Archive for October 31st, 2004

Bad Moon Rising

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The Bad Things have started to happen. The cosmic
balance has been upset, the gods are angry, and there’ll be hell to pay.
One day after the triumphant Victory Parade through the rain-drenched
streets of Boston, celebrating the end of an 86 year-old curse, the New
England Patriots were annihilated by the Pittsburgh Steelers, ending the
longest winning streak in the 84 year history of the NFL.

But we fear there is more to come, and not all on the playing field, further retribution
for a Pyrrhic victory which felt false and hollow even as the storied
St. Louis nine folded like a house of cards. After the final out we felt
like an 86-year old virgin who finally gets some and asks in disgusted
disbelief, "That’s IT?"

Signs of the approaching apocalypse abound; Crazy Harold just checked in from Boca Raton to tell us that HE just received
a call from Red Sox ace Curt Shilling, ordering him to vote for Bush.
Dick Cheney spent 14 hours in the air to attend a 2-hour rally in Hawaii,
which has 4 electoral votes. The race is so close that both sides have
pulled out the Big Guns.  The gloves were dropped long ago. Our
advice at this point is to hunker down and watch the show, but beware
collateral damage.

A Voice from Haiti

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Longtime readers may remember that the Dowbrigade
has long felt underenDOWed in the comments department.  Our single
greatest commenter is our dear Mum, up in Downeast Maine, and it always
surprises us that we are as likely to get comments on the story about
the woman who built the Harley Davidson out of butter we posted last year as about the hot
topic we just posted 15 minutes ago.

But once in a while a comment to an older posting comes
in which deserves a read on its own merits.  The following was in
response to a posting from February titled "Where
are the Haitian Bloggers"?
I nominate
Roy:

Haiti currently is nothing more than a gigantic slum,
a cesspool of misery and disease. I am Haitian and I recognize it, no
need to hide it or pretend anything else, we are only fooling ourself
by pretending otherwise. Images don’t lie. Others may choose to pretend
and overlook the facts, let me be extremely clear with all, I have lived
in haiti, I have lived in other countries and I have travelled the world,
Haiti is truly in bad shape. It is everything you see on TV and more:
endless and object poverty, misery and ignorance.We, as Haitians have
to realize that our so called leaders have failed us. Latortue, Aristide,
Preval, Avril, Cedras, Duvalier…etc they have all failed.why? because
of a winner takes all mentality that is still permeating every aspect
of Haitian society. Let us not blame others for what is truly our own
shortcomings. Haitian society is based on extreme raw survival at the
expense of your fellow men. Decency, honesty and respect are not found
in Haiti instead raw individualism, aggressivity, ignorance and selfisness
abound. Is there any solution? time and time again, when faced with great
dangers,human resiliency usually prevails. It will take a new breed of
Haitian leaders to turn Haiti around. Haiti needs right now a Martin
Luther King, a JFK and a Churchill mixed into one. Haiti needs a leader
with vision who truly loves his country, a leader who will put the welfare
of the island above any other agenda. We do not need a messianic figure
or a strong man, Haiti needs a leader with vision and with a plan. But
only when we as Haitians shock ourself silly then such leader will emerge.
It takes sometimes catastrophic event for good people to emerge and I’m
positive it is where we are headed but for now on, please let us not
pretend to overlook the obvious: Haiti is a socioeconomic basket case.
It is up to us to change this situation. The ball has been in our court
for quite some time now…almost 200 yrs. Roy

Weapons of War

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The
Dowbrigade is considered an early adopter, at least among the crowd that
shops at K-Mart and nations belonging to the
Andean Pact. On Friday, still flush with the reflected glory of the Beantown
Boys in the World Series and a check from China for some editing work,
we finally bought an iPod, ending three years of unrequited techo-lust.

What took us so long? Well, a teacher’s salary, for
one.  But let’s not dwell on the past.  We’ve joined the iPod
generation! The only thing that bothered us was that in all of the Apple
iPod ads we have seen, as well as most of the young, hip users on the
street, feature the device held loosely in one hand while the head nods
and the body gyrates wildly. Why hold the damn thing in your hand?  Besides
setting yourself up for a snatch and grab, it seems to us immodest techno-exhibitionism.
A brief glimpse of those distinctive white earbuds peeking out of a collar
or sleeve would be so much sexier and classier. Besides, years of operating
in crowds composed of strange and often untrustworthy people has taught us to keep our hands
empty and available for action at all times.

