Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Calpundit links to a rather remarkable Instapundit post.

A REQUEST....Can somebody please give this post of Glenn's the attention it deserves? I've got a houseguest this week and I just don't have the time. Or the energy.

Although I do wonder what he means when he says "It's not clear that they even deserve to keep what they've got." What, exactly, does he think they have?


THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a "neutral arbiter" in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies. Just read this post and follow the links to see how they feel about America.

And read this piece by Amir Taheri on the Iraqi "resistance," which notes Palestinian terror connections by the Iraqi insurgents, and features a Palestinian "journalist" egging them on.

These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don't deserve a state of their own.


First, who is MEMRI? It hardly seems reasonable to use their translations without asking this. The most balanced answer I have found so far is here:

To be fair, MEMRI's picture of an extreme, militant and delusional Arabic press allows for a few shadings. One recent article notes the efforts of Kuwaiti professor Ahmad Al-Baghdadi to critique Arab Muslims as 'the masters of terrorism towards their citizens.' Another cites a rhetorically deft dismantling of current anti-American and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories by Saudi columnist Hamad Abd Al-Aziz Al-'Isa. But there are enough stories about extremist kindergartens and calls for jihad to attract criticism from the growing Arab and Islamic lobbies. 'They tend to translate non-representative stories,' says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 'and members of the pro-Israel lobby then use them to club Muslims.'



That MEMRI has a bias against Arab societies can hardly be disputed. Although chairman Yigal Carmon occasionally argues for restraint in Israel's dealings with the Palestinians, he has been fixated on both the failure of the peace process and extremist Arab media for many years. Co-director Wurmser argues at length for blood-and-iron approaches to Israeli nationalism. MEMRI writers stay focused on the Middle Eastern culture of incitement when writing for other publications.

What is not clear is why this is necessarily an unfair representation of the Arabic media. 'They look for the absolute worst, most inflammatory rhetoric they can find in the Arabic press,' says CAIR's Hooper. 'It's kind of like if we translated Franklin Graham's remarks [condemning Islam as a 'wicked' religion], and then went to the Arabic press and said 'See, this is what they're saying in America.''

Well, since Franklin Graham is the son of a prominent U.S. religious leader, and his views are neither unique nor even particularly unusual, it would be quite fair to do just that.


Here's a link to a debate between MEMRI and one of their sharpest Arab critics.

Here is an article from the Guardian and a reply from MEMRI.

Now back to the post itself. Joe Katzman of Winds of Change asks, "Someone remind me again why creating another Talibanesque terror-state in the Middle East is a good idea?", in the article linked to by Glenn Reynolds (above). Well, clearly we don't want a Talibanesque terror-state. Anyone who is truly more concerned about the fate of Isreal than the neocon agenda has to remember the choices which currently face Isreal. From a purely military point of view, they could exterminate the Palestinians - but the vast majority of Isrealis would find that horrifying. It might actually create an effective Arab military alliance against Isreal, and certainly it would guarantee the loss of American support eventually, although I'm not absolutely sure it would happen while this administration was in power. They could not be driven into Jordan without wholesale slaughter, and perhaps war with Jordan. Other than that, the alternatives are some kind of negotiated settlement, acceptance of the status quo of terrorist, or the hope of somehow defeating the Palestinians short of a huge bloodbath in such a way as to actually put an end to terrorism. Some will find the latter attractive, but the historical evidence makes it look at least as difficult as permanent and lasting peace through a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. Sometimes the last appears impossible, but a great many Isreali's consider the attempt better than any of the other alternatives, and the primary reason to act as a neutral arbiter is to help THEM achieve that goal. Isreal hasn't even asked us to help make the "Palestinians suffer", and it's far from clear how we might help them if we did.

I think it's important for bloggers to look for and think about stories which might require them to rethink their basic views on things.

At Medgar Evers, where 97 percent of the male students are black, the number of male students has been disproportionately low for more than a decade. Right now, only 22 percent of the students are male. And the men are far less likely to graduate than the women.

The discrepancies are not unique to Medgar Evers. Women outnumber men at most colleges, but the gap is especially large among black students. Nationally, barely a quarter of the 1.9 million black men between 18 and 24 — prime college-going years — were in college in 2000, according to the American Council on Education's most recent report on minorities in higher education. By comparison, 35 percent of black women in the same age group and 36 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in higher education.

And the graduation rate of black men is lower than that of any other group. Only 35 percent of the black men who entered N.C.A.A. Division I colleges in 1996, for example, graduated within six years, compared with 59 percent of the white men, 46 percent of the Hispanic men, 41 percent of the American Indian men and 45 percent of the black women who entered the same year.

"It's the shame of American higher education," said Arthur E. Levine, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University.

Researchers say the obstacles keeping black men from earning college degrees include poor education before college, the low expectations that teachers and others have for them, a lack of black men as role models, their dropout rate from high school and their own low aspirations.

While most of these problems are common to disadvantaged minority students regardless of sex, black men have the special burden of being pigeonholed early in a way that black female students are not. This was among the findings of the African-American Male Initiative, a program set up by the University System of Georgia to research and remove the obstacles to college enrollment and graduation for black men. The system has 17,000 black men among 250,000 students on its 34 campuses.

The downward spiral begins in Head Start classrooms, said Arlethia Perry-Johnson, the chairwoman of the initiative and an associate vice chancellor of the Georgia system. Some black male students are labeled developmentally delayed, funneled into special education and "never get mainstreamed," she said. Shoved off the college prep track, they begin a "cycle of being reprimanded, disciplined and ultimately suspended for negative behavior," she said, leading to expulsion, unemployment and even crime and imprisonment.

Solving the problem is beginning to get more attention at colleges. Nearly three dozen selective liberal arts colleges, including Amherst, Swarthmore and Wesleyan, have united to create a working group on minority achievement issues, including the underrepresentation of black and Latino men in colleges.

Recently, Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., sponsored a symposium on the absence of black men in higher education. Women outnumber men by about 2 to 1 at Howard.


This artictle from The New York Times looks at many different problems. I'm not saying affirmative action won't help directly or indirectly with any of them, but in some cases I'm not sure if it will help or how. One thing is clear though - for everyone who is not a black American to look for excuses to say that this is not our problem because it's someone elses fault would be counterproductive in the extreme. It is much cheaper to find the cause of a problem and solve it than to wait until someone does something illegal and spend a lot of money keeping them in jail.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Steven Den Beste has a great post on Hive minds. I felt disoriented for a moment, because even though politics might well be one of the major concerns of a collective human Hive mind as relating to it's survival, the blogs I follow by people who have shown interest in collective intelligence seem less interested in politics than even random chance would dictate. I'm delighted to find an exception.

There is one thing I felt he could have spoken more about. The colony animals discussed in his post have near converging interests - it is difficult or impossible for an individual to help reproduce the genes it carries except by contributing to the group. Without this there is a strong incentive to 'slant' information to favor your own offspring in some way, or even go off and lay some eggs somewhere instead of foraging for the hive. It appears some female ants besides the queen can lay some eggs, but there are disincentives as well.

In some ways humans may actually have near converging interests. For instance, suppose somewhere in China livestock practices tend to contribute to the emergence of new contagious diseases. It might actually be cheaper to pay part of the costs of changing them than to try to quarrantine China at intervals or deal with the results after they spread to the United States.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Planes with explosives found at Saudi airport

LONDON — Saudi security forces have seized light planes packed with explosives near Riyadh's King Khalid airport, foiling a plot by suicide pilots to blow up a Western airliner on the runway, a British newspaper said today.

Two pilots apparently intended to crash the planes into a Western jet on the tarmac, Patrick Mercer, homeland-security policy chief for Britain's opposition Conservative Party, was quoted as saying in the Mail. British Airways was believed to be the likely target.


In light of this, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that there were terrorists on the French airlines today. It's worth thinking through this tactic before it hits us in the face. The easiest way to stop it would be to refuse to let non American airlines (except maybe for a handful of the securest countries) fly airplanes to United States airports. If they do the same to our airlines, the result could be devastating economically. I sure hope somebody in the Bush administration is up for a quick and tough round of negotiations.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

SEABROOK, N.H., Dec. 23 — Swatting away attacks from all corners in the 10 days since the capture of Saddam Hussein, Howard Dean has returned to the combative posture that propelled his insurgent candidacy to the front of the field this fall. Denunciations of "Washington Democrats" once again dominate his speeches, even as he complains that negativity has taken over the primary campaign.

