|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Terror suspects' torture outsourced:
A greater scale reported than previously acknowleged. " "extraordinary rendition," one of the earliest tools employed in the war against terror, has outraged human rights activists and former CIA agents, who say it violates the international convention on torture and amounts to "outsourcing" torture. "People are more or less openly admitting that there are certain practices that we would rather not do in the US, so why not let our allies do it?" said Ray McGovern, a former CIA operations officer who has frequently criticized the tactics used in the war on terror.
In recent weeks, the practice has become nearly synonymous with the white, 20-seat, private Gulfstream jet, numbered N379P and registered in Massachusetts. The Sunday Times of Britain reported two weeks ago that it had obtained a classified flight log of the plane that showed 300 flights from Washington, D.C., to 49 nations, including Libya, Jordan, and Uzbekistan -- three countries where the State Department has reported the use of torture. The story focused on the jet and Premier Executive Transport Services, the Massachusetts-registered company that owns it.
Sightings of the plane -- at refueling stops in Ireland and in Karachi, where it reportedly picked up another suspect -- have been published in newspapers across the globe and on the Internet. Records at the US Army Aeronautical Services Agency show the civil aircraft has a permit to land at US military bases worldwide." 11:59:43 PM
Monday, November 29, 2004
: A research project at Berkeley/Intel Labs. There are slides from a July 2004 meeting. "Street Talk is a one day event to be held at Intel Research Berkeley focused on understand how the rapidly emerging fabric of mobile and wireless computing will influence, disrupt, expand, and be integrated into the social patterns existent within our public urban landscapes. Urban Computing captures a unique, synergistic moment – expanding urban populations, rapid adoption of Bluetooth mobile devices, and widespread influence of wireless technologies across our urban landscapes. The United Nations has recently reported that 48 percent of the world's population currently live in urban areas and that this number is expected to exceed the 50 percent mark by 2007, thus marking the first time in history that the world will have more urban residents than rural residents. Current studies project Bluetooth-enabled devices to reach 1.4 billion units in 2005 alone. Nearly 400 million new mobile phones are scheduled to be sold worldwide this year alone. WiFi hardware is being deployed at the astonishing rate of one every 4 seconds globally." 5:01:48 PM
Economic `Armageddon' predicted: "Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley .. sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.'' The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.
In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants. The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded. ..
To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said, America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day. That is an amazing 80 percent of the entire world's net savings. Sustainable? Hardly. ..
Roach could not be reached for comment yesterday. A source who heard the presentation concluded that a ``spectacular wave of bankruptcies'' is possible. Smart people downtown agree with much of the analysis. It is undeniable that America is living in a ``debt bubble'' of record proportions. But they argue there may be an alternative scenario to Roach's. Greenspan might instead deliberately allow the dollar to slump and inflation to rise, whittling away at the value of today's consumer debts in real terms. Inflation of 7 percent a year halves ``real'' values in a decade." 2:49:25 PM
quotes Alvin Toffler: "Today, the technologies of deception are developing more rapidly than the technologies of verification. Which means we can use a television camera, plus special effects, plus computers, etc. to falsify reality so perfectly that nobody can tell the difference. And the consequences of that eventually could be a society in which nobody believes, everybody knows that seeing is not believing, and nobody believes anything. With the exception of a small minority that decides to believe one thing fanatically. And that's a dangerous social/cultural situation" 2:24:38 PM
Sunday, November 28, 2004
An Uncertain Trumpet
: " Whatever pundits say, this election was not a wholesale repudiation of liberalism." Good summary. 11:41:20 PM
Red/blue conditions and values: It's been noted that red states have higher rates of divorce, and that cities in red states have more crime than cities in blue states. This post notes that the "relationship between fundamentalism and perceived social disorder is a symbiotic one, and that the new crime statistics add another important data point to the picture. ..
[there are] interesting questions about cause and effect. For example, does it fuel the growth of new (Republican-leaning) suburbs and exurbs when neighboring cities are perceived as too dangerous to live in? ..
The more run-down neighborhoods here tend to have a very high concentration of both churches and liquor stores ..
