Thursday, February 26, 2004

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Here's another portion of the war on terror we only catch a glimpse of. Are the Sunni's speaking out freely here? We can't have a peaceful and prosperous Iraq without them. That particular segment of An Opposing Direction is one I would have liked to see in translation. Did some moderate members of the governing council really work with Isreali's at one time? Al Jazeera has been known to show some strange stuff.

An Iraqi Imam has accused Aljazeera of trying to spark a civil war between the country's Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Imam Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, during the Friday sermon, urged the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to permanently close down the Qatar-based satellite channel's Baghdad bureau.

"Aljazeera lies and it creates divisions between people," he said in a fiery speech at the Aatafiya mosque in central Baghdad. Al-Saghir is seen as close to Iraq's highest Shia spiritual leader Sayyid Ali al-Sistani.


Aljazeera's interim Baghdad bureau chief Majid Khadir denied the accusations.

"He is completely wrong. What we are doing is conveying exactly what each party says about Iraqi problems, especially elections," said Khadir.

Al-Saghir slammed television presenter Faisal al-Qasim for trying to create sectarian divisions and supporting Saddam Hussein.

Al-Qasim's programme "An Opposing Direction" has caused an uproar after broadcasting photographs showing some members of the Governing Council with Israel's Mossad.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Many aspects of the war on terror are almost but not quite outside our field of vision. This article from the Pakistan Daily Times is about the search for those who killed a Pakistani soldier during the hunt for Al Qaida suspects near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It appears the leadership of the major tribe is cooperating at least superficially, but some of the sub-tribes are not. A Pakistani soldier has been killed recently. In close knit networks where neighbors are all closer to each other than the government, collective punishment is sometimes used when it is believed many people know and are hiding the identities of the guilty individuals. Click though to the article and try and guess who is what.

PESHAWAR: Azam Warsak Bazar, the scene of the Army soldier’s killing on Wednesday in South Waziristan Agency, was completely sealed off and tribal police arrested three more men following a crackdown on tribesmen after the incident.

“The market, otherwise jam-packed in routine, looked deserted as tribal police cordoned off the area,” witnesses told Daily Times on the phone from Wana, regional headquarters of South Waziristan Agency. No resistance was offered when locks were being sealed. “The three arrested tribesmen belonged to Yargulkhel and Adakhel sub-tribes,” said a government official, who requested anonymity. The official said one vehicle was impounded while two hotels and five more shops belonging to the two sub-tribes were sealed in Wana Bazar. The authorities have arrested over a dozen suspects from the two tribes and closed more than 600 shops to exercise influence over tribesmen in connection with investigations into the soldier’s killing.

The official said that the two tribes had been asked to turn over the killers. “The crackdown will continue until the tribesmen hand over the killers,” the official said. He said the authorities might take stern action and destroy all shops if the residents did not guarantee that the military personnel and government employees would not be harmed.

Meanwhile, military sources said that that an army operation was in the offing if the Wazir sub-tribes failed to meet the authorities’ demand. Asked to elaborate what the demands were, he said that it was public knowledge and did not need any explanation. “We will start the operation after getting the go-ahead from the administration,” sources said.

Friday, February 13, 2004

What a strange story. Too bad I can't even guess at the story behind this story. How could policemen get away with threatening legislators without backing from somewhere? On the other hand, what does anyone gain by tacitly allowing these threats? If you want to intimidate reporters, allowing this hardly seems to provide the maximum intimidation per unit risk of bad publicity. Huh?

ISLAMABAD: Violating the orders of senior authorities, the police and security personnel on Friday stopped several journalists from entering Parliament House to cover the 10th session of the Senate.

Policemen standing at Parliament House’s outer gate not only stopped journalists from entering, they also abused them.

“We will break your legs. Who the hell are you? You know what we can do with you... we can arrest you,” said the policemen. The aggrieved journalists unanimously boycotted the Senate’s proceedings and decided not to report the proceedings. The police and security officials at the outer gate have always created trouble for journalists and other visitors.

