|Ken Novak's Weblog
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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