If you live in a community with a low divorce rate, marriage is not likely to seem like an institution you need to worry about. But if you live somewhere where it seems hard for people to stay together and there's a higher divorce rate, it can feel like the whole society is melting.. " 11:20:37 PM
What a difference a battery makes:
A "radical eight-wheeled, 600kW rocket from Japan is proof that electric cars can be fast and fun. Called Eliica, short for Electric Lithium-Ion battery Car, it boasts a neck-snapping 0-100kmh time of just four seconds and a 0-160kmh time of seven seconds, which means the Eliica accelerates faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo." Top speed is over 200 mph. The key is the Li+ battery; expensive now in this quantity, but dropping in price as each generation of consumer electronics is built. 10:29:59 PM
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
: "provides the most comprehensive source of information on business professionals available. Our growing database currently contains over 22 million executives, managers and professionals in 1,538,217 companies. " Impressive demo. A natural fit for LinkedIn or Spoke. Could impact journalism, business competitive research, intelligence. 7:11:12 PM
Microsoft Takes Lead in PDA Software: "Microsoft Corp.'s software platform for personal digital assistants took over the market lead from PalmSource Inc. for the first time in the third quarter.. Microsoft's Windows CE operating system accounted for 48.1 % of the quarter's 2.8 million PDA shipments worldwide, up from 41 % the previous year, according to Gartner. The Palm OS, developed by PalmSource, took a dramatically steep drop, representing 29.8 percent of the market, down from 46.9 percent in the year-ago period. " 10:50:12 AM
The coming dollar crisis:
Right on Steve. "In my view, we are about to be taught a lesson by a world that wants America to be tethered down. And the world is going to hit America where it has a serious blindspot at the moment -- on the economic front. We are on our way to becoming a much poorer, on relative terms, superpower with the Chinese, Japanese and Europeans using currency management and debt dependency to constrain our options.
The International Herald Tribune today ran a piece by Eric Pfanner today about the Russians possibly juggling their reserve currency portfolio and offsetting the dollar-denominated parts of their reserves by adding more euros.
American economists and central bankers seem to scoff at the notion of the U.S. dollar losing its reserve currency status. But in revolutionary times, when everything seems to be changing, these sorts of anachronistic attitudes about permanence seem to be very wrong-headed. What is clear is that the Euro has become increasingly important in global transactions, and its vector is pointed up. The dollar's vector is pointed down. We need to take stock of what that means -- and what it may mean is that the bad behaviors America has been able to get away with for so long in terms of piling up debt and maintaining an irresponsibly high current account deficit may soon be impossible to maintain." 8:21:43 AM
Jim Moore's looking next at China:
A policitical activist (Dean, Iraq, Sudan) considers another issue: "China's sphere of influence, and its support for governments that enslave their people and abuse human rights: Sudan is a Chinese client state--supplying oil to China. Burma is, as well. And you wonder how these nations thrive despite "international" sanctions? Because China--the world's fastest growing trading state--supports them.
And note that China is expanding its relationships in Southeast Asia, the Middle East ("hey, Saudis, if you don't want to be dependent on the US, how about hooking up with us, China?"), Africa, and South America.
This IS the new red tide. Not communism, this time, but genocidal, human rights abusing state capitalism write large. This is the new Chinese economic ecosystem, ecosphere. " 8:10:54 AM
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Scott Lemon points to a paper
on how to introduce back doors into Linux kernels, and speculates that as its popularity grows, Linux may become a more attractive target for hackers. I imagine uncontrolled distribution of hacked distro's (via bitTorrent, etc) providing a slow vector for the spread of hackable operating systems. 9:51:37 AM
Group Agrees to Reduce Iraqi Debt (washingtonpost.com): "Under the agreement, the Paris Club of 19 creditor nations will write off 80 percent of the $38.9 billion that Iraq owes them, group chairman Jean-Pierre Jouyet said. The Paris Club includes the United States, Japan, Russia and European nations. Iraq owes another $80 billion to various Arab governments. A clause in the agreement gives the Paris Club the option to suspend part of the debt reduction if it were not matched by Iraq's other major creditors -- led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The United States had been pressing for up to 95 percent of the debt to be lifted. .. The deal represented a considerable concession from France, just as French President Jacques Chirac's government is pushing to rebuild ties with the Bush administration .. " 9:45:14 AM
Adam Bosworth's ISCOC04 Talk: Nice rant on simplicity in protocols and systems: "That software which is flexible, simple, sloppy, tolerant, and altogether forgiving of human foibles and weaknesses turns out to be actually the most steel cored, able to survive and grow while that software which is demanding, abstract, rich but systematized, turns out to collapse in on itself in a slow and grim implosion. ..
Consider search. .. today half a billion people search every day and what do they use? Not Query by Example. Not Boolean logic. They use a solution of staggering simplicity and ambiguity, namely free text search. The engineering is hard, but the user model is simple and sloppy. ..
When HTML first came out it was unbelievably sloppy and forgiving, permissive and ambiguous. .. HTML is today the basic building block for huge swathes of human information. ..
