Note to commenters

One of our commenters here, an Israeli-American who anonymously goes by the name of ‘JES’, has been seriously violating JWN’s guideline on discourse-hogging– and others of the blog’s posted guidelines— for quite some time now.
I have therefore decided to ban this person’s from the blog for a period of time.
It is quite possible that this person will find a way round the ban, and he may or may not start posting in a different name. I shall try to delete as many as possible of the comments that I have reason to believe are coming from him during the period the ban is in effect. (Which I have yet to decide. Maybe two weeks.)
I’ve pointed out to JES that if he wants to get his views heard in the blogosphere he can start his own blog. He has no need to be parasitic on our venture here at JWN.

Comments working again

The tech adviser did a great job and they’re working again.
Sorry about the interruption in normal service.
Btw I got back to the US about two hours ago. I have a few things to do tonight but will start loading some of the great material from my trip onto JWN tomorrow morning.

Comments temporarily unsubmittable

The ‘verification code’ (Captcha) feature at the bottom of the Comments-submitting form is not working. I don’t know why but have contacted my tech adviser who is many time zones away from me.
Please therefore don’t bother submitting comments until further notice (or, until you see the Captcha codes appearing at the bottom of the comment-submission form.)
Sorry about this.
In case the tech adviser is unavailable, if any readers can give me clear instructions how to fix my Captcha or install a new one without too much trouble, please tell me. My version of MT is 3.21. Thanks!

My IPS pieces on a new blog; JWN blogiversary

A big thanks to readers who offered to help me aggregate and archive my developing corpus of weekly IPS news analyses!
However, once I sat down and thought about the task, I figured it would be just about as easy for me to do what I wanted as to explain to someone what it was I envisaged.
So after about 90 mins work, here it is!
I have been interested in doing this both for my own use– a handy archive I can draw on at will– as well as, as a service to other readers.
For example, there may well be lots of people interested in reading these weekly updates who might not have the energy to plow through the many, often idiosyncratic and varied (some might say scattershot) things that I publish here at JWN. Hard to believe, I know; but I’ve heard that might be the case… So if you know such people, you could just recommend they go over and check out the new blog. Even better, they could subscribe to its RSS feed.
Just one small warning: the appearance of that other blog may yet change radically. Im still playing with the “themes” there. So just don’t be surprised if it suddenly looks very different. The content will still be the same.
Another reason I chose to do the aggregating in that way, and in that place, is because I’m thinking I might migrate JWN over to WordPress sometime. It would be no big difference for you readers, since I’d keep the same now-venerable JWN domain name. So doing the new blog there gave me a bit of a feel for what it’s like editing and publishing in WordPress. Not too bad– though I don’t yet see how to do “Extended entries” there.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of new and old blogs, do you realize my sixth blogiversary here at JWN came and went on Feb. 6th and I didn’t even remember till now!!! That’s so sad. I’ve had a lot of other ‘versaries to think about so far this month: my son’s 31st, one daughter’s 30th, and my sister-in-law’s– well, okay, Emmy, I shan’t tell the whole world which of your birthdays that was. But many happy returns to all of you, and to JWN, anyway.
Gosh, I published that inaugura.l. post, Powell’s Poor UN Presentation six weeks before GWB invaded Iraq. What a lot has happened since then.

Don Bacon: New occasional poster here

Alert JWN readers– is there any other kind?– will have noted that yesterday long-term commenter Don Bacon got to publish his own (excellent) authored post here. It was on the Iraqi SOFA, etc negotiations and the notable lack of transparency and accountability with which the Bushies have been handling them. This is the first of an occasional series of posts I hope Don will be putting up here, joining Scott Harrop in the distinguished class of “occasional co-posters.”
I asked Don to tell me a little about himself and this is what he wrote:

    I’m of small-town Yankee origins with several degrees in engineering and education, but the degrees I like the best are the Fahrenheit degrees while soaking in Western hot springs. Just an old hippy. Ironically I got exposed to Smedley Butler while in an army career, and have since worked to increase his exposure in the world. The Smedley Butler Society website regularly gets visitors from many countries. Smed was raised a Quaker, of course, which no doubt had an effect on his later conclusion (after an active 33-year Marine career) that “war is a racket . . .the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
    Helena has kindly asked me to contribute and I will do so to the best of my ability. I won’t embarrass her here with my opinion of her, except to say that it motivates me. It isn’t just the large five-figure stipend that she promised me. (Heavy irony alert there, folks. ~HC) I do recognize that my sometimes contentious writing style might get old to some so I will be away a lot, and then my contributions will be sporadic at best. My next travels will take me to Mexico, New Zealand and Fiji, in my endless quest to find somebody that likes George Bush. I’m thinking that an uncivilized Fiji cannibal might be the ticket, providing the interview is carefully conducted.
    My other life guru, besides General Butler, is Henry David Thoreau. I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to quote a selection. Most of what Thoreau wrote is great, but this passage from Walden inspires me the most. “Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake.”
    With this as a guide, let the games begin!

