"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Fuck The Squares

UPDATE: Kos says some things I like quite a lot:

Bloggers of all stripes are realizing that we, as a medium, are facing an attack from the media establishment -- from the newsrooms to the J-schools. They hoped we would go away after the election but we're still around causing all kinds of trouble, so they will use every hook to try and discredit the blogosphere.

Precisely. Plus he also closes with the idea of "As for the academic weenies... I've given them a middle finger," which is the right sort of attitude for a wild practitioner to take. I had more written about this, but I lost it somewhere. Damn. Anyway, back to the original post...

Since someone asked me in an email and I know most of the principles, I figured I might as well drop my opinions on the Zephyr/Kos/MyDD hullabaloo. For those of you who haven't followed politrix online -- the political "blogosphere" in particular -- I'm not going to try and go over all the details. It's all hopelessly cliquish and inside-baseball, attributes of this whole scene that I'm finding more and more exhausting in 2005.

We've come a long way down in a year, you know? We were going to take over the world, really change the game; it wasn't just about stopping Bush's disastrous momentum, it was about totally changing the whole fucking system. It was about making the words "freedom," "responsibility," truth" and "justice" really mean something again. It was about making civic life a real thing, awakening the slumbering Public and really getting down to business in terms of fixing this filthy, fucked-up, unfair world we live in. I don't say this out of any particular nostalgia, but rather to observe just how petty shit will get when you loose.

This kills me because we're playing their game, it seems. Dancing before the mesmerizing flicker of CNN. I can see the argument that Now Is Not The Time to have this debate -- and to her credit Zephyr admits to being "criminally stupid" in the political timing of all this -- but at the same time I really wish someone with authority would have the gumption and chutzpah to say, "fuck this shit." Because that's what it is.

For the record, I'm inclined to believe Zephyr on substance and to understand what Trippi, Matt Gross and others have said as technically-accurate covers put up for the benefit of the media attention. I also don't think anyone did anything wrong.

Which is why I find the inability to resist the aura of scandal to be so fucking depressing. It reminds me of what Billmon said when he went on hiatus:

But the passion and energy that made blogging such a potent alternative to the corporate-owned media are in danger of being lost, or driven back to the outer fringes of the Internet... As blogs commercialize, they are tied ever closer to the mainstream media and its increasingly frivolous news agenda. The political blogosphere already has a bad habit of chasing the scandal du jour.

The internet (and by extension blogs) is an information medium. Its value as a tool for reform is contingent upon its ability to break free of the negative patterns which plague our existing media institutions, patterns which contribute mightily to the problems we face as a nation. Zephyr is attempting to explore one facet of this: the reality that in politics (and in advertising) people will try to buy you for who you know. This is worthy topic to discuss within the grand discussion of setting up a more positive information ecology. However, the sour irony is that in a few inches of newsprint, the Wall St Journal revealed how fragile and under-developed that new ecology remains, how abject and complete the political-blogging establishment's dependency on traditional media.

And now thanks to the personal inability of people to say "The Wall Street Journal can go to hell," the blogosphere is officially subject and author of scandal; the cannibal orgy is under way. Somewhere in a dark corner in Manhattan, John Stewart is shaking his head ruefully, staring into another watery glass of scotch. Many of us are part of the machine now, and the machine dictates that bloodletting is in order. Dan Rather has taken his licks; now it is your turn -- and lookie here we found someone from the loosing team to strap up. Don't act all surprised now. Burn blogosphere, burn.

Is There A Point, Koenig?

I hate to end on a nihilistic note, so here's this. Until we get our own lines of information, until we stop giving a shit what's on TV, we're going to keep loosing. The traditional media landscape is unlikely to change significantly in the next four years. Consolidation will not reverse itself as a trend; there will be no "Liberal Noise Machine" to match the conservative Wurlitzer that's been built up over 30 years with billions of dollars. In short, bullshit will continue to parade.

Let me repeat that in clearer language: if we play their game, we will not win. We have to compete in the common "marketplace of ideas" -- lopsided and corrupt as it may be -- but we have to do it on our own terms if we want to succeed. In that respect, this whole mess exemplifies how not to handle an attack.

And an attack this is, without question. There are more dimensions at work than simple left/right, republican/democrat in today's political arena. Bill O'Reilly is an egomaniac, but he's not entirely wrong to suggest that he's one of the more powerful men in America. As a combine, the Gang of 500 constitute a political power of immense proportions, on par with congress. I shit you not. The only means most public servants have of communicating rapidly with large portions of their constituency is by placing the Gang in the middle; any comprehensive analysis of power inevitably concludes the real Juice is with the middlemen.

