Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Saturday, January 31, 2004


Slouching toward Big Brother: Excellent summary of the current situation from Bruce Schneier, a well regarded security analyst.  Again, we are reminded that in December, "a provision slipped into an appropriations bill allowing the FBI to obtain personal financial information from banks, insurance companies, travel agencies, real estate agents, stockbrokers, the U.S. Postal Service, jewelry stores, casinos and car dealerships without a warrant--because they're all construed as financial institutions."  When will the mainstream media pick up on this?

  11:43:08 PM  permalink  

Political Patterns on the WWW: Valdis Krebs updates last year's map of political books on Amazon, showing how nearly all "preach to the converted". "So, if you are working a 2004 political campaign what do you do with this information? Obviously you will not be successful in removing a reader from deep in one cluster and transplanting them into the other cluster. All you can do is focus on the edge nodes and the bridges."  10:51:26 PM  permalink  

Dowd: The Mirror Has Two Faces: "Ms. Rice argued that the U.S. was right to conclude that Saddam had W.M.D. and attack him because the dictator was not behaving rationally. But why did she think someone President Bush deemed "a madman" would behave rationally?..

Even Paul Wolfowitz observed last May that it was important not to assume that foes like Saddam "will be rational according to our definition of what is rational." Interviewed by Sam Tanenhaus for Vanity Fair, Mr. Wolfowitz said bad intelligence came from mirror imaging — assuming people would behave like us: "The kind of mistake that, in a sense, I think we made implicitly in assuming that anyone who was intelligent enough to fly an airplane wouldn't commit suicide with it."

Saddam's old lieutenants have said that the dictator did not admit his paucity of weapons because he wanted his Arab neighbors to see him as a great leader and he hoped to deter America from war.

Jerrold Post, a former C.I.A. psychological profiler who calls Saddam messianic but not irrational, speculates that he may have built a Potemkin arsenal after his conventional arsenal was decimated in the first Persian Gulf war. "If he came across as an impotent leader capitulating to the West," Dr. Post said, "he might have been pushed out of power or killed."

Besides, according to Dr. Kay, Saddam was both finagling and finagled. "Did he really think he had the stuff because scientists were scared to tell him he didn't?" wondered a G.O.P. foreign policy expert. ..

The moral of Vietnam was supposed to be that we would never again go to war without understanding the culture of our antagonists, or exaggerate their threat to us. ..

The White House will have a lot of explaining to do if Iraq exchanges one form of dictatorship for another, or if it takes on a fundamentalist Islamic cast that sets Iraqi women's rights back 40 years.

"These guys created the exact can of worms we tried to avoid," said a Bush 41 official. "Guess what? Baghdad is ours."  

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daily link  Friday, January 30, 2004


McNamara speaks out: Excellent interview with Robert McNamara with explicit reference to Iraq.  "The United States is today the strongest power in the world, politically, economically and militarily, and I think it will continue to be so for decades ahead, if not for the whole century," he told me. "But I do not believe, with one qualification, that it should ever, ever use that power unilaterally -- the one qualification being the unlikely event we had to use it to defend the continental U.S., Alaska or Hawaii."  Article contains a list of his lessons from Vietnam, just as relevant today.  9:49:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, January 29, 2004


2001 Budgets of Top 20 Think Tanks: In $m:

Organization
Actual Expenses
Rand Corporation
$ 169.0
Urban Institute
64.5
Heritage Foundation
33.5
Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, & Peace
30.9
Brookings Institution
30.2
Council on Foreign Relations
25.7
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
20.8
Center for Strategic and International Studies
16.9
American Enterprise Institute
16.3
Cato Institute
14.0
Russell Sage Foundation
14.0
Resources for the Future
12.0
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
7.7
Manhattan Institute
7.1
Hudson Institute
7.1
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
6.3
Institute for International Economics
5.7
Committee for Economic Development
4.4
National Center for Policy Analysis
5.2
Progressive Policy Institute
2.5

Source: IRS 990s for 2001.

  4:07:38 PM  permalink  

Transcript: David Kay at Senate hearing: Short, worth reading.  Highlights: "It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing. We're also in a period in which we've had intelligence surprises in the proliferation area that go the other way. The case of Iran, a nuclear program that the Iranians admit was 18 years on, that we underestimated. And, in fact, we didn't discover it. It was discovered by a group of Iranian dissidents outside the country who pointed the international community at the location. The Libyan program recently discovered was far more extensive than was assessed prior to that.

There's a long record here of being wrong. There's a good reason for it, probably multiple reasons. Certainly proliferation is a hard thing to track, particularly in countries that deny easy and free access and don't have free and open societies. .. I  do believe we have to understand why reality turned out to be different than expectations and estimates. ..

I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated. Reality on the ground differed in advance. And never -- not in a single case -- was the explanation, "I was pressured to do this." The explanation was very often, "The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it." ..  I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, "inappropriate command influence" that led them to take that position. ..

