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"Why do I know your name?" The excellent answer at BAG News Notes.

Weekend Bloggerback
Best of Blogs Round-Up: Monday, April 24, 2006


John Milton on Darfur Awareness Week, with apologies to the poetic muse of John Milton, but not his political one – Milton would l think have understood, and forgiven the plagiarism.

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered sons, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Sahel grasses sere;
Nor yet thy violated daughters' fear
Before they fell to hate as hard as stones,
Forget: and in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, with gun and bomb and spear
Slain by the bloody Sudanese. The drear
Survivor camps feed men, rot souls. Their moans
The plain redoubled to the dunes, and they
To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes stain
The paper shrouds that cynics weave and lay
To mute the crime with spiritless refrain;
Turn reptile tears to burning coals; in pain
The debt to justice make the murd'rers pay.


Featured Blog, I: Straw Men
Here's Yer "Blog, Humbug," Pal

While waiting for my clothes to dry, I did something I do much less often these days: Read the Sunday Inquirer - on paper. The front page of the Currents section (the former News & Views, I think) is themed “Can we live without newspapers?” and includes the piece Jeff Jarvis did on the norgs conference, something from Hugh Hewitt and from Rick Stengel, CEO of the National Constitution Center. Inside was this snippy little piece from staffer Jonathan Last.

If I were his editor, I would have made him rewrite it. (But then, I always was conscientious that way.)

But the biggest evil of blogs is that first flaw, blogging’s original sin: the discounting of news-gathering in favor of news analysis. Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is, yet very few of them have ever really practiced it. Sure, they may have written opinion pieces that compare favorably to the work of Molly Ivins or Ann Coulter, but opinion writing is a tiny - and let’s be honest, inconsequential - corner of the journalism world. Real journalism - the practice of adding to the store of public knowledge by reporting news - is a difficult, thankless, and often unpleasant task. Bloggers want no part of it. Everyone wants E.J. Dionne’s job; no one wants to be Michael Dobbs.

There is really no excuse for this kind of “straw man” silliness, and part of the problem is that Last makes no distinction whatsoever between the left and right blogosphere. This is akin to confusing professional wrestling with the Olympic event.

Plus, it’s such lazy, half-assed writing. (Maybe his laundramat has wifi, too. Maybe he had one eye out for an open dryer as he wrote this extended pout.) “Bloggers are forever telling us how easy journalism is”? Which bloggers, Mr. Last? How many? When? Can you find any on the left side of the top-ranked blogsphere who say journalism is easy? (I know I’ve pointed out how a story should be done on many occasions - but then again, I’m an award-winning journalist with 20 years’ experience.)

Another worry is that, as a medium, the blog does not value well-crafted writing. Except for Mark Steyn and James Lileks, it’s hard to pick out even three beautiful writers from the millions of bloggers.

And here’s where we figure it out. Mark Steyn? James Lileks? (Yes, that James Lileks.)

Don’t get out and around the liberal blogosphere too often, do you, Jonathan? (Which bolsters my perpetual argument about the sheer laziness of reporters. It’s been a few years since conservative blogs truly dominated the landscape, and yet some journalists are still referring to the same old bookmarks. See, once you’re in their Rolodex, virtual or otherwise, that’s it.) Read the rest at Suburban Guerilla...

Featured Blog, II: Hegel Lite
On Robert Wright's Nonzero

I have read Robert Wrights' book NONZERO. It is a great book where the authors wonders and then tries to prove that history has a direction, that it is heading one way, and a good one. Wright even finds a sense to wars in uniting countries together. It is an amazing trip throughout human history and progress. Below a few notes I took as I have read it. I really advise you to read it if you have not.

-there is no better metaphor for a non-zero sum relationship than being "in the same boat". Wright claims that human history is a non zero sum game, a "win win" game, different from zero sum games, where there are parties that lose and other that win, such as tennis, or poker...

-the business partnership and one of the basic elements of capitalism coalesced in Europe during the late Middle Ages, notably the justly celebrated "contratto di commenda" used to pool capital for trade, as ships required too much capital for its owner to take the risk. But the idea of the commenda may well have come from the Islamic world. Before the commenda appeared in Italy in the tench century, the very same tool, under another name, was used by Muslims as they turned Baghdad and Basra into centers of world commerce, trading goods ranging from paper and ink to panther skins and ostrinches. At about the same time as the commenda was created, checks drafted in Baghdad could be cashed in Morocco, a convenience not offered by European banks until centuries later.

-China's technological base during the Middle Ages was a harbinger of modernity: printing, the magnetic compass and the first bombs were invented in China.

-In Mathematics, India gave Europe, among other things, the concept of zero and the decimal number system, including the numerals that are misleadingly called "Arabic".

-The invention of the printing press (1450), more than any other factor, rendered vast multilingual empires unwieldly to the point of being unworkable. The printing press also helped overhaul religious thought and ushered in both the scientific and industrial revolutions. "In 1450, most Europeans would have laughed at the notion of a single, intricately woven global civilization (and perhaps at the notion of a globe). Yet already they possessed the basic machinery for creating this world".

-[the printing press] The source of history's directionality is intellectual advance, scientific, technical, political, moral. Over time, people build better machines, better governements, better societies, better moral codes, they rationally discern the good and rationally achieve it.

-the press paradox: it helped break up arbitrary empires but also helped fuse small polities. A single Serb, vuk Karadzic, developed a Serb alphabet, published a Serbian grammar book, translated the New Testament, and compiled Popular Songs and Epics of the Serbs, paving the way for a Serbian nationalism that, for better or worse, would prove durable.

-Secular rulers, from the early modern era onward, tried to control the press. In the late sixteenth century, Britain's Star Chamber confined printing rights to two universities and twenty one London print shops, hoping to rein in the "great enormities and abuses" caused by "diverse, contentious and disorderly persons professing the art or mystery of printing or selling of books". In France, before the Bastille was stormed in 1789, more than eight hundred authors, printers, and book sellers had been imprisoned there.

Read the rest at Loïc Le Meur...
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