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daily link  Monday, February 28, 2005

Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Bloggers 02/16/05.  Hilarious.  5:23:48 PM  permalink  

Juan Cole, spot on: "The corporate media failed the United States in 2002-2003. The US government failed the American people in 2002-2003. That empty, and often empty-headed punditry, which Jon Stewart destroyed so skilfully, played a big role in dragooning the American people into a wasteful and destructive elective war that threatens to warp American society"  12:27:33 AM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, February 27, 2005

Under-reporting: How the DoD undercounts Iraq casualties, by their own admission by a factor of over 2, by other's estimates possibly 3-4.  "If an actual journalist, someone with resources, balls and determination, filed the right FOIA requests, we might begin to get some numbers we can trust."  More technical details at  11:08:36 PM  permalink  

Juan Cole doubts Iraq ballot fraud: "Al-Hayat also today repeats the allegation that the US or the electoral commission somehow cheated the United Iraqi Alliance of an absolute majority in parliament. (Note that this argument completely contradicts the interview they did, which speaks of US helplessness before the results.) The argument that the Iraqi elections were fixed is, however, implausible. It is sometimes alleged that the Shiites should have done better than they did, given the Sunni Arab absence. But when the smoke cleared, the UIA did have a majority in parliament, so the allegation makes no sense..  Precisely because the United Iraqi Alliance has ended up with 51 percent of the seats, which is enough to confirm the new government once a cabinet is selected, and since with the small Shiite parties it has 54 percent, either the US did not intervene in the ballot counting or it was completely incompetent in doing so. Personally, I don't think the US was in a position to intervene. Grand Ayatollah Sistani would not have put up with it, and the Americans knew it."  10:41:00 PM  permalink  

Daschle, Thune and the Blog-Storming of South Dakota: "The blogging efforts on behalf of Thune's Senate campaign didn't cause greater civic participation or bring in piles of small donations. Instead nine bloggers -- two of whom were paid $35,000 by Thune's campaign -- formed an alliance that constantly attacked the election coverage of South Dakota's principal newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. More specifically, their postings were not primarily aimed at dissuading the general public from trusting the Argus' coverage. Rather, the work of these bloggers was focused on getting into the heads of the three journalists at the Argus who were primarily responsible for covering the Daschle/Thune race: chief political reporter David Kranz, state editor Patrick Lalley, and executive editor Randell Beck.

Led by law student Jason van Beek and University of South Dakota history professor Jon Lauck, the Thune bloggers tormented and rattled the Argus staff for the duration of the 2004 election, clearly influencing the Argus' coverage. They also appear to have been a highly efficient vehicle for injecting classic no-fingerprints-attached opposition research on Daschle -- most of it tidbits that perhaps might never have made it into the old print media -- directly into the political bloodstream of South Dakota. What they did may turn out to be a "dark side of politics" model for campaign-blogger relations in 2005-06 -- made all the more telling by the fact that the Thune bloggers relied heavily on now-discredited Jeff Gannon/James Guckert of Talon News for many of their stories. "

  9:49:00 PM  permalink  

Scott Ritter's latest: "On Friday evening in Olympia, former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter appeared with journalist Dahr Jamail. -- Ritter made two shocking claims: George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and the U.S. manipulated the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq."  Will be interesting to see if these play out as accurately as his pre-war statements about WMD in Iraq.  6:01:09 PM  permalink  

Iraq's neighborhood councils are vanishing: "The fate of the councils provides grim evidence of how difficult it is for democracy to take root in Iraq.  Hundreds of neighborhood councils, now a dead letter as the elite politicians who won seats in Iraq's national election squabble over the spoils, were set up across Iraq in 2003 by the US military and the Research Triangle Institute, based near Raleigh, N.C., was given a contract with up to $460 million to build local governance. The idea was to prime the pump of citizen participation and create a new culture that would make democracy work for citizens in a tangible way. But nearly two years later, the money and effort has yielded few visible gains.

Iraq's diverse and decentralized insurgency has turned its focus from US forces toward the easy targets provided by Iraq's front-line politicians, police officers, and new soldiers. Hundreds of low-level councilors have been killed, scaring local councils out of existence in at least a dozen of Iraqi towns. An official at the Research Triangle Institute says that councils still exist and are active in safer regions of Iraq, while others in the areas where insurgents have been most active may exist in name only." 