[Looting and] document destruction [in Iraq means] we're really not going to be able to prove beyond a truth the negatives and some of the positive conclusions that we're going to come to. There will be always unresolved ambiguity here. ..

In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441. .. We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material."

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daily link  Sunday, January 25, 2004


Whole Earth: New Feature Articles:  WER is closing down.  Their site still has a collection of recent articles, on the Singularity.  11:41:21 PM  permalink  

Friedman on root causes of Islamic terrorism, and Iraq: Predictable, but concise: "My hope is that Iowa will embolden the Blair Democrats to shuck off their intimidation, by Mr. Bush and Mr. Dean, and press their case. It is the only way to build a national consensus for what's going to be a long cold-war-like struggle to strengthen the forces of moderation and weaken the forces of violent intolerance within the Arab-Muslim world — which is what the real war on terrorism is about. To be successful, Democrats will need a candidate who understands three things (which Messrs. Kerry, Lieberman, Clark and Edwards do):

First, this notion, put forward by Mr. Dean and Al Gore, that the war in Iraq has diverted us from the real war on "terrorists" is just wrong. There is no war on "terrorism" that does not address the misgovernance and pervasive sense of humiliation in the Muslim world. Sure, Al Qaeda and Saddam pose different threats, Will Marshall [of the Progressive Policy Institute] notes, "but they emerge from the same pathology of widespread repression, economic stagnation and fear of cultural decline." Building a decent Iraq is very much part of the war on terrorism.

Second, sometimes smashing someone in the face is necessary to signal others that they will be held accountable for the intolerance they incubate. Removing the Taliban and Saddam sent that message to every government in the area.

Third, the Iraq war may have created more hatred of the U.S., but it has also triggered a hugely important dialogue among Arabs and Muslims about the necessity of reform."  Conclusion: "The war of ideas among Arabs and Muslims can only be fought and won by their own forces of moderation, and those forces can only emerge from a growing middle class with a sense of dignity and hope for the future. Young people who grow up in a context of real economic opportunity, basic rule of law and the right to speak and write what they please don't usually want to blow up the world. They want to be part of it. "

  10:59:52 PM  permalink  

A Tougher War for the U.S. Is One of Legitimacy:  Excellent essay by Robert Kagan, with surprising support from Kissinger:  "Opinion polls taken before, during and after the war have shown two peoples living on separate strategic and ideological planets. More than 80 percent of Americans believe that war may achieve justice; less than half of Europeans believe that a war — any war — can ever be just. Americans and Europeans disagree about the role of international law and international institutions, and about the nebulous and abstract yet powerful question of international legitimacy.

Americans will find that they cannot ignore this problem. The struggle to define and obtain international legitimacy in this new era may prove to be among the critical contests of our time, in some ways as significant in determining the future of the international system and America's place in it as any purely material measure of power and influence.

Americans for much of the past three centuries have considered themselves the vanguard of a worldwide liberal revolution. Their foreign policy from the beginning has not been only about defending and promoting their material national interests. "We fight not just for ourselves but for all mankind," Benjamin Franklin declared of the American Revolution, and whether or not that has always been true, most Americans have always wanted to believe that it is true ..

The Clinton administration, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, wrote in a famous essay in January 2000, had failed to focus on the "national interest" and instead had addressed itself to "humanitarian interests" or the interests of "the international community." The Bush administration, by contrast, would take a fresh look at all treaties, obligations and alliances and re-evaluate them in terms of America's "national interest." ..

Besides being an analytical error, the enunciation of this "realist" approach by the sole superpower in a unipolar era was a serious foreign policy error. The global hegemon cannot proclaim to the world that it will be guided only by its own definition of its "national interest." This is precisely what even America's closest friends fear: that the United States will wield its unprecedented vast power only for itself. In her essay, Ms. Rice derided "the belief that the United States is exercising power legitimately only when it is doing so on behalf of someone or something else." But for the rest of the world, what other source of legitimacy can there be? ..

"To be sure," she argued, "there is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity, but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect."  But could even America's closest friends ever be persuaded that an America always pursuing its self-interest could be relied upon to serve their interests, too, as some kind of "second-order effect"? ..

No one has made this argument more powerfully, and more presciently, than that quintessential realist, Henry A. Kissinger.  The task in Iraq, Mr. Kissinger argued in an essay, was not just to win the war but to convey "to the rest of the world that our first pre-emptive war has been imposed by necessity and that we seek the world's interests, not exclusively our own." America's "special responsibility, as the most powerful nation in the world," he said, "is to work toward an international system that rests on more than military power — indeed, that strives to translate power into cooperation. Any other attitude will gradually isolate and exhaust us."  ..

