|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Reporters sans frontières - The Internet under surveillance 2004
: "Obstacles to the free flow of information online,
" reported by country for about 40 countries. Also, in the article On a Filtered Internet, Things Are Not As They Seem
, RSF reports that many countries have gone beyond blocking web sites: "The past year has brought a rise of new filtering methods that, intentionally or by happenstance, are considerably more confusing. Try using Google in China : Most searches work fine.. But run a search on a controversial policy area, and Google will stop working for perhaps half an hour. ..
Still more subtle are the "modified mirrors" sometimes used in Uzbekistan. Rather than simply blocking access to sites of political dissenters, Uzbek authorities make copies of the controversial sites - then change the copies to undermine or weaken the unsanctioned positions. The key step : When Uzbek users request the controversial sites, they automatically receive the altered copies in place of the authentic originals. Experts might realize something is wrong, but this tampering is exceptionally difficult for ordinary users to notice or detect. " 10:33:53 PM
Friday, July 30, 2004
: A data format for multi-destination publishing (i.e., publishing from XML into PDF, HTML, Word, and CD-ROM formats). Interesting collection of related tools
for XML formatting in general. 12:26:35 PM
XMLmind FO Converter
: "XMLmind FO Converter is a JavaTM component which converts XSL Formatting Objects (FO) to RTF. In less technical terms, it can be used to convert XML data or XML documents to MS-Word documents .. Two stand-alone applications using the conversion engine are available: fo2rtf (command-line executable) and xslutility. .. Personal Edition consists of the two stand-alone applications and can be used at no charge.." 12:22:28 PM
How to Lose the War on Terror: Another interview with the author of Imperial Hubris. "I don’t know if we have to say we are at war with Islam, but I think it defies reality to say that a growing part of Islam is not at war against us. I am at a loss to understand how this far along into the bin Laden problem we can still be saying that this war has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with religion in terms of the motivation bin Laden, his followers, sympathizers, and Muslims generally feel to fight us.
Bin Laden’s genius has been to focus the Muslim world on specific U.S. policies. He’s not, as the Ayatollah did, ranting about women who wear knee-length dresses. .. The shibboleth that he opposes our freedoms is completely false, and it leads us into a situation where we will never perceive the threat. ..
In terms of popularity, it would be difficult to underestimate the growth in popular support across the Muslim world. Bin Laden has identified six specific U.S. policies that appeal to the anger of Muslims: our unqualified support for Israel; our ability to keep oil prices within a tolerable range for consumers; our support for people who oppress Muslims, i.e., Russia in Chechnya, India in Kashmir, China in Western China; our presence on the Arabian Peninsula; our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan; and finally our support for Muslim tyrannies from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Bin Laden is a formidable enemy because he has recognized what are deemed by many Muslims, even those who don’t support his martial activities, as threats to Islam. ..
I don’t think we can win this war until we have a debate over what has caused it and recognize that it is in our power to win this war over a period of time or to fight this war forever. This is not a choice between war and peace. It is a choice between war and endless war.
People say we are going to do public diplomacy—magazines for Muslims. Well, as long as Al-Jazeera is broadcasting from Gaza and the West Bank live, 24 hours a day, no one is going to listen to the Americans. ..
[Getting bin Laden is] of decreasing importance as the years go by, but bin Laden has a genius: he has the only organization of its kind in the Muslim world. He has Muslims from multiple ethnic groups and they work together with a lot of friction, but they work together effectively. We’ve watched the Palestinians for 45 years. They are all Palestinians, and they can’t go across the street together.
Without bin Laden, al-Qaeda initially will lose some of its cohesiveness because of his very genuine credentials as a leader, but al-Qaeda is now a very mature organization. It is into its second generation of leadership, and the second generation seems to be more professional and businesslike. They’re quieter." 11:46:21 AM
: PEAR, the PHP Extension and Application Repository, has functions for many purposes. This gives a tour of how they handle form generation and validation. Separately, PHP 5
has been released, with many upgrades in XML processing, SOAP, SQL access, and object-oriented programming support. 11:03:27 AM
High Noon for High Range Wireless
: The WiFi Shootout in the Nevada desert, at DefCon this weekend (July 30-31, 2004). Sounds like geek fun, and it'll be interesting to see what they cook up. 10:40:45 AM
Thursday, July 29, 2004
In battle against hunger and rural poverty, UN uses satellites and Internet: " United Nations agencies have developed a new Internet-based system to provide vital agricultural information to decision-makers in developing countries. ..GeoNetwork’s InterMap viewer, developed jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), allows users to overlay maps from multiple servers housed at development institutions worldwide to create a customized thematic composite map on their own computer covering such variables as soil quality, vegetation and population density and marketing access. ..
In Mozambique, 12 government and international agencies working on agriculture, food security and humanitarian issues have been using it since September 2003 to share information and avoid duplication. WFP has implemented the system in its regional bureaux in Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. " 9:15:17 PM
Human Intelligence: The Flynn Effect
: "In his study of IQ tests scores for different populations over the past sixty years, James R. Flynn discovered that IQ scores increased from one generation to the next for all of the countries for which data existed (Flynn, 1994). This interesting phenomena has been called "the Flynn Effect." Many of the questions about why this effect occurs have not yet been answered by researchers. This site attempts to explain the issues involved in a way that will better help you to understand the Flynn Effect. It also provides references for further inquiry. " 9:49:55 AM
GFS Tactical Radio Comms: Application of Groove to emergency group voice comms, at the Strong Angel 2 exercise: "Groove 3.0 feature called Groove Folder Sync (GFS). With Groove 3.0 installed, GFS allows one to share a Windows file system folder with another Groove user without using a shared space as the container. One of the requirements at Strong Angel was to demonstrate how tactical radio communications could be extended to other continents. ..
As police, fire, and other first responder communications came in across the radios, [their voices] would be trapped and converted into MP3. The files were then dropped into a GFS folder which immediately synchronized GFS folders in Baghdad, Washington, and other parts of the globe.
I constructed a .NET app that would monitor folder events and then play these MP3's as they came in. It mimicked a police scanner. A civil affairs soldier sitting in Baghdad could then hear the actual tactical communications as they came in from our exercise in Hawaii." 9:20:46 AM
: PC program for programmed stock trading. From the Singularity Investor
: "Tradestation will make the actual buying and selling decisions, based on complex numerical algorithms such as wavelet analysis. They call this "Automated Execution" of trades. " 9:10:24 AM
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Diebold acquisition (Jan 2003): Another reason to audit the activities of Diebold. "Diebold has further strengthened its position within the electronic voting industry with the strategic acquisition of Data Information Management Systems (DIMS), one of the largest voter registration companies in the United States.Headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., DIMS has provided voter registration solutions and customer support for more than 22 years in a variety of jurisdictions..
DIMS’ voter registration systems support election data for more than 55 percent of the registered voters in the state of California, among others. DIMS offers product solutions for both county and statewide voter registration requirements. Thomas W. Swidarski, vice president of Strategic Development & Global Marketing for Diebold [said] “The addition of DIMS will further streamline and enhance Diebold’s proven capabilities of providing a total voting solution that integrates everything from voter registration and voter outreach, to poll worker training, the casting of ballots and tabulation of results on election day,”..
DIMS has also developed a revolutionary electronic poll book solution that can electronically provide voter registration data at individual voting locations. This electronic poll book is designed to contain data on all voters within the entire jurisdiction, and to eliminate the need for and expenses associated with the printed voter registration book. The poll book also electronically stores voter history information that can be uploaded to the voter registration system immediately following the election, eliminating the cost and long hours required to manually input voter history information. 2:52:48 PM
Brahmimi: War was useless:
"The US-led invasion brought terrorism to Iraq and caused more problems than it solved, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview published on Monday by the Austrian daily Salzburger Nachrichten. He also said he believed that Iraq could become a normal country that but the interim government faced a challenge in proving that it was not “a puppet of the Americans, which is difficult to do when there are 150,000 foreign soldiers in the country.” Brahimi, who was visiting Austria at the invitation of Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said “the war in Iraq was useless, it caused more problems than it solved, and it brought in terrorism.”
He said he believed that attacks on the US-led forces were carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists with the support of foreign fighters as well as by people loyal to the ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein." 2:42:48 PM
GOP lawmaker's 'suppress the Detroit vote' remark
: "[Michigan] State Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election." ..
Blacks comprise 83 percent of Detroit's population, and the city routinely elects Democratic candidates by substantial margins. .. Pappageorge said he had not read the remark attributed to him but did not deny making it. [He] acknowledged using "a bad choice of words" but said his remark shouldn't be construed as racist. "In the context that we were talking about, I said we've got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don't know how we got them from there to `racist.' ... if I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize."" 2:35:08 PM
Virtual Research Associates (VRA)
: The VRA reporter is used by humanitarian agencies to record incidents and other information regarding the security of their field workers. It integrates information from wire services with direct reporting, and has a GIS function. An interface with Groove and other non-web-based tools is being explored. The company's other tools
track international news of many types
, with one product that "providies early warnings about potential international “hot spots”". The natural language processing comes from ongoing research project at Harvard's school of international relations. 10:27:26 AM
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
From woks to wifi:
"Make 2.4GHz parabolic mesh dishes from cheap but sturdy Chinese cookware scoops & a USB WiFi adaptor ! The largest (300mm diam)shows 15-18dB gain (enough for a LOS range extension to 3-5km), costs ~US$5" 11:55:32 PM
Completing the Revolution: The Challenge of Rural Telephony in Africa
: Report with brief summary online, on the most basic telecom need. "At present, the lack of rural connections is often hidden behind impressive overall figures for the growth of telephony. Important development Initiatives such as NEPAD and the World Summit on the Information Society focus on internet-based ICTs, and where they mention telephony at all it is in general terms." 5:14:34 PM
ICT online course: "Information and Communication Technologies for Development," Instructor: Barbara Fillip, developed and taught through the USDA Graduate School from 1999 to 2003. It has been offered online since 2001.