You want to see the future. Don’t look at Longhorn. Look at Slashdot. 500,000 nerds coming together everyday just to manage information overload. Look at BlogLines. " More in this spirit here. 9:26:21 AM
Monday, November 22, 2004
UN International Year of Microcredit, 2005:
"One key need is to collect and analyse hard data on the state of microfinance: its availability by region, client profiles, and types and quantities of services offered. As part of the Year’s activities, a Data Project will bring together expert statisticians and researchers from the Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations, in collaboration with governments and the private sector, to address current data gaps, anticipate future needs, and build agreement on the best way forward for donors, private investors and practitioners. In addition, the “Blue Book” project will seek to identify constraints and opportunities for the promotion of inclusive financial sectors, culminating in recommendations of concrete actions that countries can take to make microfinance an integral part of national financial systems" Ongoing activities, including a planned online marketplace, at http://www.yearofmicrocredit.org
. 8:27:15 AM
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Salesforce.com as Nonprofit CRM Donor Management Database
: For up to 10 users, "Salesforce.com
provide their hosted [Professional Edition] CRM dB to nonprofits for free [as part of their] philanthropy and giving back to the community.. several nonprofits
are using Salesforce, including the United Way
Literally, within minutes of signing up for a free thirty day trail, I was phoned by an account manager to help me get started (not to make a sell since it was obvious I was a nonprofit). In seeing that I was a nonprofit, she got me connected with their nonprofit CRM manager who in turn got me connected with Clearport.org. Clearport.org is working with Salesforce to develop a template for nonprofits to help configure Salesforce for nonprofit data management processes (to be released sometime in the Spring)." The author likes salesforce's modules for management of contacts, loans, and donations, with Office integration and an API. He says Kintera has more features for marketing nonprofits, but salesforce covers the basics for free. 11:08:08 PM
: Awesome service to generate geographic maps of web page usage automatically. "Ghe display maps for ClimatePrediction.net [and other sites] now include a thumbnail display with a live daily update, which in turn links to larger maps of different views for world, continent, and a few country maps. .. Hits to a web page are collected by including the thumbnail HitMap image into the page. The IP of the page requester is translated into geographical coordinates and stored in a database. Once a day, the HitMaps map images (the thumbnail image and the rest of maps it links to) are updated according to the database..." Currently about 1400 sites are tracked, and the service is being upgraded to handle more. I'll try adding it to this site soon. 10:07:19 PM
Friday, November 19, 2004
What if the Sunnis boycott the Iraq elections?
: After Fallujah, many parties have endorsed a boycott. But delay in the elections is resisted by Shiites and the US. Juan Cole has a suggestion. "If elections are held in January, I see only one way to avoid disaster. This would be some sort of emergency decree by the current government that sets aside, say, 20% of seats in parliament for the Sunni Arabs. This procedure would seat Sunni Arab candidates in order of the popularity of their lists and in order of their rank within the lists on which they run. But the results would essentially be "graded on a curve." In a way, this procedure is already being followed for women, who are guaranteed 30% of seats. This solution is Lebanon-like and is not optimal, but it might be the best course if long-term sectarian and ethnic conflict is to be avoided. Remember, the first thing the new parliament will do is craft a permanent constitution. You want Sunni Arabs sitting at that table, or else." 8:43:14 AM
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Iraq - No Way Out?: "Michael Eisenstadt, from the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues in a recent study that Iraq should just forget about being able to defend itself against Iran. “For the foreseeable future, it will fall to the United States to counter Tehran’s capabilities,” he says. ..
According to the numbers Eisenstadt has culled from piles of contradictory data issued in recent months, there are now about 101,000 more-or-less trained members of the Iraqi internal security apparatus .. Plans are to double those numbers in the next year or so. But the forces that might provide defense or deterrence against Iraq’s foreign enemies are negligible. “The regular Iraqi Army has 4,507 troops,” writes Eisenstadt [and] by the end of next year it may have 27,000, and eventually perhaps 50,000. That is, about one tenth the size of Iran’s military, and less than half the size of Israel’s. [The air force has] No fighters. No bombers. Any banana republic has better air power.
“It’s clear the [American] intention has been to establish a protectorate,” says W. Patrick Lang, formerly one of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top experts on the Middle East. A military like the one being organized in Iraq can’t threaten its neighbors, to be sure, but it can’t defend itself either—not even internally. The record in Fallujah makes that sadly apparent. The few thousand Iraqi government troops deployed there took a back seat while the Americans did all of the bombing, of course. And that will continue to be the case. The Americans also did most of the dying. At last count, eight Iraqi soldiers were killed in the same fighting that cost 51 Americans their lives.
So it’s no wonder that many Iraqis—including the majority of the insurgents, who still see themselves as fighting foreign invaders—simply don’t believe the American administration’s spin about pulling out of Iraq sometime soon. Iraq’s neighbors don’t believe that either. And neither should anyone else. " 10:47:58 PM
Wind power can affect climate:
Impact is far less than CO2, but not zero: "A group of Canadian and U.S. scientists reported Tuesday that computer simulations show that a large-scale use of wind farms to generate electrical power could create a significant temperature change over Earth's land masses. .. Specifically, if wind generation were expanded to the point where it produced one-10th of today's energy, the models say cooling in the Arctic and a warming across the southern parts of North America should happen. The exact mechanism for this is unclear, but the scientists believe it may have to do with the disruption of the flow of heat from the equator to the poles. Depending on how much energy is ultimately generated by wind power, the study's simulations say these changes could range from one-third of a degree to 2 degrees Celsius. One unexpected finding to the study is that the hotter temperate zone/cooler Arctic effect exists in the simulations if the wind farms are concentrated in a few spots or scattered across the world.