Moreover, the Gang is enduring and unelected. Presidents come and go, but Wolf Blitzer remains. This president has succeeded largely because the press let him, and because his staff was able to flip the access equation back onto the corps when things got choppy: give us the coverage we want, or face the prospect of no coverage at all. Sometime down the line -- assuming we don't go fascist or otherwise regress -- some bright soul will write a history of the Bush administration, showing how their deft manipulation of the media was the cornerstone of their power, and how starving the press for information (part of their overall manner of overt secrecy) was critical in maintaining it.

But I digress. This is the situation we are faced with for four more years. If we don't get our shit together it will be eight, twelve, and then too fucking late to really do much more about than move to the mountains, gated-community or EU. 21st Century Politics is Information Warfare, and partisans for things like "freedom," "responsibility," truth" and "justice" face opponents in the political establishment and media establishment as well.

And so to me it seems like we've got to go all out; but then I've been hanging out in Portland guzzling schnapps and beer and whiskey and wine for the past two days, so take it for what its worth. But don't underestimate the stakes. It's life we're talking about. Strap on your courage, man.

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Quote Mongering

Josh Koenig of Music for America said the 2004 youth tally also made the election "a heartbreaker" for progressive groups like his own. "But having gotten over the anguish, we're like 'Fuck, we did our job,'" he added. "If everyone who was working on the older people had done their job, we would have won this thing."

I got quoted in a nice comprehensive piece on the record youth turnout in this past election. Jed, the writer, really covered all the bases (e.g. there are a lot more people quoted in there besides me, natch).

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Ice Age

I'm iced-in in Portland. Flights cancelled as a two-layer weather system causes rain to fall from warmer clouds to a sub-freezing ground, where it quickly forms into sheets of ice all over everything. When I woke up Saturday morning, I thought it would clear up with the coming of noon; instead it got worse. No snow, but still it would seem this is Winter Storm 2005!

It's been a good visit; tales to tell. I seem to have lost 48 hours, but it's all good; holed up with friends in Northeast, plenty of food and booze and movies to watch. I hadn't seen Red Dawn since more than a decade ago. I think it deserves a re-viewing to help understand how we got to this moment in American history.

Anyway, I'm well and good and fine and having fun, tinkering over financial figured in my head. Visions of a $350 studio apartment dancing in my head. But we'll see. For now it's a frozen Sunday on a three day weekend, and I'm not working on anything all that hard.

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Duke!

My mother purchased for me The Proud Highway: Saga Of A Desperate Southern Gentleman, the first of three volumes of Hunter S. Thompson's collected corrispondence. It's invigorating my spirits, as is Mighty Oregon; giving me charged night-thoughts about how to live life real to the fullest once more. I go to sleep excited and wake up fatigued.

This is something to wrestle with, though. I caught myself the other night explaining to someone in most unconvincing tones how I wasn't ready to settle down. The dichotomy I've been subconsciously working with is adulthood/responsibility/career vs. childhood/irresponsibility/fun, but I'm starting to think that's a false choice I've constructed for myself, maybe something I absorbed from somewhere along the line this past year.

So I'm starting to re-think it all -- thinking critically, not shitically -- with an eye towards the Hegelian synthesis. Do I want to fold myself into a career path? No. But I do want to make something of my life, but it's my life, my life, and so I don't want to compromise. Should I manage to vest myself in that belief and carry it through, it's an even more ambitious and adventurous choice than springing for some career hook.

However, I'm nagged by lingering tendrils of doubt. Is this just a way to get out of doing work that I don't want to do? Is this just a way to sleep late and party more? I think not, but I don't know for sure just yet. How long can I wait for certitude? Uncertain. But I feel the wheels are in motion here, and that's a welcome sensation.

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HomeZone

After a night of general amorality -- still digesting details and waiting for painkillers to come to my succor -- I'm going shopping for presents. My annual gift celebration will be tomorrow, and like any good irresponsible male, I've left the actual purchase of gifts to the last minute.

I can only say in my defense that I've given a fair amount of thought to what I'm going to buy. I think that counts for something. What and how much of it remains unclear.

But enough; I've got to do my duty as an American and consume consume consume!

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Killing Word Macro Virus (W97M.Thus.A) On MacOS X

This blog entry contains instructions on how to clean up your system if you have a little outbreak of a Microsoft Word macro virus called W97M.Thus.A. It's also rife with commentary. If you want to skip straight to the step-by-step instructions, click here. Otherwise, read on.

Welcome New Visitors
It seems this post has gotten a kind of second life of sorts. That's cool. I just want to reply to this commentary from my most prodigal new linker: "This ends the myth that switching to MACs will make computing life any easier." I take exception to "any easier." If you meant "completely without hassle or danger," then you'd be right. But I think there's a little hyperbole at work here. Anyway, I'm glad people are finding this information useful. On with the show!

