Scripting News for 7/18/2007

Why we fight 

Cindy Sheehan was on Hardball last night, and said the most reasonable thing I’ve heard on news TV in a very long time, maybe ever. She said that the reason we’re occupying Iraq is that it makes money for the people who run the country. Chris Matthews acted incredulous, and pressed her on it, almost ridiculing her. “Come on, do you really believe that?” may not have been his exact words but they were the sentiment he communicated.

This made me wonder about Matthews. Could he not believe it? Is he so much a Washington insider that he doesn’t see it? Then I wondered about the people who read my blog.

Now that most of us are against the occupation, please, if you haven’t already done so, watch the movie Why We Fight. Or if you’ve already seen it, do it again, and tell a friend. It’s not very long, and it’s certainly not biased. Most of the people they interview are Republicans, John McCain, for example. A former head of the CIA explains what blowback means. They interview the people who flew the first bombing mission over Iraq. A former analyst inside the Pentagon. They’re not typical anti-war people, they’re just telling the truth. You can tell because unlike all the crap you hear that passes for news and analysis, it has the ring of truth. It checks out, it makes sense.

We go to war because it’s profitable.

But it doesn’t make sense for most of us to support more war, because it may make us richer in the short term, in the long term (which is starting to be short term) it costs too much. It’s against our interest.

I’m old enough to remember Vietnam, and after it was over, I was sure that we would not make the same mistake in my lifetime. Well, it seems we didn’t learn the lesson well enough. It’s too easy for us to go to war. We need to do something to end the Iraq occupation, to bring our forces home and regroup. And we have to, this time, learn not just the lesson of Iraq, but the lesson of having a government that’s controlled by people who profit from war.

Chris Ceppi offers graphic evidence, Halliburton’s 5-year stock graph.

It’s not a war 

I find myself yelling at the TV when Bush talks about “the front” in “the war.”

It’s not a war and there is no front.

It’s much worse. In a war with a front the troops who are not on the front lines are under much less pressure than the ones at the front. In most wars the front-line troops die in great numbers. They rotate troops in and out so that only a very small number are at such high risk at any time.

In Iraq, which is an occupation, not a war, all our troops are at equally high risk any time they are off-base.

This is a very subtle way our leaders lie. They use the logic of war. Most Americans probably aren’t aware that it’s a lie. That’s why I edit my pieces so where ever I would say “war” I say “occupation.” You should do it too.

Is Plaxo the open identity system we’re waiting for? 

Nick Gonzalez at TechCrunch explains that Plaxo is creating an open identity system with an API that others can build applications on.

He calls this “open source” — but that’s neither accurate nor does it explain why this is so significant.

If anyone at Plaxo is listening, I’d like to find out more about what you’re doing so I can explain it in the context of other identity systems. It sounds like it might be the open identity system we’re waiting for.

I am the real Fake Steve Jobs 

There you have it. End of all the suspense.

You can all go back to work now. :-)

Not only am I the real Fake Steve Jobs, but I am the first real Fake Steve Jobs.

Wait, it’s even worse.

I am the original first real Fake Steve Jobs.

I love Italia! 

According to Paolo, Il Corriere della Sera is one of the two most read Italian newspapers.

They have a great picture of an Italian American babe thinking about the history of something or other. It’s all in Italian.

In her mind, in 1997, is a picture of me, a nutty one at that (taken by Joe Beda), with the caption: “Dave Winer creates a new type of web site, the ‘weblog.'”

Italy is a great place! :-)

OPML 2.0 as a namespace 

First, I want to be able to use elements of OPML 2.0 in my RSS feeds. I’m already doing it on an experimental basis, in the RSS 2.0 feed for TwitterGrams.

http://mp3.twittergram.com/rss.xml

Note that it declares a “opml2″ as a namespace at the head of the document, and it uses as the URI for the namespace, the OPML 2.0 spec. Apparently this breaks nothing, I’ve had no complaints about this feed. That doesn’t mean there are no problems, however none have been reported.

The question is, can we put a namespace declaration at the head of an OPML file without breaking processors. When we tried to do this when RSS 2.0 was in its final shakeout (almost five years ago), it broke a bunch of apps and we had to back out of the idea.

It may be a problem with OPML as well. The point of this post is to ask for opinions of XML experts. Breakage of existing apps is not an option (see this post by Dare Obasanjo for an idea why).

Don Park weighs in.

New formats for conferences 

I don’t go to many conferences these days, certainly not as many as I used to. Sitting in a dark hall, checking email, blogging, etc — why go somewhere else to do what I do at home? The hallway conversations are good up to a point, but then I wonder why I can’t read about the products people are pitching on their websites, where I can also try them out.

So we experiment with new formats, to try to give us what we want. Which of course raises the question — what do we want? At breakfast a few weeks ago here in Berkeley, with a group of friends, I posited an opinion — what we want when we meet with other people is to explain who we are, and explore our issues, and learn who other people are, and what their issues are. We put all kinds of symbols in the way of the pure experience, but at the core that’s what’s actually going on.