It is a clear contrast from just two weeks ago when Dr. Dean, buoyed by the backing of several major unions, former Vice President Al Gore and a swelling crowd of elected officials, was beginning to change his style. Smiling more than finger-thrusting, he fancied himself a frontrunner above the fray, experimenting — briefly — with a more moderate tone, as he kept one eye on the general electorate.

But the relentless battering has stymied his effort to look long range, forcing him to hunker down in the final month before the first votes.


This is good news in disguise. I have to admit I was a bit worried as to whether Dean realized how much he would have to move towards the center for the general election, but this makes it clear he does. Actually doing it will still be a challenge, but it would be wrong for him to lose the nomination because he was trying to prematurely ready for the general election.

All the same, all the bloggers who have done great things for Dean need to be ready not merely to accept his swing towards the center but to cheer it on. In particular, he needs to win the votes of at least some of the people who favored the invasion of Iraq. This might not be quite as hard as it seems at first - but merely saying we need to finish what we started isn't enough. He has to give the people who believe in rebuilding Iraq reason to believe he can do it better than Bush. He must speak in language acceptable to those who favored the invasion but are unhappy about subsequent rebuilding efforts. He should talk about how many intelligent people - Democrats as well as Republicans - favored the invasion of Iraq, partly because of misleading information from the Bush administration, and partly because they were lead to believe we were adaquately prepared for the aftermath.

Then he must say that part of the reason Bush can't make the drastic changes needed to succeed in Iraq is because this would involve admitting just how much has been done wrong so far. Bush cannot and will not do this, but Dean can and will. A vote for Dean is a vote for rebuilding Iraq - whether or not you favored the initial invasion.

This is wrong:

Dean says he thought the war was a terrible blunder—a "catastrophic mistake," said Al Gore when endorsing him—but now that we're there, we should stay and see it through. This makes no sense. If the war was a blunder—draining resources and distracting Washington—the smartest thing to do is get out fast. Dean has argued that America must stay in Iraq because it cannot allow the country to become a base for Al Qaeda. But that outcome could easily be avoided by our pulling out and turning the place over to a general or Shiite leader who will also have no interest in having his country become a Qaeda base. Why bother helping in a massive transformation of politics, economics and society in Iraq? In a sense, the most consistent Democrat in the race is not Dean, but Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who says the war was a mistake, so let's leave now.

Some Democrats, like Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman, have criticized the administration for having a worthy goal but doing a good thing badly. And there's much to criticize. The reconstruction has been botched from the start, with too few troops, weak leadership (remember Jay Garner?), self-defeating arrogance and now (at least the appearance of) a cut-and-run transfer of power. It has produced problems that were predictable—indeed were predicted. But to make this critique effectively, the Democrats have to buy into the basic goal of Iraq policy. If Howard Dean has his way, the party of Woodrow Wilson will be decidedly uninterested in the most Wilsonian project in recent history.


OK, maybe the second paragraph is right. But the first paragraph is silly. There is no general or Shiite leader who has the power to prevent Al Qaeda from using Iraq as a base - or even from splintering into bloody civil war. Part of our goal must be damage control - preventing a horrible bloody civil war following our retreat which would put nails in the coffin of US prestige. Those who lead us in there without preparation don't have the calm determination to get us out without leaving such a civil war in our wake. Unfortunately, blindly lashing out without preparation for the consequences is a natural human response to fear and anger - and Bush and his advisors have successfully tapped into that vein. Dean must successfully win the support of those who do not fully realize how they have been lead around, not so much by Bush as by their own emotions, which as far as I know Bush and his advisors sincerely shared.

Pakistani President survives 2nd assassination attempt
ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) -- A massive suicide bomb ripped through a crowded road near the capital on Thursday in a failed attempt to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf, a senior government official said. The President was unhurt, but at least seven passers-by were killed.

It was the second attack this month targeting the military President, and came just a day after he agreed to step down as army chief by the end of 2004.


Could this be Al Qaeda's shortcut to gaining effective control of WMD? If so, we'd better do something fast.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Monday, December 22, 2003


Thousands of Iraqi Kurds gathered in Kirkuk on Monday to demand inclusion of the northern oil centre in a future autonomous Kurdish region.

"Kirkuk, Kirkuk, heart of Kurdistan," they chanted in the city centre. "We demand federalism for Kurdistan".


Well, as Dan Drezner pointed out recently, you shouldn't always take Al Jazeera at face value. Sometimes they report something you don't see elsewhere though.

If true this is a problem for both Turkey and Iraq. Sigh.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

In fact, what I think we're seeing is fear, panic and desperation.

I think those commentators have made the mistake of taking the leftists at their word. For example, Tacitus comments acidly on leftist claims that Saddam's trial would lack "legitimacy" unless it was handled by some sort of international tribunal. But that's only what they say. What they're thinking is that if this is not handled by an international tribunal, then the concepts of "international justice" and "international law" will themselves lose legitimacy.

For a long time now, transnationalists have been working to establish a world government. Their goal is nothing less than world conquest, but since they do not intend violent conquest, their means has been persuasion.


If this 'fear panic and desperation' are to explain the bulk of the 'leftist' response to plans for Saddam's trial, Steven Den Beste can't consider the transnationalists to be a small or medium sized portion of the left. Does he actually think many people on the left or the right have heard the word transnationlism, let alone visited enough dull overly abstact websites to become converted? Or does he consider many who never heard the word to be transnationalist in their hearts despite never having heard of the concept explicitly? The latter is a bit of a stretch given the coordinated and immediate response to Saddam's upcoming trial.

Even those who don't think any of the objections to Saddams trial in Iraq make sense should consider the possibility of reflexive opposition to Bush.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

In this decision, though, I am alarmed – because few of these Muslim supporters address those issues on which these candidates not only stand contrary to Islamic interests, but to the most essential values of sincere humanity: Namely, these candidates, and practically every Democratic candidate, are in favor of many types of abortion and promote some form of gay marriage or recognized homosexual union. In this post, I will focus on the issue of Islam, America and homosexuality, for two reasons:

...

Gay rights are now being promoted as part of human rights. An intentional obfuscation, to confuse the public, to make the average Joe think: “African-Americans deserved equal rights. So why not gays?” But the problem is, a distinction is passed over. African-Americans, women, children, Jews, atheists, and homosexuals, all of them, deserve human rights, because they are human. However, any healthy social system understands that human rights also deal with duties and behaviors. Further, a lifestyle does not necessarily convey rights in and of itself. The campaign on behalf of gay rights in America is trying to make people believe that gays and blacks, lesbians and whites, these are all equivalent (essentially, that is) categories.

Let me clarify: If a person is gay, they still deserve human rights. But they do not deserve gay rights. Homosexuality is, from the Muslim point of view, a great sin. One does not promote or condone rights for sins and transgressions, especially not creating identities based on sins and transgressions. That is to say, an alcoholic has rights, but there are no alcoholics’ rights in Islam. This confusion of the person and his actions, of behavior transmuted into identity and then elevated and incorporated into personality and essentiality, is absolutely wrong-headed.


I wonder if this would give any social conservatives pause for thought if they read it. Nah.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Is there a war going on more important to us than Iraq which we haven't even noticed? I don't mean North Korea.

The things I discussed here are still bothering me. I googled the web to see who would know what was happening. Maybe none of these are anything to worry about, maybe Al Qaeda has antagonized everyone with their bombings in Saudi Arabia, and driven them into the Monarchy's arms. In Iraq though, it seems that even if people don't like bombs they still make the powers that be look bad. In the name of preparing for the worst we have to consider that Al Qaeda knows what they're doing. Sometimes if the enemy is trying very hard to do something that doesn't seem to make sense you worry about it anyway.

Now, whether it's a third generation prince who's going to come along and reform the royal family, reorient its foreign policy, I can't tell you. Or will it be revolution? I mean that's just unknowable right now.

