Creative! Great Spam Names

Every few days, I go through my spam filters to make sure nothing important is in there, and to ‘train’ the Baysean filters at MailSift.

There’s one spammer – or a spam package – that appends amusing names as FirstName MI LastName. Like ‘Rufus T. Firefly’. I get a small amount of entertainment out of the names, which amuses me as I think of new ways to torture the spammer to death – slowly. Very slowly.

Today, I found the best name to date. Meet ‘Contused H. Latina.’

An Army of Juan

It looks like my second-favorite academic, Juan Cole, is headed to chair the Middle Eastern department at Yale. It’s probably useful to note that many of the analysts and FSO’s who shape our policies toward the Middle East come from Middle Eastern Studies departments, suggesting that the Saudi investment in shaping those departments may be millions of dollars well-spent. And explaining a lot about how it is that we’re in such a hole in the Middle East.

I won’t kid myself into believing that anything I write here will have any impact on Yale’s decision, but just for the record, I’d like to go through the highlights of Juan’s and my relationship.

Juan Cole suggests the UN takes over Iraqi security (note that links to Cole’s work may or may not reflect what he wrote at the time – he tends to edit…). I reply:

Because I have one reply to Juan’s suggestion. Srebenica. Srebenica. SrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenicaSrebenica.

Then I supported Cole in the face of a threatened suit by MEMRI.

But as far as I am from supporting Cole – and I’m really, really far from supporting him (I have a post in the blog queue about despicable Columbia professor Joseph Massad and Cole’s support of him) – I can’t remain silent when someone, even someone I admire like MEMRI, uses the heavy hand of the law to attempt to quash what is essentially political speech.

Then I reversed field, because it turns out that it was a matter of goose and gander:

But until I do I’ll completely withdraw my support of his position. If you’re going to be a ‘playa’ and threaten to lawyer up in response to political criticism, you don’t get to go publicly wrap yourself the First Amendment when someone does it to you (as opposed to wrapping oneself in it in court, which you obviously do get to do).

And sent him this email. We had a private correspondence, which I won’t reproduce, except to note that his tone in email was more over-the-top than that on his blog.

Then came the blowup.

Cole blogged about the murder of Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman – someone who had a significant correspondence with Prof. Cole – and failed to mention their relationship.

To me, that was unforgivable. It would be as though Omar or Mohammed from ITM were murdered and I simply did a post about the political significance of the killing, without mentioning our relationship. To me, the personal trumps the political, and to violate a personal relationship for an instrumental purpose is truly sinful and inhumane.

Then Cole did it again – his “just sayin'” passalong of the accusation that the ITM brothers were CIA plants and “outside the Iraqi mainstream” turns out to have been based on what sure as heck looks like a basic misreading of the cited information, which in fact said:

In a stunning display of support for democracy and a strong rebuttal to critics of efforts to bring democratic reform to Iraq, 87% of Iraqis indicated that they plan to vote in January elections. Expanding on the theme, 77% said that “regular, fair elections” were the most important political right for the Iraqi people and 58% felt that Iraqi-style democracy was likely to succeed.

We both kind of climbed down…

Then Cole got on the radio and demonstrated his ignorance of the history of electoral mechanics.

I’ll skip over the history in the urban East Coast, where political machines like Tammany used ties with immigrant groups to induce them to vote for candidates whose names they couldn’t read, and simply suggest that the ‘blanket’ or ‘Australian’ ballot – one that listed all the candidates for a party and allowed the voter to select one – wasn’t implemented in the US until very late in the 19th Century.

…I could recommend some history books for the Professor, if he’d like.

Cole stands tall, and tosses the ‘chickenhawk’ slur.

Here Cole talks about the jackboots of Israeli oppression (in talking about the Lebanese demonstrations). I suggest that it’s complete misreading of Western history in the face of true popular movements, and of a piece with his constant demonization of Israeli and Western governments.