Right now many Europeans are betting that the risks from the "axis of evil," from terrorism and tyrants, will never be as great as the risk of an American Leviathan unbound. Perhaps it is in the nature of a postmodern Europe to make such a judgment. But now may be the time for the wisest heads in Europe, including those living in the birthplace of Pascal, to begin asking what will result if that wager proves wrong."

  10:54:26 PM  permalink  

The untamed madrasas: "In January 2002, Musharraf gave a televised speech promising to combat extremism. One aim was to bring all of Pakistan's madrasas, or Islamic schools, into the mainstream. Many now cultivate radical thinking and act as recruiting and indoctrination centers for jihadi terrorists. Declaring that no institutions in Pakistan would be above the law, Musharraf's government promised that it would register all madrasas to obtain a clear idea of which groups were running which schools, insist that all madrasas adopt a government curriculum by the end of 2002, and stop madrasas and mosques from being used as centers for the spread of politically and religiously inflammatory statements and publications.

Two years later, no presidential ordinance to regulate madrasas has been promulgated, and the government openly assures the clergy that it will not interfere in madrasas' internal affairs. Most madrasas in Pakistan remain unregistered. .. No national curriculum has been developed for the madrasas. The board has set up three “model madrasas” teaching government-approved versions of the standard madrasa course along with subjects like mathematics, general science, computers and English. But together these three schools have only about 300 students, while as many as 1.5 million students attend unregulated madrasas.

Most important, Musharraf has yet to curb the abuse of madrasas and mosques by religious extremists. During the 2002 national elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, an umbrella group of six religious parties, used these institutions for its anti-American and pro-Taliban campaign. Some mullahs, including leaders of political parties that Musharraf has banned, continue to use them to propagate an extremist Islamic agenda.  .. The government has done very little to implement tougher controls on financing of madrasas and extremist groups despite obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. It even removed the issue of terrorism funding from draft regulations on money laundering.

There is also no evidence of any focused and systematic campaign against homegrown extremists. The government has, it is true, apprehended foreigners with links to Al Qaeda and turned them over to U.S. authorities, but Al Qaeda was only officially banned in Pakistan in March 2003. In his time in power, Musharraf has concentrated hardest on legitimizing and consolidating his military-backed rule. The government has been hesitant to take any step against the religious right because it has needed the MMA's support in Parliament for measures supporting its rule."  10:43:52 PM  permalink  

Nuclear chief tells of black market: "The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.. says in today's issue of Der Spiegel: "It's obvious that the international export controls have completely failed in recent years. A nuclear black market has emerged, driven by fantastic cleverness. Designs are drawn in one country, centrifuges are produced in another, they are then shipped via a third country and there is no clarity about the end user. Expert nuclear businessmen, unscrupulous firms, and perhaps also state bodies are involved. Libya and Iran made extensive use of this network."

He said at the weekend that his experts were working with Pakistan to try to crack the nuclear black market, the scale of which has stunned the IAEA and the western intelligence services investigating the Libyan and Iranian nuclear programmes.  ..

The IAEA confirmed on Friday that Libya had used the black market to buy equipment for turning uranium into weapons-grade material and had acquired designs for a nuclear warhead. .. Much of the equipment seen in Libya after Col Gadafy announced last month that he was renouncing weapons of mass destruction is of similar design to Iran's extensive uranium enrichment technology, all based on Pakistani designs derived from a 30-year-old European design."

  10:23:09 PM  permalink  

Referendum planned for Kurdistan?: "Under the plan, the Kurds will be asked to back the creation of an independent state, despite pledges from their political leaders that they would not secede from a future federal Iraq.  From Dohuk on the northern border with Turkey to Kirkuk more than 200 miles to the south, branches of the Kurdish Referendum Committee are fanning out across what they claim is Iraqi Kurdistan, whipping up support for the vote. At first, they are merely canvassing signatures in favour of a referendum, but large demonstrations will follow."

  9:55:27 PM  permalink  

Saddam WMD material hidden in Syria: "In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Dr Kay, who last week resigned as head of the Iraq Survey Group, said that he had uncovered evidence that unspecified materials had been moved to Syria shortly before last year's war to overthrow Saddam.  "We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons," he said. "But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved."  ..

A Syrian official last night said: "These allegations have been raised many times in the past by Israeli officials, which proves that they are false."

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daily link  Thursday, January 22, 2004


Yesterday, They Would Have Died: Why were murder rates going down? "[Dr. Anthony] Harris had an epiphany: The United States was at least as violent as ever; it's just that fewer people were dying.

Harris spent the next few years testing his theory, and last year he published his findings in an academic journal called Homicide Studies, in which he concluded, in essence, that trauma care had improved dramatically in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when doctors came home trained to handle the worst of injuries. More importantly, every day since then doctors have been constantly testing and perfecting diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, aided by increasingly remarkable advances in technology. In the mid-'80s they lucked into CT machines, capable of taking 3-D images of soft body tissues; now they can capture art-like pictures of the entire body in seconds. Ultrasound machines, used to visualize abdominal injuries, are no bigger than a beer cooler and can be moved instantly from station to station. Artificial blood is on the way. So is a unique type of bandage that can be slapped on a lacerated liver to stop it from bleeding immediately.