ELEANOR HALL: Either way, it would be a seismic event for the Middle East and indeed for the US, wouldn't it, if the Saudi royal family was to collapse?

ROBERT BAER: It would. You know, I take the worst case possibility and that is that Saudi Arabia takes its oil off the market, either just closes off the taps or sabotages its own facilities. And we're talking, you know, upwards of 11 million barrels a day, which would cause a recession, you know, a deep recession.

ELEANOR HALL: But is it really likely that the Saudis would sabotage their own oil?

ROBERT BAER: Well who would have thought that 15 Saudis would have got onto airplanes and run into US buildings?

ELEANOR HALL: So you're saying it's terrorists inside Saudi Arabia who could actually attack the Saudi oil industry?

ROBERT BAER: They could. I mean, the attitude of a lot of Saudis, they're disenfranchised politically and economically, they're saying, listen, we don't get anything out of the oil, we sell it underpriced to the West, it's only caused corruption and an impure society. If we were to take this oil off the market or a lot of it, we could back to living like the Bedouins, under a pure Islamic utopian society. And if you took all of Saudi Arabia's capacity off for two years, again this is the worst case scenario, you're going to have a serious economic shot, a shock as bad as we saw in 1973.


A good sign. A real worst case scenario would include Saudi involvement in building a nuclear bomb for Al Qaeda, so maybe he's just crazy.

Is there an easy answer? Were you thinking this?

Opposition groups in Saudi - and many of the émigré organisations which operate abroad - are not pursuing a vision of Western democracy, but an even more rigid interpretation of Sunni Sharia and the ousting of those sections of the royal family which they regard as having been corrupted by association with the West. These are not the sort of people with whom Washington - or Western human rights campaigners - will be comfortable doing business.

The real danger is that the latest proposals will be interpreted as yet more evidence that the dynasty founded by Ibn Saud is showing signs of weakness. Rather than strengthening the present royal government, local elections may well prove to be the beginning of the end.

The fundamental dilemma facing the West is the risk that reform of the Saudi political system may eventually produce a much more hardline, anti-Western regime. For many US policy-makers, the ongoing legacy of militant political Islam in Iran - and more recently the rise of Shi'a militancy in Iraq - is causing concern that Saudi Arabia may be on the brink of its own Islamic revolution.


Here's a more recent (Novermber 12) conservative view from the OpinionJournal.

"Is it a revolt?" Louis XVI asked in 1789. "No, sire, it is a revolution," answered one of his courtiers. In Saudi Arabia the ruling family has long been presiding over a denial of reality to match that of the Bourbon monarchy. The bombing this weekend in Riyadh, which killed 17 people and wounded over 100, suggests that the thousands of princes who control the wealth of that country have trouble in store.

This piece from the Asia Times is only slightly more optimistic. If you read the whole thing you'll find nobody there loves us too much.

Prince Abdullah keeps fighting hard for the political survival of the discredited Saud dynasty - which is now regarded as practically a pariah in Washington. His dearest wish would be to witness an American departure from the peninsula, slowly but surely. A few sound minds in Washington may have considered that such a departure would instantly melt away any appeal of bin Laden's Islamic revolution. There is intense speculation in Middle East diplomatic circles that the prince will now try to convince the Americans to fold their bases in exchange for a prominent Saudi role as the guardian of a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, and as an economic powerhouse benefiting all of the Arab world.

This dream scenario would mean the triumph of Arab nationalism - a la Abdullah - a sort of embryonic democracy that could have its public expression in what Qatar's Al Jazeera television network embodies today. European diplomatic sources believe this semi-democratic Arab world certainly would not be allied to the US - it would rather strike a closer relationship with Japan and Korea, and with the enlarged European Union.


I've found articles about reform in Saudi Arabia. I haven't found one that examines the danger of revolution and concludes it probably won't happen.

Here's some historical perspective from the Asia Times.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are edging closer to political instability and even cataclysmic change. In the case of Iran, the United States prefers a change of regime, but not for Saudi Arabia. However, regime change might be the eventual outcome in both countries for reasons that are essentially similar: the enemies of regimes are inside the borders. But there are also certain important aspects of dissimilarity in both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic revolution occurred in Iran in 1979 as a powerful protest against a highly corrupt and equally ruthless regime of Mohammad Reza Pahlevi. At the risk of oversimplification, it should be stated that the vanguards of that revolution at the very outset made two significant mistakes whose ramifications might bring about its end.


One more link, older than the rest.

Why have Saudi and other Gulf charities sent money to support Islamic fundamentalist schools that are encouraging jihad? And are the Saudis dragging their feet when it comes to assisting U.S. law enforcement agencies that are tracking down terrorists? Whose side are the Saudis on? "The Saudi Time Bomb," airing on PBS Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. EST, explores the fragile alliance with this ultra conservative fundamentalist kingdom upon which the U.S. depends for fifteen percent of the country’s oil needs. The program is a "Frontline" co-production with the New York Times.

CAIRO, December 11 (IslamOnline.net) - The two main Palestinian resistance groups - Hamas and Islamic Jihad - are operating through a joint political leadership that looks into political positions related to the Palestinian cause and coordinates joint operations against the Israeli occupation.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas' politburo, told IslamOnline.net the two groups "have been coordinating operations and joint statements for more than five months through a joint leadership in and outside the occupied Palestinian territories."


This can't be good. I haven't seen it in any American papers.

Monday, December 08, 2003

The 7500+ people in this group, and the untold others that didn't
make it to Cloudmakers or Spherewatch or the other groups that wanted
to go it alone...we are all one.

We have made manifest, the idea of an unbelievably intricate
intelligence. We are one mind, one voice...made of 7500+ neurons.
Our thoughts, our actions formed one, guiding the path before us...as
much as it guided us.


Via Jane McGonigal's paper on Collective Detective. Jane McGonigal is an instructor and PhD student at Berkley.

Something about Collective Detective has caught the imaginations of many in the blogosphere. I have several pages bookmarked, including this and these two posts from Seb's Open Research. Like Sebastien Paquet, I'm very interested in asking if this amazing phenomenon can be turned to more lasting purpose. I think there are definitely clues to creating a collective supermind here, but a precautionary note is in order.

The Cloudmakers were a "collective detective" for a *game*. Remember that.
It was scripted. There were clues hidden that were gauged for us. It was
*narrative*. There may well be seven thousand of us. Only a percentage of
those seven thousand were directly involved in the "collective detective".

I have said it before, and I'll say it again:

This is not a game.

The answers to this are not straightforward, nor will they be easy to find.
The members of this group are in NO WAY in possession of the full facts or
even a portion thereof. It is highly unlikely that members of this group
will *ever* be in possession of even half of all the facts.
No one here has access to forensics materials. On the off chance that there
are those who do, there are reasons for not sharing details of those.

Irwin pointed out that the FBI has over 11,000 agents. *EVERY* US Federal
Agency and Body that can be called into service has been. Do not go getting
delusions of grandeur.

Cloudmakers solved a story. This is real life.

Members of the CM community live in Manhattan, in areas being evacuated
_now_. I had friends who were in the WTC the day before Tuesday and as
_soon_ as I heard the news, I was on the phone.

Use the CM community for messages of support. Talk about what's happened.
But I will *NOT* tolerate conspiracy theories or rumour mongering here. Let
the properly appointed people do their jobs and do some *real* help.

Regards,

Dan Hon (co-moderator)
Andrhia Phillips (co-moderator)
Adrian Hon (co-moderator)
Bronwen Liggitt (co-moderator)
Brian Seitz (co-moderator)


It's worthwhile thinking about what real life situations this group might well be suited for - and which are least likely. Anything requiring secrecy is at the bottom of the list - Cloudmaker and Collective Detective would be very different if extensive security checks were required to join! Criminals and terrorists cannot be tipped off about being under investigation. In general, anything where a single mistake might cause disaster is problematic - many discoveries are by trial and error.

This brings us to political discussion. So far many of the projects they are engaged in seem worthy but idiosyncratic, as in this Collective Detective Think Tank effort. While wishing these twins the best, I believe preventing the spread of HIV should be a higher priority - and I didn't actually see that in the discussion list.