Cole:

Update: Al-Jazeerah is reporting that the Lebanese Opposition is now calling for the big demonstrations at Martyrs’ Square to continue until all Syrian troops leave Lebanese soil.

You wonder what would happen if the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza tried the same thing re: Ariel Sharon’s military occupation that they face. They’d be crushed by the jackboot (with convenient allegations that they were a front for terrorism).

Me:

This is just risible.

No democratic government – no liberal government – since World War II has been able to withstand peaceful demonstrations for community or national rights. The will to oppress just isn’t deep enough.

Dan Darling got some digs in, talking about the recent Iranian elections:

Predictably enough, Juan Cole has bought into Iranian propaganda hook, line, and sinker and even manages the following:
Turnout was about 60 percent, better than expected. That is slightly bigger than the turnout in Iraq’s recent elections.

Then, my personal favorite – because it gives a clear sense of the intellectual honesty and vigor underpinning Prof. Cole’s positions (the honesty, vigor, and positions Yale will be paying him for):

It appears that he:

1. Made a gross error (link is to a grab of his site by Martin Kramer) in his post – a la Pape – blaming Islamic terrorism on Western occupation (he suggested that 9/11 was a reaction to the massacre at Jenin…which not only never happened, but didn’t happen in 2002, well after 9/11/2001);

2. When Martin Kramer gutted him on his mistakes, Cole “Winston Smithed” his mistake (changed it without note or comment) and then posted a lame apologia when he was caught out. I like the term “Winston Smithed” – or just “Winstoned” and encourage people to use it often when appropriate;
3. When Kramer busted him for doing that, he posted this request to the Kossaks:

Please do up an oppo research diary on Martin Kramer. Who is he? Where did he come from? When he was head of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, to whom did he report in the Israeli intelligence community? Who funded his work on Hizbullah? Was he fired from heading the Dayan Center? How does he suddenly show back up in the US after a 20-year absence with a book that blames unpreparedness for 9/11 on US professors of Middle East Studies instead of on the Israeli Mossad and the US CIA/FBI? What was his role in getting up the Iraq War and in advising the US on the wrong-headed policies that have gotten so many Americans killed? Who pays his salary, now, exactly? What are his links with AIPAC, and with the shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks and dummy organizations?

Basically, he asked the mob to go burn Kramer down. Note that I’m aware of Kramer’s interest in compiling a dossier of writings by Cole and others; I think there’s a big difference in compiling a catalog of someone’s work – for which they are responsible, as I’m responsible for my words here – and digging into the career of an opponent with the clear intent of unearthing damaging information.

When called on that bad behavior, he simply edited it out of existence.

I comment on the philosophical underpinnings of Cole’s work here:

If you had the academic background I did – studying political theory and history in the early 1970’s – this will be as familiar as a Led Zeppelin riff. Everything back then was viewed through the lens of colonialism – internal, external, economic, social, political. It was the aqua regia of political analysis.

And, in its moment – the postwar decades in which the old colonial order crumbled – it probably had some relevance. It probably has some utility today. But as a theoretical anchor in the modern era, it’s just silly. It’s like using epicycles to try and navigate a spaceship.

And worse, it has become the root of Bad Philosophy, which dissolves every relationship into a relationship of power – and which demands that power and violence be used to free the oppressed from the bonds of that power.

Cole then steps to the plate and demonstrates his class – again – by slandering murdered journalist Steven Vincent. Go read what Mrs. Vincent had to say:

You did not know him – you did not have that honor, and you will never have the chance, thanks to the murderous goons for whom you have appointed yourself an apologist.

You strike me as a typical professor – self-opinionated, arrogant, so sure of the rightness of your position that you won’t even begin to consider someone else’s. I would suggest that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for your breathtaking presumption in eviscerating Steven in death and disparaging Nour in life, but, like any typical professor, I have no doubt that you are utterly shameless.

I don’t think I can add much to what Mrs. Vincent had to say.