The pace of technological progress in the field is such that crime victims of a decade ago were victims too of bad timing: Their chances of living would have enormously improved if they'd had the good fortune to suffer their misfortune today. Harris's statistics on the subject are staggering. He determined that without advances in emergency response and trauma care there would have been 45,000 to 70,000 homicides each year for the past five years instead of 15,000 to 20,000. Back in 1964, 17 percent of assaults were with a gun, and 16 percent of those were fatal. In 1999, the year Ferguson was stabbed, 19 percent of assaults were with a gun, yet only 5 percent were fatal. "  2:53:20 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, January 20, 2004


George Lakoff political ideas:  A cognitive scientist from Berkeley that offers advice to Dean and others:  ""We have a metaphor of the nation as family," Lakoff explains. Within that family are two types of parents, two models. Lakoff views the conservatives as the strict father model and the progressives as the nurturing parent.

"The strict father family has a background assumption," Lakoff says of the conservative approach. "The world is a dangerous place. It's a difficult place. And kids are born bad and have to be made good." The strict father model, to offer just one applied example, would not allow for social programs because they offer unearned rewards. Within this model, the very notion of such a program – an unearned reward – would be immoral because it would not serve to raise the "child" to be self-reliant.

The nurturant parent, on the other hand, Lakoff writes, believes "that children are born good and should be kept that way." The two core ideas to the nurturing parent are empathy and responsibility. Lakoff emphasizes that the empathy component within the nurturing model should not be interpreted as weakness.  "The nurturant parent is neither permissive nor weak in being empathetic. Rather empathy-carried-out requires responsibility, both personal and social. Responsibility implies strength, competence, and promoting the value of both personal and social responsibility in others."

The key factor of these two models, as it applies to Howard Dean, is that according to Lakoff, "Most Americans have versions of both worldviews … many people use both models – in different parts of their lives."   Lakoff believes that either element within the swing voter can be excited. ..

Lakoff thinks [conservatives] have created the notion that they are representative of morality and liberals are not. "Liberals have morality but have not been able to articulate it," he says of their language.  Conservatives, Lakoff believes, have spent millions of dollars and 40 years to develop a language to convey their ideas. The language, exemplified in such terms as "tax relief" and "partial birth abortion" brings with it a moral interpretation that the Democrats have not been able to counter.

Lakoff uses tax relief to explain. By substituting the word "relief" for "cuts" when talking about Bush's tax policies, the Republicans are able to associate a sense of morality with their agenda.  "If you have relief there has to be affliction, an afflicted party," Lakoff says. Once the notion of affliction is activated, even if unconsciously, the parties at play are assigned their roles. The party that relieves the affliction is a hero, while that which attempts to thwart the relief is a villain."  Recently some Democrats have been referring to deficits as a "Bush tax" to reverse the analogy.

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daily link  Monday, January 19, 2004


Bush to Portray Libya as an Example: "Whatever the source of the concessions, the example of force used against Iraq has become part of the public mindset.   Western diplomats report that at a recent soccer match involving Saadi el-Qaddafi, Colonel Qaddafi's soccer-playing son, fans from the opposing side chanted "Saadi, Saadi, son of the ruler, your fate will be the fate of Uday." The phrase — it rhymes in Arabic — refers to one of the sons of Mr. Hussein who was killed in an American raid."  11:41:37 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, January 18, 2004


New Zealand News - Americans need to question their style of democracy: "In contrast [to the US], Australia has designed a system that addresses and eases these concerns.  With a transparency that should be the gold standard by which all democracies conduct themselves, it made the software running its electoral system completely open to public scrutiny.  Although designed by a private company, drafts as well as the finished software code were posted on the internet for all to see and evaluate.  This ruins one American election official's comment that no country in the world has the rigorous certification and testing standards used in the US. "  10:39:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 17, 2004


North Korea Reaches Out to Japan:"Facing a choice of Japanese sanctions or Japanese aid, North Korea is quietly taking steps to unblock its longstanding political logjam with Japan.

First, six adult children of Japanese hijackers from the Red Army faction, an extinct left-wing terror group, unexpectedly arrived here on Tuesday from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Then, North Korea floated a March 20 deadline for sending to Japan the children of five Japanese who had been abducted by North Korea years ago. The parents were allowed to come here from North Korea in October 2002. .. On Friday, Yoriko Kawaguchi, Japan's foreign minister, confirmed that four Japanese diplomats were in Pyongyang, the first visit by Japanese officials since relations between the countries soured in the fall of 2002. ..

"Japan has a strong hand to play on the issue of financial support of North Korea," Senator Brownback said in a speech here, referring to annual remittances of tens of millions of dollars by ethnic Koreans in Japan to North Korea. "It needs to play its hand."

Japanese concern also extends to those fleeing North Korea. This week, Japanese human rights groups and editorial writers protested after the Chinese authorities disclosed that the Chinese police had arrested a Japanese human rights activist and two North Korean refugees a month ago. The activist, Takayuki Noguchi, worked with Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, the largest group here helping North Koreans who escape from their country. "

  9:44:47 PM  permalink  

Al-Qaeda launches online terrorist manual: "Al-Qaeda has issued a chilling new call to arms to recruits who remain undetected by security agencies. In a terrorist manual published on the internet, Osama bin Laden says: 'After Iraq and Afghanistan will come the Crusader invasion of Saudi Arabia. All fighters all over the world must be ready.' The manual has been masterminded by Saif al-Adel, the organisation's third most senior man and the only terrorist other than bin Laden and his partner Ayman al-Zawahiri to have a $25 million reward on his head.

It is directed at new volunteers who are 'below the radar' of counter-terrorist authorities and who cannot break cover to undergo formal training in terrorist techniques. Like bin Laden, Zawahiri is quoted in the publication, called 'The Base of the Vanguard'. .. Another author is Abdul Aziz al-Mukran, who is also known as Abu Hajjer and is one of the most wanted al-Qaeda suspects in Saudi Arabia. In his contribution, entitled 'The war of nerves', he lists the use of weapons of mass destruction, specifically biological and nuclear arms, as a potential tactic in the 'ongoing war'.

The manual is an internal al-Qaeda document [the January issue of what promises to be a monthly publication] and will be of enormous interest to security agencies. The fact that al-Adel, a former special forces colonel in the Egyptian army, has risked discovery to publish it is an indication of its importance. 'Though it shows that we have taken down a lot of the training infrastructure and made it hard for [al-Qaeda] to operate, it is very worrying in that it implies that there are a lot of recruits around who we have yet to pick up,' one British senior police counter-terrorist officer said. "

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Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall: Another excellent blog, on US politics, winner of a recent "Opinion Award," along with Friedman, Krugman, and others in the print media.  12:23:28 AM  permalink  

Topical, polemical, and short:  Rick Klau and Dan Bricklin (Pamphleteers and Web Sites) make the point that weblogs are the modern equivalent of pamphlets in 18th century America: low-cost ubiquitous personal publishing.  Historian Bernard Bailyn is cited about pamphlets, quoting "George Orwell, a modern pamphleteer":   "[The pamphet] is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and "high-brow" than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals."  Bailyn says none were professional writers, that "The American pamphleteers were almost to a man lawyers, ministers, merchants, or planters heavily engaged in their regular occupations."

  12:13:12 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, January 16, 2004


Juan Cole * Informed Comment: Very informative blog on Iraq and MidEast affairs by a U Mich professor.  11:59:39 PM  permalink  

Bush signs parts of Patriot Act II into law - stealthily: "By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government.  The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters."

Congress passed the legislation around Thanksgiving. ..  The Senate passed it with a voice vote to avoid individual accountability. [It] ramps up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters."

Bloggers are making more noise about this hidden expansion of PATRIOT; let's see how long it takes for the mainstream media to criticize it.

  11:38:30 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, January 15, 2004


Moderation rising in the Mideast: ""It's the end of radicalism," says Abdel Monem Said, director of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in ter for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "You have a general sense of accommodation taking place in the region."  Dr. Said, who defines radicalism as the struggle for unobtainable goals, adds that "radical movements, whether pan-Islamic or pan-Arab, have come to the conclusion that continuation of confrontation with the status quo or the West in general is either futile or very costly. ..  I hate to say it, but at least from the results we are seeing the Iraqi thing was like a jolt in the region - it put a cap on radical politics.""

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daily link  Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Scientific American: Robot Scientist As Effective As Humans At Lab Work: "Ross D. King from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and his colleagues designed their Robot Scientist using existing technology and two new software programs that they wrote. The team then assigned the robot the task of determining the function of specific genes in the yeast Xaccharomyces cerevisiae (commonly known as brewer's yeast). Robot Scientist, armed with preloaded information about yeast biochemistry and biological pathways, first generated hypotheses regarding possible functions and then ran a variety of experiments. When the real scientists compared the results obtained by their robot student to those achieved by actual graduate students, they didn't see any significant differences. And because Robot Scientist ran fewer experiments, its overall costs were lower than those of its human counterparts. "  10:07:20 PM  permalink  

"Free-Speech Zone":  Good summary of the many instances of the Bush administration investigating dissidents and confining protests in the name of the "war on terrorism".  From the American Conservative, no less.  "Is the administration seeking to stifle domestic criticism? Absolutely. Is it carrying out a war on dissent? Probably not—yet. But the trend lines in federal attacks on freedom of speech should raise grave concerns to anyone worried about the First Amendment or about how a future liberal Democratic president such as Hillary Clinton might exploit the precedents that Bush is setting."  1:35:49 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, January 12, 2004