The goal of the course is to familiarize participants with key concepts and issues related to the potential and real impacts of information and communication technologies on the social, economic and political development of the less developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America." 5:05:04 PM
Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
: Good long summary of the effort of progressive donors to build institutions to match those of the right. Includes info on Soros, Rob Stein, Rappoport, Center for American Progress, etc. 4:57:10 PM
: Webcam plugin for Groove workgroups. Communicates selectively, only to those online at the moment. 9:05:44 AM
Bruce Stirling rant:
from SXSW 2004; a fun quick read on futures, computers, sci fi. "What'm I watching? Microbial threats to health: SARS and bird flu. They're spooky. These bugs mostly kill old people, and this century is the most old-people-top-heavy society everywhere. Old people are all over Italy, Japan, everywhere. It's a demographic thing. .. With bad SARS or bird flu we might get a disease that makes 30-year-olds sneeze for a couple days and kill off hundreds of millions of people in their 70s. 19000 people died of heat in Europe: almost all old people. They're metabolically vulnerable, they don't sweat well.
I'm looking at lot at global red-light districts. Globalization doesn't lift all boats, it can create criminal states, mafia-dominated, and non-competitive. They spend all their time exporting criminal services: trafficking in humans, drugs, money laundering. They only difference between them and an oil state is that oil states have oil -- and if it runs out they go straight into this." 2:00:07 AM
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Data on the polarized electorate:
Comparing the approval ratings
of the president among members of his own party vs. members of the opposition party. The gap varied between 37-48% through Carter (Nixon was 48%, Eisenhower-Carter under 43%), but rose to 69% under Reagan and 74% for today's Bush. 9:36:20 AM
The Quest for the Nonkiller App.: Nonlethal weapons could improve peacekeeping operations: "''What we really want to do,'' Karcher explained, ''is give people more choices between shouting and shooting, more tools between the bullhorn and the bullet.''
[After Somalia, Gen. Zinni assembled] nonlethals that already had proved effective in law enforcement, including ''sticky foam,'' a sprayable substance that can glue a suspect to the ground; stinger grenades that explode into rubber shrapnel that deters; spikes called caltrops capable of puncturing tires; and many others...
The Active Denial System [relies] on millimeter wave energy to heat the top layer of the skin. ''It causes palpable pain,'' LeVine said, ''and the effect is very universal, all ages and genders.'' And unlike many nonlethal weapons, the A.D.S. can operate beyond small-arms range, enabling an operator to deter a foe long before a potentially fatal clash occurs. ..
[A] truck driving over a blanket-size swatch of spiked netting, [screeches] to a halt as the wheels and axle get caught in the net. Marines used it successfully in Haiti this spring, Karcher said, and a related technology -- webs of fabric shot out of a cannon into the path of oncoming motorboats -- can entangle propellers and keep suspicious small craft from coming too close to warships. ..
the Mobility Denial System is a fluid that can be dispensed from a backpack or a tank. ''It's like a thick goo,'' Karcher explained. ''It has the friction coefficient of wet ice.'' Any area sprayed with it instantly becomes impassable. ''You can't walk on it, drive on it; you can't land or take off an airplane.'' Karcher said he had tried it out himself: ''I resembled the scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz.' You really can't stand on it.'' ..
Janet Morris of M2 Technologies would like to see ''calmative agents'' -- weaponized versions of Valium and other drugs -- deployed in battle. ''The current [Chemical Weapons] convention forbids us from using chemical agents to chase people off the battlefield,'' she noted dryly. ''We can't tranquilize them. No, we have to shoot them.'' ..
Some critics of nonlethals argue that even with strict adherence to international treaties, they are still cause for concern. Stephen Goose worries that they will erode the so-called force threshold. While a soldier in Iraq might refrain from using lethal force in certain situations, Goose pointed out, he or she might be tempted to apply nonlethal methods in situations that don't merit it. ..
Still, if weapons like the Active Denial System leave no mark on a victim's body, couldn't they be used for torture? ''There's always that potential,'' Cordone concedes. And Goose adds, ''What happens when some of these weapons get into the hands of militaries with poor human rights records?'' He paints an Orwellian picture in which repressive regimes obtain nonlethal weapons to keep restive populations in check without resorting to the sort of bloodshed that can earn a country unwanted attention. " 8:56:58 AM
Richard Clarke: Honorable Commission, Toothless Report: "What the commissioners did clearly state was that Iraq had no collaborative relationship with Al Qaeda and no hand in 9/11. They also disclosed that Iran provided support to Al Qaeda, including to some 9/11 hijackers. These two facts may cause many people to conclude that the Bush administration focused on the wrong country. They would be right to think that.
Had [the reccommended] changes been made six years ago, they would not have significantly altered the way we dealt with Al Qaeda; they certainly would not have prevented 9/11. Putting these recommendations in place will marginally improve our ability to crush the new, decentralized Al Qaeda, but there are other changes that would help more. ..
[First, fresh people:] at the F.B.I. and C.I.A., the key posts are held almost exclusively by those who joined young and worked their way up. This has created uniformity, insularity, risk-aversion, torpidity and often mediocrity..
Second, .. we must also place the C.I.A.'s analysts in an agency that is independent from the one that collects the intelligence ..