One of my table-mates, a psychiatrist, agreed and added an eye-opening idea. She said that medicine and technology have one thing in common, most of the people you meet never grew up. She explained that in medicine they didn’t have to, because everyone looks up to them as having godlike insight into the meaning of existence, and the people in the profession tend to believe the hype. Having been in tech for many years, and having been treated by many doctors in recent years, I saw the pattern too.

Why grow up when the world confirms what we all tend to believe anyway, that we have special insight into meaning. This certainly is an idea that is reinforced in the tech business. And it’s why our conferences have become so boring — because despite all the odds against it, we actually are growing up. There is a difference between tech and medicine. We have bubbles and they burst, and when that happens, we’re left to figure out what went wrong. It’s these crises that force us to confront the reality that there are other people here, that it’s not all about us. And that of course is on the path to becoming an adult. There’s more to this, of course, but this is a blog post, not a book. :-)

So, if we’re ready for more, if we’ve grown beyond just wanting to put the big kids on a soapbox and admire them, what’s next? I may have stumbled across an idea a few weeks ago when I invited some experts in mobile technology to my house for dinner, and asked them questions to bring me up to speed on some of the issues. It turned into a conversation, with six very alive, very informed people that lasted three hours or so. We didn’t record it. No one took notes. We agreed not to blog the details. It was a memorable evening, something I will repeat, and others can do it too. And it’s something that may make sense at an industry conference.

Imagine an evening event where, at random, groups of six were put together in a room with food and drink, perhaps an inspiring view, and a topic to discuss. As with our evening confab, it would be off the record, just a discussion that might or might not lead somewhere. You have to get beyond the usual surface-level stuff because you have three hours to fill. Who knows what might happen?

Blogs I’m reading 

These are not new blogs, but ones I started reading recently.

Michael Miller was the innovative editor-in-chief of InfoWorld and PC Mag, and now he’s got a blog. I’ve always valued his opinion of software and technology.

I bought a car almost two weeks ago after a couple of months shopping. I bought a car that this blog, The Truth About Cars, hated. But I love the blog, it’s irreverent and has reminded me of something important, if you want credibility with readers you have to regularly take shots at the vendors in the industry you cover (if you cover an industry). Clearly TTAC is not in bed with any of the manufacturers, that’s why I, as a user, trust their advice, even if I don’t follow it.

Which leads me to Uncov, a site that takes cheap shots, regularly, at the icons of the tech blogging world. No, I wouldn’t like it if they said these kinds of things about me, and I’m sure I will get my turn, but these guys remind me of the kind of incisive writing that used to come from Spy, or the National Lampoon or even Suck, in their heyday. They’re great writers (even though they deny it), and provide a valuable alternative to the knee-grabbing footsy-playing party-goers of the Bay Area.

17 responses to this post.

  1. “The question is, can we put a namespace declaration at the head of an OPML file without breaking processors.”

    Depends what you mean by “breaking” & “processors”!

    I would guess that the majority of OPML applications will not currently be using namespace-aware XML processors so will interpret the new parts of the OPML 2.0 as if the data was written for OPML 1.0. When it comes to serialising data, I doubt many tools (that don’t understand it) will preserve the namespace declaration.

    Either way, personally I’d consider the potential for better tools with improved interop with other systems on the web of far greater value than playing nice with first-generation apps. Breaking eggs & omelettes etc.

    Reply

  2. It’s not an Italian babe: It’s Jessica Cutler, who got a book deal out of getting fired from Sen Mike DeWine’s office over her blog about her sex life in DC.

    Reply

  3. But still – cool!

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  4. Jackie — ooops!

    Danny — I think in 2007 most processors are namespace-aware.

    And I can’t afford to be so casual about breakage.

    Reply

  5. I like Uncov too but I don’t think it compares to Suck. I feel like they’re pulling their punches a bit.

    Reply

  6. Dave, sorry I should have been clearer. What I meant was that the way the application used the XML processor was to ignore any namespace capability. For example in SAX’s ContentHandler :

    public void startElement(String uri,
    String localName,
    String qName,
    Attributes atts)

    Code using that for handling OPML 1.0 would likely ignore (namespace) uri and qName rather than checking for null values or whatever.

    Also I didn’t mean suggest you should be casual about breakage (I would hope quite the opposite), I was just offering my best guess. If you do want to be serious about potential breakage, it would help to define your terms and clearly specify expected behaviour.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Herb on July 18, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Hi Dave,

    You wrote: “I was sure that we would not make the same mistake in my lifetime.” I think that Cheney & Rumsfeld (Nixon/Ford administration) had the same thought – only the difference was you thought the war itself was the mistake, while they thought the way the war was prosecuted was the mistake.

    Turns out, you were right and we all lose.

    Reply

  8. Danny, thanks for the constructive comment. I want to hear from people who are actually implementing OPML in their apps. I’ve sent emails to a few people asking for comments, it may take a while to hear from them.

    Herb, you’re right about that. They thought the problem was the reporters got pictures of bodybags. So they made it so there were no pictures of bodybags. That wasn’t the only problem of course. :-(

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  9. When it comes to politics and money, there is a choice that needs to be made:

    Big government = lots of government spending = lots of corporations and individuals who want that money to be spent with them = politics run by money. (I just read today that spending by the presidential campaigns this year is already more than double what it was in the year 2004. Wish I could find the link, but I don’t think many of us doubt the veracity of this. It’s insane.)