He can’t help being what he is. We can only decide whether to listen or not.

Iran to IAEA: “Nuts!”

NY Times today:

Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it will refuse to answer questions about a second, secret uranium-enrichment program, according to European and American diplomats. The existence of the program was disclosed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month.

The diplomats said Iran had also refused to answer questions about other elements of its nuclear program that international inspectors had focused on because they could indicate a program to produce nuclear weapons. The diplomats insisted on not being identified because of the delicacy of continuing negotiations between Iran and the West.

A two-pipe problem, Watson

Hiltzik, Part III. Enter The Grown-Ups.

Boy, you go to work, and all heck breaks loose.

The L.A. Times response to Patterico’s presentation of apparent facts about Michael Hiltzik’s sock puppetry by suspending his blog:

The Times has suspended Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog on latimes.com. Hiltzik admitted Thursday that he posted items on the paper’s website, and on other websites, under names other than his own. That is a violation of The Times ethics guidelines, which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public. The policy applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper. The Times is investigating the postings.

I’m human enough to want to crow, but mature enough not to, to be a bit concerned that the damage to Hiltzik’s career will be more serious than would be justified by this, and to be very concerned that the Times will use this as an excuse to step away from the baby steps toward interactivity that it has taken in the last year or so.

As to Hiltzik, I’m not sure what to say, so I’ll say little. He’s at best been ungracious, we disagree about policy pretty significantly, and most important, he’s tone-deaf. From the reviews of his books, he’s a good writer and a smart guy, and I genuinely hope that he’s smart enough to absorb the lesson and come out the other side a better person and a better journalist.

But as to the Times, I want to resurrect something I used in writing about Hiltzik before – in one of my earlier posts criticizing him.

From: Kevin Anderson-Washington XXXXXXXXX@bbc.co.uk
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 2006 16:30:18 -0000
To: XXXXXXXXX@eon.law.harvard.edu
Subject: RE: Best of Both Worlds Continued

OK,

I’ve been meaning to contribute to this discussion because I come from the mainstream media world – the other world so to speak. And the editor of the programme I work on at the BBC World Service, Mark Sandell, has been following this discussion.

Our programme has asked several of you to join us to talk about what is going in your part of the world, and we use Global Voices as a way to broaden out our agenda. What stories are you talking about that we should be aware of?

I still am considering my thoughts about the ways in which blogs and traditional media complement each other. I definitely am not of the view of an adversarial relationship between bloggers and traditional media although being from the US, I have definitely seen this in action.

But, I just wanted to flag up a little note from our editor Mark Sandell, about our thinking in covering stories. We had a discussion yesterday about the mining tragedy in the US, although we expanded this to deal with mine safety elsewhere, including China and South Africa. We had a lot of e-mail comments about why we weren’t covering the landslides in Java or returning to cover the plight of quake victims in South Asia.

Mark posted his thoughts here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/world_have_your_say/4584506.stm

Right now, it’s at the top of the page, but it will shift to the middle after our day-end update. Look for the Note from the Editor. Let me know what you think. We’re trying to be more open about why we do what we do.

best,
k

Kevin Anderson
BBC World Service and Five Live

Transparency, respect, an interest in a mutually beneficial dialog with one’s audience. That’s the future of mass media.

Arrogance, secrecy, and a death-grip on the megaphone is the past.

The Times will eventually embrace the former; I genuinely hope that future is now. The form of dialog without the substance – a willingness to talk and listen – is, as this episode has shown, not going to get them there.

We, in the blogging community, can encourage them by not crowing, not attacking the Times or Hiltzik, and instead trying to encourage them down the path toward their – and our – future.

Hiltzik Replies

here, and I’m gobsmacked.

First, the notion that he’d smugly accuse Patrick of a “ragegasm” – given the overall tone and affect of his writing on his blog and column, as well as the comments he (in all his personae) have left.

But given that he stole the idea from TBogg – given what TBogg does for a living (I’m not going into that here) is precious and amusing.