Good to have you aboard, Don.

News open thread

Thanks so much for all the good wishes received re the new grandbaby. However it didn’t feel right to have news of violence, war, and conflict in the same post as those much appreciated wishes. So let’s keep the news discussions here and the mabrouks, mazel tovs etc on the earlier post.
By the way, sorry that for privacy reasons I didn’t post many details about the baby on the blog.

JWN redesign update #2

I have JWN’s design just about where I want it now. What reactions does anyone have to the new features I’ve introduced?
In the coming weeks I might introduce a more visual banner than the one that tops the blog right now… I might moderate the colors a little, since the blue still looks a little too loud… I might try to put a bounding line down the righthand side, if I could figure out how. But that’s about it.
But meantime, it looks as though something dire happened to the blog’s numbers last week. Does anyone know why? Did any of you have big interruptions of service, or long periods when the layout was crazy? Sorry, if so. But please do let me know if that happened to you.
I shall try hard not to have anything crazy happen to the blog’s public appearance from here on.
Also, if you could tell me how to put a bounding line down the righthand side, I’d appreciate that. Thanks!

JWN redesign update #1

Big thanks to everyone who sent comments in response to the post I put up recently on my desire to upgrade several aspects of the blog. If you’re reading this post on the JWN site you will already have seen that the design is changing a bit. Bear with this process as it continues. I decided that rather than spend time discussing with a web designer what I wanted to do it might be a lot easier to start trying to do as much of the redesign myself as I am able. Especially as I now have quite a lot of experience of tweaking my own Movable Type.
In this first step, I reorganized the front page into a two-sidebar format, since the old sidebar had become ways long, crowded, and clunky; and I tweaked other design elements quite a bit along the way. However, the visual redesign of the site is by no means finished yet. I think I’m going to look for something ‘cleaner’ and classier. I really don’t like the blue I have on the banner right now. Ways too bright and perky!
I would love to have a well designed JPG-imaged banner, though I haven’t found anything I like yet. Can anyone out there make one for me? I’m thinking something classy, lots of white, some blue, possibly some greys… an image of the world, a peace dove or something… and of course the text that we have on the banner now. If you can make one for me, please send it along!
Also, any comments you have about the redesign to date. Giving the main blog text a fixed 55-px width rather than a proportional width was a suggestion from Bill the spouse. I have yet to implement that in the archived versions of the posts. Does anyone else have thoughts on that?
Onward and upward.
Update, Sept. 11: Sorry about any strange effects you might experience. I’m trying to keep them to a minimum. ~HC.