Creative Commons: Useful site for selecting appropriate lisencing for created material (e.g., requiring attribution, no derivative works, but otherwise open to noncommercial use).  9:32:23 PM  permalink  

Feds Roll On Vegas Rollers: "The FBI often uses these specialized warrants — issued under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — to record the telephone calls and e-mails of citizens and immigrants believed to be agents of a foreign power.  The government requested and won approval for a record 1,228 warrants in 2002 for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies, .. significantly higher than the 934 warrants approved in 2001 and the 1,003 approved in 2000.

Operating with permission from a secretive federal court that meets regularly at Justice Department headquarters, the FBI has broken into homes, offices, hotel rooms and automobiles, installed hidden cameras, rummaged through luggage and eavesdropped on telephone conversations.  Besides break-ins, agents also have pried into safe deposit boxes, watched from afar with video cameras and binoculars and intercepted e-mails. They have planted microphones, computer bugs and other high-tech tracking devices.  Details about some FBI techniques emerge from court records spread across dozens of cases. But only a fraction of these surveillances each year result in any kind of public disclosure, so little is known outside classified circles about how they work. 

More recently, the FBI has implemented new ground rules that allow even more sharing of information between agents working on intelligence and those pursuing traditional criminal cases.   Police and prosecutors have increasingly turned the force of the new anti-terrorism laws not on al Qaeda cells but on people charged with common crimes. "  2:39:51 PM  permalink  

FBI gathered visitor info in Vegas: "Only in Las Vegas did the FBI require all hotel operators to surrender guest lists and airlines to turn over arriving passenger manifests, sources at the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday. The program, which started Dec. 22, a day after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the terrorist alert level from yellow, or "elevated," to orange, or "high," was terminated Jan. 1 with the end of the holidays, local FBI spokesman Todd Palmer said.

Casino operators said they turned over the names and other guest information on an estimated 270,000 visitors after a meeting with FBI officials and after receiving national security letters requiring them to yield the information. .. the FBI has new authority to make follow-up demands for whatever information it wants on individuals included on the original lists, and hotel operators and local law enforcement agencies are banned by the recently signed Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 from disclosing any investigations stemming from the lists. ..

The FBI and local law enforcement agencies have said there was no specific and credible terrorist threat aimed at Las Vegas over the recent holiday. ..

Bill Thompson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert, said .. "People come here for some stupid reason, and we want them to. That's our slogan. How does the FBI program match up with `What you do here stays here?' " he asked. ..

In Washington, D.C., [ACLU's] Edgar said there needs to be a distinction between situations in which individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as when they check into a hotel, and others in which they have diminished expectations, such as when they cross the border into the United States or board a commercial aircraft. "

  2:37:18 PM  permalink  

Cable, Internet gain on campaign trail" "Just 23% of Americans ages 18-29 say they regularly get their election news from broadcast news, down from 39% in 2000. Local news and newspapers also showed declines among that age group, 13% and 9%, respectively. Meanwhile, overall use of the Internet and cable for campaign news rose 4% since 2000 [to 13%].

The poll of 1,506 adults found that more young people are learning about the campaign from comedy shows such as The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. Among 18- to-29-year-olds, 21% say they get campaign news from comedy shows. Before the survey was released, Daily Show's Jon Stewart was asked about young people getting news from his show. He joked that he worries every day and added, "I don't know if you know this, but the children are our future."

The poll found that those who learn from late-night shows don't know much about the current campaign. The Internet, on the other hand, has an informed audience, and active use of the Net for politics is linked to a high level of knowledge about the campaign." And about cable networks: "40% of the Democrats surveyed cited the three broadcast networks compared to 24% of Republicans and 30% of independents. And 27% of the Democrats are CNN fans compared to 20% of GOP and independent viewers.. 29% of the Republicans responding said they watch Fox News Channel to learn about the campaign as opposed to 14% of Democrats and 20% of independents. Radio also tilts heavily toward Republicans, while the Internet was split fairly evenly."

Reminds me of David Brooks' The Era of Distortion: "The proliferation of media outlets and the segmentation of society have meant that it's much easier for people to hive themselves off into like-minded cliques. Some people live in towns where nobody likes President Bush. Others listen to radio networks where nobody likes Bill Clinton. In these communities, half-truths get circulated and exaggerated. Dark accusations are believed because it is delicious to believe them. Vince Foster was murdered. The Saudis warned the Bush administration before Sept. 11.

You get to choose your own reality. You get to believe what makes you feel good. You can ignore inconvenient facts so rigorously that your picture of the world is one big distortion."

