Cybrarian at Large  

In defeat: DEFIANCE
In Peace: GOOD WILL"
Sir Winston Churchill

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Well, fellow netizens, I imagine most of you have heard about how the NEA wants teachers to deal with 9/11. I’m going to try to track down more information, but this, at least, doesn’t sound encouraging:

“The National Education Association is suggesting to teachers that they be careful not to “suggest any group is responsible” for the terrorist hijackings that killed more than 3,000 people.
Suggested lesson plans …recommend that teachers “address the issue of blame factually,” noting: “Blaming is especially difficult in terrorist situations because someone is at fault…
But another of the suggested NEA plans – compiled together under the title “Remember September 11”…takes a decidedly blame-America approach, urging educators to “discuss historical instances of American intolerance,” so that the American public avoids “repeating terrible mistakes.”
“Internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Arab Americans during the Gulf War are obvious examples…Teachers can do lessons in class, but parents can also discuss the consequences of these events and encourage their children to suggest better choices that Americans can make this time.”

Well, ex-ccuusse me, but I thought we KNEW who was responsible for 9/11? Wasn’t it some guy named Bin Laden, who arranged for 19 of his henchmen to turn planes into guided missiles? And is any amount of “what did we do to provoke this?” hand wringing going to change that fact?
First off, I suggest a campaign of strongly worded E mails to the NEA about any specific distortions or mistakes in those plans.
But beyond this, I think I’ve just discovered another good reason to blog. Each of us can play a part, even if it seems to be a small one, in assuring that the full truth of what happened on Sept. 11 (and what will happen as history unfolds) is preserved for our children, and for their children’s children. This is going to be especially important because the cold, clammy fog of politically correct, nonjudgmental claptrap and flapdoodle is certainly going to keep drifting out form the swamps of the far left. A perfect example is Gnoam Chomsky’s book “9/11”, which I am in the process of responding to in detail, and which is a virtual fog machine.
To our keyboards, then, fellow warbloggers; we have a history to help preserve! If something I write manages to pass down to someone in the future any memory of the dark, snarling evil we face, and of the light of courage it has kindled (and will kindle) in our hearts as we respond, I think I will know this from the afterlife, and will be happy. We have, after all, already seen heroism that will deserve to be remembered as long as history is written, and I suspect that we will see more. And this heroism can only be seen fully if the evil it faces is also seen fully.
This is why I’d like to suggest a Warblogger Historical Preservation Council, or something of the sort; our first-hand accounts, in particular, could be valuable parts of the permanent record, and a bit of planning now could make it much more like that they’ll be there. I have no fixed ideas about the form such a Council would take, or what it would do, and that’s why I would like to open a discussion about this. And I’ll start it off:
Preservation becomes a real issue, especially if we’re thinking more than a generation ahead. Let’s start with a little thought experiment; assume that you are a person, 50 or 100 years in the future, who would really like to look at the information on an old fashioned, circa 2002 diskette or CD. Even if the magnetic “matrix” holding the data hadn’t faded beyond recall, you would still need:

  • A disk drive to read the disk

  • A physical connection between the drive and the computer in the form of cable, port, and circuit board

  • A computer with an operating system that can “talk” to the disc drive and control all the hardware and software involved

  • A supply of parts and expertise that will have kept the computer and disk drive functioning all this time

  • A program that can open and display the information

  • Enough knowledge to run this strange, old fashioned contraption, which will probably have long since been separated from any operating manuals

Considering how quickly information technology is progressing, do you really think your hypothetical future self would be likely to actually get anything useful from that diskette or CD? Remember when Scotty tried to use a 20th century computer in “Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home” ( “A keyboard – how quaint!”)? This should hopefully show some of the problems we’ll be facing as we try to preserve electronic information; I am thinking that, in spite of our best intentions, a lot might fall through the “cracks” as we continue the rush to convert to new formats running on radically different systems.

