Saturday, November 10, 2001

An excerpt from Jean Baudillard's "The Spirit of Terrorism":

...All the discourses and commentaries betray a gigantic suturing of the event itself, and of the fascination it commands. The moral condemnation, the holy alliance against terrorism are on the scale of the prodigious jubilation at seeing this world superpower destroyed, or better, seeing it somehow destroy itself, in a beautiful suicide. Because with its unbearable power it has fomented this violence pervading the world, along with the terrorist imagination that inhabits all of us, without our knowing.

That we dreamed of this event, that everyone without exception dreamed of it, because no one can fail to dream of the destruction of any power become so hegemonic - that is unacceptable for the Western moral conscience. And yet it's a fact, which can be measured by the pathetic violence of all the discourses that want to cover it up . . .

It goes way beyond hatred of the dominant world power by the dispossessed and the exploited, those who have ended up on the wrong side of the world order. This satanic desire is in the hearts even of those who share in the profits. The allergy to any definitive order, to any definitive power, is fortunately universal, and the two towers of the World Trade Center, the perfect twins, precisely embodied such a definitive order.

Thanks to Cryptome.

Scott Nearing on War:

"The event which finally tore me away from my commitment to western civilization was the decision of Harry Truman to blot out the city of Hiroshima,"Nearing reveals. "This decision was one of the most crucial ever made by modern man. The decision was the death sentence of western civilization....the use of atomic weapons against Japan was not only a crime against humanity, but was a blunder which would lead to a gigantic build-up of the planet's destructive forces...Humanity is today astride a guided missile equipped with a nuclear warhead."
Libraries for U.S. Soldiers and Sailors Bookplate, 1917

From Libraries & Culture's Bookplate Archive

When the “guns of August” shattered the fragile European balance of power in 1914, the library community was momentarily stunned. For the next three years, while President Wilson pursued an agonizing policy of neutrality, librarians proclaimed impartiality toward the belligerents. Beneath the rhetoric, however, was an unmistakable sympathy for the Allies and a distinctly anti-German bias. Following American intervention in April 1917, librarians accepted Wilson’s challenge to “make the world safe for democracy.” Along with embracing the national war spirit, librarians were exhilarated by the prospects for spreading the gospel of the library’s value to society.

More on this bookplate.

Thursday, November 08, 2001


Judge: Yahoo Not Bound by French Nazi Ban:

A U.S. federal judge ruled Wednesday that Yahoo was not bound to comply with French laws governing Internet content, a decision which could have broad implications for international free speech rights in the Internet age.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, weighing in on an international dispute over Yahoo auctions featuring Nazi memorabilia, said French court orders barring such auctions on U.S.-based Web sites would not be enforced.


A lone bookshop fights fights to preserve Afghanistan's literary heritage:

. . . Even the plastic "Old Books" sign on the window has seen better days, and has peeled in the heat. Afghan kids peer through the door with hangdog expressions, waiting for a 10-rupee note. They cannot read. Indeed, most Afghans are illiterate. The Anwari bookstore is for the intellectuals of Afghanistan, the last doctors and professors and civil servants passing through Peshawar, who want to preserve their culture – those who have not already sold their libraries in Kabul to stay alive . . .

"We opened our little shop for economic reasons – we needed the money," Farid [Anwari] says. "But we also wanted to provide a service for Afghan intellectuals here in Peshawar and in other countries." And service it is. The poetry of one of Afghanistan's greatest female poets, Mahjouba Heravi, nestles in black patterned covers next to Pietro Mele's 1960s volume of photographs, perhaps the most powerful images ever taken of the Buddhist statues of Bamian, so swiftly turned to dust by the Taliban this year . . .

Between school and the internship, I can't really bring myself to think about LIS issues this afternoon - so I've been enjoying the strangely soothing sounds of the Langley Schools Music Project instead.

These recordings of a late 70's Canadian elementary school chorus tackling the pop hits of its day inspired John Zorn to write "This is beauty. This is truth. This is music that touches the heart in a way no other music ever has, or ever could."