  3:58:17 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, February 25, 2005

The Intimate Planet: Skype brings live conversations with strangers from around the world to John Perry Barlow.  He gets calls from a Vietnamese and a Chinese student practicing English, an Australian joking around; unmediated, no government minders, no commercial message (at least for now).  The free arrival of random voices, like meeting strangers on a train, carries a shock.  Like the first exposures to email and the web, the world comes even closer.  11:02:29 PM  permalink  

'My way' has a history: Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalls German reunification and other cases where US policy pursued "maximalist" goals.  David Brooks calls it a "soft-power gift [of] America [to] tendency to imagine new worlds," and sees recent democratic action in the mid-East as a current example. But Sestanovich puts in more power-politics terms.  Referring to Rice's memoirs of the Bush 41 years, Rice "considered single-mindedness as the key to diplomatic success: a government that "knows what it wants" can usually get it. ..

Washington favored unification and wanted to achieve it as quickly as possible. In particular, American officials hoped for the rapid dismantlement of the East German state - a prospect America's allies viewed with horror. .. In the end, Bush and his advisers made no real adjustments to conciliate worried allies. ..

The Bush administration believed what most recent administrations have believed: America's allies were shortsighted and confused, and not tough-minded enough to achieve lasting success on a large scale. This was President Ronald Reagan's view when he scrapped détente. It was President Bill Clinton's view when he abandoned the policy of "containing" genocide in the Balkans. And it was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's view when she explained what she meant in calling the United States an "indispensable" nation: "We see further than other countries into the future. "

Many Europeans might describe such ideas as arrogant or pernicious. But American maximalism needs to be understood for at least two reasons.

First, it is America's tradition. Even the first Bush administration, for all its reputed pragmatism, reached for big solutions that cut against the grain of events. When it acted more cautiously - like the "Chicken Kiev" speech warning Ukrainians not to seek independence and the muddled end of the Gulf war - the results were less favorable. Rice and her colleagues, who learned maximalism early, may need a new approach, but they won't find it in a mythical past of multilateral consensus-building.

More important, over the past-quarter century, maximalism has worked: One of its clearest results is the post-cold-war emergence of a stable and unified Europe. Iraq may illustrate the hazards of a maximalist approach. But anyone who wants to frame an alternative, not least the allied leaders whom Rice will meet this week, must begin by reckoning with this record of success."

  10:24:10 PM  permalink  

China's Quiet Rise Casts Wide Shadow: "China has emerged as an active and decisive leader in East Asia, transforming economic and diplomatic relationships across an area long dominated by the United States.  The shift in status, increasingly clear over the past year, has changed the way Chinese officials view their country's international role as well as the way other Asians look to Beijing for cues. In many ways, China has started to act like a traditional big power, tending to its regional interests and pulling smaller neighbors along in its wake. ..

China has taken the lead in organizing an East Asian summit conference for next November that, according to Chinese and other observers, will formalize Chinese regional leadership in several aspects.  A senior Chinese diplomat said it had not been decided whether the United States will be invited to attend and, if so, in what capacity. That the question of U.S. participation is even on the table dramatizes the shift in Asia's diplomatic landscape. ..

China's new face has been most apparent in its dealings with the ASEAN countries, mainly because of the economic equation. At China's initiative, for instance, ASEAN countries and China in December agreed to create a free-trade zone by 2010, which would further integrate neighboring countries into China's orbit.

Trade between China and the 10 ASEAN countries has increased about 20 percent a year since 1990, and the pace has picked up in the last several years. Bilateral trade hit $78.2 billion in 2003, up 42.8 percent from the previous year. Chinese and ASEAN officials said the figure was about $100 billion and rising by the end of 2004. ..

During the days of war and Japanese dominance, for instance, allied forces fought to prevent Tokyo from constructing a railroad from southern China through Vietnam, Laos and down to Singapore as a conduit for oil supplies. Now, Tao remarked, China has announced plans to build just such a railway. "

  10:08:30 PM  permalink  

Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media: "President Bush all but admits to illicit drug use for the first time.  Overseas it's the stuff of headlines. At home, the U.S. press has generally downplayed the story. The divergent coverage of Bush's apparent drug use is a textbook study in the difference between the international online media and their American counterparts. On the issue of youthful illicit drug use, most U.S. news editors -- liberal, conservative or other -- defer to Bush in a way that their foreign counterparts do not.