Either the C.I.A. or the military must create a larger and more capable commando force for covert antiterrorism work, along with a network of agents and front companies working under "nonofficial cover'' ..
The commission properly identified the threat not as terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but as Islamic jihadism, which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict.
We need to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists. This means aiding economic development and political openness in Muslim countries, and efforts to stabilize places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process is also vital.
Also, we can't do this alone. In addition to "hearts and minds" television and radio programming by the American government, we would be greatly helped by a pan-Islamic council of respected spiritual and secular leaders to coordinate (without United States involvement) the Islamic world's own ideological effort against the new Al Qaeda." 8:35:36 AM
WIFI and Route Security
: In Strong Angel 2, they tested use of WiFi to aircraft, and among cars in a convoy. The aircraft test had problems, but the car-to-car test worked over 1.5 miles, with streaming video and voice, all p2p with no servers. Interesting app for NGO and military supply convoys. 8:23:38 AM
: Audioblog.com is an audio publishing service that puts your voice in your weblog or online journal.
- Record over the Web user BlogRecorder™
- Supports popular weblog services and tools
- Add and configure multiple weblogs
- Moblog by phone (up to 60 minutes)
- Upload an MP3 or WAV file
- Organize your audioblogs with playlists
- Customize your player's style and color "
Starts at $5/mo for up to 1 GB of transfers. 1:34:14 AM
NYTimes.com 2004 Election Guide
: Fantastic interactive tool for visualizing swing state electoral votes, weekly poll results, comparisons to previous elections, and information about the House, Senate, and governor's races. 1:29:07 AM
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Sadr condemns Sunni beheadings:
Divisions apparent among Islamists in Iraq: "Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who led an uprising against U.S. forces, condemned militants on Friday who have beheaded foreigners in Iraq in the last several months.
Leading Friday prayers for the first time in two months at the Kufa mosque south of Baghdad, al-Sadr denounced militants from the rival Sunni Muslim faction who have claimed to have cut off the heads of at least three foreigners since April. "We condemn what some people are doing regarding the beheading of prisoners and it is illegal according to Islamic law," al-Sadr said. "Anybody doing this is a criminal and we will punish him according to Islamic law."" 10:50:51 AM
War of Ideology
: Good analysis from Brooks. "We're not in the middle of a war on terror, [the 911 commission] note. We're not facing an axis of evil. Instead, we are in the midst of an ideological conflict. .. It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory.
When you see that our enemies are primarily an intellectual movement, not a terrorist army, you see why they are in no hurry. With their extensive indoctrination infrastructure of madrassas and mosques, they're still building strength, laying the groundwork for decades of struggle. .. They never have to win a battle but can instead profit in the realm of public opinion from the glorious martyrdom entailed in their defeats. We think the struggle is fought on the ground, but they know the struggle is really fought on satellite TV, and they are far more sophisticated than we are in using it. ..
The 9/11 commission report argues .. the bigger fight is with a hostile belief system that can't be reasoned with but can only be "destroyed or utterly isolated." .. The commissioners recommend that the U.S. should be much more critical of autocratic regimes, even friendly ones, simply to demonstrate our principles. They suggest we set up a fund to build secondary schools across Muslim states, and admit many more students into our own. [We need] modern equivalents of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, to give an international platform to modernist Muslims and to introduce them to Western intellectuals. ..
Last week I met with a leading military officer stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose observations dovetailed remarkably with the 9/11 commissioners. He said the experience of the last few years is misleading; only 10 percent of our efforts from now on will be military. The rest will be ideological. He observed that we are in the fight against Islamic extremism now where we were in the fight against communism in 1880." 9:28:02 AM
Global Relief Technologies
: Combines GPS, GIS, and field data gathering on PDA's. "Global Relief Technologies’ integrated solution contains two basic service components – the SMART™; (Satellite Mapping and Rapid Telecommunications Software) and the Virtual Internet-enabled Network Operations Center (or VNOC) information management capability.The SMART™ software currently reflects humanitarian standards as established by the United Nations and the US Agency for International Development and can be modified to suit other field data collection requirements. " 8:58:40 AM
Friday, July 23, 2004
Iraq prison story to get even worse:
Normal operations at the prison had deteriorated well beyond a few bad apples. "U.S. News
has obtained all 106 classified annexes to the [Taguba] report, and the several thousand pages of material provide the most comprehensive view yet of what went wrong at Abu Ghraib and in the Army's management of the teeming prison system in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled. Taguba focused mostly on the MP s assigned to guard the inmates at Abu Ghraib, but the classified files in the annex to his report show that military intelligence officers--dispatched to Abu Ghraib by the top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez--were intimately involved in some of the interrogation techniques widely viewed as abusive.