Prof. Keith and others involved in the study strongly caution, however, against an anti-wind-power reading of their work. “This is really a ‘but, yes' article,” says Stephen Pacala, a professor of ecology at Princeton University, who is a co-author of the paper. The “but” is the fact that wind farms would alter the climate, the “yes” is the paper's preliminary estimation that if wind power produced one-10th of today's energy, its climate-altering effects would be only one-fifth that of the carbon dioxide it would replace." 8:32:33 AM
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Nanotechnology-Based Products Have Impact
: "According to a May 2004 National Science Foundation report, a survey of manufacturers found 28 percent already were selling nanotechnology products late last year and another 15 percent expected to introduce commercial products within a year. " Many consumer product examples given. 11:10:12 PM
312, Inc. LeanOnMe
: "Using innovative Peer-to-Peer technology, LeanOnMe allows you to backup your files to your friends, family, or colleague's computer. This is all done quickly, easily, and safely, using encryption standards similar to that used by banks and the military. LeanOnMe is platform independent! (Windows, UNIX, Linux, Macintosh) " One time software sale, no monthly fees, $50 for a pair of machines. 11:05:57 PM
NetHope procures Eutelsat network:
"Eutelsat, one of the world’s leading satellite operators, announced today that it has been selected by NetHope as a supplier for 2-way satellite broadband connectivity for aid organisations in over 100 locations in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. NetHope is a collaborative organisation formed by the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisations that provides IT equipment and solutions in countries where its members execute their programmes and projects.
Skylogic, a 100 percent broadband affiliate of Eutelsat, based in Turin (Italy) will coordinate logistics, installations, operations, after-sales service, and QoS management for NetHope’s participating member sites in more than 40 countries, from Paraguay to Nepal. From its location in Turin, Skylogic will provide a turnkey broadband access solution to NetHope members through the extensive coverage it can supply through Eutelsat’s fleet of satellites.
The network will use capacity on four satellites and coincides with the commercial entry into service of the African beam on Eutelsat’s recently launched W3A satellite, which is operated through a new IP hub located at Skylogic’s Turin premises. NetHope’s member organisations will also benefit from commercial conditions pre-negotiated with Eutelsat/Skylogic, for broadband 2-way access deployment, as well as project management for the entire rollout and maintenance of their sites for a term of three years." 9:22:50 AM
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
World Community Grid:
"World Community Grid's mission is to create the largest public computing grid benefiting humanity. Our work is built on the belief that technological innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can change our world for the better. Our success depends on individuals - like you - collectively contributing their unused computer time.
" First project involves protein folding. Backed by IBM and others (like the earlier smallpox project). 11:39:56 PM
Is there a "values deficit"?
: The 10 states with the highest divorce rates are all Bush states, while 9 of the 10 with the lowest divorce rates are Kerry states. And crime stats
show 7 or 8 of the 10 states with the most crime or murder are Bush states, while the bottom 10 are equally blue and red. (In general
"the high Southern murder rate is a key factor behind America's high homicide rate in comparison with other democratic, industrialized nations"). 9:48:18 PM
TaxProf Blog: Red States Feed at Federal Trough, Blue States Supply the Feed
: WOnder "which states benefit from federal tax and spending policies, and which states foot the bill"? 8 of the top 10 net payers are Kerry states, 9 of the top 10 getting more than they pay are Bush states (and the other 2 are New Mexico, which hasn't been decided, and DC, which is a special case). 9:43:53 PM
Korean Cyworld - commercial blogging: "Cyworld is a popular site that provides personal homepage services. As of yesterday, the site surpassed 10 million members, or more than a quarter of the South Korean population. Within just a few years of launching, it has become an important part of mass culture. Cyworld's main feature is a type of Web log called a "mini hompy," short for mini homepage. Like other blogs, users can create various Web boards, produce online photo albums, and upload other content. Its specialized content includes a "mini room," which users can decorate with items from a cyber shop. Arcade games and music can also be bought to be included in one's hompy. These are bought with acorns, which cost 100 won (9 cents) each. Currently, Cyworld earns about 150 million won a day from acorn sales."
I was a Cyholic: Good description by a young user, with screen shots and insights into the social processes cyworld builds on (vanity, status-seeking, and even the pleasures of being stalked).
