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Archive for March 5th, 2010

Second Anti-Government Terrorist Attack in 2 weeks

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We had another attack by a crazed anti…Obamaite? I guess? He was angry about the “expansion of government”, suspicious over the truth about 9/11, wished to reveal the truth about the “September 11th demolitions”, etc. I think there can be no doubt that the recent rise of the “paranoid style” in American politics, as exemplified by Mr. Beck and Ms. Palin has something to do with thisĀ  – and please, read a transcript of Ms. Palin’s “Tea Party” speech, wherein she harangues Mr. Obama for forty-five minutes, accusing him of every crime under the sun , except the ones he actually committed – calling him a tyrant, a usurper, a dictator, etc. before ending her speech with, and I’m not making this up, “I will fight for my country – I will die for my country!” It looks as though some of her followers may have taken those words to heart.

Needless to say the media consensus is that these were not “Terrorist” acts, but merely crimes comitted by confused Americans. “Terrorists”, as Glenn Greenwald explains, are exclusively Arab and/or Muslim. As he reveals, Newsweek‘s Managing Editor, Kathy Jones, even codified it into a “handy guide”:

Did the label terrorist ever successfully stick to McVeigh? Or the Unabomber? Or any of the IRS bombers in our violence list?

Here is my handy guide:

Lone wolfish American attacker who sees gov’t as threat to personal freedom: bomber, tax protester, survivalist, separatist

Group of Americans bombing/kidnapping to protest U.S. policies on war/poverty/personal freedom/ – radical left-wing movement, right-wing separatists

All foreign groups or foreign individuals bombing/shooting to protest American gov’t: terrorists.

So “terrorists” are, by definition, not Americans. But whatever you wish to call it, I do predict we see an increase in the incidence of this sort of thing. America is a big country, and I don’t think all 300 million of us will be subjected to this every day like, oh, say, the Iraqis were – however, people are furious at what our elected officials allowed to happen and are still allowing to happen. While President Obama may not be personally responsible for these things, the system which he heads is responsible, and he’s done nothing to change that. So the anger, at least, is justified.

These attacks do not bode well for our civil liberties, and let us not forget, President Obama has all the new powers President Bush gave himself – including the power to declare martial law at will.

Now I sound like a Tea Party protester myself! Their ideology is attractive and flawed. A discussion for another day, I suppose.

Written by pavanvan

March 5, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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Paywalls and Micropayments

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Ebert has a really good summary of the difficulties in making money on the web. The Columbia Journalism Review has a 10,000 word treatise on the subject if you’re interested, but Ebert’s article is almost as good at 1/10th the length.

The thing about the money is that he’s not making any. He observes that the only people who are able to reliably generate income from subscriptions are the purveyors of online pornography, quoting one of his friends as saying “if there’s one thing you can put behind a firewall, its porn.” True enough, but it does little to help those pursuing more chaste online ventures.

Roger Ebert is undoubtedly the most-read movie critic on the web. His pageviews probably make up half of those of the whole Chicago Sun-Times. He complains, in his post, that his advertisements don’t generate any kind of sustainable income, and he wonders what this betokens for art of newspapering.

The consensus among newspapers at this point is that it’s impossible to run a free, quality newspaper solely on online advertising revenue. Print circulations are dwindling, and they’re not coming back. Ebert outlines the two major proposed solutions: Paywalls – charging a monthly fee for unlimited access to the site – and Micropayments – a pay-per-article scheme.

Each has its success story; The Wall Street Journal has been behind a partial paywall for years, and it has more than a million subscribers. The Financial Times has exploited a micropayment scheme quite successfully. But those papers cover a very narrow niche, and one for which wealthy people are willing to pay a premium. Their business reporting simply cannot be got elsewhere. Would the same sort of demand exist for mainstream general papers like, say, The New York Times?

It would seem not. The Times, for its part, will institute a paywall next year. According to their official communiques, which have been contradictory and misleading, they plan to utilize a sort of “porous paywall”, wherein every IP address gets a few free articles and articles that they arrive at from other sites (following a link from this blog, for instance), will also be free. It remains to be seen how they will be able to prevent this system from being abused (I can think of a thousand ways), but assuming they set their programmers to devise some safeguard, and judging from their aborted TimesSelect project, I estimate they will net approximately 300,000-400,000 subscribers.

I am not in a position to state whether or not this will be enough. And as Ebert mentions in his article, the likelihood is that The Guardian will become the next online “newspaper of record” if the Times should disappear completely behind a paywall – a vast improvement, in my opinion. But if The Guardian goes? Well, then The Washington Post perhaps, though I shudder to think it, or maybe The London Times or The Los Angeles Times.

Can all these papers survive by online subscription? There is reason to think they cannot. And if they can’t, the logical conclusion betokens a further corporatization of the press. The only sites that will be able to staff full-time reporters are the ones who either find a benefactor, or are large and established enough to make a living from paywalls and micropayments. The problem of how a writer can earn an honest living remains unsolved.

Interestingly enough, George Orwell wrote of the same problem more than 60 years ago, in 1946. In his essay The Cost of Letters, he concludes that a “serious” writer must necessarily be a pauper – either that or resort to hackwork. I suppose it is comforting to know things have not changed very much since then.

Written by pavanvan

March 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Quote of the Day

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As a filmmaker, I’m not interested in 9/11 […] it’s too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings. So in 2001, some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral, not important. History is the same thing over and over again.

– Woody Allen

Written by pavanvan

March 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized