But what if the old media dies much more quickly? What if a hurricane comes along and obliterates the dunes entirely? Specifically, what if The New York Times goes out of business—like, this May?

It’s certainly plausible. Earnings reports released by the New York Times Company in October indicate that drastic measures will have to be taken over the next five months or the paper will default on some $400million in debt. With more than $1billion in debt already on the books, only $46million in cash reserves as of October, and no clear way to tap into the capital markets (the company’s debt was recently reduced to junk status), the paper’s future doesn’t look good.

“As part of our analysis of our uses of cash, we are evaluating future financing arrangements,” the Times Company announced blandly in October, referring to the crunch it will face in May. “Based on the conversations we have had with lenders, we expect that we will be able to manage our debt and credit obligations as they mature.” This prompted Henry Blodget, whose Web site, Silicon Alley Insider, has offered the smartest ongoing analysis of the company’s travails, to write: “‘We expect that we will be able to manage’? Translation: There’s a possibility that we won’t be able to manage.”

Does this come as a surprise? No, I guess not. I never buy a newspaper now. Okay, I bought a Sunday Star Times back in Auckland, but to be honest I didn’t read it. I left it unopened somewhere.

I generally get my news and analysis from the closest thing I have to a daily, my dozens of RSS feeds, and a mix of Google Alerts, and following link trails that take me places I often don’t expect to get to, thus, in a very web 2.0, or whatever it’s become now, way.

The world is changing. Yes it’s a glib statement that doesn’t need saying but it always hits me how fast it’s changing when I hop on a plane and get off in a, shall we say, less emerging nation than Indonesia. And when I say Indonesia, I mean the country outside central Jakarta, which is, for all purposes, a country in itself with a relationship a little like the one NYC has with Idaho.

In this emerging nation I’m always a little grateful when technological or IT advances hit. I was driving down the road a week or five back and I saw a billboard for a GPS unit with Bali on it.

Oh, they work here now? was my immediate thought, before bringing myself back to ground with the realisation that it would likely not work correctly (and the provider would just smile when I complained). This is, after all, a place where, unless you pay big money, beyond the budgets of all but the wealthiest, your internet is slow (often to the point of unusable), very patchy and has suspect coverage. It’s a land where this is controlled by a couple of monopolies designed to enrich the power elite. It’s a land where, as Brigid said, most people don’t even have an address in normal terms, let alone an IP address; it’s a land where almost nobody knows how to read a map. The biggest newspaper in the land, the local equivalent of the NYT, Kompas is depressingly thin every day and it’s English language equivalent, The Jakarta Post has spent the last week on it's site, promoting a huge change on it’s way today. I expected a new site, but no, it’s little more than a slight redesign of their, also thin, print edition.

The JPs tech pages are often full of devices that won't work in Indonesia. Or for banks whose web sites were tossed together a decade ago and barely work.

And when I leave Indonesia (and I do it a lot) I’m depressed by how far and how fast the rest of the world is moving. We are at the very beginning of a revolution as big as the wheel and this revolution is gaining momentum.

But when I say we, I’m wiping out half the world because this revolution is leaving them behind faster than anyone to date had imagined. Whilst the NYT ponders a move to digital because the economics and the bandwidth required to provide a comprehensive digital news experience have collided, an Indonesian newspaper ponders it’s typeface (and likely writes half the stories on typewriters..true).

And the print version of most western media is increasingly redundant. Even on a bus or a train:

In this scenario, would begin to resemble a bigger, better, and less partisan version of the Huffington Post, which, until someone smarter or more deep-pocketed comes along, is the prototype for the future of journalism

Half the stuff on the HP simply won't load correctly here in click and wait land.

So where does that leave the world beyond the developed nations? I dunno, and I can only really speak for Indonesia but it’s a pretty scary future as much of the rest of the world leaps eagerly into the next strata of a world where everything is changing, a world which relies on bandwidth, databases, interactive commerce and communication at every level and everywhere….a world which has just fought it’s first US presidential election online and won’t let you enter the USA unless you go onto a web site before. It’s a place where well over half of all purchases last Xmas were online and tertiary education is increasingly reliant on fast networks for information and assessment. Most Indonesians don't even have a bank account.

It’s a massive and quickly growing divide which I really doubt the leaders in this country have begun to come to terms with or have any real concept of. It was, after all, only a couple of years back when the Indonesian Technology Minister thought aloud that the nation would benefit from a few months unhooked from the net..’so people would go back to work’.

Then again, maybe the power will go off and they’ll be smiling in Medan.