A recent essay by Clay Shirky provides a valuable counterpoint. Looking at mailing lists and SlashDot, he notes how a focus on personal computers and individual users obscures what they are used for. Networked computers are less like "boxes" than "doors" into a social space. Simple means and rapid experimentation can create a lot of value. 11:01:31 AM
Adeos virtualization layer, from Philippe Gerum
"A direct application of Adeos is having a real-time system run in parallel of Linux on the same hardware. Because real-time applications are more prioritary than regular Linux ones with respect to hardware interrupt handling, the real-time machinery must always be given a chance to process any incoming interrupt before the Linux kernel, so that the real-time processing can take place as soon as possible. Real-time is all about being deterministic when processing events, and Adeos provides a convenient layer.." 12:43:35 AM
In some nations, the rise of 'shortgevity': "It's an article of faith among most 21st-century humans that life is getting longer. In the last three decades, the average life span at birth has increased from about 60 years to 67 years worldwide, a remarkable achievement. But in two dozen countries, human life spans are shortening." Article has table of several countries. In US from 1970-2000, L.E. grew from 71.5 to 77.1 years.
"Today illicit drugs and alcoholism are still major social ills in the [former Soviet] region. But the outlook has begun to improve as those countries stabilize socially and economically, though longevity rates have still not returned to their peak levels of the 1980s.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the picture remains alarming. Experts attribute much of the problem to the HIV/AIDS epidemic there, which accounts for 25 million of the 40 million cases of HIV/AIDS in the world. According to the latest United Nations Human Development Report, life expectancy in Zimbabwe plummeted from 56 years in 1970-75 to just 33.1 today. Zambia went from 49.7 years to 32.4 in the same period, Lesotho from 49.5 to 35.1, and Botswana from 56.1 to 39.7. ..
Every year of life expectancy gained is estimated to raise per capita gross domestic product in a country by about 4 percent. That's prompted some researchers to question whether development aid to Africa, only about 10 percent of which is aimed at improving health, is being properly spent. It's in everyone's interest "to overcome what I call the 'longevity divide,' " Dr. Butler says. While the per capita GDPs of sub- Saharan countries have not dipped as dramatically as their longevity rates, that measure can be deceiving, Hill says. The deaths of young adults have reduced the labor force, but that has allowed survivors to pick up extra work and boost their own earnings. Thus, the fall in per capita GDP doesn't look so bad." 12:19:55 AM
For reliable voting results, look abroad: "Whether they use ticks on ballot papers, buttons on touch-pads, or hand-held bar code readers, foreign voters enjoy one advantage over their US counterparts: Within each country, voters cast their ballots using just one method, and those ballots are counted uniformly. ..
Even new systems in young democracies can generate trust. In Brazil, for example, which emerged from military dictatorship in 1985, all of the country's 121 million voters use electronic touch-pads in all of their elections. .. [In India] this year, 387 million voters there turned out for national parliamentary elections, all using electronic voting machines for the first time. .. Almost everywhere in Europe, votes are counted by hand, first at the polling station itself, and then at a regional center, and then again in a central office, if need be. ..
Another key difference between the US and almost every other democracy, electoral analysts point out, is the way countries from Japan to India, and from Ghana to Brazil, put their elections in the hands of independent and neutral officials. Only in the US could partisan figures such as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have had any influence over a vote count." Neat map of US variations in article. 12:12:34 AM
Here's a new test from my flickr account. 12:06:21 AM
Monday, November 15, 2004
virtualization.info - Is VMware going to launch hardware based virtualization solutions?: "Vodafone project manager Doug Colvin said his firm will deploy up to 300 new Wintel servers in 2005, and will manage most of them with VMware virtualisation tools. He added that in the longer term, virtualisation could let Vodafone outsource its server operations. "Why not contract third-parties such as HP to own and operate VMware server farms and pay them to host our virtual server systems?" he said. This new hosting scenario could make it easier for firms to retain control of mission-critical applications and speed up the deployment of new applications.
Vodafone's research found that virtualisation technology would cut the maximum time to acquire and deploy a new server from 40 days to 32.5 days. It also found that upgrading a single site of 140 servers to run across two sites using VMware's ESX Server would save £270,000 each year. This approach would also give firms the flexibility to move between server hosting firms with minimal disruption, because virtualisation insulates applications or operating systems from server hardware." 10:26:05 PM
VMware cuts virtualization software price:
"VMware has cut the price of its GSX Server software, the lower end of two products that let multiple operating systems run on the same hardware. The software now costs $1,400 for a dual-processor server and $2,800 for systems with as many as 32 processors; previously it cost $2,500 for a dual-processor server, $5,000 for a four-processor server and $10,000 for an eight-processor server. " Still more than MSVS, but not by much... 10:18:35 PM
MetaVNC -- a window-aware VNC
: Neat way to remote control multiple machines. "MetaVNC is a window aware VNC. MetaVNC merges windows of multiple remote desktops into a single desktop screen. MetaVNC also comes with its own task bar and application menu, which makes it easy to control applications or windows on different hosts. Furthermore, MetaVNC trys to merge remote desktops with local desktops." 10:12:35 PM
Map of the World Values Survey: "The World Values Survey is a worldwide investigation of sociocultural and political change. It is conducted by a network of social scientists at leading universities all around world. The survey is performed on nationally representative samples in almost 80 societies on all six inhabited continents. A total of four waves have been carried since 1981 allowing accurate comparative analysis.
