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Archive for November 8th, 2005

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005


Dan of tdaxp, long a blogfriend of Zenpundit is locked in a consumer complaint battle with an internet information company known as NationMaster. In the day of the dead tree media, there was a saying about the power of big city newspapers ” Don’t get in a pissing contest with somebody who buys ink by the barrel”. Today, an updated version might go like this ” Don’t get in a pissing contest with somebody who is part of a scale free network”

In addition to Dan’s most recent post he has previously posted here ( where you can read Nationmaster’s bullying, psuedo-legal email correspondence) and here ( the original post that ticked off Nationmaster’s executives, including one ” John Steinmetz“).

By choosing to needlessly go the adversarial path with with Dan, a grad student who just wanted his money back, NationMaster ended up getting panned by:

Curzon at Coming Anarchy

Adam at The Metropolis Times

Bill at Dawn’s Early Light

Ryne from Ryne McClaren

Brendan at I hate Linux

Simon at Simon World

NationMaster Watch – a blog established by Dan to do nothing but follow the permutations of Nationmaster’s highly unusual customer relations policy.

Technorati leads with this dispute if you type in ” NationMaster” for your search.

And now I am posting on this story. This is how a network functions. While Curzon and Simon are also blogfriends of mine as well as Dan’s I was not familiar with the other blogs except I hate Linux which I had more heard of than visited. Dan is a ” hub” that connects otherwise unrelated bloggers. For that matter, I’d barely heard of NationMaster either.

Given the number of readers these blogs have I have to wonder about the strategic thinking that went into NationMaster’s response to Dan. Bloggers, I would think, would be a key customer demographic for this corporation and making gestures that engendered good will rather than bad in the blogging community would be the way I would have advised to go.

It is theoretically possible that Dan is a clever but psychotic con man posing as a grad student simply to bilk helpless corporations out of fairly earned dollars – but I kind of doubt it. It seems more likely that some arrogant a-hole in a corner office at NationMaster reacted dismissively when Dan asked for his money back and then decided that Dan ” could be rolled” by pressuring him with a frivolous lawsuit.

Looks like a mistaken premise on NationMaster’s part.

Moreover, in a network situation like this it isn’t just how many people are reading but also whom. I really don’t know who reads these other blogs (though some smart attorneys seem to read tdaxp) but I know who reads mine. Lots of academics, nationally known experts, think tank types, journalists and employees of numerous U.S. Government agencies. Some of these people are exceptionally bright and well-connected – I know this because they send me email – and now they are reading this post, clicking links and reading a heck of a lot about NationMaster.

Not much that’s good, unfortunately.

Just think of how a gracious initial- or even belated – response by NationMaster to Dan’s complaint would have gone over instead. It might still go over well at this late date. No skin off my nose to post that a company decided to do the right thing.

Because Zenpundit is eminently fair and I have goodwill toward one and all, I’m going to do my part to stop a corporation that should know better from continuing to dig a needless hole for itself. Here’s a book recommendation for John Steinmetz of NationMaster – it’s a quick read but it might help prevent customer relations problems like this in the future.

And here’s another.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005


I attended a Genocide Studies conference today. Multidisciplinary in nature, in some instances crit theory was raising its ugly ( and counterproductive) head. While not a specialist in the Holocaust per se, I do have enough expertise in the subject to have once been a finalist for a fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. For the life of me though, I could not have explained what an English prof was going on about in terms of ” turning earlier literary models against themselves…overturning the reigning conceptions of man “. Say, what ?

More interesting to me than the droning cant was the experience of one speaker, an anthropologist who specializes in the eastern islands of the Indonesian archipelago, who served as an election monitor for the East Timor independence vote for the Carter Center. She had at that time numerous, harrowing, personal encounters with the wild, anti-independence, militias sponsored by the brutal Indonesian Army and had only narrowly managed to get safely out of East Timor.

I asked her to speak to the demographics of the loyalist paramilitaries that destroyed 70 % of East Timor and raped and murdered thousands of East Timorese. The militias – notably Mahadi, Jati Merah Putih (Real Red and White), Aitarak ( Thorn), Mahadomi, Sakunar, Rajawali, Sera, Mahidi (Dead or Alive), Halilintar(Lightning), Laksaur (Eagle), ABLAI ( Struggle For integration), Darah Merah ( Red Blood), Besi Merah Putih ( Red and White Iron) and the Keaman Rakyat – had little in common with one another aside from violent tactics and Indonesian Army sponsorship.

  • The militia members ran the ideological gamut from nationalist, to Islamist to ethnic network and criminal syndicate thugs to Timorese shanghaied into participating to Indonesian and foreign mercenaries. Some militia members were bought for as little as a sack of rice, some drugs and the freedom to rape and pillage.
  • Most militia members were drunk and/or high on narcotics while committing atrocities.
  • Indonesian troops and police casually supervised militia mayhem – much like German police during Kristallnacht – and shed their uniforms at times to join in.
  • The dangerous factionalization of the Indonesian Army plus rivalries between the Army and Navy and Army and police meant that having secured relative safety from the depradations of one militia due to good connections might do little to help you with a militia aligned with another group. Or one exceeding their instructions

It would be interesting to look at the composition of Serb paramilitaries to see if Milosevic’s regime drew upon a similar though Balkan ” scum of the Earth” diversity in carrying out ethnic cleansing campaigns against Bosnian and Kosovar Albanian Muslims, Croats and Slovenes. The Nazis cast a wide pan-European net to fill the ranks of their Waffen- SS and foreign auxillary formations like the Arajs Kommando. Stalin too went through ” ethnic” phases where his secret police apparatus had disproportionate numbers of Jews, Letts, Georgians and other minorities.

Until his paranoia returned of course. Then they were purged and liquidated and replaced by ethnic Great Russians until the next major terror wave. The life of a loyalist paramilitary is a precarious one.

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