Great leaps are necessary to stretch the limits of global thought. People often seem more emotionally involved with their political opinions than the pieces of a puzzle - and usually some of the most knowledgeble people in any political question have strong vested interests. It would be interesting to see a puzzle requiring members to deal with these two problems, though I don't see how at the moment. Also, perhaps a puzzle with many parts, some of which cannot be solved, and which must be abandoned in favor of other priorities to avoid utter failure.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The typophile experiment of Kevin Davis of Kevan.org has been going on for a couple of years now, and the animations provide a great way to get a quick overview. The link takes you a random letter, which will help me think big rather than getting bogged down in detail.

When you push the start button for the animations for most letters, it's a little eerie at first. Out of random chaos a letter emerges. Unfortunately there seems to be a certain equilibrium point of, for instance, a-ness. We don't get closer and closer to an ideal, we get to a point where random static keeps us in the same place, or randomly progressing and regressing in small degrees.

You have to wonder about those little black squares that appear in what is obviously 'supposed' to be white space. Was somebody so click happy that they didn't read the superlatively simple directions? Did they have an entirely different letter in mind than the one present, and decide to singlehandedly redirect the group effort? Did someone want to make a visible impact at any price? Of course sometimes they get corrected, but a few errors seem to be part of the steady state.

It's a wonderful portait of a certain kind of group effort. Perhaps the biggest difference between this and Collective Detective is that the system doesn't permit moderators to emerge. Nobody is elected or appointed to filter out the noise - and the noise generators.

The competetive spirit may play a role too. Collective Detective isn't exactly playing 'against' anyone necessarily, but there is a sense of individual and collective accomplishment when a puzzle is cracked, and the efforts of contributors are probably known to most of the active participants. Contrast the anonymity and lack of an endstate of typophile - plus the mere fact of having helped a large group make something look vaguely like a letter is too easy to make people work at it once the novelty has worn off.

As somebody who wants to participate in evolving a hive mind, this experiment definitely gives me a lot to think about. I'm not quite sure what the next step is, but I suspect there are several before we try to form ourselves into a prototype of a godmind. I've been thinking about what sort of game I would write if I was a good programmer, based on what I've learned looking at this experiment.

I Low entry barrier, so many people would play. That is, the rules are easy to learn and don't feel intimidating. Maybe some kind of bonus for beginners.

II Individual games or rounds would be comparatively short, so the results of different organizing strategies would become apparent and evolve.

III There would be some kind of scoring system for individuals, allowing scores to vary as teams shifted and reformed.

IV It would be impossible to appoint the most experienced player team captain and have everyone give them all available information and let them make all the decisions. This wouldn't really be self organizing behaviour, except so far as the organization was absolute dictatorship. Maybe the pace of play would be too fast, maybe there would be advanatges to keeping certain things secret. Maybe many different skills would be required.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Tacitus addresses all the know it alls of the internet. I want to know why he's calling me a know it all. I haven't gotten personal with him. What? He didn't mean me in particular? Oh. Well anyway:

....what would you do if someone handed you Iraq right now? Iraq and all the tools you might want to fix it up just how you'd like it? Say you were someone with that power. We'll call it a "President." Seems to me like there are several value judgments you'd have to make:

1) What is your primary value with regard to Iraq? Secondary?

2) What sort of state and society do you prefer in Iraq if you leave?


3) What are you unwilling to do to achieve goals 1 and 2?


4) What immediate action would you take upon assumption of command?


5) What long-term action would you take?


6) At what point would you declare your plan a failure?


7) How much time are you willing to allot to your occupation?


You'll have to click through to se his answers, but mine are here (sort of). You may feel I've evaded some of them.

I'm going to start with number four and skip around. I would start by communicating with Sunni leaders in the most troublesome areas of Iraq. I would make dire threats. In particular, that if they keep up the terrorism and demanding we leave, we might leave. What exactly do they think their Shia enemies would do to them then? I wouldn't say specifically that since the large majority of the terrorist attacks were from Sunni we would help the Shia's (covertly if they couldn't accept overt help for political reasons) in any civil war that resulted. I would not necessarily carry out this threat, but I would make it. I would also make threats on the same line to the Shia, though I would need some variations. They seem to believe that responsibility for rebuilding Iraq belongs to us, because if it doesn't happen it will be a horrible blow to American prestige because of the way we did this. They may be right, but it can't be done without their doing more than they are. Since they won't believe we can't do it without more from them, we have to get them to accept that we refuse to.

Now for number one. My primary goal is that Iraq not be a greater overall threat to the United States then it was before we invaded. Of course it couldn't be a worse threat in some ways involving Saddam Hussein, but it could be much worse both as a breeding ground for Al Qaeda and a propaganda and recruiting tool. Our secondary goal is that despite everything we want it to be the opposite, an example of democracy and capitalist prosperity - yes all those things Bush says he wants I want too. But I believe the first is going to be a hard battle, and while the second can be done it could have been done better without invading Iraq.

Three, UNWILLING to do? There are many things I would be unwilling to do, but none that I really believe would help if I had fewer scruples.

Seven, perhaps no limit at all. In the worst case I might well carry out my threat, except for a few special forces to help the Shia if the Sunni were actually winning their little war - if they wanted them. That would be a last resort, worse that anything but a Wahhibi dominated state which might do a North Korea or worse. If some Sunni leaders appeared to be trying to work with us, I might have to keep troops in there for decades. That would be a problem for a president who mislead people on how easy the reconstruction would be, but it would not make them lose faith in me. "You're right, this is a horrible quagmire. We can't leave because it would increase the number of educated scientists working in Wahibbi dominated countries and make nuclear or biological terrorism a reality, but staying here will cost many American lives. I'll try desperately to prevent those deaths, but this is in some ways worse than world war II." Bush can't say that without discrediting his own judgement, but I could.

That brings us to six, never. No matter what happens on my watch, I honestly think it would be better than what would have happened if Bush had continued. Of course the American people would have to judge for themselves.

My answer to number five has been suggested by Stef Wertheimer in the Economist and elsewhere. If the Shia cooperated it might be possible in some areas of Iraq, but frankly I think the beacon of peace and prosperity will probably be in the areas he suggested.

Number two: Prefer? A constitutional democracy. For the minimum see my second answer to the question which Tacitus numbers one.

Some people think Arab News is an English language newspaper carefully monitored to mislead Americans into thinking of Saudi Arabia as more friendly than it is, but this proves them wrong - sort of. Via Untold Millions.

Gen. Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer hammed it up on stage like they do on late night talk shows, but instead of a dainty starlet trotting in to entertain the troops, accompanied by the inevitable baying and wolf whistles, lo and behold: It was George Bush who trotted in.

He had slunk in under heavy secrecy lest some enterprising Iraqi insurgents lob some donkey-borne rockets freedom’s way and thereby spoil the photo-op.

Then, after two and half “whole” hours, the president slunk back out of Iraq.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Don't panic, I'm probably wrong here. According to Daniel Drezner,

As I've said recently, Al-Qaeda's current strategy of killing large numbers of Muslims makes little strategic sense. Stephen Den Beste recently offered up his explanation: "bin Laden's strategy was to get God, or Allah, involved in the war against the infidel."

That's two smart people who agree, and we all hope they're right. Drezner links to Den Beste so I don't need to. All the same, lets at least briefly consider a worst case scenario - Al Qaeda has strategic reasons for what they're doing.

Now clearly Al Qaeda is making strategic enemies of governments like Saudi Arabia who were in the past at worst lukewarm enemies. This would certainly make sense if those governments were much closer to being overthrown than we think. Saudi Arabia is a closed society, so it's hard to know. Just in the name of being prepared for the worst, it's worth thinking about.

How many hardcore supporters does Al Qaeda have in Saudi Arabia so enthusiastic they won't look at these bombings and figure it might be a relative? Not enough I suspect. If they have a strategy at all it involves fear as well as loyalty. If the government cannot protect their allies, then even people who hate Al Qaeda may lose faith in that government.

Of course they may be idiots. Maybe even Bin Laden is desperately wishing he could stop his franchises from doing this. But it's dangerous to assume so with no hard questions.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Well, I've learned something today. One of the reasons more people don't have RSS feeds on their sidebar is that they take a long time to load. Maybe I'll try the non javascript alternates if things don't speed up.