The World Values Survey has produced evidence of gradual but pervasive changes in what people want out of life. Moreover, the survey shows that the basic direction of these changes is, to some extent, predictable." 2:22:12 PM
Bin Laden + Nukes? "Osama Bin Laden approached a prominent Saudi Arabian theologian to obtain religious approval for the use of a nuclear weapon against the United States.. The theologian provided a “rather long treatise” that concluded Bin Laden was entitled to use the weapon because America was responsible for “millions of dead Muslims around the world”, said Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit dedicated to tracking Bin Laden. Scheuer resigned from the CIA last Friday to enable him to speak freely .. Scheuer says Bin Laden was criticised in some Muslim circles because he failed to provide advance warning of the September 11 attacks and, according to some interpretations of Islamic law, should first have offered to help convert his victims to Islam. Scheuer argues that Bin Laden’s recent video appearance amounted to a warning of a future attack. "
Meanwhile, "A key al-Qaeda operative seized in Pakistan recently offered an alarming account of the group's potential plans to target the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction, senior U.S. security officials tell TIME. Sharif al-Masri, an Egyptian who was captured in late August near Pakistan's border with Iran and Afghanistan, has told his interrogators of "al-Qaeda's interest in moving nuclear materials from Europe to either the U.S. or Mexico," according to a report circulating among U.S. government officials. Masri also said al-Qaeda has considered plans to "smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico, then operatives would carry material into the U.S.," according to the report, parts of which were read to TIME. Masri says his family, seeking refuge from al-Qaeda hunters, is now in Iran. " 11:43:50 AM
: Excellent, and highly critical, review of Powell's role in Bush foreign policy. "Powell has chosen to remain associated with a foreign policy that has been calamitous in its application, if not necessarily its goals. The irony, of course, is that it is a foreign policy over which Powell has exercised little influence. But resigning out of pique or principle is not the Powell way, and his willingness to conspire in his own diminishment is entirely in character: As an Army staffer during the Vietnam War, he failed to investigate reports of the My Lai massacre; as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's military attaché in the 1980s, he put aside his own objections and helped funnel weapons to Iran as part of the arms-for-hostages deal. .. there is no evidence that he protested the decision to put the Pentagon in charge of administering postwar Iraq; no evidence, either, that he tried to intervene when Warrick was barred from going to Baghdad, or that he spoke up when the Pentagon began blocking other State Department appointees to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have repeatedly muscled in on Powell's turf, Bolton has repeatedly subverted his authority. But if Powell has voiced any displeasure to the president, or even to Rice, it is the best-kept secret in Washington. "I don't think he's fighting, and I can't understand why," says one high-ranking official from the first Bush administration. " 8:47:34 AM
DEMS WON 3,000,000 MORE SENATE VOTES THAN GOP
: Summing popular vote in Senate races, Dems have won more votes than republicans in the last 3 election cycles, yet have never controlled the Senate. By the way, for reference, 39% of elegible voters didn't vote in 2004
, making the presidential vote 31% to 30% of eligibles. 12:33:43 AM
Sunday, November 14, 2004
CIA "purge?": "The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources. "The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda.""
From washingtonpost: "Within the past month, four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications. The four senior officials represent nearly two decades of experience leading the Directorate of Operations under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The officials were dismayed by the reaction and were concerned that Goss has isolated himself from the agency's senior staff, said former clandestine service officers aware of the offers." In NYT, David Brooks offers a justification. 10:56:01 PM
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Caught in the Net: Maldives Repression
: "Late this summer, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom employed an extraordinary tactic to quell a two-day pro-democracy uprising in his small Indian Ocean nation: He completely cut off Internet access and text messaging via cell phone, apparently to prevent activists from contacting press organizations and others outside the islands. Gayoom has ruled the Maldives since 1978, and his cabinet said the decision reflected “patience, wisdom, and leadership.” Free-speech advocates called the move irresponsible and unprecedented. There was one exception to Gayoom’s Internet ban—his personal Web site remained up and running, with regular updates during the 48-hour affair. FP
invites readers to suggest incidents in which a government, corporation, or any organization is involved in a unique technological abuse at email@example.com
." 8:42:15 AM
Friday, November 12, 2004
Dangerous Loose Ends
: "Duelfer notes that some chemical and biological weapons technology was in the hands of the former Iraqi Intelligence Service and may be finding its way into the armories of the insurgents. One passage in Duelfer’s testimony is especially spooky. His group “has uncovered evidence of such links and undertook a sizable effort to track down and prevent any latch-ups between foreign terrorists or anti-Coalition forces and either existing CW [chemical-weapons] stocks or expertise from the former regime that could be used to produce such weapons.”