The abuses took place, the files show, in a chaotic and dangerous environment made even more so by the constant pressure from Washington to squeeze intelligence from detainees. Riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, unsanitary conditions, rampant sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents.. "
And, Sy Hersh spoke to the ACLU (from 1:08 to 1:41 of the linked video) said there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher." Hersh reports, "boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling" in the prison. 2:21:32 PM
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Mysterian: Groove application developer, with a nifty telemedicine app to transfer and track xrays and other images from the field to specialists: "Radiology Manager, the first product from our Mysterian Medical Suite, brings the power of secure, flexible, collaborative working to the healthcare sector. .. “As Radiographers, it gives us the advantage of having a radiologist to back us up when needed as we are often without their physical presence”, says Malcolm. “Utilising Groove for image review can ensure patients are transferred promptly to the correct speciality unit or, indeed, save patients having an unnecessary trip to the mainland.” 11:59:28 PM
: This NGO's updated site contains a paper
by Sanjana Yajitha Hattotuwa
detailing how Groove was used in the Sri Lanka peace process and subsequent elections. Many illustrations. Great example of ICT to facilitate collaboration in a developing country. Inspiring work. 11:43:50 PM
LocustWorld Mesh Access Points: "The MeshBox is a box about the size of a small video recorder. It has a number of ports for connecting other devices and one or more on-board WiFi radios. It is a multi-purpose device, but its core function is creating wide area wireless broadband. This means that each MeshBox communicates with other MeshBoxes nearby and the internet signal is passed from one box to the next, over the air, until it reaches the final destination. ..
There are no plans to commercialize the core LocustWorld MeshAP device, this will always be available to download from the website as an open product. "
It's a linux application. The standard box has Prism2 wireless, 32mb CF boot media, 128mb ram, 500mhz CPU. Small form-factor and battery-powered boxes available. Example hardware models: standard, outdoor (each about $400). 11:08:10 PM
Iraq guerillas not foriegn: "Some honest US officials in Iraq are finally admitting that US forces are not meeting a vanguard of international terrorism there but rather some 20,000 angry Baathists who fear for the fate of Sunni Arabs in the new regime. [And, ] the number of guerrillas is not stable. It can grow or shrink easily" (e.g., in response to US operations against Fallujah, al-Sadr). In other words, Iraq has not been a front line in the anti-jihad war, but rather has developed other sources of Islamic resistance to the US.
In a related vien, David Wright, a former Defense Department analyst and former Army Reserve strategic intelligence analyst argues that the jihadist Zarqawi is not Al Queda, either, and thinks we ought to consider him an additional, distinct foe. "There is no evidence that Zarqawi, a Jordanian operating in Iraq, has ever been an Al Qaeda member - although Cheney and a few others in the Bush administration continue to try to paint him that way, apparently for political reasons. Zarqawi is a dangerous, highly effective militant Islamist. His tactical and strategic abilities have been behind perhaps 50% or more of the most effective attacks against the U.S. and Coalition forces (and the UN, Red Cross and peaceful Iraqis) over the past year. Zarqawi makes common cause with Osama Bin Laden (UBL) and Al Qaeda in some respects. So far, however, there does not appear to be any evidence whatsoever that Zarqawi has received ANY money, personnel, direction, or support of any nature from UBL or Al Qaeda... Zarqawi did go from Jordan to Afghanistan for training back in the Eighties, in the days when the U.S. wanted help in pushing the Soviets out - guess who provided the money for his training! But Zarqawi thereafter created camps separate from those of UBL; and has ever since been seen as a competitor, not a member of UBL’s team." He predicts that Zarqawi will be captured or killed in Iraq within 60 days, reducing the insurgency. (Hmm, our October surprise?) 10:01:07 AM
From Juan Cole: "Clinton had worked out a deal with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in summer of 1999 that would have allowed the US to send a Special Ops team in after Bin Laden in Qandahar, based from Pakistan. I presume you need the Pakistan base for rescue operations in case anything went wrong. You also need Pakistani air space. The plan was all set and could have succeeded.
But in fall of 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a coup against Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani army was rife with elements protective of the Taliban, and the new military government reneged on the deal. Musharraf told Clinton he couldn't use Pakistani soil or air space to send the team in against Bin Laden.
Look at a map and you try to figure out how, in fall of 1999, you could possibly pull off such an operation without Pakistani facilities. Of course, you could just go in by main force. But for those of you tempted in that direction, please look up Carter's Tabas operation. It should be easily googled.
Clinton tried, and tried hard." 9:19:10 AM
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Strong Angel II: 17-22 July, Kona, Hawaii: Important experiment in integrating IT in disaster relief. "The event is designed to encourage the development and evaluation of tools designed for humanitarian information collection and use within an austere environment. We're particularly interested in proposed solutions that cross the civil-military boundary gracefully and reliably during a post-conflict reconstruction." Leader is Eric Rasmussen. Facts and links:
Imperial Amnesia: A review of the history 1898-1920: "In trying to bring the Middle East into a democratic 21st century, Bush took it—and the United States—back to the dark days at the turn of the last century. Administration officials deeply misunderstood the region and its history. They viewed the Iraqis under Saddam the same way that Americans once viewed the Filipinos under the Spanish or the Mexicans under dictator Huerta—as victims of tyranny who, once freed, would embrace their American conquerors as liberators. .. When the United States goes out alone in search of monsters to destroy—venturing in terrain upon which imperial powers have already trod—it can itself become the monster. " 5:40:11 PM
Sy Hersh on the Bush admin and the Israelis: "In July, 2003, two months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq, the war, far from winding down, reached a critical point. Israel, which had been among the war’s most enthusiastic supporters, began warning the Administration that the American-led occupation would face a heightened insurgency—a campaign of bombings and assassinations—later that summer. ..