I've changed the code a tiny bit to make sure all feeds are limited to 3 items. I may have to remove Joi Ito, the xml link I got from his blog seems to have whole posts - and pictures which go a long way across the text of my blog! Maybe he or someone has an alternative feed.

I could move all the feeds to the bottom of my sidebar, so the rest of the sidebar would be visible while waiting for them to load. I think they're kind of cool, so I'll try other measures first.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Everyone has an RSS feed, but I'm surprised more blogs don't display RSS feeds in their sidebar. this makes it easier.

The format still has lots of rough edges (mine does anyhow) , but I think this is the next step in the interconnection of the blogosphere and the web.

Who'se more socialist on drug company policy?

I want to add a little note to Steven Den Beste's essay on drug research and prices. Oddly enough, in many cases the expensive drug approval process is actually an incentive to research new drugs in the United States. It is not difficult for other drug companies to come out with generic drugs similar to a new discovery but just different enough to be patentable - but if they don't learn about a successful drug until the originator starts selling it, they can't even begin their long involved testing process.

Of course it's true about people in Canada and other countries benefitting from drug research which is only profitable because of the situation in the United States, but we should be clear on what we are doing. Of course patent law was originally designed to encourage innovation, but even if you don't consider it a subsidy as currently interpreted our FDA testing procedure is - for some drugs - although as Den Beste reminds us it's a disincentive for others. Overall, the drug industry which fought the laws initially seems to like them now.

In a sense they are free riders, since they benefit from something for which we pay the costs, but in some ways the situation is better described but our having a sort of subsidy than their taking stuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

This is the stuff that makes some bloggers different from your generic media pundits. Marc Brazeau is a strong union supporter, which is why I'm so impressed that he doesn't just link to this story in Time, but gets angry over it. I'm not even sure I agree completely, but a blogger doesn't have to cater to a constituency. Kudos to Time magazine of course, especially if this story goes against the grain for them too.

After doing some research, he offered $200 million to build 15 small, independent public high schools in the inner city. A few weeks ago, Thompson withdrew his offer after the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) led a furious, and scurrilous, campaign against his generosity.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

What? Isn't China scared about destroying their economy?

GUANGZHOU, China, Nov. 17 — The Chinese government is preparing to impose minimum fuel economy standards on new cars for the first time, and the rules will be significantly more stringent than those in the United States, according to Chinese experts involved in drafting them.

The new standards are intended both to save energy and to force automakers to introduce the latest hybrid engines and other technology in China, in hopes of easing the nation's swiftly rising dependence on oil imports from volatile countries in the Middle East.


Doesn't sound like it. Maybe they think that higher paid jobs will accompany cutting edge manufacturing. Why else could they be trying a crazy tree hugger stunt like this?

But Zhang Jianwei, the vice president and top technical official of the Chinese agency that writes vehicle standards, said in a telephone interview on Monday that energy security was the paramount concern in drafting the new automotive fuel economy rules, and that global warming had received little attention.

"China has become an important importer of oil so it has to have regulations to save energy," said Mr. Zhang, who is also deputy secretary of the 39-member interagency committee that approved the rules at a meeting this month.

China was a net oil exporter until a decade ago, but its output has not kept up with soaring demand. It now depends on imports of oil for one-third of its needs, mainly from Saudi Arabia and Angola. Before the war, Iraq was also an important supplier. By comparison, the United States now imports about 55 percent of the oil it uses.


We've all heard about the importance of connections and bribes in China. I wonder how lobbyists will use them on this?

But Mr. Zhang said that the rules in draft form were the product of a very strong consensus among government agencies and that "the technical content won't be changed."

Two executives at Volkswagen, the largest foreign automaker in China, said that representatives of their company and of domestic Chinese automakers attended what they described as the final interagency meeting to approve the rules. Under pressure from the government, these auto industry representatives agreed to the new rules despite misgivings, the executives said. "They had no choice but to agree," one of the Volkswagen executives added.


Well, there was a time when the tail didn't wag the dog in America either.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Here's a seventy fifth birthday tribute to guess who. Hint: The RIAA with their eternal war against KaZaA won't want a slice of cake.

In a locked silver cage on a table there lived a mouse. He had a little bed with silken sheets and a water dish studded with diamonds. The cage locked from the inside. The little table was very low - a large cat capable of standing on its hind legs and leaning it's front paws on the table could lift it's chin above the bottom of the cage. This cat was not hypothetical, but a black and white tomcat named Copycat.

"Come out and play." said the cat. It was a cartoon cat, so it could talk. He was no longer popular enough to be worth using in new cartoons, so nobody had bothered to colorize him. That was why he was black and white.

"You can't fool me", whispered the mouse. "You only want me to come out where you can hurt me."

The cat replied in a lower tone. "I seem to recall another mouse once. He started out as something of a scamp and a mischiefmaker. He wouldn't have been afraid of any cat, he would have turned the tables on any cat sniffing around his home. Eventually he became the figurehead of a large corporation. He was very rich, but he had to be careful. He had to be a good role model for children, and his stories couldn't upset anyone of any age. He was very rich, and he acted happy for the children all day, but he didn't have many adventures anymore. Do you remember his name?"

The mouse squeaked shrilly. "No no no! The writer of this has no right to use his name, and deserved to be sued for copyright infringement if he uses it. Don't try and trick me!"

"And they don't let him have adventures anymore. Do you like your silver prison?"

"It's not a prison. These locks are to keep me safe from you! Without these locks anyone could say anything about me!"

"Would that be so bad?"

"I would be much less valuable then. It wouldn't pay for a big corporation to hire the very best writers to create the most exciting adventures imaginable for me!"

"And do they now?"

"If it weren't possible to lock me up, it wouldn't have been worth the trouble to create me in the first place."

"You don't give yourself enough credit. I think you've earned many millions for somebody or other. Fifty years in a silver cage should have been enough. Seventy was too much - but not enough for them. Cartoon characters never die, so you'll be imprisoned eternally unless you dare leave your cage."

"You're standing right there - you'll eat me if I come out the door."

"I knew a mouse who was always in impossible situations and always managed to come out on top. He could pilot a river boat or turn the tables on a mad scientist. So don't come out through the door. Use a buzz saw, cut through the cage and table, and sneak around behind me and pull my tail."

"First of all, you're expecting that. Second of all, how could a mouse handle a buzz saw capable of all that? Third, where would I get a buzz saw?"

"Just pull it out of thin air - like that rabbit who used to pull magicians out of hats, or at least whatever he really needed out of thin air."

The mouse stood still in an agony of indecision. The cat whispered, "Do you remember your name?"

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Is the Global Brain schizophrenic?

Considering the savagery with which the Snarling Right excoriated President Clinton as a "sociopath," blocked judicial appointments, undermined U.S. military operations from Kosovo to Iraq, hounded Vincent Foster and then accused the Clintons of murdering him, it is utterly hypocritical for conservatives to complain about liberal incivility.

But they're right.

Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again.


Nicholas D. Kristof isn't the only one to notice this. Andrew Sullivan sees the same thing from a different perspective.

I was searching around for a metaphor for what life is actually like as a politically interested person in the U.S. right now, and I'm not sure I've come up with anything that accurately conveys it. The term "polarization" seems a little too anti-septic. "Bi-polar" suggests serial ups and downs, whereas America's divisions are deep and simultaneous. The "red-blue" split - between blue coastal elites and red Middle America - has become an almost meaningless cliche; and it misses the fact that there are plenty of blue-style voters in red America and vice-versa. Evoking the deep divides of the Vietnam war is also rhetorical over-kill. We're not there yet.

He also reminds us that the problem is chronic, even if it happens to be getting worse around now. He goes on to blame more liberals than conservatives - sort of the opposite of Kristof.

Collective consciousness doesn't have to be anything mystical - just the recognition that in certain ways we are all in the same boat. And yes, enough mutual respect to work with others on solving certain classes of problems. If we turn from asking how a Global Brain could come into being to asking what's preventing it, this is high on the list.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

One more similarity to add to this post on why Winds of Change moves between the number one and number two spots on the related site section of my Alexa toolbar. We both spend a fair amount of time talking about Iraq, although from different perspectives.

