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Archive for June, 2005

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Balancing the Scales: An Example of Bad Reporting

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Following up on my post about good, balanced reporting from Reuters, here’s an article on the same topic from the New York Times (via Jeff Jarvis). The title, “Some Iraqis Optimistic About Sovereignty,” is encouraging. But then we begin to read:

Paragraph 1:

“When [an Iraqi butcher was] asked what he thought about life in Iraq . . . he responded with a blast of invective as heated as the sunbaked sidewalks [of] Baghdad.”

Paragraph 2:

“What sovereignty are you talking about? How can you even call it sovereignty? We have thousands of occupation troops in this country and you talk about sovereignty? Enough! Iraq is nothing but an American base.”

Paragraph 4:

“Both of those governments have been rubbish. How can you call them governments when they were imposed from abroad? Those governments and their ministers are just puppets. They are all spies, for Iran and the Kurds. I tell you, Saddam did the right thing when he used chemical weapons against the Kurds.”

Paragraph 7:

“[A New York Times survey] turned up plenty of people who bridled over the issues that have eroded support for the American presence in Iraq, from the relentless violence to doubts about the degree of authority vested in Iraqi ministers to faltering supplies of electricity and water and woeful inadequacies in hospitals and schools. There were many, too, especially among Sunni Arabs, who favored a withdrawal of American troops and the resumption of authority by an Iraqi government that is not dependent on foreign troops.”

Perhaps they had the wrong title? Ah wait, here it is. In Paragraph 8:

“But perhaps more striking, considering the huge gap between the hopes stirred when American troops captured Baghdad in April 2003 and the grim realities now, were the number of Iraqis who expressed a more patient view. Among those people, the disappointments and privations have been offset by an appreciation of both the progress toward supplanting the dictatorship of Mr. Hussein with a nascent democratic system and the need for American troops to remain here in sufficient numbers to allow the system to mature.”

The article goes on to quote several folks who strike a very similar tone to those in the Reuters article – we want the Americans to leave, but we’re grateful for what they did and understand why they’re still here. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re improving. etc.

It’s a lesson in strawmen:
Step 1: Take a survey and get surprising results.
Step 2: Interview a somewhat hysterical person (Saddam did the right thing when he gassed the Kurds? Please…) to imply that he represents the norm.
Step 3: Give the results of the survey, and characterize them as a gap between the picture you just painted and what the survey actually shows.

I guess it’s better than just lying about it.

But not much…

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | No Comments »

The Grim Spammer

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Running through my Junk Mail box, I noticed this piece of spam from Reunion.com:

Gulp! I was hoping for more than 12! Do you think that constitutes a threat?

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

An Example of Good Reporting

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

I was impressed by this Reuters article on the President’s speech last night:

Many Iraqis in the capital, weary after more than two years of bloodshed and economic dislocation, view U.S. troops with a degree of mistrust but also as a bulwark against sectarian violence they fear might trigger civil war if they left.

Grateful, in the main, for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, many are dismayed by what they see as heavy-handed tactics and a failure by the U.S. occupiers to prevent Iraq becoming a new haven for foreign Islamists in the chaos that followed Saddam.

It goes on to quote several Iraqi citizens, all of whom have either rational criticisms of the U.S. (“They didn’t come to Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people. Their aim was to deflect terrorism from their own country.”) or show a degree of understanding about our purpose there (“Bush and America decided to help the Iraqi people and that is in our interest.”)

It also discusses the insurgency in terms of the violence it’s causing (“Violence has worsened sharply in Iraq since the Shi’ite- and Kurd-led government took power two months ago”), as well as the political effect it’s having (“[A] Sunni leader. . . launched a new political movement, saying he aimed to give a voice to figures from the ‘legitimate Iraqi resistance.’).

All of the hysteria I’ve read on both sides (“The war is a total failure” vs. “the media doesn’t cover things fairly”) lead me to believe that this article probably reflects the actual tone of what’s going on out there, and suggests that the author has no personal or political axe to grind.

I hope to see more like it…

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | No Comments »

One step closer to fame and fortune…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

For those of you who don’t read every single word of every single article in CFO magazine, here’s a link to What, Where, and How Much? by John Verity, which features a quote from yours truly near the bottom of the page.

This goes in my collection along with Running IT Like a Business Isn’t So Easy, Execs Say from Computerworld, which ran last March, after I spoke at an IT Financial Management Conference in Miami.