But the results were not really conclusive. “I believe we got ahead of this problem through a series of raids throughout the spring and summer,” Duelfer told the Senate. “I am convinced that we successfully contained a problem before it matured into a major threat. Nevertheless, it points to the problem that the dangerous expertise developed by the previous regime could be transferred to other hands. Certainly there are anti-Coalition and terrorist elements seeking such capabilities.”
In other words, terrorists may have a better chance now of acquiring chemical or biological weapons from Iraq, or the techniques for making them, than they ever did when Saddam was in power...
The interim Iraqi government has responded by saying everything’s under control. But, then, that’s what it always says. It has also suggested the IAEA come back for a firsthand look, which the United States generally has discouraged in the past. That would be a positive step, if it happens." 7:18:51 AM
"Iraq’s controversial national-security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, may have come up with a better idea: take the country apart, then put it back together. He calls this vision “democratic regionalism,” a loose federal system of four to six separate, powerful provinces. The Sunni heartland—“the Triangle”—would not be able to dominate the rest of the nation, but it could run its own affairs. “The Triangle would have its own regime, its own security forces, its own recruitment,” he says. If they want to become a Talibanized fundamentalist region, “good luck,” he says. But he thinks that can be avoided. “They will be surrounded,” says Al-Rubaie, and they will be largely dependent on oil revenues generated in other parts of the country, which would be allotted according to population.
To the north, the Kurds would have their own province with a very high degree of autonomy, but something less than full independence—which is pretty much what they have now anyway. To the south, there would be at least two Shiite provinces: one centered on the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, the other including the oil-rich regions around Basra and An Nasiriya. Baghdad would be a separate district as the seat of the federal government whose only responsibilities would be for inter-regional affairs, foreign policy, currency, banking and (nominally) national defense...
He insists his new plan simply faces facts. “Violence and terror have been the glue that kept Iraq a centralized state,” he says. The Americans took that away when they removed Saddam, and neither they nor the current Iraqi government can replace it by reinstating a new reign of terror." 7:16:10 AM
Exit poll issues:
Nice summary and graphic on the exit poll discrepancy problem in the November election. 7:06:39 AM
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Suggest an X PRIZE
: "The concept of the [World Technology Network] WTN X PRIZES is to utilize the concepts, procedures, technologies and publicity developed X PRIZE Foundation's Ansari X PRIZE competition for space and .. launch a series of technology prizes seeking to meet the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century." I think I'll suggest a few in sustainable energy, starting with catalysis of cellulose to liquid fuel, efficient electricity storage systems, small-scale low-grade heat to electricity conversion. Desalination and other water purification would be another high-impact sustainability technology. 12:04:10 PM
Distributed generation for development
: Nature article endorses the idea. "The desire to mitigate climate change, and opportunities to empower consumers in the developed and developing worlds, all point towards a need for less-centralized energy generation. .. But for the 2 billion people without electricity, micropower could let them leapfrog the grid. Just as countries that had never seen an expensive copper telephone network jumped straight to mobile phones, so decentralized generation technologies offer the chance for them to leapfrog the grid and prosper. That was the take-home message from a meeting
of energy companies, researchers and policy makers in Paris" in Feb 2004. World Energy Technologies Summit Presentations
are online. 11:57:19 AM
Saturday, November 06, 2004
U.S. Expands List of Lost Missiles: More terrorism supplies lost in Iraq. "American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday. A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said. ..
Only several hundred shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles from the Iraqi arsenals have been turned in to American forces in a buyout program, the government officials said. .. surface-to-air missiles in Iraq were not sealed or monitored by weapons inspectors before the war and may have been widely dispersed among the Iraqi forces in the field." 4:28:35 PM
Friday, November 05, 2004
Projection and political passion:
"I think it's sadly ironic that voters in red and purple states -- people who, by and large, have never experienced a terrorist attack first-hand and probably don't encounter many gays (that they know of) in their daily lives -- turned out in droves out of their fear of terrorism and homosexuality. " 11:02:36 PM
100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?
Good review of the Lancet paper estimating 98,000 more Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the invasion, rather than the 10-30,000 that had be earlier thought. There is a wide range in the study; there's a 95% chance the incremental deaths are between 8,000 and 190,000, with 98,000 as the middle number. But there are many mehodological reasons to think the number might be higher than the middle. Worth reading. 8:39:33 AM
Greg Palast says Kerry Won: The Florida investigator that got BBC coverage in 2000 offers his take on Ohio: "Bush won Ohio by 136,483 votes. Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of votes cast are voided—known as “spoilage” in election jargon—because the ballots cast are inconclusive. Palast’s investigation suggests that if Ohio’s discarded ballots were counted, Kerry would have won the state. Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports there are a total of 247,672 votes not counted in Ohio, if you add the 92,672 discarded votes plus the 155,000 provisional ballots." Many studies show these are predominantly from poor and minority districts, which in Ohio are still using punch cards. If 90% of the uncounted were good and went 66% Kerry, he'd have a Florida-2000 style majority. In my view, this is unlikely, with military and absentees yet to be counted, etc. Palast claims it's even more true in New Mexico.