One of the great things about Apple software is its general security. The operating system has always been developed by a tight team of engineers (compared to Microsoft's assembly-line methodology) and now with a firm basis in the UNIX-like BSD system -- Apple's flavor is called Darwin -- the core system code is not only extremely efficient and well-documented, but also highly secure because of the number of people constantly vetting it all over the world.

Also, because the user-base is small compared to Windows, there's not as much incentive to create spyware/malware or viruses. However, the flip side of that is that most Mac users assume they don't need to worry about viruses, and if they do have a problem, not as much is known about how to fix it.

Case in point: sometime over the past year, I picked up the W97M.Thus.A, a macro-virus which uses Microsoft Word's internal scripting language to self propagate. It is harmless on Macs, but it can spread to PCs where it will attempt to delete files every December 13th. Annoying, but I really didn't want to spend $100 on some software just to clean my MS Word files. I don't like MS Word and very rarely use it, so I started looking around for another solution. Here's what I found.

Detection:
Thanks to the aforementioned BSD-base, Mac users and developers can make effective use of the wide world of open source libraries and tools. There's a collaboratively maintained and updated database of virus definitions and engine for checking files called ClamAV. Pretty cool.

Cooler still, British systems analyist Mark Allen has packaged for MacOSX as clamXav. Google eventually brought me that piece of code, which in turn informed me as to the name of the virus I was having problems with.

A little experimentation confirmed that some of the proposal files I was working with were infected with W97M.Thus.A. Since the folks I send these to are often PC users, there's a risk that the virus could negatively impact their system. I'm also asking them to employ me based in part at least on my technological acumen, so sending a virus with my proposal is embarrassing, perhaps livelihood-imperiling.

However, ClamAV/clamXav are virus detection programs. They don't deal with removing the bad stuff. I knew what I had, but not how to get rid of it without dropping ducats on MacAffee or Symantec.

Removal
I figured out that brand new Word files were infected, so I ran clamXav on the application itself, wanting to see if the virus code was somehow inside Word, or maybe living elsewhere. Turns out the only place it appears is in the "Normal" template, which is what all new documents start out as. I deleted the template and relaunched Word, and lo and behold I could create new clean documents. However, as soon as I opened any old infected document, my Normal template was hosed immediately.

Then I discovered through a little more googling that part of the action of the virus is to disable "macro virus protection" within Word. This is a feature that has Word warn you when a macro-embedded document is being opened, and allows you to disable macros while working on it if this is unexpected or suspicious. I was able to turn it back on simply by selecting Preferences from the Word menu and hitting the Enable Macro Virus Protection checkbox.

Now when I open infected files, I can disable macros and prevent my "Normal" template from picking up the bug. All that's left is to clean up the files I'm working on, which becomes as simple as opening them, taking the option to disable macros, selecting all, copying, opening a new document, pasting and saving.

Instructions
So, to bring it all back home, here's what to do if you get people telling you your Word files are infected:

  1. Get a copy of clamXav, and run it on your documents. See what's infected. Maybe move them all into one quarantine folder for the sake of keeping order.
  2. Find your "Normal" template. It's in the Microsoft Office X folder, in the templates sub-folder. Trash it. Word will auto-generate a new one.
  3. Go into your Preferences (in the Word menu) and hit the Enable Macro Virus Protection checkbox.
  4. Go through your infected files. When you open them, accept the option to disable macros. Select all, copy, create a new document, paste and then save the new document wherever you want to start storing clean files.

If you ever get another MS Word document which brings up the bit about macros, odds are you've found or received another infected file. Virtually no one uses Word's macro tools these days. Do not enable macros unless you are expecting a macro-dependent file! This is as basic a precaution as not downloading strange and unexpected email attachments.

Big Fish To Fry

Zoomin' up to 50,000 feet but still on the topic of "problems in the world," I revisit one of my regular reads which I'm trying to popularize: John Robb's "Global Guerillas". He's got the best take I've seen on the news that John Negroponte -- our man in Iraq -- is considering pulling from his School of the Americas Playbook and revving up the old paramilitary death-squad system.

The problems with this decentralization strategy are legion. A major one is that the target minority (religion and ethnicity) isn't an isolated powerless subset, rather it is part of a larger majority in the Middle East and an ascendent revisionist movement. The second major problem is that the US will puncture any remaining claim to moral superiority (see the brief on Boyd for more).

I appreciate the kind of analysis Robb provides on the news of the day. It embraces and explores the moral dimensions of our current wars, but doesn't get carried away. Seems like analysis I can use. For contrast, the Kossack commentary is a somewhat less helpful "How evil do you have to be to even consider this option?" I can appreciate the sentiment, but I believe I'm past the usefulness of a sympathy circle.

