February 24, 2006

Outsource Our Ports? Let's Outsource Our Government!

This controversy over outsourcing Port operations to Dubai is, at bottom, entirely beside the point.

Why the hell are we worrying about Dubai when Pakistan's 50-plus nuclear arsenal is "guarded" by a military and intelligence (ISI) establishment riddled with Jihadists?

When launch control over at least some of those weapons has been given to Brigadiers in that Jihadist-riddled establishment?

When the shaky regime of Pervez Musharraf (already the target of two assassination attempts) appears unwilling or unable to control the Islamist fanatics in his country?

When Bin Laden and his Al Queda legionaires are holding mass open-air recruitment drives in Pakistan's tribal areas?

And when we lack any strategy at all for dealing with this threat -- except, of course, to fire a Predator missile or two from a few miles away every year or so and hope for the best?

Do we really think that they won't nuke us one day?

Twenty years ago, while covering the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, I (and other journalists) warned U.S. officials to stop the Pakistani intelligence service from diverting all our aid to the Jihadist factions of the resistance and their Arab allies or else it would come back to bite us one day. Here's what one U.S. official told me:

"C'mon, what can a bunch of ragheads do to us?"

Well, 9/11 is what they can do to albato. And if this administration keeps pushing tax cuts while refusing to buy nuclear detectors for our ports and otherwise strengthen port security, that'll be the LEAST of what they can do to us.

Does this adminsitration actually believe any of its own "war on terror" rhetoric?

You know that this administration has lost all credibility when my 82-year-old mother (bless her heart) calls me up to rage: "Outsource port management? Hell, we should outsource our damn government!"

February 23, 2006

Mosque Bombing Signals Al Queda Split

Whether the terrorist bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra pushes Irag into full-scale civil war or not, it does appear to signal a definitive and irrevocable split between Al Zarqawi's Al Queda in Mesopotamia and the Bin Laden/Zawahiri headquarters of Al Queda in Pakistan.

The destruction of this holy Shiite site has to be the work of Zarqawi. Given that this shrine has existed peacefully in Samarra for a thousand years, it's highly doubtful that any Sunni Iraqi nationalist would have done this:

But why, especially after Al Queda headquarters' No. 2 Zawahiri warned Zarqawi last year that continued attacks on Iraq's Shi'a population would be bad PR, did Zarqawi go ahead and order such a bold strike?

One answer is that splits are inevitable among fanatical ideologues. Forty years ago, the splits were between Russia versus China, China versus Albania, leftists versus ultra-leftists. Nowadays, the splits are between Jihadist versus ultra-Jihadist.

Then, too, Zarqawi is an ambitious man. He knows he's at the nexus of international Jihadism, and I suspect his ambition fuels a desire to supplant the Bin Laden/Zawahiri "old guard" for leadership of the global Jihad.

If the violence in Iraq continues to escalate, watch for a public pronouncement from Zawahiri urging Muslims to unite against "divisions" and "sectarianism." Of course, he won't blame Zarqawi, but rather "Zionists and Crusaders."

February 16, 2006

Will Blog for Book Deals -- Part 4

It's time for another installment of "Will Blog for Book Deals," wherein we peruse the latest batch of publishing deals announced by bloggers' agents. For previous listings of blogger book deals, see this and this and this:

* One-time teen prostitute/blogger turned bestselling memoirist in Brazil (now 22 and retired from her previous profession) Raquel Pacheco's THE SCORPION'S SWEET VENOM, to Unieboek in Holland at auction; Sonzogno/Rizzoli in Italy at auction; Planeta Argentina for Latin American Spanish rights; Edicoes ASA for European Portugese rights; Tramvay in Turkey; Tammerraamat in Estonia; and Vinabook in Viet Nam; with an auction underway in Germany; all sold within the past week.

* "Hog on Ice" blogger Steven H. Graham's GOOD MORNING, NIGERIA! How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Spam, in which Graham scams the con artists whom everyone has come to hate, the Nigerian spammers in the tradition of Ted L. Nancy's Letters From a Nut series, to Citadel, for an advance up to $50,000.