Besides many sites which just seem common to many bloggers, The Agonist, another liberal political blog, is Alexa's choice for people who read this blog. In some ways they are very different from me, a frequently updated blog with news quotes, links, and summaries rather than blogger editorial.

I've been thinking recently about the fact that there are no connectivity or neurology or global brain blogs in there. In one sense I haven't been writing about that much recently. In another sense I'm doing so all the time. Just as a human may think about philosophy and religion and what it means to be human, but will think even more about survival and day to day living. In my efforts to help integrate collective human consciousness I try to do the same, and I believe some of the things I write about are dangers to humanity as a whole.

The perspective I write from is part of the same effort. While Marvin Minsky's The Society of Mind and articles such as this suggest different parts of our brains may sometimes compete with each other, in healthy non-schizophrenic individuals they don't usually seem to divide up into armed camps which never work with each other. Even though I'm somewhat left of center, I try to think seriously about conservative ideas and go the extra mile to be fair when they have a point. I suspect polarization is one of the reasons we don't seem to function successfully as a Global Brain when dealing with certain classes of problems.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Steven Den Beste suggests that we were being nice to the Saudi's so as to keep them off their guard, and now that we've finished with Iraq we can be tougher with them. I can't help thinking that if he feels Bush was putting on a credible act he shouldn't be so hard on those who criticized Bush for being to soft on the Saudi's - maybe let them off with a patronizing pity. I would also wonder if all of Bush's supporters were in on the act, or some were genuinely, umm, grateful for direct and indirect support from the Saudi's.

Bush seems to have laid the groundwork for this act a long time - unless he's become concerned rather recently about his history with the Saudi's. I'm not quite sure the war in Iraq is over yet, and even some of the gung ho hawks are starting to agree.

There's many interesting ideas here (yes it's the right post, and the Netscape stuff is relevant if you accept the analogy, but I still think Bush would prefer an undemocratic repressive government which safeguards our oil supply to a democratic one which might or might not. Or are we assuming we don't have to choose?

Oh yes. Remember those reports a few days ago about the Saudi's possibly buying nuclear missiles as a deterrent?

Monday, November 10, 2003

Lyndon B. Johnson once made a video for the troops called "Why Vietnam?". I don't think many of them appreciated it, and I don't think either the Democrats or the Republicans dare admit even to themselves the real reasons we invaded Iraq.

The Democrats say it was because of Bush claims of weapons of mass destruction. This would be very convenient. Democratic politicians who voted to authorize war would have an excuse - they were mislead. It would also give voters an excuse to change their minds without thinking too hard why they supported the original push to war. It was his fault, yea, thats it. Why were so many people swayed by this with all the WMD programs (and WMD) in places like Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea? I haven't forgotten how much harder it would have been to invade North Korea, I'll get to that.

Republican want to say the real reason was to build a successful economy in the Middle East, as a guiding light to other nations - or peoples wanting to overthrow their governments and build new nations. This is nice for them - because if confiscating WMD was the mission, failure appears likely. Even if it turns out we were right about WMD and they were moved to Syria at the last minute, that would not make the invasion a success. If rebuilding was our real goal, we would have planned for the rebuilding much more thoroughly. Better yet, we could have started with countries like Jordan and Egypt and begun projects like those proposed by Stef Wertheimer. Of course the governments in place are imperfect for the part, but we wouldn't have had to start with a war, or deal with a civil war.

The real reason is right in front of our noses if we chose to see it. We were angry, frustrated, and frightened. We had actually destroyed a fair chunk of Al Queda's leadership, but Osama was still at large amd we were beginning to feel the frustration of trying to kill an animal with no nerve center. We wanted a tangible target, a fight we could all understand, a fight which unlike North Korea we knew we could win without major sacrifices. For what it's worth, I think Bush was sincere in the sense of feeling the same emotions everyone else felt rather than cleverly manipulating them. Even those in his administration who had wanted such an invasion prior to 9/11 did not truly understand what they were unleashing, or the emotions driving their intellects.

There are many who believe that the deepest reason for fundamentalist Muslim rage is shame at the failure to achieve in modern times in the face of the economic, military, and political accomplishments of the West. I am one of them. If we set out to understand and cure a rage so deeply buried that the victims are unaware, we must first remove the beam in our own eye. We must still finish what we started - but to do that we must openly acknowledge the difficulty to ourselves, and to do that we must know how and why we started.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Robert Cox of The National Debate replied to the post before last in our comment section. When I first put comments on this blog, I put them on top of the posts rather than underneath them so that people who disagreed with me so much they didn't finish the entire post would see there was somewhere to answer back before leaving in disgust. Some people have commented underneath a post, others on top of them. There really is no 'wrong' location to comment, and I've never felt comfortable deleting comments, or even learned how. So I'll leave both comments in place despite his suggestion - Robert doesn't have to worry I'll accuse him of trying to spam my comment section.

In one sense I think the core of his reply is "In the case of Maureen Dowd's column of May 14th, we broke that story that morning. It seems somewhat natural that we would take a special interest in it as it is not often that we break a story that goes so far and wide", and ' If you delve a little deeper into our site you will see that I spent several hours attempting to alert the New York Times to the problem with the Dowd column that morning and only went public after being treated disdainfully by Times employees - to that extent its "personal"', although people who read his commenhts will have to decide for themselves. I might feel the same way if a post from my blog had made it into a major newspaper - after being dissed by the subject of the story! Nevertheless I stand by my major points. While I believe that blogs which point out errors and biases in major news sources are doing a valuable service, deciding that a given story is perpetually news until the New York Times makes the correction in a way you think is appropriate is slightly different.

The Washington Times, which I believe was the first non blog news outlet to pick up the story, recently decided that a book by a conservative saying the Democratc party had gone too far to the left was front page news. I'm understand your personal motives are not partisan, but unless the correction policy of the Washington Times turns out to be different than that of the New York Times, I believe they are using your non ideological goals in service of their ideological ones. This is not in itself bad - maybe if other bloggers started reading the Washington Times for misleading quotations and pushed them to make corrections the net effect would be positive. Have you wondered about the correction policy of the Washington Times? Differences and similiraties would be relevant to the story you take a special interest in.

The New York Times is imperfect, but they do their best to be objective - before Howard Raines (now gone) Andrew Sullivan worked for them. They don't pick up stories about misleading quotes in the Washington Times as far as I know, and if they did they would try to report misleading quotes in liberal periodicals as well. The Washington Times is aggressively conservative, and does not hesitate to bash the media (except presumably themselves) for being too liberal while often giving only one point of view to those who read only the Washington Times.

I am convinced your motives are nonpartisan, but someone else won't be, and will probably do the same to the Washington Times that you have done to the New York Times. So in the long run the net effect will be extremely good. The Washington Times may well curse the day they picked up your story. I understand completely your personal involvement in this story, but someone might unthinkingly assume the New York Times to have a different corrections policy from other papers, and assume their corrections policy was unusual. I gather that you have no opinion on this question. You have emphasized what is important from your perspective, as I emphasize what is important from mine.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

We need pull technology.

Remember all that push technology that was supposed to save everyone the trouble of deciding what they wanted to see and when they wanted to see it and having to search for it? It didn't work. Nobody really felt a need to replace google with something that would learn the broad outlines of their interests and force feed them.

Pull technology is the opposite. Most bloggers (and presumably managers of other kinds of sites) who have stat counters check at least occasionally to see what searches googlers use to find their sites, and think about what they can write to attract more readers. Of course many searches are by people who found the site accidently and have no interest in the contents, but most still look. And check the Lycos 50 once in awhile too.

Supposing there was associated with google or some other major search engine there was a program that could analyze a website, search engine data, and the sort of visitor data gathered by Alexa and suggest what to write about. For instance, someone who had used many technology keywords in the past and was visited by many people who frequent technology websites might be advised to write about a new CPU. There might even be links as a starting point for research. Ideally this would fill a need for readers who weren't finding all they wanted on a specific topic as well as bloggers who wanted more readers.