But if you need evidence that Hiltzik just doesn’t get it … as I suggested earlier … “it” being the notion of respectful dialog with your audience with the intention of everyone walking away more informed – just go read his post.

And make sure to enjoy the comments he’s getting.

Sock Puppets, Journalists, Dialog, Hiltzik

For the last few days, Patrick Frey (Patterico) has been working on a post that pretty conclusively demonstrates that Michael Hiltzik has been using sock puppets – commenting on his own blog, Patrick’s, and several others under more than one pseudonym.

Go read his post, and take a look at the evidence he’s put forth – he is, after all, a prosecutor.

Patrick talked to me when he first starting thinking this through, and one thing we both discussed was “why does this matter?” Other than the obvious – and juvenile – glee in dinging someone who has dinged him, what’s the relevance of this?

Patrick will be making his own case in future posts, I believe, but I want to take a moment and make mine here.

Let me start by talking about pseudonymity.
If Hiltzik were – as a hypothetical – in a recovery program, and someone who posted on a recovery website or discussion board under a pseudonym, to protect his privacy in “the world”, to have connected the pseudonym and the person would be an act of gratuitous cruelty.

But there would be no intersection between his life in the world – as a reporter, columnist of blogger – and the personal world in which he was talking about issues related to his recovery (or sexuality or diet or whatever).

Patterico and I both started out blogging under pseudonyms that we defended – there were very few people who knew that Armed Liberal was Marc Danziger, and at my first blogger events, TG awkwardly introduced herself as “Mrs. Armed Liberal”. We both did it for what we felt were valid reasons, and have both since come out.

But no one has ever wonder what I wrote or where I stand.

Everything I’ve written as a blogger is out there, and there’s a very simple and transparent ability of any reader to look at my words and, if they so choose, form an impression about who I am and what I think.

When Hiltzik (or John Lott, who did the same thing) broke that rule, what he did was to poison the dialog by creating a situation where readers can’t trust writers.

On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog, as they say. But a pseudonym doesn’t have to be obvious. It could be that everything Trent Telenko has written was really written by me – how would that change your perception of his or my honesty and the seriousness with which you’d take my words?

What this enterprise is about, to me is a simple exercise in creating a public dialog about issues that matter.

We have to trust each other to do that.

Michael Hiltzik, like my Journalist In The Hat, doesn’t trust us or the dialog. He’s undermined it.

And, I’ll suggest he’s done so because it has no value to him.

Then I went to Brian’s party, and met a journalist (sadly didn’t get his name or affiliation).

I’ll skip over his arrogance and rudeness; he was in a hostile environment, and maybe he was nervous. But watching the discussion, I realized something that brought the Times issue into clearer perspective for me.

…that while I have (violently at times) disagreed with other bloggers in face to face discussions, I always had the feeling that there was a discussion going on, a dialog in which two people were engaged and trying to understand each other’s points, if for no other reason than to better argue against them. But in dealing with The Journalist In The Hat, no such dialog took place. He had his point to make, and very little that I said (or, to be honest, that others who participated, including Howard Owens, who pointed out that he had worked as a journalist) was heard or responded to. He had his points, and he was going to make them over, and over, until we listened.

UPDATE: Hiltzik replies to Patterico. I didn’t think I was easy to surpise, but I’m gobsmacked.

Tragedy and Courage in Baghdad

And as a good counterpoint to Michael Yon’s post, here’s a tragic one from Omar and Mohammed at Iraq the Model – their brother-in-law was just assassinated.

Their reaction: “Kill us, but you won’t enslave us.

You want to abandon them, and the men and women like them? Not with my support. Not ever.

They write:

The terrorists and criminals are targeting all elements of life and they target anyone who wants to do something good for this country…They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.
We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.

Go over and show them some support. And make sure you send a copy to your Congressmember.