NPR recently ran a piece on the project. Thanks to Metafilter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2001


Geekcorps is a non-profit organization committed to expanding the Internet revolution internationally by pairing skilled volunteers from the high-tech world with small businesses in emerging nations. Geekcorps and its partner businesses in emerging nations evaluate technical needs. Then Geekcorps selects volunteers with the expertise to meet those needs. Geekcorps trains its volunteers to teach their skills to people from different backgrounds.

Volunteers spend four months on-site in developing nations, supported by Geekcorps’ in-country staff. They spend their working hours helping the partner businesses. And spend their free time exploring their host country and meeting its people . . .

[The Mighty Organ]

Bush's Newspeak:

Seventeen years later than expected, 1984 has arrived. In his address to Congress Thursday, George Bush effectively declared permanent war -- war without temporal or geographic limits; war without clear goals; war against a vaguely defined and constantly shifting enemy. Today it's Al-Qaida; tomorrow it may be Afghanistan; next year, it could be Iraq or Cuba or Chechnya.

No one who was forced to read 1984 in high school could fail to hear a faint bell tinkling. In George Orwell's dreary classic, the totalitarian state of Oceania is perpetually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. Although the enemy changes periodically, the war is permanent; its true purpose is to control dissent and sustain dictatorship by nurturing popular fear and hatred . . .

Meanwhile, his administration acted swiftly to realize the governing principles of Oceania . . .

[Editor & Publisher]

Between Freedom and Fear: A Self-Censored Press?

by Nat Hentoff

In his speech to Congress after Americans experienced deadly terrorism firsthand, President Bush said this "attack on freedom" means "freedom and fear are at war" . . .

This Sept. 25, the New York Post, in an editorial, warned, "From now on, Americans -- all Americans -- are going to look at a lot of things in a very different way ... like our commitment to ... virtually unfettered personal freedoms ... things will never fully be the same again . . .

Support of self-censorship by the press during the current war has even come from New York Times columnist William Safire, a consistent and sometimes courageous defender of the Bill of Rights. Before the U.S. State Department killed an exclusive Voice of America (VOA) interview with the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Safire wrote a column, "Equal time for Hitler?" in which he insisted that "VOA is the wrong voice in this area in wartime" . . .

If assaults on the Bill of Rights by those within the ranks continue, how many in the press will become obedient "good citizens" in this war between freedom and fear?


Council of Europe Debates Online Racism Thursday:

The Standing Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Strasbourg on Thursday 8 November 2001 . . . The parliamentarians will debate a report on racism and xenophobia in cyberspace . . . which reiterates the Assembly's call for the preparation of a protocol to the Cybercrime Convention outlawing racist websites and "hate speech" on the Internet, including 'unlawful hosting'.

Nothing yet re: censorship concerns raised by this legislation.

Monday, November 05, 2001

[Chronicle of Higher Education]

The Digital Divide as Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:

Warnings about a continuing "digital divide" could be doing more harm than good to African-Americans and other minority groups, portraying them as technophobic charity cases who lack the desire to adopt new technologies on their own. That's the conclusion some scholars are reaching as they study issues of race and technology.

The stereotype of technophobic minority groups, these scholars argue, could discourage businesses or academics from creating content or services tailored for minority communities -- ultimately making the digital divide a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The rhetoric of the digital divide holds open this division between civilized tool-users and uncivilized nonusers," says Henry Jenkins, director of comparative media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "As well-meaning as it is as a policy initiative, it can be marginalizing and patronizing in its own terms."

[Electronic Frontier Foundation]

Analysis Of The Provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act:

On October 26, 2001, President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act (USAPA) into law. With this law we have given sweeping new powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies and have eliminated the checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that these powers were not abused. Most of these checks and balances were put into place after previous misuse of surveillance powers by these agencies, including the revelation in 1974 that the FBI and foreign intelligence agencies had spied on over 10,000 U.S. citizens, including Martin Luther King.