Meanwhile there's much commotion about unaudited electronic voting machines, which have proven and frequent security holes (esp. modem access) allowing silent tampering, with several documented cases. Knowing the technology these use (MS Access and RAS), I'm sure they're very easy to hack.
Partisan election officials, dubious technology, varations that bias against minorities -- the US electoral mechanisms are a mess. Reforms, and routine deterrent audits, are needed. As one contributor to the Washington Note writes, "What [does anyone] have against ensuring an open and honest system? What is conspiratorial about checking out something a great many people have been rightly leery about since it was first proposed (voting using proprietal software without a paper trail)? Looking at the voting patterns could vindicate [the winner]. What is unacceptable is having ballots that can't be verified. ..
Why am I interested? I'm not American but I want to know that the President was legitimately elected. I want to be able to trust American election results the way I can trust results in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the UK.... You get the picture. Sure you have coercive power but I would think you would want American power to rest on more than that and a Bill Reilly style shut-up to those with doubts about the system will not make the doubts go away. America's not such a pretty democracy. It needs cleaned up (Look for instance at the electoral districts: so horibbly gerrymandered by whatever the side in power that most races are hopelessly uncompetitive). A good democracy would I think be a bipartisan concern." A Republican respondent says "I think more people have doubts that anyone realizes - I hear it everywhere, even from my most Conservative friends, because believe me, one day we will be one the other side and we will be crying too." 8:24:49 AM
Source of Clinton's victories: Was it Ross Perot?:
"was Bill Clinton really all that successful at reaching some "part of the electorate" that Al Gore and John Kerry haven't nailed down? .. As Ruy Teixeira points out
, "Bill Clinton actually carried the white working class (whites without a four year college degree) by a point in both his election bids. But in 2000, Al Gore lost these voters by 17 points; in 2002, Democratic congressional candidates lost this group by 18 points and this year, the situation appears to have worsened further."
But those Clinton figures -- like Clinton's popular-vote wins -- are two-party numbers from a three-person race. Only 43 percent of the population supported Clinton in 1992. In 1996 he got 49.23 percent, Gore dropped to 48.38 percent in 2000, and Kerry got 48.11 percent in 2004. There's been, in other words, extremely little slippage in the Democratic Party's appeal since the electoral college landslide of 1996, the radically different geography of the result notwithstanding. The real change has been in the appeal of the Republicans, who've gone from a tiny 37 percent vote-share in '92 to 41 percent in '96, 48 percent in 2000, and 51 percent in 2004 while the Democrats have stayed about the same over the past twelve years. With Clinton or without him, the Democrats haven't found a way to achieve a majority since Jimmy Carter's day, so trying to replicate Clinton's success without conjuring up a Ross Perot may not accomplish anything. " 8:04:46 AM
America is purple
: Nice county-level map of election resuls, with shades of red and blue, showing how close the election was, and how limited solid blue and red are. Large version
also online. Update: Several formats
are now online. 12:01:54 AM
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Linux Open Logic Distribution Service: "BlueGlue is more than one-stop shopping for Open Source software. It provides a way for enterprise managers to impose consistency, better documentation and orderly upgrades on what can often seem like a very random Open Source world. Specifically, OpenLogic sells its BlueGlue Open Source tools platform as an annual subscriptions that include
- software from more than 100 different Open Source projects,
- professional documentation,
- regularly scheduled updates, big fixes, upgrades, and
- technical support.
Developer/architect training and consulting are also offered as optional upgrade services. Moreover, the BlueGlue platform automates some of the trickier aspects of using Open Source on enterprise tasks, including installation, configuration, integration, deployment and testing. "Many Open Source packages just don't play well together... so as part of our value-add, we have devised a knowledge based engine that integrates these together," Grolnick said. ..
OpenLogic releases a new BlueGlue release every 4 months, which aggregates all changes to all listed Open Source projects. Further, BlueGlue engineers confirm the bug fixes and code updates by taking the code through test cycles, and make sure that any integration that may have existed between Open Source projects before the updates remains intact. OpenLogic's BlueGlue is available on CD, in a subscription, starting at $199. " 4:27:49 PM
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
What's the matter with West Virginia?
: "Bush's appeal to America's underclass" .. "It is clear from what we saw in the Appalachians that the populism of the US right no longer feeds mainly on racism (West Virginia came out against slavery during the civil war) or on xenophobia. On the contrary it draws on resentment fuelled by the upper classes’ undisguised contempt for those not in the know. This particular kind of populism almost exclusively targets the cultural elite; it does not target business. This con trick is only possible because the smugness of those in the know is even more insufferable than the insolence of the rich." 12:53:26 PM