Funnily enough, in Googling for the CFO article, I also came across this, which is a 30 second interview they did with me in Miami about what I thought of the conference.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the alarm on my 15-minute clock just went off and I need to go shut it…

Categories: Money Talk | No Comments »

Rights & Privileges

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Yahoo has shut down their chat rooms due to complaints from some of their advertisers that they were being used for promote sex with minors. Privacy advocates have jumped all over it:

“This is a real overreaction on the part of Yahoo,” Annalee Newitz, policy analyst for the EFF, said. “To just unilaterally shut down chat rooms is really chilling to free speech.”

I wonder how, exactly, not having access to Yahoo chat rooms limits your right to free speech. Yahoo is a corporation providing a service, not a public utility. If they choose to stop offering that service (for whatever reason), don’t they have the right to do that? Or are Yahoo chat rooms now essential to our right to express ourselves? Were we living in a fascist state before Yahoo was created and just didn’t know it? What about the hundreds of other chat room services that still exist on the Internet? Don’t they take up the slack?

Many folks, particularly those who have branded themselves “professional advocates,” seem very willing to blur the line between rights and privileges. A right is guaranteed by law and cannot be taken away without prosecution (or at the very least, public outcry). A privilege is guaranteed only by a contract between two parties (express or implied) and can be taken away based on the terms of that contract. When you use Yahoo’s services, you agree to a “Terms of Service” contract. You are granted the privilege of using Yahoo’s service (in this case, free of charge) in exchange for granting them the privilege of showing you their advertisers’ messages. Yahoo takes a risk that everyone will suddenly stop using the service and they’ll have to return their advertisers money. You take a risk that Yahoo will decide to get out of the chat room business, leaving you with no place to discuss Tom Cruise’s love life (sorry, cheap shot).

We have the right to free speech. We do not have the right to Yahoo Chat Rooms. Claiming that we do only decreases the signal-to-noise ratio in this area, making it less likely that an actual rights violation will be taken seriously.

UPDATE: Other advocacy groups are praising Yahoo’s decision:

“The specific reason for the closure not withstanding, this is a positive a step in the online fight against child exploitation,” said Michelle Collins, director of the exploited children unit at The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, based in Alexandria, Va.

Ms. Collins makes a good point. I wonder which Ms. Newitz of the EFF (see above) would consider more important: chilling the right to free speech or preventing child exploitation? Tough call, I guess, especially when you make your living defending free speech…

Categories: Political Rantings | No Comments »

More on the Mactel front…

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

OK, the combinations are coming in faster than a hyperactive craps table:

Michael Dell says he’d be willing to offer the Mac OS on Dell machines, even though their attempt at selling Linux laptops has already failed. Apple had no official comment, but has said that they won’t allow the Mac OS to run on anything but an Apple Mac (motto: “trying hard not to sell too much software…”)

Apple’s also said they won’t sell or support Windows on Apple hardware (motto: “it used to be we couldn’t run the most popular OS in the world, now we just don’t want to…”)

I agree with Jeff Porten on this one – it’ll be the hackers who get it working first, and the relative success of their hacks that determine whether the company “decides” to support it in the future (motto: “don’t look free beta-testers in the mouth…”)

Categories: Tech Talk | 2 Comments »

Please, no autographs…

Monday, June 20th, 2005

It ain’t every day you type your name into Google News and see yourself as the first hit:

Business Engine Customer, Lehman Brothers, Speaks on IT Alignment at Gartner Project & Portfolio Management Summit; IT Cost Transparency in Focus at Conference for Senior IT Executives

Categories: Money Talk | 1 Comment »

MacTel – The Unholy Alliance is Born

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Jeff Porten writes about the Apple/Intel alliance (twice!).

I respond here.

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

I told you so…

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Remember back in April of last year, when the EU successfully defended customer choice by crushing the big, bad monopoly power of Microsoft?

Well, as predicted, it turns out that a whole lot of time & effort has gone into defending a choice that no one wants:

PC makers snub Windows sans media player

“Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens all said they have no firm plans to install Windows XP N, citing a lack of customer demand. A Dell representative added Tuesday that customers expect to have a media player included. . . ‘Customers purchase computers expecting them to come equipped with the capability of playing back digital media files, and it’s our obligation to meet this need. ‘ “

As I said in my original essay on the topic, Windows is not number one because of its quality; it’s number one because of its ubiquity. It’s only through the twisted logic of government-think that making the product less functional is somehow a good thing for consumers.

Categories: Tech Talk | 2 Comments »

Family Spam

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Cleaning out my junk mail box today, I noticed quite a few spam e-mails addressed to me and cc:’ing my wife.

Kudos to the spammers, whose technology has advanced to the point where they can figure out that my wife & I are related (same domain? Same personal webpage? Whatever). I’m always impressed with new, effective technologies.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t happily delete it after my automatic spam filter captures it & files it away…

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

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