Flynt Leverett, a former C.I.A. analyst who until last year served on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told me that late last summer “the Administration had a chance to turn it around after it was clear that ‘Mission Accomplished’”—a reference to Bush’s May speech—“was premature. The Bush people could have gone to their allies and got more boots on the ground. But the neocons were dug in—‘We’re doing this on our own.’”
A few days later, the Administration, rattled by the violence and the new intelligence, finally attempted to change its go-it-alone policy, and set June 30th as the date for the handover of sovereignty to an interim government, which would allow it to bring the United Nations into the process. “November was one year before the Presidential election,” a U.N. consultant who worked on Iraqi issues told me. “They panicked and decided to share the blame with the U.N. and the Iraqis.” ..
A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall. He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. “I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community,” the former official recalled. “Their concern was ‘You’re not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn’t we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?’”
Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel “had learned that there’s no way to win an occupation.” The only issue, Barak told Cheney, “was choosing the size of your humiliation.” ..
Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports." They are there to monitor Iran's nuclear efforts, and to build assets among the Kurds. 5:19:25 PM
Worth reading for perpective on the press. "If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press conference last year and shouted, "Bullshit!" it might have made a difference.
If even one network, instead of cheerily re-broadcasting Pentagon-generated aerial bomb footage, had risked its access to the government by saying to the Bush administration, "We're not covering the war unless we can shoot anything we want, without restrictions," that might have made a difference. It might have made this war look like what it is—pointless death and carnage that would have scared away every advertiser in the country—rather than a big fucking football game that you can sell Coke and Pepsi and Scott's Fertilizer to.
Where are the articles about the cowardice of those people? Hitchens in his piece accuses Moore of errors by omission: How come he isn't writing about the CNN producers who every day show us gung-ho Army desert rats instead of legless malcontents in the early stages of a lifelong morphine addiction? " 5:02:47 PM
Francis Fukuyama on Shattered illusions: An opinion piece for the Austrlalian: "OF all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neo-conservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the US could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy and go on from there to democratise the broader Middle East. It struck me as strange precisely because these same neo-conservatives had spent much of the past generation warning about the dangers of ambitious social engineering and how social planners could never control behaviour or deal with unanticipated consequences.
If the US cannot eliminate poverty or raise test scores in Washington, DC, how in the world does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot? ..
It is, of course, nowhere written that Arabs are incapable of democracy, and it is certainly foolish for cynical Europeans to assert with great confidence that democracy is impossible in the Middle East. .. But possibility is not probability, and good policy is not made by staking everything on a throw of the dice. .. Though I, more than most people, am associated with the idea that history's arrow points to democracy, I have never believed that democracies can be created anywhere and everywhere through simple political will.
Prior to the Iraq war, there were many reasons for thinking that building a democratic Iraq was a task of a complexity that would be nearly unmanageable. Some reasons had to do with the nature of Iraqi society .. But other reasons had to do with America. The US has been involved in approximately 18 nation-building projects between its conquest of the Philippines in 1899 and the current occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the overall record is not a pretty one. The cases of unambiguous success – Germany, Japan and South Korea – were all cases where US forces came and then stayed indefinitely. In the first two cases, we weren't nation-building at all, but only re-legitimating societies that had very powerful states.
In all of the other cases, the US either left nothing behind in terms of self-sustaining institutions, or else made things worse by creating, as in the case of Nicaragua, a modern army and police but no lasting rule of law. ..
[US] dominance is clear-cut only along two dimensions of national power, the cultural realm and the ability to fight and win intensive conventional wars. Americans have no particular taste or facility for nation-building; we want exit strategies rather than empires. ..
[T]he prudential case [for the Iraq war] was not nearly as open-and-shut as many neo-conservatives believed. They talk as if their (that is, the Bush administration's) judgment had been vindicated at every turn, and that any questioning of their judgment could only be the result of base or dishonest motives. If only this were true. The fact that Washington's judgment was flawed has created an enormous legitimacy problem for the US, one that will hurt American interests for a long time to come. " 4:51:00 PM
Fukuyama Withdraws Bush Support: "Famous academic Francis Fukuyama, one of the founding fathers of the neo-conservative movement that underlies the policies of US President George W. Bush's administration, said on July 13 that he would not vote for the incumbent in the November 2 US Presidential election.
In addition to distancing himself from the current administration, Fukuyama told TIME magazine that his old friend, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, should resign. In 1997, Fukuyama together with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush, signed a declaration entitled 'The New American Century Project'. ..