New vistas– personal, and blog-related

I haven’t blogged for, what, three days now. Which is fine. Sometimes the posts come thick and fast, sometimes there’s a gap. I don’t feel I need to blog with any particular frequency; and anyway, the few weeks right after August 8 were pretty intense and, I think, fruitful for the blog.
These past few days I’ve been doing some other things. Some things with my beloved Quaker meeting, which is always good to do because it keeps me grounded. Some thinking about longterm strategic directions for the blog and myself. More on that below… And a few things connected with the next big development in my family/personal life: which is the arrival (G-d willing) of my daughter Leila’s first child– our first grandchild– in early November.
Leila and her husband Greg live in New York (Brooklyn), so I’m hoping to be there with them as much as possible in the first weeks of the newborn’s life. I am completely thrilled they’re having this baby! It’s bringing back a lot of memories of when I gave birth to Leila and her slightly older brother, Tarek, in Beirut in the late 1970s. Back then, my sister Hilly came from England to help out. And okay, my then-husband and I had a wonderful live-in nursemaid, too. She made the post-delivery weeks a lot easier than they are for most young parents in the US or other western countries.
Having a baby and dealing with all the adjustments involved are huge challenges. The endless chains of broken nights are what I chiefly recall. Those, and suddenly this sense that, as the mother, you’re basically in servitude for a period of time to this small person who can’t even articulate her or his needs or desires… So scary! So as the parent, you suddenly need to learn all these completely new skills of ‘reading’ your baby’s needs… It’s quite amazing that any of us ever survived this process (as parents or, long before that, as babies.)
But my experience of having done this, like that of just about all the parents I know, has been truly amazing. I have learned so much– about the world, about the human condition, about myself, about relationships in general, about what is truly valuable in life (and oh, also, I suppose about baby-care and childrearing)… Simply by having hung in there and raised these three young people, now aged 23-30: all of them compassionate, well-grounded, talented, and a huge amount of fun to be with.
American society doesn’t give anything like enough support to the parents and caregivers of young children. Compared with anywhere in Europe, the situation here is brutal. I imagine that even in many low-income countries, women get more support from society as a whole. For example, Leila is a teacher in the New York City school system, where the teachers’ union is quite strong. But even with this allegedly “strong” contract the union has won for them over the years, she’s not entitled to any paid maternity leave. And children’s (cash) benefits, such as many European governments give to mothers as a matter of course?… Or the services of a home-visiting ‘district nurse’ or health visitor in the crucial post-partum days? Fuggedaboutit. We are truly in the Dark Ages here. No wonder that in some American inner cities, the infant and child mortality rates are on a par with some very low-income countries.
… So I’ll be in New York quite a lot in the weeks after the baby arrives. Obviously, the babe will make her/his own decisions about the timing. Before that (I hope), I’ll be on the west coast for much of October, doing various events to promote my Re-engage! book, and I have a couple of events on the east coast (New Jersey and Delaware) later in September. Check this page on the book’s website for details of those.
Meantime, I’ve been doing some thinking about future directions for, in particular, this blog. You know, I’ve been publishing it for 5.5 years now… A total of nearly 3,000 posts… Some of them, in retrospect, still really good, some of them somewhat scattershot or idiosyncratic.
To some degree, the whole blog has been idiosyncratic from the very start… From the day in early January 2003 when Tarek said, “You know, mom, you really ought to start writing a blog;” and I said, “A what?” … And he got me started reading Josh Marshall’s blog, which has gone from strength to strength since then, and Juan Cole’s blog, and, and, and… And a couple of weeks later he got me started on my own blog… ‘Just World News’: nice name, huh? We started out with Blogger software; he shifted me to Movable Type (where I found I’d picked the same template as Jonathan Edelstein)… and I’ve been married to writing JWN ever since.
So now (drumroll… ) I’ve decided to try to take JWN to a whole new level.
You know, for just about all these past 5.5 years I’ve thought of JWN as “something on the side”, or “a drafting notebook”, or something a little like (ghastly word, this), a “hobby”. But really, for a long time now, it’s been a whole lot more than that. It has become an important part of my professional and personal identity.
Bloggo ergo sum, as Descartes would have blogged if he could have torn himself away from contemplating dripping candles and inventing dualism.
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not wholly.
So now I’m going to think about ways to become a whole lot more intentional about what I do here on JWN. I think I want to invest in a re-design, and I know I want to think harder about getting some different kinds of quality content up here. One thing I’m definitely thinking about is interviews with interesting figures in the policy world.
Bill the spouse says I should have photos, videos and audio clips, too. Videos I totally can’t envisage posting (unless I hire someone who can do that for me.) But really, it’s not my comparative advantage. Audio clips maybe I could manage. In conjunction with the interviews, perhaps? And the odd photo or whatever.
But all that stuff takes time. Time that, mostly, I would rather spend writing, thinking, reading, and talking to people. Face it, I’m fundamentally a words person. That’s what I am. But I can make the words better organized, more intentional, more interesting and thought-provoking, more useful, and better displayed. That’s what I want to do.
I also want to figure out a way to have this baby blog generate a bit of income for us. I don’t need a lot, but some would be nice.
So readers and admirers of JWN, here is your chance to have input into helping to revision JWN. I am still right at the start of the process. Please tell me, either privately or in the open comments section here, any thoughts or suggestions you have on:

    * What changes you’d like to see regarding the content of the blog;
    * Ditto, the visual or organizational design;
    * A good, affordable web-designer I could work with on the re-design;
    * Your reactions to my suggestions on the blog, above;
    * Any ideas you have for potential ‘strategic partnerships’ I might explore between JWN and institutions or individual philanthropists (yourself? anyone you know?) who might want to support the blog financially, or sponsor it in some other way…

Your comments and suggestions will be great. This whole revisioning thing may take a bit of time. In the meantime, JWN will continue to be the opinionated, generally well-informed, visionary, but often quirky blog you’ve come to know and (I hope) love. Watch for some more political posts tomorrow.

Oops, sorry about the service disruptions here

I’ve been doing some work on designing a website for my upcoming book, and considering different options for hosting it. One that I was briefly playing with this afternoon was to host it here, sort of alongside JWN at the hosting service I’m using here and for the new site to be in some senses a subdivision of JWN.
Big mistake. Setting up the templates for that apparently put down the JWN front page for a few hours. Then when the tech advisor (and son) tried to rebuild JWN, it briefly came up decked out in the colors of the still-in-development “Re-engage!” site, and with the “Re-engage!” banner there. Did any of you see it that way? It didn’t last but a few minutes before it reverted to normal service. Strange.
Too much excitement for one night. I hope this does NOT happen again soon. (I am now strongly trending toward a completely different hosting solution for the new site.)