National Assembly (NA) Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain, Senate Chairman Muhammadmian Soomro, Information Minster Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and other senior government ministers and functionaries had in the past ordered the police to treat journalists with respect and assured the journalists that they would not be troubled in future. The police and security personnel have disobeyed their orders and have continued to pester journalists.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I'm still thinking about Steven Den Beste's excellent post about Hive Minds, in particular this part:

The emergent result may well be that some will exhibit behavior indicating intelligence at a level beyond that of individual humans, capable of "thinking" thoughts no single human could conceive of. Even with industrial-level technology, that's already happened. Science, in particular, is such a thing, as is modern engineering. Engineering at a primitive level has been with us since the creation of the first stone tools. But science as we now know it is very recent, only going back about 500 years (though one can identify predecessors extending back millennia before that).

Science was limited by the communications technology available. It was impossible without industrial-level communications technology, but was slow and inefficient even with it, and it picked up speed as communications technology improved.

Partly that's because of an internal feedback loop inside science itself: the more you know, the easier it is to understand more. There's also an external feedback loop: engineering improves as science advances, and in turn engineers creates better tools for scientists and better communications technologies scientists can use to share their results. (And engineering in turn has its own internal feedback loop, as engineers create better tools for other engineers to use.) Once this goes beyond a certain low level, it begins to produce exponential growth in both engineering and science, and that began about 200 years ago.

And because of that, the collaborative effort we call science is the first major case I know of where the collective "thought process" transcended the ability of a single human, even though it "thought" much more slowly than a human did.

And now we have reached the point where the science/engineering feedback loop has given engineers the tools and technologies to create the internet, the most recent of my four most important inventions in human history. And just as with the other three (spoken language, writing, movable type printing) it will cause a "knee" in human capabilities and behavior. And because of that, a true superhuman "intelligence" may appear during our lifetime.

He also write more generally on what Hive Minds might be like:

At any given instant, there will be a myriad of such hive-minds exhibiting a broad range of behaviors and capabilities. New ones would form all the time and old ones would falter and die. Some will only "think" in very restricted realms, while others may range broadly. In terms of observable intelligence level they would fall on a continuum. Some might be "geniuses", some "morons", some might operate at the level of animals or even plants. There will be the equivalent of diseases (i.e. chain letters). There will be the equivalent of parasites (file sharing networks pirating music and movies). Some will be valuable and constructive, some will be trivial and useless, and some will be insane. Some of those will be dangerously insane.

Sometimes hive-minds will form in response to others in order to oppose them. Hive-minds will compete and contend. Some will cooperate, forming coalitions. Sometimes that will cause them to merge. Some hive-minds will break into pieces, yielding children whose contributing members sort themselves based on their disagreements. And generally they'll be self-organizing, and many will be able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Yet I find it interesting to compare the latter to the former. Suppose science and technology to be a single Hive Mind, since they interact so frequently. How could another competing hive mind form? To be sure, an individual might decide to do research and not communicate with the rest of the scientific establishment. A large group communicating with each other might even do so. Unless this state of affairs continued for hundreds of years, it's hard to consider there would be more than one Hive Mind thinking about science in any meaningful sense. The history of science has no precedent for that - if the results were interesting and useful, they would leak out, and eventually other scientists would start working on the same thing. If not, they would die out. In other words, either the two hive minds would merge, or one would sputter out. In a fundamental sense, there may be only one hive mind for our species, like it or not. While we cannot choose to not be part of that Hive Mind, it doesn't restrict our freedom or individuality, but is instead composed of them.

That Hive Mind is composed of more than scientists and engineers. Perhaps they are the core (and cortex) of this mind, but the economic value of new discoveries and the respect of the most prosperous of us for science and engineering have played a major part in it's development. Perhaps even those most opposed to the changes it has wrought are part of it, as our own doubts are still part of our brains.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The newest blog to top the People Also Visit part of the Alexa toolbar while visiting the Art of Peace is TalkLeft. As always, I visited and thought hard about what we might have in common.