Fukuyama is still angry at the Bush administration since they refuse to admit to the mistakes they have made. Fukuyama had warned that after the war, Iraq would be dragged into an internal conflict and would export terror to the world. " 4:38:04 PM
Bush's Foreign Fantasy
: The president thinks the world is safer than it was three years ago. Which world is he living in? 4:35:46 PM
How the neocons helped the exiles:
Seems James Woolsey introduced the dubious exile sources of Iraq intelligence directly to DoD officials, bypassing the CIA. The exiles used their neocon contacts to "mainline" their sources, which CIA already knew were dubious at best. And now conservatives want the CIA to be the fall guy... 4:29:26 PM
InterAction Disaster Response Training Database:
"AN INVENTORY OF COURSES AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE DISASTER RESPONSE COMMUNITY. .. The Disaster Response Training Database (DRTDB) is a response .. to the increasing need for highly trained disaster response personnel who are able to operate in some of the most complex and challenging environments imaginable. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the purpose of the DRTDB is to provide information on educational and training opportunities to the greater disaster response community as well as to bring together InterAction members and those professionals who have the skills and knowledge required to work in this field." 1:26:07 PM
Submit a Volunteer Opportunity for Cisco Employees:
Nonprofits can ask for Cisco employees to volunteer to help them. Cisco's "volunteer matching system matches individual employees and employee teams to philanthropic opportunities in their community. In addition, it also matches the core competency skills of our employees with nonprofit organizations that are seeking that expertise, including mentors for your organization or constituents.
Please register your organization in our Volunteer Connection Tool. Once you're in the application, your organization may request Cisco volunteers for your specific initiatives. (If an appropriate volunteer is matched at some point, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to proceed). We welcome one-time events as well as ongoing opportunities. We hope this system will give your organization access to more volunteers and will save you time in recruiting, tracking, managing and communicating with those volunteers." 1:24:15 PM
Europe & CIS Regional Resource Facility
: "A publication on UNDP Best Practices and Know-How in ICT for Development contains a collection of knowledge-based best practices accumulated by UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). " Downloadable in whole or by country. 1:19:52 PM
A new social convention for email?
"Early in June, Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School, found himself confronting an extreme version of a problem familiar to many of us-an overflowing e-mail box. .. One of Lessig's mail folders [is] called Reply To, stuffed with messages from strangers he felt deserved some kind of response-had ballooned to intolerable proportions.
By June, Reply To contained almost a thousand messages. That's when Lessig had an epiphany. 'I realized I wasn't ever going to be able to reply to it all,' he says. 'I have a son who's 10 months old. I saw that I could spend the time answering e-mail, or I could spend the time with my son.
So .. he gave up. .. 'Dear person who sent me a yet-unanswered e-mail,' Lessig wrote in a rueful form letter to each of his would-be correspondents. 'I apologize, but I am declaring e-mail bankruptcy.' Under the terms of this 'bankruptcy,' Lessig explained, he would ignore all the messages in his brimming folder, but he would allow the senders to write back to him if they really, truly wanted to get his attention. 'It was an extraordinarily liberating act,' Lessig says now. He mailed out hundreds of the bankruptcy notices, and only about 30 people sent back further missives." Hmmm. Could be a lot of potential bankruptcy cases out there. " 2:11:36 AM
T-Mobile UK Gets It
: One card and one service for mulitple radios: "T-Mobile's selling a PC data card for GBP 199, then for GBP 70 per month, users get unlimited 3G and GPRS mobile data, and unlimited use of T-Mobile's Wi-Fi hotspots. Not only is T-Mobile significantly undercutting Vodafone
3G data plans, which charge GBP 100 and GBP 75, respectively, for 1GB, but it's done the smart thing and thrown Wi-Fi into the mix. Although the system can't hand off from the mobile network to Wi-Fi hotspots, giving users the ability to access the highest-speed option, regardless of location, without having to worry about price is the best way forward.
Users aren't interested in keeping track of separate logins and pricing plans, or having to swap out a 3G card for a Wi-Fi one, and they certainly aren't interested in keeping track of their usage to make sure they don't go over their alloted amount of data in a month and pay overage fees." 1:54:27 AM
Real-Time Tracking of Parolees Taking Off
: "Portable Tracking Devices (or PTDs) have long been used by law enforcement to keep tabs on parolees and house-arrest prisoners, but most don't operate in real time. Instead, they upload location data periodically, typically at the end of each day. These "delayed reporting" systems are less expensive to use than real-time devices, because they don't need to make as many mobile calls. But local and state governments are beginning believe that the value of real-time tracking devices
, particularly when used to monitor violent offenders with poor impulse control, outweigh the costs. Such devices can instantly warn police when a wearer comes close to a park, schoolyard, or other predetermined "zone of exclusion." Just how costly is real-time tracking? In Tennessee, it'll run about $290 per month per felon.