  9:45:21 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, January 11, 2004


Knowing how to find the people you need: Cool story about how a weblog programmer volunteered a very productive few days to the Dean campaign.  8:36:52 PM  permalink  

Top Five Social Investing News Stories of 2003: Includes a note on climate change reporting: "the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) is a coalition of ten state and city treasurers and comptrollers and labor pension funds that collectively manage over $1 trillion in assets. INCR issued a ten-point “Call for Action” that commenced with a recommendation to support the Rose Foundation’s rulemaking petition for the SEC to enforce and enhance its environmental liability disclosure rules.   “The corporate and financial communities are reaching consensus that it is indeed a fiduciary duty to at least assess and report on the risks associated with climate change and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mr. Falk."  8:17:04 AM  permalink  

Social Capitalists: List of "top 20" social enterprises, including Benetech and Room to Read.  8:14:38 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, January 09, 2004


Wishful Thinking on Korea: More selective intelligence at work in the administration:  "In the summer of 2002, insiders say, the U.S. had a defector report that Mr. Kim might soon be ousted. Experts on Korea were deeply skeptical about that unconfirmed report, but it matched what hard-liners wanted to believe, so they passed it all the way up to President Bush himself. That defector's report, later discredited, helped harden the administration's give-no-inch approach --leading Mr. Kim to begin reprocessing plutonium last year."  8:56:13 PM  permalink  

Clark or Dean? How about both? A progressive who thinks like I do -- the best ticket would be a Clark/Dean one, for all good reasons.   He misses one -- the necessity to integrate the new Dean organization and energy in the party.  8:03:11 PM  permalink  

The Australian: WMDs 'smuggled into Syria': " Paris-based Syrian dissident Nijar Nijjof told Britain's independent Channel Five News that a senior Syrian military intelligence source had told him about the weapons. The unnamed source revealed that the weapons were smuggled across the Iraqi border in ambulances before the war that led to Saddam's ouster, Nijjof said. "I knew this man during the last two years, he sent me much information," Nijjof said of his contact.

"There hasn't been any hard evidence that such a thing happened," [Condoleezza Rice] told reporters, but "I can't dismiss anything that we haven't had an opportunity to fully assess".

  5:33:10 PM  permalink  

GBN's Peter Schwartz: "Most organizations and most people assume that the world in front of us is basically continuous -- that tomorrow is basically going to be pretty much like today," he said. In fact, the opposite is true: We live in a time of perpetual discontinuity, a time in which bombshells and shockers are part of everyday life."  His 1999 "inevitable surprises" include:

  • Most baby-boomers won't retire
  • Tech-led productivity booms won't stop
  • Nano tech and quantum computing will revolutionize science
  • Cuts in pollution: "With the pace of technological change, high growth equals clean, low growth equals dirty."
  • 3 kinds of countries:
    • "Disorderly" countries where chaos and rebellion are rampant and information and financial flows are broken; this includes most of Africa, parts of Latin America, and big parts of Central Asia.
    • "Orderly" countries that follow a system of rules designed for them not to fight with each other; this group comprises traditional industrialized regions like Europe, Japan, big parts of Latin America, most of China, and most of India.
    • The United States, aka the rogue superpower. "We're the guys who make the rules but don't play by the rules," Peter explained. "We find ourselves in this unique position with a super-dominant economy and a super-dominant military, and no one can even come close to catching us. And nothing on the horizon suggests that's going to change."
  • Abrupt climate change, possibly slowing of the the Gulf Stream or other major change, even without global warming
  • European in-migration causing large cultural change there

Possibly interesting audio is on the site.

  12:04:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, January 08, 2004


Case Yields Chilling Signs of Domestic Terror Plot: "One evening two winters ago, a man in Staten Island, N.Y., absent-mindedly flipped through his mail. Inside one envelope was a stack of fake documents, including United Nations and Defense Department identification cards, and a note: "We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands."  It had. The package, intended for a member of a self-styled militia in New Jersey, had been delivered to the wrong address.

From that lucky break, federal officials believe they may have uncovered one of the most audacious domestic terrorism plots since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. Starting with a single piece of mail, investigators discovered an enormous cache of weapons in Noonday, in East Texas, including the makings of a sophisticated sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands of people... Investigators found nearly 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and briefcases that could be detonated by remote control.

Most distressing, they said, was the discovery of 800 grams of almost pure sodium cyanide — material that can only be acquired legally for specific agricultural or military projects. The sodium cyanide was found inside an ammunition canister, next to hydrochloric, nitric and acetic acids and formulas for making bombs."

3 perpetrators pleaded guilty in November.  "But what is typically the end of a criminal case may be only the beginning in this one. Some government investigators believe other conspirators may be on the loose. And they readily acknowledge that they have no idea what the stash of weapons was for — though they have tantalizing and alarming clues of a "covert operation or plan," according to an FBI affidavit..."