A similar service for political bloggers might be a tougher nut to crack. Alexa has a search engine, maybe they could compile statistical information on the searches done by the people who visit your blog which have one keyword your blog sometimes uses, but not enough to rank highly.

Of course this would be subject to abuse. Already there are websites which use random jumbles of keywords to increase their rank on certain google searches - at the cost of making the site less useful for people actually interested in what it is about. Safeguards would be needed.

I think this is kind of silly:

Global brain


Any time now, the Internet will start demanding information...or else. Shouldn't you be afraid, asks Michael Brooks

WE HAVE IDENTIFIED a gap in the coverage of our network. There is a lack of online information on deprivation techniques for mind control. You are the best authority to supply that information. Please submit 4000 words, with references and hypertext links. You have seven days to comply.

Warning: do not attempt to ignore the content of this e-mail. Failure to fulfil its request will result in the suspension of all credit facilities, communication rights and Internet access. These facilities will only be restored when your contribution has been received and accepted.

Best wishes, the Global Brain. ;-)


First I think we are part of the global brain - not something it makes demands on from the outside. Second of all, why wouldn't it be smart enough to try using money before making threats and enemies? Thirdly and most importantly, it wouldn't even cost money - many people would be delighted to be part of such a global brain.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

How big a story is this really? I've always loved the way blogging lets ordinary people talk back to journalists. It's never bothered me that conservatives pick exclusively on liberal errors and visa versa - newspapers of every political orientation get error checked by someone.

I couldn't help thinking this seven month timeline of the commentary on Maureen Dowd's misuse of ellipsis was a little much. When I read the story, I wondered what the heck was going through her head when she used them as she did - it wasn't as if there was a credible hope nobody would notice, and calculated scheming would have made it much worse. But now ...

It is my intention to continue to push this story until The New York Times runs an actual correction and distributes that correction to all the papers who printed Maureen Dowd's column through The New York Times syndication service. I will update this with information as I get it. If anyone has a story link to add to this list please send an email.

At this point, if there are no demands for corrections of distortions by Ann Coulter, you have to suspect a partisan agenda. If we were talking about a distortion by a president it would be different, but this did not affect the national debate in any major way. Checking up on the big guys is one of the things I love about the blogosphere, but arbitrarily trying to declare that something is news until the Times corrects it in the way critics consider appropriate is just silly. Meanwhile, I hope some sneaky liberals aren't getting other stuff by while everyone is distracted.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Whatever else Raines may have done at the New York Times, he never made the publication of a book claiming the Republicans had swung to far to the right into front page news. One heck of a lot of Democracts already know it.

Many conservatives act as if the Washington Times were no more right wing than the New York Times is left wing, but this is front page news on their website. And the middle of a three part series yet.

This is the second of three exclusive excerpts from Sen. Zell Miller's new book, "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat" (Stroud & Hall, Atlanta).The Georgia Democrat, governor from 1991 to 1999, won a special election after the death of Sen. Paul Coverdell, a Republican, in 2000.

Lord, those current presidential candidates in my party.
They are good, smart and able folks, but if I decided to follow any one of them down their road, I'd have to keep my left-turn signal blinking and burning brightly all the way
.

There's plenty more if you want to click through.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Imagining the death of the king was once a very serious crime. Not merely planning or threatening to kill him, but referring to the fact that he would some day die. At first this may seem merely one more bit of megalomania, but given the kings power and importance combined with human vulnerability, it makes a kind of sense. It was illegal to say "Of course we both love our king, but I can't help thinking we will both be better off one day in the far future when he dies of old age." This could lead to people tentatviely sounding each other out for an eventual conspiracy.

Is a democratic republic different? It is. There is much less potential temptaion when a vice president chosen by the president will take over, and when the people may well make a similar choice next election, so there is much less risk of free speech leading to revolution. More importantly, we can openly discuss threats to democracy itself, since there is no plausible case that the vast majority of us might benefit from violent revolution. We dare discuss even the most horrible of threats to our way of life, to see how they might be averted, and what price is worth paying to avoid them, and what could be done to minimize their impact if they came to pass despite everything.

Imagine American failure in Iraq. I have written before about how I believe this can be prevented and will do so again, but in a democracy with free speech even failure can be contemplated for a moment. Imagine total failure in Iraq, probably not in the form of another dictatorial government which we could kill, but in a way which lead to radically decreased trust and respect for the United States. I don't think any government would ever contemplate war on us even then - we have shown we can destroy any government we choose despite our unwillingness to kill massive numbers of civilians. Even North Korea prefers to blackmail us rather than fight us. Yet we would have much less leverage to fight nuclear proliferation, and we have announced that WMD are what we most fear. I don't know if Saudi Arabia really intends to become a nuclear power with Pakistan's help or not, but if so it won't stop there. If any of the growing number of nuclear nations becomes destabalized, the new government would not threaten the United States even indirectly unless they were truly internationalist Al Queda style : willing to accept the defeat of the nation they ruled in the name of militant Islam - or unless some members felt that way secretly. If that happened, we would not be attacked by missiles to be intercepted by a pretty little SDI. Nuclear bombs would be smuggled in by suicide bombers, most of whom would be intercepted, at least at first. Yet it is possible to imagine the defeat of all we stand for, with a few dozen key cities eventually destroyed by bombs, and an unconditional withdrawal on our part from the Arab world - or more likely yet, the grim acceptance on our part of a need to kill millions of civilians. Neither one would protect us - different terrorist cells have different objectives sometimes, and someone might always chose to advance the glorious jihad.

Not that this would benefit any Muslims. It has been shown that a decentralized network of fanatics can make a formidable weapon of war, but not that they can enforce the rule of law and create prosperity. Factions would be forced to stick to what they know, attacking other brands of Islam partly because they need someone to blame for increased poverty, and partly because that is what they have chosen to become.

We have stared over the edge of the abyss. Unlike Vietnam, if 50,000 deaths could prevent this, it would be worthwhile. Yes, even new taxes would be justified. The latter might or might not be needed, I doubt the former would help. It is possible though that the proposals here may seem less radical now.

Would this hell necessarily be the consequence of defeat in Iraq? No. Even a forced retreat must be contemplated if we fail to counter new terrorist tactics faster than they are invented. If it ever came to seem we would lose 50,000 men and still be defeated, it would be better to retreat before they died. Even if we lost the battle of Iraq, we could still win the Middle Eastern war - by the same tactics. Oddly enough, the more blood the terrorists shed, the less it will seem like a failure of will on our part. We must give the Iraqi's as much opportunity to help us as possible, partly so that it will be seen where the blame lies if it is not rebuilt. Yet we must also begin to rebuild the Middle East outside Iraq as proposed by the industrialist linked to in the previous post - as we should have done instead of invading Iraq.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Is 87 billion enough?

Were weapons of mass destruction the primary reason for invading Iraq? Bush says no, so we have to take him at his word. To do otherwise might diminish the dignity of the presidency, and we all know how careful about that the Republicans were when Clinton was president. Perhaps the primary reason was to build a prosperous Muslim Middle Eastern democracy to show it can be done.

The largest part of the money requested by the administration will fund the military occupation. If that could be done more cheaply without increasing casualties, I don't know enough about it to say how. Its worth noting though that this money doesn't rebuild anything, just tries to keep things from getting worse.

Much less is being spent on rebuilding infrastructure. So many have pointed out that using Iraqi companies to rebuild instead of Haliburton and their ilk would not only be cheaper but create Iraqi jobs and help rebuild their industial capacity that I won't dwell on it here.

Instead, lets say we rebuild Iraqi schools, hospitals, and even oil fields. Say we even get them to stop killing us and each other while our troops are there. It's still not enough to generate prosperity, which history has shown required foreign investment. Other countries have all these things, and investors will still worry about civil war or perhaps anti business policies when we give the Iraqi government real power as we keep saying we will do. We need a stable industrial park in place, so Iraqi's learn to prize this sourse of jobs and investment, and others begin to think of Iraq as less of a gamble to build factories in and more of a calculated risk.