    You cannot advocate big government and a government which does not line pockets. You can have one or the other, but you cannot have both. I’m sorry to say that the likes of Cindy Sheehan want both, and there are plenty of other people who are smarter and more reasonable than she is and want both, too. As long as the government teat is so engorged, the suckers will have at it – and us.

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  10. I don’t believe you are Fake Steve. You are just a Fake Fake Steve!

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  11. The babe thing is HILARIOUS. And how about the fact that they picked the Washingtonienne as the cover person for blogging??? Look at what you unleashed in the 90s!

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  12. Posted by bbebop on July 18, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    On the profit motive for war, listen to “Work For Peace” by Gil Scott Heron (http://tinyurl.com/2zjew5). Written after the first Gulf War, applies even more to the current debacle. “The military and the monetary…”

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  13. Sometimes wew fight because it’s right. And sometimes people enlist because they believe in issues. but in combat, Dave, soldiers and marines don’t fight for the flag, they fight for their brothers and sisters in arms. It’s a simple concept, that many who’ve never taken the oath or humped a 60 pound ruck. don’t understand. I took a lot of shit from people in the Seventies because I had served in VN. But that was a long time ago and if there is one lesson from VN that I hope is never lost its this: Respect the Constitution and those people who have put their asses on the line to protect and defend it (even if they don’t agree with the political leadership).
    Looking back across 40 years, I”m proud of my service and of the men I commanded as a young Marine sergeant. Over the years, we’ve done pretty good ( of the 18 men in my unit we produced four lawyers, two doctors, two social workers, one journalist, two engineers and a couple of teachers.) And some of our children serve the Constitution today. I am a big believer in national service. In fact I really think everyone should serve in exchange for which we help them get technical, academic or professional educations.
    Be well, David.

    Jim Forbes
    (from a small mountaintop near Camp Pendleton)

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  14. Let me expand a bit on my rant, since it came off like that.

    If you want to grab the hearts and minds of people, you become their educators. You make sure money ends up in the hands of the immams in the areas you are trying to influence, and you make sure they have lots of books, and lots of money to buy books, even if it’s THEIR books.

    America has a fabulous infrastructure for that sort of thing, but so do other countries today, and if 1/10th the amount of money spent on Bush’s insane war programs had been spent on education in the middle east, even if it meant we simply funneled money to madras’, we wouldn’t be all doom and gloom, and we certainly wouldn’t be shocked by the Cindy Sheehans of the world.

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  15. Posted by Jake on July 19, 2007 at 6:02 am

    I think the problem with Plaxo is that they are not neutral. They have applications built upon your identity and your data. They have a vested interest in special access to that data.

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  16. So much of what I consider to be thoughtful journalism I dare not share with my neo-con friends. From what I hear you saying, Why We Fight is fairly apolitical so I will watch it in the hopes I can share it with those who generally disagree with me on politics. When I first heard of Why We Fight, I surmised by the summary that I would embrace it–which is exactly why I didn’t watch it, because I have limited time for what is inevitably “preaching to the choir.” But if Why We Fight is fairly apolitical and highly informative, then thanks in advance. I find I am often at a loss for politically informative mass-media unlikely to offend neo-conservatives. Which reminds me, I think The Fog of War qualifies as such a movie and I have recommended it to scores of people. Programs like this observe politics from a fairly abstract level, which means they tend to be more universal. This helps those who have developed rigid, binary positions to see politics from a more nuanced philosophical level, where arguments may be considered and premises questioned.

    If it were not so timely, I might also recommend neo-conservatives watch Bill Moyers’ impeachment special from last week: pbs.org/moyers/journal/07132007/profile.html. Moyers’ star guest is the ├╝ber-intellectual Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. But Moyers’ reporting is lopsided; his other guest agrees with Fein throughout the one-hour show. Moyers ends up playing devil’s advocate and he predictably throws softballs–so it borders “preaching to the choir” journalism, the likes of which will probably turn off neo-cons. This is unfortunate because Fein is arguably the most eloquent advocate for the impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. I had never heard of the Harvard Law grad before Moyers’ show but the man is clearly a Constitutional scholar (and he bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the biotech mogul from Blade Runner).

    I think Fein would shine as moderator if PBS ever re-introduced The Constitution: That Delicate Balance. Admittedly, a couple of moderators in Fred Friendly’s 13-part series were downright awful, but when the dean from Columbia University took over the debates, it was magic. Major public officials on both sides of the aisle, like President Gerald Ford and Congressman Barney Frank, joined a dozen or so others in hypothetical role-playing scenarios–revealing the arguments and nuances these celebrity politicians used to justify their personal philosophies. I can imagine a guy like Fein holding everyone’s feet to the fire in such a setting and I wonder if it might give some catharsis to what I’m sure would be a gigantic TV audience.

    If not Fein, then Scoble: “Who are you?” / “I’m the king…er, President. I preside over y’all. Next time, you should try going on the google…I get more hits than god.”

    Reply

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