Be that as it may, as far as we can tell from reading
all of the attendant documentation, there is no REQUIREMENT that you
carry it in your hand.  And we love having all of our extensive
and obscure music collection in the palm of our hand, or wherever. Once
we figured out how to connect it to our computer without erasing all
of the music already loaded (this took a while), we were off to the races.

Now that we’ve gotten to know our new toy, we’ve got
to get our good friends Dave Winer and Adam Curry to teach us how to
turn our iPod into a weapon of war.

No, we are not thinking of packing the shell with some
of that HMX explosives gone missing in Iraq, or filing the brushed Titanium
back case to a razor’s edge.  We are talking about a weapon of cultural
war, of media war, of paradigm war. The only real revolutions are in
the minds and hearts of those who believe in them.  We are assembling
the arms of OUR revolution, and the iPod is one of them.

How a Crisis Catches the World’s Attention

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On thing the Dowbrigade has been pondering
for a while now, and which we have concluded is one of the key pressure
points for fixing what ails us, is the
often obscure
process by which the world decides what is worth its attention.

The sad fact is that world public opinion, like most of
the individuals who make it up, has an extrememly short attention span.
For the most part, what occupies that narrow and short-lived band of
attention is determined by the international media conglomerates, with
important contributions from governments, NGO’s and aid agencies and,
hopefully to an increasing degree, by the independent media and the blogosphere.

This importance of this process in determining what we
care about and where we are going to do something about it cannot be overestimated.
The emerging electronic central nervous system of the modern wired world
has for the
first time in the history of the planet created a super-surrogate for
the collective consciousness of the human race. When something important,
pleasureable or dangerous, occurs anywhere on the planet, the messages
will travel over this electronic nervous system to arrive within hours
at the planetary brain, the cerebral consciousness, the awareness of
people
with power
or the illusion of power, who have at least the capability to take action
and affect the situation.

It is obvious that the system which determines which of
the billions of actions and events taking place around the world every
day filters through this system and arrives on the TV screens and newspaper
front pages is key to the very nature and values of the evolving world
consciousness.  It determines what we know about, what we care about,
what we do something about, and ultimately, our usefulness to the universe
as a species and perhaps our proper place if not our continued presence
in it.

An interesting article in todays Los
Angeles Times
explores
the process by which the spotlight of world attention which is constantly
sweeping across the globe stops momentarily to illuminate one or another
of the crises crying for attention. It concerns Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary
for Humanitarian Affairs.

After more than a quarter of a century in human rights
and relief work – he became head of Amnesty International in Norway at
23 – the U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, now 47, has the
trajectory of a disaster down to a science. He can read the warning signs
of a crisis the way a mariner knows that a ring around the moon presages
a storm. And he’s learning to predict which situation will spark an international
response.

Only three causes a year rise to the forefront of international consciousness,
he figures, and then only after nine dire warnings have been largely ignored.
The 10th one, it seems, is the charm.

But even then, to the frustration of aid officials, the severity of a crisis
– the number of dead or injured or starving – is no guarantee that it will win
the attention lottery. According to a wide range of humanitarian officials, a
complex set of circumstances will determine whether the world will care – and
act – to stave off disaster.

The first critical factor is the geopolitical importance of the individuals or
place involved. Kosovo, because it was in Europe, received quick attention. So
did Afghanistan – after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. But
if disaster happens someplace where no countries have a strategic stake, Egeland’s
experience has shown that few will care.

The second variable is the ability of U.N. workers and other advocates to lobby
and act on behalf of the forgotten.

"Most people can’t find Central African Republic or Guinea on a map," Egeland
said. "That leaves us."

Finally, a select group of Western political and media leaders plays a key role.
Once the crisis gets on American television news and the politicians start to
visit, money and aid start rolling in.

from the Los Angeles Times