" 1:47:13 AM
The Bluetooth Burglar Alarm
: "Bluetooth, after some initial stumbling, is now shipping over 2 million chips per week. While there have been some random security issues, it looks like some researchers are coming up with unique and unexpected ways of using the technology now that it's gone mainstream. Researchers at Leeds University have worked out a way to determine the distance between two Bluetooth-enabled devices
, which they believe can be useful as a cheap theft prevention .. (or, realistically, movement-prevention)" mechanism. 1:43:59 AM
Book Excerpt: 'Imperial Hubris': CIA insider's view on anti-jihad strategy. Most interesting for emphasis on motivations of Al Queda. "In the context of the ideas bin Laden shares with his brethren, the military actions of al Qaeda and its allies are acts of war, not terrorism; they are part of a defensive jihad sanctioned by the revealed word of God.. These attacks are meant to advance bin Laden's clear, focused, limited, and widely popular foreign policy goals: the end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state; the removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian Peninsula; the removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands; the end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India; the end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera; and the conservation of the Muslim world's energy resources and their sale at higher prices. To secure these goals, bin Laden will make stronger attacks in the United States -- complemented elsewhere by attacks by al Qaeda and other Islamist groups allied with or unconnected to it .. Should U.S. policies not change, the war between America and the Islamists will go on for the foreseeable future. No one can predict how much damage will be caused by America's blind adherence to failed and counterproductive policies, or by the lack of moral courage now visible in the thirty-year-plus failure of U.S. politicians to review Middle East policy and move America to energy self-sufficiency and alternative fuels. "
bin Laden's Fatwah from 1998 and bin Laden's 'letter to America' from 2002: Short and long original statements of the jihadist political agenda. 1:35:05 AM
Monday, July 19, 2004
Nice graphic, nice results: July 12 Zogby poll shows the 16 battleground states going more to Kerry: 6 solid, 6 within margin of error, plus 1 tie and 3 to Bush within margin of error. 10:13:16 PM
Wikipedia Hits 300,000 Articles
: "For size comparisons
, the English Wikipedia has 90.1 million words across 300,000 articles, compared to Britannica's 55 million words across 85,000 articles. (All the languages combined together reach 790,000 articles.) For much of the first half of 2004, Wikipedia's growth has outstripped server capacity
- however, the shortage of PHP/MySQL developers
is probably the biggest long term problem facing the project." 9:19:54 PM
Saturday, July 17, 2004
MSNBC - The Iran Factor
: The 911 commision "provides far stronger evidence of the Iranian government links to bin Laden’s organization than was found of connections between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al Qaeda—a major bone of contention between the 9/11 panel and members of the Bush administration. " Iran provided some safe passage to and from Afghanistan. 4:54:54 PM
Change in Saudi attitudes?: "support for extremism has begun to change since the attacks inside Saudi Arabia, which killed local Muslims and Western workers who were guests in the country. Now Saudis see themselves as victims. Concrete barriers have gone up around major buildings, hotels and shopping malls to protect against car bombs. Dr Mohsen al-Awaji, a Saudi lawyer who represents several militants and who was imprisoned for his own militant views, believes the terrorists have gone too far and that their campaign has become "intolerable".
At his office in Riyadh, Dr al-Awaji, a pious but avuncular figure, introduced me to "Saleh", a tough, hardline imam who has fought in Afghanistan and supports Bin Laden, and has been imprisoned for some years because of his links to extremist organisations. Saleh, who said he would have been "proud" to be a September 11 hijacker, was flicking through the translated autobiography of Hillary Clinton, which seemed to reinforce his hatred of the West.
Yet he was embarrassed by the latest terror attacks inside Saudi Arabia, and viewed them as a huge mistake. I heard the same comments across the kingdom. Saudis are turning against the extremists they once supported. Even the clerics Safar bin Abdul Rahman al-Hawali and Salman al-Awdah, once so close to Osama bin Laden that he thanked them personally in videotapes for their support and for "enlightening" Muslim youth, now describe the militants as "deviants". 4:51:38 PM
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Cringely improves broadband:
How to get the most out of broadband -- using both a cable modem and a DSL line. "[A] Xincom XC-DPG402 TwinWAN router allows me to simultaneously use both the Comcast cable modem and Megapath ADSL. In theory I have 4.5 megabits-per-second downstream and 640 kilobits-per-second upstream, but what I really have is both a belt and suspenders. At $99, the Xincom is no BGP router, but it gets the job done. It offers downstream load-balancing of a sort, pretty fair security, puts the mail server on a DMZ and makes the network feel significantly snappier. Best of all, when Comcast fades to black for a minute or two I don't even notice." He also uses old 3com linux-based network appliances, now resold on ebay for about $100. 5:19:44 AM
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Digital India: Good Business Week review of many innovative uses of info tech for the poor in India. One example: "Five years ago, the Karnataka state government launched a program to computerize the land records of 6.7 million farmers in 30,000 villages. Two years later, all 20 million deeds had been digitized and filed along with information such as the land's productive capacity and any loans that use the property as collateral. Today, the information is available in Kannada, the local language, through 200 government-owned computer kiosks in administrative offices across the state. Muniratnama, a cheerful 45-year-old farmer, traveled 15 kilometers from her village to Bangalore for a copy of her land record so she could get a loan to replant her 1.6 hectares. The new system, she says, is far better than the old way. "The village accountant was corrupt," she says with disgust. "He'd delay making any changes, and he made mistakes, too." ..
With the number of success stories growing, though, Nasscom and the World Bank are planning a fund of up to $1 billion to support promising ideas" 6:06:10 PM