In some ways, it might actually be easier to lose track of electronic information as opposed to hard copy. Consider CD Rom versions of reference works, for instance – many libraries might donate or sell older versions of print reference works, but how many will pass on older versions of CDs? It looks to me like that might make it easier for mistakes to slip in and not get caught, since there wouldn’t be any copies of older versions around for fact-checking. Remember the reports that pop up from time to time about the glaring mistakes in history textbooks? And if I’m really in a paranoid mood, I wonder how easy it might be to “revise” history, even in the sense of choosing what to include. I mean, if nobody’s likely to keep a copy of the old CD, what harm would it do? But if you try that with the hard copy version, you might be more likely to get a letter from some stubborn person who wonders why the two editions don’t match up.

Based on the above, I’d say a good old-fashioned book has some real advantages here; I’ve opened books that were published as far back as the 1690s, and the paper, outside of being discolored with age, could have come right off the press. The main problem with book preservation started around 1850, when paper made from wood pulp began to replace paper made from rags. Acid residues from the manufacturing process can cause the paper to turn brittle and crumble, and this problem has only been dealt with in the past decade or two, with the advent of acid-free paper. But as long as they’re kept away from fire, water, or other hazards, books that are made with good paper (which we now have) can last for centuries. And an old-fashioned book doesn’t need any software, hardware, or tech support; just open it up and start reading. Of course, electronic information can be much easier to access; a skilled, experienced searcher with a well-designed database can just about make information jump through hoops. Just don’t get me started on databases that AREN’T well designed; database design was one of my major interests in grad school!

Maybe the idea of planning for generations into the future seems a bit far-fetched. And James Lileks, who has checked out those NEA lesson plans on line, says they aren’t as bad as they’ve been made to appear. (you'll need to scroll down and click "previous" until you find the entry - sorry). Nor do I think that warbloggers are the only ones who are doing a good job of recording history being made, or that our country is entangled in one vast spider web of unified, all-encompassing far left conspiracy. But I still think that you folks out there in the blogosphere are doing a lot of good writing that deserves to make the “final cut” for the historical record. And I still think we’ll need to deal continually with that cold, clammy fog of politically correct “tolerance.” So I do think the warblogging book is a very good start, especially if it’s printed on acid-free paper.

But now that I’ve said my two cents worth, hopefully without losing anyone in that long explanation, what do all of you out there in the blogosphere think?. Do we actually need to do anymore about this? Do we actually need some sort of council or committee? Do we try to collect all the writing at one central point, or just publish some preservation guidelines? Is there anything else we should do? Do any of you out there with more computing background have anything to add? The comment box is open – I look forward to hearing from you!

  posted by Liz L @ 10:01 AM

Wednesday, August 21, 2002  



Caleb Carr (The Lessons of Terror, Random House, 2002) points out some other reasons why Osama and co. warrant war rather than a trial:

  • Actually, many wars have started without a formal declaration; so, he says, we must define war as, “a de facto state of hostile international relations, rather than a de jure or legalistic one. (Of course, it is always…preferable to go into hostilities with such formal declarations of war…)” (p.227)

  • Even if terrorists like bin Laden don’t wear uniforms or represent a nation, “in their own minds they may speak for a great deal more. The members of such contemporary groups as…Al Qaeda believe themselves to be defenders of the ‘nation’ or ‘kingdom’ of Islam…and they certainly consider that kingdom to be at war with the United States.” (p. 228)

  • These terrorists aren’t simply a fringe group; they are able to “train militarily, organize an effective intelligence service, build a cell-based operative system that is remarkably difficult to crack, and master the tools of the information revolution.” They also “inhabit dozens of countries…number in at least the tens of thousands, and…exist in a perpetual state of mobilization.” (p.228) In other words, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…Yup, these folks are an army, even if they don’t fit our idea of one, and don’t fight according to Geneva Convention or UN rules.

Sorry again for such slow posting. My next barrage against Gnoam will focus on the topic of just war (though I might post on another topic first – stay tuned!)

  posted by Liz L @ 3:25 AM

Sunday, August 04, 2002  
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