Anway, following my Sunday whimsy, I clicked the Boyd link and then trackback, and ended up on another good bit of writing from during the election cycle, but still prescient: Are We All Fundamentalists Now? by Jason Lefkowitz --

Strategist John Boyd defined an approach to war in which you attempt to isolate your opponent along three axes: the physical, the mental, and the moral. We are currently suffering from a Boydian moral isolation, brought on in large part because the world doesn't believe that our fight in Iraq is a fight of fundamentalism against rationalism. Instead, they see it almost as two different fundamentalist sects taking each other on -- which leaves rational third parties with no place to put their allegiance, except in their own self-interest.

Never looked at it this way in terms of allied reactions, but it makes a certain kind of sense. It also gives a good pseudopsychological rationale for some people's virtolic reaction to the ambivalence of our traditional allies in this conflict. Very little pisses people off more than telling them you think their god is bullshit.

This also sparks some thoughts on the nature of political fundimentalism vis-a-vis the commentary on the Kos thread, but that's a whole other blog entry, and one I'd have to think through somewhat further.

The point is that the ability to loose perspective by assuming the mantle of moral superiority is universal. It's a colliary no doubt to the corrupting nature of power. Those who place themselves within the sphere of moral conflict without the ability to question their own perspective -- checks and balances, if you will -- are at a serious long-run strategic disadvantage. The absolute power represented by moral certainty will take you places fast, but it'll catch up with you. Jessie Taylor of Pandagon brings it all back home, with his commentary on torture apoligists:

The torture brigade isn't really concerned about winning the war. They're playing a videogame in which they don't realize that they may never run out of bullets, but as long as they keep doing what they're doing, they're never going to run out of enemies. The strategy, however, will never change, as they can point to their score and the corpses on the ground and declare that victory is almost around the corner.

Sooner or later though, the dollar cost and body count will get high enough that we'll disengage. At some point you get tired of trying to "beat the game," (which would mean what? genocide?) and quit shoveling quarters in. In the meantime, you haven't done your homework, and you're broke, out of shape, and have no friends. Payback's a bitch.

I had some hopes that after these proposed end-of-month elections, Bush might take the advantage and bail. It's looking less likely judging by the political winds, which is really too bad. Without a major change in focus soon, we're going to reap the whirlwind of our declining social capital and our junk-bonded diplomatic/moral status. It would appear that Bush is back to writing his legacy. Stupid, Broke, Fat and Alone: The 21st Century Decline Of The United States.

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Upsy Downsey

I'm back in hometown Eugene; the Willamette valley gives me peace. Waking up earily after a late fun night in SF, coffee, BART (where a really friendly mildly retarded woman and husband and I had something aproxomating a conversation), iPod, short United flight, PDX Light Rail (more and more hip-hop heads in Portland; interesting cultural shift), Amtrak (ticket counter guy still referencing 9/11 to old ladies at the counter; wtf?)... finally the observation car. There's a kind of green here that's unique. You forget about it when you're away, but then you remember. It goes well with the clean smell of the air, and the comforts of home wash over you.

But, unfortunately, there's also a flipside. I get mail from the IRS at my mother's house, and apparently I owe them a fair chunk of change. I may have been 21, just out of college, scraping by, and then -- here's my own sucker bit to leech off tragegy -- thrown into near-destitution by 9/11's impact on the NY economy, but they want what I owe them from 2001, plus penalties and interest. Which I suppose is fair, and to be expected really.

So I'll need to start looking around for more income, and going back on my austerity budget. That's ok. I needed focus anyway, and better to be spurred to action by taxes as than by death. Thanks Uncle Sam?

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Vagabender -- DIYUSA

So this summer road trip thing is getting more and more real. I just bought two domains for it:

diyusa.org: I'm thinking the .org part of the trip is propaganda, people, the Big Ideas and stuff.

vagabender.com: The .com seems like maybe the place to promote outcomes, like the film we intend to make.

Woo!

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Another Blast From The Past

I referenced this in the lengthy piece below, but for those who don't click "read more" and/or didn't click through in the array of links I laid down, here's something I remembered in all my nostalgia. This was made four years ago:

What I decided to attempt instead was to create a sort of combination "state-of-the-union" and "active-citizenship primer" for the emerging virtual nation. I say emerging, because as hot-shit as all the wall street boys think the internet is now, just wait another five or six years. If things go the way of cheap universal open access and not the way of monopolistic proprietary gold digging, the denizens of the net will be more numerous, more capable and more powerful by several orders of magnitude.

That's from the "about" page of Denizens, something I created instead of a final paper in one of my last classes at NYU. Re-reading it makes me wish I'd kept more of my academic work from that period, purile as much of it might have been.

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