The New York Times broke the Bush marijuana story Friday in a front-page report on Doug Wead, a Christian activist who has published a book based in part on conversations with Bush that Wead secretly recorded in 1998 and 1999. On Wead's tapes, whose authenticity the White House does not dispute, Bush came close to admitting he had smoked marijuana and avoided answering a question about whether he had used cocaine.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush said.  On a question about cocaine, Bush said he would reply, "Rather than saying no ... I think it's time for someone to draw the line and look people in the eye and say, you know, 'I'm not going to participate in ugly rumors about me and blame my opponents,' and hold the line. Stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on,'" according to a transcript excerpt posted on ABC's "Good Morning America" Web site.

Since Bush has never acknowledged using drugs, the international media played up the marijuana angle. .. In contrast, most of the traditional leaders of American journalism -- the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the TV networks -- made no mention of drugs in their headlines .. the news was not "pot" but the "past," a word choice that signaled that the accompanying news story was not really new."

  10:01:51 PM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, February 22, 2005

How E2 works:  July 2002: "Automakers said the new limits on emissions that state lawmakers were considering would hurt the economy and prevent consumers from buying sport-utility vehicles. Environmentalists said they would help curb global warming. Into the fray stepped Environmental Entrepreneurs, insisting that business and environmental interests are not at odds. 

Last week's passage of the Assembly bill limiting greenhouse-gas emissions -- the first of its kind in the country -- was just what Nicole Lederer and Bob Epstein envisioned for Environmental Entrepreneurs, a 2-year-old group of business leaders who support environmental causes.

E2, as the group is known, presented undecided Assembly members with business leaders -- mostly Silicon Valley financiers and tech executives -- who supported the bill. That gave politicians a defense against the charge that they were anti-business.  ``They were essential to the passage of the bill,'' said Anne Baker, a staff member for Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, who created the bill. ``They wrote Op-Eds, they wrote to legislators, they came here and met with members of the state Assembly on a regular basis. They were relentless.'' ..

Rick deGolia, chief executive of Fonelet Technology, a San Francisco start-up, appreciates the approach E2 takes, particularly how it makes presentations, called "ecosalons,'' to members about environmental issues.  "They're professional, sophisticated, mature,'' said deGolia, who hosted one on the oceans last year at his home. "They're helpful to me to gain expert knowledge from people who are really dedicating their lives to environmental issues and presenting them in a way that's very valuable to business leaders.''

A call to action from E2 often means clicking ``Yes'' in response to an e-mail asking for permission to use the member's name and professional status in literature supporting a legislative goal. To rally behind Pavley's emissions bill in March, E2 gathered 86 names over e-mail and submitted them to legislators as evidence that the business community was in favor of tougher environmental policy.

E2 is a select group. It requires a minimum contribution of $1,000 to the NRDC to join; so far E2 has raised $1.8 million.   Epstein also has started a pet project called E2 Venture Endowment -- a fund to support start-ups working on technology that helps the environment or makes another technology cleaner."

  12:43:31 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, February 17, 2005

SITE Institute: Map of Future Al-Qaeda Operations: "A message posted to a leading al-Qaeda-frequented Jihadist message board on February 12, 2005, purports to answer the questions: “What is the future of al-Qaeda? And what will the upcoming operations be?” " Answers include:

  • new mass event in the US, years in the making
  • disruption of oil infrastructure in the Gulf
  • assassination of US-allied Arab leaders
  12:53:28 PM  permalink  

John Robb covers Iraq's "controlled chaos":   Many useful links on a story that deserves more coverage.  "Loyalist paramilitaries are growing rapidly in Iraq (called "pop-ups" by the US military).  This is in response to the collapse in the attempts to build an Iraqi security system.  ..  The allure is that these groups are morally more cohesive than traditional government units. ..  As I anticipated, this development is being welcomed by the US military as a way to exit from Iraq ("controlled chaos"). ..