Could be a bit more lyrical, but apparently a solid summary.
[Los Angeles Times]

Sony Invokes DMCA to Prevent Hacking of Robot Dog:

Sony Corp. is using a controversial U.S. law aimed at protecting intellectual property to pull the plug on a Web site that helps owners of Aibo, Sony's popular and pricey robotic pet, teach their electronic dogs new tricks.

Aibo owners are outraged, and hundreds have vowed to stop buying Sony products altogether until the company backs off. Sony has sold more than 100,000 Aibos worldwide since 1999, at prices ranging from $800 to $3,000. The dogs have spawned a community of enthusiasts who fuss over the mechanical marvels as if they were real canines . . .

[Associated Press via Truthout]

Critics Blast Bush Order on Papers:

One historian calls it a "disaster for history," but the White House insists a new executive order issued by President Bush balances the public's right to see the records of past presidents with a need to protect national security . . .

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project, thinks the order will make it harder for the public to gain access to historically valuable presidential papers because both the former president and the incumbent must consent to disclosure.

A private citizen will have little luck trying to persuade a court to overturn a claim of executive privilege, he said. "When Joe Blow goes into court to overturn it, he's probably going to lose," Aftergood said.

Some historians, including American University historian Anna Nelson, have suspected the Bush White House is worried about what the Reagan papers might reveal about officials now working for President Bush who also worked for Reagan. Among them are Secretary of State Colin Powell, Budget Director Mitch Daniels Jr. and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

Thanks to NewPages.


Declan McCullagh of Politech interviews Nancy Oden, the Green Party USA official recently barred from flying due to her political affiliations:

As one of the U.S. Green Party's top officials, Nancy Oden is used to controversy. But Oden never expected to be hassled by National Guard troops at her hometown airport of Bangor, Maine on Thursday and barred from flying out of it. She thinks it's because of a Green Party statement she co-authored that ran in the local newspaper. The statement calls for universal health care, limitations on free trade, and a stop to "U.S. military incursions" including the bombing of Afghanistan. (The Green Party has labeled the U.S. military action an act of "state terrorism.") Oden's unsuccessful attempt to fly to Chicago for a Green Party national meeting follows a Philadelphia man's unpleasant experience after reading the wrong book at an airport, a California journalist's headaches for daring to take photos inside an airport, and the arrest of another man in Germany for bringing politically-unacceptable reading material to an airport.

If they're cracking down on groups with politics as simplistic and incoherent as the Green Party USA's, what's in store for serious contenders?

Sunday, November 04, 2001

The current issue of Libraries and Culture focuses on libraries during the Cold War. It is available on line only via Project Muse, however.
The Public Library and Reading by the Masses: Historical Perspectives on the USA and Britain, 1850-1900:

by Paul Sturges

The contribution which the public library, as a resource for popular reading, can make to the spread and strengthening of literacy amongst the masses of industrialising societies has been a constant theme in the rhetoric of library promoters and founders. However, the argument tends to be dogmatic and most evidence used is anecdotal. Historical evidence on both the progress of literacy rates an d the development of public libraries is available for the USA and Britain. These two countries were the first to establish widepread provision of public libraries of a type that gave genuine scope for them to function as centres of popular reading. In both cases libraries were set up only if local political opinion, as opposed to national planning, permitted their founding. This offers some p ossibility to show how library provision related to explicit demand, and therefore, by extension, to popular reading and literacy. A series of other elements -- the spread of schooling, increased leisure and domestic comfort across large parts of the population, mass availability of cheap newspapers, magazines and books has also to be introduced into any such model for it to offer worthwhile ability to suggest the presence of causal connections. Some provisional presentation of historical statistics associated in this way is offered as a contribution to this line of argument.

This paper was originally presented at the IFLA's 1994 conference.

Huron County Library Co-Operative Bookmobile circa 1946

The Ontario Library Picture Gallery

From the fine folks at Libraries Today, who also have a useful list of library history links available.
I think I may have found my dream employer in Clarion University's of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship :) In addition to publishing Rural Libraries twice a year, the Center sponsors several conferences and listservs, supports and studies bookmobile service, and has compiled a number of bibliographies and monographs.