Their tagline is pithy and accurate. "Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news". We are both liberal blogs, but although I've expressed the view that long jail terms and huge prison populations can be expensive and counterproductive, it's not the main focus of my blog. Also I don't consider myself a 'typical' liberal, I make an extra effort to read conservative blogs and think hard about them, and make a point of noting when the party line Democratic and or liberal view seems wrong.

They certainly have a nice three column layout. They are updated more frequently than this blog is. Their prose is smooth. If we have more in common than two random left of center blogs would be expected to have in common by chance, I haven't found it yet. Either it's a statistical artifact, or Alexa sees something I don't.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I think it's great that Citizen Smash is trying to understand the mindset of people in the Arabian Gulf.

I WAS SITTING in a carpet shop in Dubai when an Arab merchant asked me a startling question. “America is a very powerful country,” he began, “Why do you not finish Saddam?”

The year was 1998, and two US Navy carrier battle groups were on station in the Gulf, flying around-the-clock missions over the southern “no-fly-zone.” I took a moment to collect myself, and then offered the man a fumbling explanation about UN weapons inspectors and international law.

The merchant wasn’t impressed. “Saddam is a very dangerous man. You cannot trust him. Why don’t you finish the war? You do not need United Nations.”

That’s when it hit me: for many Arabs, the Gulf War didn’t end in 1991. They realized that Saddam wasn’t finished, and they believed that he was playing a waiting game, hoping that the Americans and British would ultimately grow weary of “containing” him and go home. Indeed, many Arabs suspected that Saddam had designs on the entire Arabian Peninsula.

They saw our reluctance to “finish the job” as a sign of weakness. But this wasn’t just an isolated incident. They remembered our tepid reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and our helplessness during the Iran hostage crisis. They remembered how we turned tail and ran away after setbacks in Beirut and Mogadishu. They saw how we failed to respond after attacks on the USS Stark and, a few years later, the USS Cole.

In short, they believed we were a paper tiger.

He may even have done a good job - many of them may feel or have felt as he says. Although I respect these Arabs, as I respect people everywhere, I do not believe they are correct. I am especially proud of the restraint my country showed for many years, and believe it is part of the reason for our long history as a superpower without paying the traditional price of empire - huge quantities of blood on all sides. I respect many conservatives and try to learn from them, but sometimes I wonder, Why Do They Always Blame America First?

Whatever misperceptions of American resolve there may be, lets not be so quick to assume things would have been better if we'd taken the road more travelled.

Monday, February 02, 2004

The administration still states that we will hand over control to the Iraqi's by June. Got to do something about this then - if its true. I've seen claims that the media isn't reporting the rebuilding of schools sufficiently, but none that they're underreporting the professionalism of the new police force. It's not impossible.

Iraqi police a law unto themselves
By David Enders

BAGHDAD - At night, the police presence is most evident. On the city's central streets, they make high-speed patrols, at times in groups that make the task appear more like a joyride. There are no other cars to be seen and there's virtually no one on the streets, save the employees of Baghdad's single 24-hour shop and the handful of restaurants that stay open late, mostly to serve the cops.

The police, however, do not receive credit for the apparent drop in crime. "It's because no one stays out," said Hassan Mahdi, the owner of the 24-hour shop. "The police are no good."

But just because the streets are filled with police does not necessarily mean they're safe. A journalist walking back to his hotel at around 3am on a recent morning made the mistaken assumption that it would be fine because only police were out. He was stopped and asked for his identity card three times during the 10-minute stroll. The third group of police also took US$100 from his wallet, after he showed an American passport.

Accusations of police corruption are rampant across the country. Iraqis complain that police set up checkpoints for the sole purpose of shakedowns, threatening arrest unless a bribe is paid. In this city of more than 5 million, the police were the first security body to be reinstated after the invasion. The situation is being likened to the police force before the invasion, which was known for its petty corruption. "No one ever received traffic tickets before the war," said Ahmad Ayad, who lives in Baghdad. "We just paid the officer."