[Quoting WSJ:] As these irregular units proliferate, U.S. officials face a thorny dilemma: whether to encourage these forces, whose training and experience varies wildly, or to try to rein them in. "There is a tension between on the one hand encouraging and fostering initiative and on the other executing the plan for the Iraqi Security Forces that everyone agreed on," says Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. "To be candid, I would err on the side of fostering initiative. I want to get the hell out of here." .. "When I saw them and where they were living I decided this was a horse to back," the U.S. general says today. He agreed to give the fledgling unit money to fix up its base and buy vehicles, ammunition, radios and more weapons. "

  12:48:15 PM  permalink  

MSNBC - U.S. contractors in Iraq allege abuses: "Employees of a U.S. private contractor hired by the U.S. military to protect supplies say the brutality they witnessed against Iraqis led them to quit."  12:33:01 PM  permalink  

Sy Hersh lecture on Iraq, the neo-cons, and torture.  20 minute video.  9:48:34 AM  permalink  

Thomas L. Friedman: No Mullah Left Behind:  Excellent NYT column, reprinted widely in the US and overseas (India, Pakistan, Europe).  "The [WSJ] added, the conservative mullahs are feeling even more emboldened to argue that with high oil prices, Iran doesn't need Western investment capital and should feel "free to pursue its nuclear power program without interference." This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: "No Mullah Left Behind."

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that? ..

[We need] a "geo-green" strategy. As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pursue today. Imagine if President Bush used his bully pulpit and political capital to focus the nation on sharply lowering energy consumption and embracing a gasoline tax.

What would that buy? It would buy reform in some of the worst regimes in the world, from Tehran to Moscow. It would reduce the chances that the U.S. and China are going to have a global struggle over oil - which is where we are heading. It would help us to strengthen the dollar and reduce the current account deficit by importing less crude. It would reduce climate change more than anything in Kyoto. It would significantly improve America's standing in the world by making us good global citizens. It would shrink the budget deficit. It would reduce our dependence on the Saudis so we could tell them the truth. (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) And it would pull China away from its drift into supporting some of the worst governments in the world, like Sudan's, because it needs their oil. Most important, making energy independence our generation's moon shot could help inspire more young people to go into science and engineering, which we desperately need.

Sadly, the Bush team won't even consider this. .. President Bush has a better project: borrowing another trillion dollars, which will make us that much more dependent on countries like China and Saudi Arabia that hold our debt - so that you might, if you do everything right and live long enough, get a few more bucks out of your Social Security account. 

The president's priorities are totally nuts."

  1:56:50 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, February 10, 2005

Winners and sinners on global warming:  Good story on how the Kyoto Protocol was improved under US pressure, and how it has finally come into force.  11:06:53 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, February 07, 2005

Ethiopians unite for Marley anniversary: "About 200,000 people gathered in Ethiopia's capital Sunday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of reggae icon Bob Marley. The concert, dubbed Africa Unite and billed as the country's largest ever, marks the first time the late reggae star's birthday celebrations have ever been held outside his native Jamaica. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981. .. Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson also declared an official year-long celebration to honour Marley's birth."  In the 80s, I spent 5 years on the road in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  I don't think I spent a week without hearing Marley's music in the street or on the radio.   Long live liberation music.

  11:50:26 PM  permalink  

EPIC 2014: Very amusing flash projection of media in 2014.  Worth all 8 minutes.  12:04:47 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, February 05, 2005

Phone Scoop - database of cell phone specs & features: Nifty search & compare by carrier and many attributes of phones.  11:08:28 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Investing for Change:  Good review of socially responsible investing (SRI), from a Microsoft millionaire.  Interesting recent history: In general, "SRI funds are at least as profitable as, or more profitable than, the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which is the traditional benchmark of performance for mutual funds and individual stocks. In his interview with Grist, eco-portfolio director Patsky said, "That proved true under Reagan, and Bush I, and Clinton: Stocks of companies that were good environmental citizens outperformed those that weren't." Amy Domini, founder of Domini Social Investments, says the Domini 400 Index has outperformed the S&P over the past year, the past three years, and the past 10 years. " 

But not true under Bush II.  I suspect that oil and miltary stocks had something to do with that.  And: Matt Patsky, portfolio director of Winslow Management Co., a "green" investing firm, recently told the environmental magazine Grist that " . . . for the first time ever, over the last two years . . . the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 were the companies that have been the most flagrant environmental polluters. .. Investors are starting to believe there is no liability: that the EPA is ineffective, that there is no enforcement, and that polluters will never have to pay the piper."

One graphic example:  "Last November, the Los Angeles Times reported an epidemic of 50,000 young children sickened by ingesting rat poison after the Bush administration removed two safety requirements for manufacturers: an ingredient that makes the poison taste bitter and a dye to make it more obvious when it's ingested. The Washington Post reported that the Natural Resources Defense Council has documents "showing that Bush's EPA not only worked hand in hand with the industry, but also complied when manufacturers wanted the risks associated with rat poison downplayed in EPA assessments." "

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 3:20:34 PM.
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