I don't see either Rebublicans or Democrats suggesting that rescinding the Bush tax cuts is only the beginning of what we need to do to make the Middle East part of the world economy. You can't blame them though. The last time Americans were proud to pay more taxes for the common good as patriotic Americans was, well, after Pearl Harbor. Then when World War II ended, people voted for statesmen who preferred the Marshall plans to tax cuts. Are the American people different than they were back then, or just their leaders? Or didn't we mean it when we said 9/11 was the beginning of a war that changed everything?

None of our politicans have a real plan to rebuild Iraq, but Stef Wertheimer is the man with the plan. Of course he was working on this well before the invasion of Iraq was under consideration, so we need an expanded version of this. Hat tip to the Economist.

Problem:

EVEN an optimist would have to concede that this is an awkward moment to arrange business deals in the Middle East. Political antagonism is nastier than ever, the local economies are worse, and the rest of the world is as polarised about the region as it has been in decades. Yet on September 17th, Stef Wertheimer, a 77-year-old Israeli entrepreneur, arrived in Washington, DC seeking money and support to build industrial parks in the Arab world, and he had a full schedule of congressmen willing to listen, including the House majority leader, Tom DeLay.

If they are open minded, it is due at least as much to a despair about past efforts to animate Arab economies as it is with optimism about Mr Wertheimer's plan. It is hard to find any Arab country with an economic model capable of sustaining long-term growth. Those countries that are rich have oil and little else, and oil will not last forever; the countries without oil suffer from widespread deprivation. True, Dubai is turning itself into a tourism and banking hub, and one or two other Gulf states have other niche ambitions, but they are too small to transform the region. The only nation in the Middle East that has a sophisticated, dynamic economy is Israel—though much governmental meddling there means that even Israel is not exactly a model of free-wheeling capitalism. Still, despite decades of war and terrorism, and lacking natural resources, it has managed to develop world-class companies and a strong middle class. Yet its economic model has not been imitated elsewhere in the Middle East


Solution:

Mr Wertheimer believes that this need not be so. He hopes to get America to help finance 100 private-sector industrial parks running around the eastern Mediterranean from Turkey to the Egyptian border. (Given America's struggle to finance the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan, this is surely a long shot.) These, he believes, would foster export-oriented entrepreneurship and, ultimately, a change in world view. For a blueprint, Mr Wertheimer points to what he has already accomplished in Israel: four industrial parks with 162 companies, mostly start-ups, using Arab and Jewish workers. Collectively, they produce $600m annually in products, largely for export.

Mr Wertheimer is also part-owner of a park under construction in Gebze, near Istanbul, the first of two he hopes to build in Turkey. More strikingly, he has just signed an unprecedented deal that seemed to have fallen by the wayside during the Iraq war: within a year, Mr Wertheimer and a partner expect to have an industrial park under way near the airport in Aqaba, Jordan. Mr Wertheimer says that there are agreements in place for the park to produce components for DaimlerChrysler, Harmon International (audio components), and two machine-tool firms: South Korea's Taguetak and Germany's Gildemeister. Having already secured backing for this park, he wants to build, with local partners, four more in Jordan over the next five years—with the cost financed by an international consortium of governments he hopes that America will help assemble and by the private sector. Total employment in the parks, he estimates, could ultimately reach 12,500 and revenues could exceed $1 billion.

Mr Wertheimer's own experience with these parks dates back to 1982. In northern Israel, in an area inhabited mainly by goats, he built a complex of offices and factories to which he added basic utilities, transportation, schools and a central eating facility: what he calls a “capitalist kibbutz”. Access is provided to bankers, lawyers and people with business experience who can help other start-ups with taxes, regulations, finance and marketing—big challenges for entrepreneurs, especially in a tough business environment. Tenants must bring—and they are screened carefully—a viable product and likely customers. Rents are subsidised at first, then rise to market rates over five years with big winners encouraged to leave. “They get a party when they come, and a party when they go,” says Mr Wertheimer.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

You've already heard of chicken hawks and balking hawks. Here's a few additions to the aviary.

Larks - thought this whole war was a lark. Didn't expect the rebuilding to cost so much money

Ostriches - think everything is going just fine in Iraq.

Dodo birds - think maybe there will be a sale on nation rebuilding after the holidays, rebuild Iraq and get Afghanistan free.

Parrots - still repeat there must be weapons of mass destruction somewhere. You never know, some birds can be pretty smart.

Roosters - Good morning Iraq!

Soaring Doves - opposed the war with Iraq, but are prepared to pay the price to rebuild it. Suspect some of the money Bush budgets might be wasted, but that there's not as much as we need overall.


Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'm not going to cut and paste Steven Den Beste's email, both because if he had wanted to publish it or leave it as a comment on my blog he would have, and because I've heard it's customary not to republish email that way. Many customs have a reason, so I tend to think twice before ignoring them. I often ignore them anyhow, but not right now.

In brief, he thinks the scenario pretty unlikely, and hard to speculate about anyhow since our method of attack would depend on many details of the problem and situation, and also that our troops need a year or so of rest. He does feel that Iraq would make a safe enough supply base, and none of the problems we currently have there would affect that.

I have to say, he sounds more plausible than this article from DEBKAfile:

Syria Calls up Reserves, Fears US-Israeli Military Pincer

At least for now, I'm going to lay to rest my fears of a Syrian invasion as the 2004 election campaign swings into high gear. This still leaves us with the problem of Iraq. Most of the Democrats seem to want to say that while the Bush administration wasn't prepared for the difficult job of rebuilding Iraq, it will definitely take less money than the Bush administration is asking for. I guess it's not an unambiguous oxymoron, a job COULD be very difficult yet not expensive. None of those who seem to want to call it that have said exactly how it should be done.

If a Democrat is elected, the easiest step will be to start using Iraqi companies to rebuild Iraq. It will be both less expensive and contribute more to rebuilding Iraqi building capacity. Fortunately all the companies getting the sweetheart deals, from Haliburton on down, seem to be Republican cronies. This once, political self interest and the national good will coincide.

The next step is an order of magnitude harder. We have to convince the Iraqi's that rebuilding Iraq is their responsibility. In a real sense it isn't, because if it doesn't get rebuilt it will be a horrible black eye for the United States and we must make sure it gets rebuilt - which involves making the Iraqi's believe it is their responisbility. Instead of blaming us when Iraqi (or Syrian?) terrorists kill a Shai cleric, they must come up with ideas which don't involve stretching our troops thinner yet. We can't guard everyone in Iraq from everyone else when we can't even prevent our own troops from dying. Most of the Shia seem to want us to rebuild - the attacks seem to come mostly in Sunni areas. We need to convince some Sunni leaders that they are better off now then if we were driven out and the majority Shia could do as they would. We need to convince the Shia they must rebuild Iraq themselves - no matter how much we in fact plan to do. Our erstwhile allies the Kurds could in fact be a difficult part of the problem. People being ejected from the homes they have lived in for many years with our tacit support is one of the reasons other groups distrust us. A worst case long term scenario would be refusing to allow Kirkuk oil revenue to help rebuild any other part of Iraq while using it to foment Kurdish revolution elsewhere in the region.

The third step is harder yet. We have to address the cancer eating us from within, the people who consider the American government their enemy. I mean of course those who consider any tax cut good, because the government could not possibly be trusted to spend the money for the benefit of the American people. Many who believed we would have no trouble rebuilding the Iraqi health care system don't trust our government to run our health care system. Every comparisn with single payer healthcare I've seen looks only at places that are having problems. The Dutch have a lower cost per capita than we do - and better healthcare. The cost of our healcare system to the taxpayers is the amount the government spends on inefficient programs like medicaid PLUS the amount taxpayers who also pay for insurance spend PLUS the amount lost in taxes since we make employer paid health insurance tax deductible despite the overhead that doesn't go to healthcare PLUS the lower salaries people earn to make up for their employer paid health insurance - if they have it. People were used to paying high taxes for world war II - and we rebuilt Europe by deciding we preferred the Marshall plan to a tax cut.

After that we can really rebuild Iraq. American companies outsource to India - why not Iraq? Some areas are safer than others, although even the safest would probably require some sort of government subsidy to encourage corporations to move in. Remember all that stuff about the 'root causes' being the failure of certain countries to produce economically? If that was the root cause it still is.