"Critics of the Bush administration say federal officials and the mainstream media are suffering from tunnel vision — that they are so focused on international threats that they have failed to give sufficient attention to threats at home... Much of the criticism has come on Internet Web logs, known as "blogs." People who operate the websites, or "bloggers," have seized on the Krar case and what they perceive as the inattention it received from the Bush administration and major media...  Robert Jensen, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas in Austin and director of the College of Communication's honors program, agrees with the criticism. He says that the Bush administration, to promote its efforts overseas, "needs a public that is afraid and sees these wars as justified."

  10:41:36 PM  permalink  

Intel, HP chiefs warn that U.S. needs to improve research, education: "Craig Barrett, head of Santa Clara chipmaker Intel Corp., declared that the world had arrived at a rare "strategic inflection point" where nearly half its population -- living in China, India and Russia -- had been integrated into the global market economy, many of them highly educated workers "who can do just about any job in the world." "We're talking about 3 billion people," Barrett said, more than 10 times the U.S. population. "The U.S. has a very simple choice to make. We have to decide if we're going to be competitive with these markets." ..

Barrett insisted that Intel was "still making massive investments in the U.S.," but he noted that jobs at these new facilities require two years of college "just to walk in the door. The infrastructure and education requirements of those jobs is forever increasing."

[HP's] Fiorina warned the United States risked losing its lead in high-end products as well. "It's interesting to me that so many people talk about China or India or Russia as being a source of low-cost labor," Fiorina said. "Truthfully, over the long term, the greater threat is the source of well-educated labor. And if you look at the number of college-educated students that China graduates every year, it's close to 40 million. The law of large numbers is fairly compelling."

Fiorina and Barrett said the United States must make a strategic choice to increase its competitiveness before it wakes up one day and finds it's too late. They outlined a list of objectives, including a doubling of federal spending on basic research in U.S. universities. Barrett derided Washington's decision to spend as much as $40 billion a year on farm subsidies and just $5 billion on basic research in the physical sciences. "I have a real degree of difficulty with the fact that we are spending some five to eight times as much on the industry of the 19th century than we are on the industry of the 21st century," Barrett said.

The executives also urged a national broadband policy to allow more homes and businesses to quickly take advantage of high-speed data networks, much as Japan and Korea have done. They also called for dramatic improvements in K-12 education in the United States, saying schools act more to block budding math and science students than to foster them. "

Average programmer salaries were compared in the article as

  • US: $60,000 - $80,000
  • Canada:  $28,174
  • China:  $8,952
  • India:  $5,880 - $11,000
  2:43:04 PM  permalink  

Is Your Hometown Safe from Chemical Disaster?  2 years after 9/11 there are still public chlorine facilities close to cities:  "Chlorine is commonly used to remove contaminants from sewage before the treated waste is discharged into local waterways. Chlorine gas is a powerful chemical that can burn the eyes and skin and inflame the lungs, and is fatal in high concentrations. (It was used as a chemical weapon by Germany in World War I.) There are thousands of wastewater treatment facilities scattered across the United States. ..

Switching from chlorine to a safer alternative is affordable and practical. .. Thirteen wastewater plants have successfully substituted safer alternatives; now, more than 20 million people who were once at risk from chemical releases at nearby wastewater facilities are safer.  [But] 18 million Americans remain at risk from [44] facilities that continue to use chlorine gas in heavily populated areas. An accident at any one of five facilities could each affect more than one million residents."

  9:42:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, January 07, 2004


CNN.com - Poll Jan. 5, 2004: "against the former NATO commander, Dean has a 46 percent to 32 percent edge among respondents, the poll found. .. in "what-if" head-to-head pairings with his strongest rivals: Dean over Lieberman, 50 percent to 32 percent; Dean over Kerry 51 percent to 29 percent; Dean over Gephardt 53 percent to 28 percent.   .. Among likely voters surveyed, Bush wins 51 percent to 46 percent for Dean; only Lieberman gets that much support from likely voters in other match-ups. "  9:34:04 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, January 04, 2004


Nigeria Says It's Routed Islamic Movement: "After two weeks of running gunbattles that killed at least eight people, Nigeria said Saturday it had routed a newly emerged Muslim militant movement fighting to create an Islamic state in Africa's most populous nation.  Two police officers and at least six of the militants died in the clashes in three towns in northeast Yobe state, including the capital, Damaturu, said Ibrahim Jirigi, a Yobe state government spokesman.

The battles saw about 200 of the Islamic extremists raid two police stations for arms, burn another, and occupy a public school building that they renamed ``Afghanistan,'' Jirigi said.  The group involved was the Al Sunna Wal Jamma group. The largely university-based student group was taking up arms for the first time after two years of preaching Islamic revolution. ..

The Yobe state uprising appears the largest and best-planned of any involving Islamic or Christian militants in Nigeria. "

  3:27:27 PM  permalink  

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