Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Songs of Death"

Anyone who is interested in clear-headed, rational, yet compassionate writing on the world, pre-apocolypse, should be reading this blog:

Read this post! As each day passes, and the probability of his ascension to the emperor's cat bird seat increases, the mask drops a little more.

I had had "hope" for Obama, but there is little hope now. My utter loss of faith in this man began with his obsequies at AIPAC, less than 24 hours after his presumptive nomination, and it ended with his support for the neutering of the 4th Amendment via the FISA "compromise" bill that gives law breaking telecoms immunity from civil suit and Buhs everything he wants.

It is clear now, to anyone who is awake, that Gore Vidal is right, that there is only one party in America, and that is the party of the oligarchy, and Obama simply the latest slave to their hegemonic dreams. The Democrats and the Republicans exist simply to keep illusion of a Democratic Republic alive in the minds of the few Americans still paying any attention at all.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ebooks and the Kindle

Having advocated/wished for some form of an electronic book for over 20 years now, I was very excited to read about Amazon's new Kindle ebook. They got a lot of things right, it is always connected to the internet via the cell phone network, there 10s of thousands of books available and best of all it uses epaper -- which is much easier to read than an LCD screen, and uses no power until you change the page.

Unfortunately, titles cost $10 and you can't share them of course, DRM strikes again. But this post is not so much about the Kindle as it is about ebooks in general, and their impact on society.

Is the Kindle the future of books? Yes, and no, the Kindle is not a "true" ebook anymore than a model T was a self parking Lexus, or an MP3 player circa 1999 was an iPod. In time, someone will address all the concerns expressed here. For now, I will say that the Kindle is extremely ugly and I won't reiterate its many deficiencies. Despite the Kindle's problems, I will say that the day of dead tree data is over. Killing a tree, grinding it into a pulp with poisonous chemicals, then packaging it with yet more dead tree boxes, shipping it thousands of kilometers with giant polluting trucks, storing them in the huge museums that some people call libraries or book stores, until they are worn out, and then packing them up in more paper boxes and burning them or burying them somewhere is beyond stupid - it is criminal.

As far as paying $10 dollars for a book, this is theft, it is too much. The only true value of a book is in its IP. The ultimate goal is to cut profiteers like Amazon's Bezos right out of the loop. For those dinosaurs who still love the smell and feel of books -- you can always recreate the "experience" of reading and recycle by collecting some old newspaper and wrap your kindle in that. That way it will even dirty your fingers - just like a cheap romance novel.

The Kindle of the future will hold hundreds of thousands of books! And in no way will the paltry power requirements and this tiny bit of plastic be worse than all that trash. Besides it will be solar powered. Why do we still have newspapers? It is insane! Megatonnes of waste so some dino can get his sports scores! I do not think so.

Think about the possibilities for students who will be able to download the latest textbooks for cheap - assuming that we can get greedy billionaire thieves like Bezos out the loop. Impossible you say? They are already doing it in Korea, a country apparently not crippled by the turgid thinking of stuck in a rut bibliophiles and greedy lawyers.

A book is a terrible way to acquire data, you cannot look up a word, check a reference, resize the text, and you sure as shit can not read your email in between. In 20 years there will, thank god, be no books. Just like you cannot buy a ridiculous film camera anymore. (And good riddance to an outdated, polluting technology.) Oh, in the future there may still be specialty books such as coffee table books and the like for a while, but even those will be superseded by upcoming superiour storage and display technologies.

I do not love books -- I love the stories and the information. And I do not love the dry dead corpses of what were once living trees that breathed, shaded, and were homes for animals. Save a tree, save the environment, and buy an ebook, just not the Kindle, it is ugly and Bezos has enough money. Most of it stored electronically by the way, not on paper - yecch!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bill Clinton's Crimes vs Bush's

Absolutely -- on the monster scale, Clinton comes in as a piker. Unfortunately the comparison between the two should not be limited to an extramarital affair versus an illegal war, wiretapping et al.

What about the attack on the Al Shifa "chemical weapons" plant in the Sudan? We now know it was not a chemical weapons plant, it was in fact used primarily for the manufacture of anti-malaria medicines and veterinary products. Clinton should have known this, and probably did, (is US 'intelligence' really that bad?). Mind you that this attack took place two years after the Sudan expelled Osama Bin Laden.

This attack led to the "extra deaths" of thousands of innocent people, perhaps 10's of thousands, and to his great credit -- even Clinton now accepts this and has apologised.

Perhaps the decision to attack was merely a "policy dispute". I would call it a politically motivated war crime.

Did he get a free ride then? Yup. Does that free ride continue to today? Seems so.

Officials later acknowledged, however, "that the evidence that prompted President Clinton to order the missile strike on the Shifa plant was not as solid as first portrayed. Indeed, officials later said that there was no proof that the plant had been manufacturing or storing nerve gas, as initially suspected by the Americans, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980s."

Noam Chomsky has argued (in his book 9-11 and elsewhere) that the bombing of Al-Shifa was a piece of terrorism by the United States Government that probably resulted in the deaths of "several tens of thousands" of Sudanese people from diseases such as malaria and TB because they were deprived of the medicines manufactured at the plant.

Werner Daum (Germany's ambassador to Sudan 1996–2000), whose account was used by Chomsky as a source, wrote an article (in Summer 2001) in which he called "several tens of thousands of deaths" of Sudanese civilians caused by a medicine shortage a "reasonable guess". The regional director of the Near East Foundation, who had field experience in the Sudan, published in the Boston Globe another article with the same estimate.

- Wikipedia

Clinton was not alone in his crime, "...Al Gore, Sandy Berger, George Tenet, and Richard Clarke all stood by the decision to bomb al-Shifa." -- Wikipedia

On June 26, 1993, Clinton bombed Baghdad in retaliation for an alleged but unproven Iraq plot to assassinate former President George Bush. Eight Iraqi civilians, including the distinguished Iraqi artist Layla al-Attar were killed in the raid, and 12 more were wounded. This kind of unilateral action in response to an unproven charge is a violation of international law.

Clinton also ignored the obvious impending genocide in Rwanda, and we all know what happened there. He apologised for that a well. So I guess it's okay then.

UNICEF reports that in 1999 more than 1 million Iraqi children under 5 were suffering from chronic malnutrition, and some 4,000-5,000 children are dying per month beyond normal death rates from the combination of malnutrition and disease. Death from disease was greatly increased by the shortage of potable water and medicines, that has led to a 20-fold increase in malaria (among other ailments). This vicious sanctions system, causing a creeping extermination of a people, has already caused more than a million excess deaths, and it is claimed by John and Karl Mueller that Clinton's "sanctions of mass destruction" have caused "the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction [nuclear and chemical] throughout all history" (Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999).

I won't even go into the bombing of Kosovo, an action that was taken without UN authorization.

The complete list of Clinton's crimes is much longer than can be reasonably be posted here. What's interesting is how Clinton has been 'rehabilitated' and his long list of murders and war crimes is forgotten. In ten years will Bush suffer a similar fate? Bet on it.