The War in 2006 – Michael Yon’s Magisterial Take

Michael Yon writes – far more eloquently and intelligently than I could – the post about Iraq that has been working through my brain for the last three months.

It’s magisterial, in the sense of

Of, relating to, or characteristic of a master or teacher; authoritative: a magisterial account of the history of the English language.

and we should be taught by him. Here’s a small sample:

But what I saw (and see) as the biggest threat to the outcome was not the increase in sectarian violence among Iraqis. The biggest threat to this mission, and by extension to the future stability of this region and the long term security of the United States and our allies, is and always has been the inability to see, hear and communicate the truth to the American people and our allies. In the final analysis, it is not going to matter if the French support our mission in Iraq, but once Americans turn away from their soldiers in the field, we’ve lost.

In order to fund my own fact-finding in Iraq and Afghanistan, I asked my attorney last week to look into selling some of my photos. His response, in part, which came to me yesterday:

Sadly, what I am hearing is that the demand for material from both countries is way, way down. The market has dried up and the competition from almost free AP photos and US Army material means most agencies do not want to take on someone whose work is primarily war-related at this time.

We have gotten our troops into combat and now we are ignoring them. It’s little wonder that Americans would be angry at me for calling a civil war a civil war. Most of them have no idea what is going on! But this is not the sole fault of the media: if there were great demand for information from the wars, they would dispatch legions of journalists. It is the people at home who are ignoring our people at war.

I cannot strongly enough encourage you to read his piece.

Hiltzik of the LA Times – Unethical Or Just Ignorant?

I’ve had fun reading Michael Hiltzik in the past, mostly because he’s an interesting case of a major newspaper trying on the blog form. He manages, I think to combine the worst of both – the overweening arrogance of the MSM and the casual, fact-challenged style of much blogging. He’s sadly modeling himself on some weird hybrid of TBogg and Atrios, and under the impression that spittle-flecked indignation is what the personal voice of blogging is all about.
Hugh Hewitt has been hammering the Times, and suggesting that their circulation decline (3% year to year) is related to their political leanings (I’m doubtful that this is the whole or even the majority of the reason, but Hugh gets to make his argument).

Hiltzik replies with a typically classless slam at Hugh – suggesting that his blog traffic is down and implying that it’s his conservative stance that’s responsible.

Here’s what Michael says (links in original):

So I think it’s worthwhile to put our results in perspective by asking the question: How is Hugh’s blog doing? Luckily, he has provided us with the answer, thanks to Site Meter, a program he uses to track visits to his website. I’ve been keeping an eye on Hugh’s Site Meter, which appears on his home page, since early February. All I can say to him is: Uh-oh.

Back on February 11, when I began this project, Hewitt’s Site Meter showed there had been 295,874 visits over the previous seven days, for a daily average of 42,268. But by yesterday, April 13, the running seven-day count had declined to 238,782, for a daily average of only 34,112.

That’s a 19.3% decline in Hewitt’s visitor count over a span of only two months. The loss hasn’t been strictly in a straight line, but it has been steady.

Got that? Now click through on the ‘Site Meter’ link in the quote. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

You get the generic Site Meter home page.

Let me introduce Mr. Hiltzik to my little friend, the Internet. One of the things we do, typically, is to link directly to the thing we’re discussing, so that people can look for themselves and validate (or, in this case, invalidate) our claims. Here’s the actual link to Hugh’s Site Meter. Go ahead and click through and let me know if you see a secular decline.

Patterico hammered Hiltzik for misrepresenting the numbers (amplified by Independent Source’s look at Hugh’s Alexa ratings, which go back further than his Sitemeter numbers do.

I want to pile on, and suggest that while I’ve looked at some of Patrick’s more aggressive claims about Hiltzik’s intellectual honesty as a bit over the top, I was wrong – Hiltzik is just plain dishonest.

I can’t imagine another reason why – having look at the actual numbers from Sitemeter for Hugh’s site – he wouldn’t have included the link, except on the assumption that his readers would simply take his word for it.