* James Beard Award winner, Time magazine columnist, and Food and Wine Magazine award winner for her blog "Veritas in Vino" Alice Feiring's THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE (OR HOW I SAVED THE WORLD FROM PARKERIZATION), a chronicle of the author's crusade against wine critic Robert Parker's palate and her search for real wines around the world, from the last riojas in Spain to true champagne, to Harcourt.

* Constitutional scholar and attorney Scott Gant's WE'RE ALL JOURNALISTS NOW: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age, an analysis of a brewing battle in which bloggers and other citizen journalists will vie for rights and privileges enjoyed by professional journalists, and offers legal and philosophical ammunition for their struggle to gain equal standing under the law, to the Free Press.

* Former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox's first nonfiction book, on the next generation of political activists, again to Riverhead, reportedly for "mid-six-figures" (Washington Post).

* New Yorker, Playboy, and Radar contributor, and blogger Daniel Radosh's RAPTURE READY!: Adventures in the Strange Pop Culture of the Religious Right, an investigative account of the burgeoning multi-billion dollar Christian media industry, to Scribner, at auction.

* Seth Godin's SMALL IS THE NEW BIG: And Other (Little) Ideas that Change Everything, a small collection of big articles - from blog posts, ebooks, and magazine articles, to Portfolio, for an advance somewhere between $100,000-$250,000.

The Virtual Handshake -- Free!

David Teten and Scott Allen's terrific new book -- The Virtual Handshake:Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online -- is now available for free download by the authors.

Get it here. You won't be sorry.

February 09, 2006

When Consumers Call the Shots

A study by the Yale Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management indicates that consumer reviews on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com had a potent effect on sales of the products reviewed.

Interestingly, the study's authors, Judith Chevalier and Dina Mayzlin, found that a 1-star review depressed sales more than a 5-star review boosted sales. It seems that negative packs more punch than positive in word-of-mouth.

This report contributes to a growing body of research demonstrating the impact of consumer-generated content -- whether in blogs, product reviews, or other new media -- on brand image, sales and even share price. I'll be posting more on this research in the future.

In the meantime, consider this little factoid from another study by the Yale center, which found that the new price and feature comparison capabilities enabled by the Internet is forcing a transfer of riches from auto companies to consumers amounting to at least $240 million per year for those who shop at Autobytel.com alone, or about 2.2 percent of the cost of the average car. That's $770 saved on the price of a $35,000 vehicle.

And again, that's the savings just at Autobytel.com alone.

More evidence that the Web-fueled power of consumers is increasingly being felt in the marketplace.



Dedication
About Me
About My Co-Author
About the Book
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Introduction: From Cave Painting to Wonkette: A Short History of Blogging, by Dan Burstein

Table of Contents

"A Weblog saved my life last night" -- Interview with novelist Ayelet Waldman

"Blogging helped me admit my acting career was going nowhere" -- Interview with former child star Wil Wheaton

"Tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth" -- Interview with Microsoft "chief humanizing officer" Robert Scoble

"Blogging has broken the monopoly of the mainstream media" -- Interview with celebrity blogger Arianna Huffington

"The blog business is more like music than publishing" -- Interview with new media entrepreneur John Battelle

People Interviewed in the Book:

POLITICS
Joe Trippi
Jon Lebkowsky
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
Ana Marie Cox
Roger L. Simon

BUSINESS & ECONOMICS
Robert Scoble
Nick Gall
Joi Ito
Nick Denton
Jason Calacanis
John Battelle
Andreas Stavropoulis
Christian Sarkar
David Teten
Michael Cader
Jonathan Schwartz

MEDIA & CULTURE
Wil Wheaton
Colby Buzzell
Adam Curry
Jeff Jarvis
Clay Shirky
Kate Lee
Terry Teachout
Ayelet Waldman
Jay Rosen
Rebecca MacKinnon
Paul Saffo
Arianna Huffington
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