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daily link  Friday, April 29, 2005

FT/James Boyle: Deconstructing stupidity: Well written commentary on the "evidence-free zone" in which IP policy is made, both in the US and Europe.  "If we donít look at the evidence and we ignore the role of the public domain in fostering innovation, how can we possibly hope to make good policy?" Links to other useful articles.  8:23:18 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The GoogleSmear:  Juan Cole on how others use Google News and the blogosphere to spread falsehoods and smear (or at least distract) opponents.  12:19:21 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Humanitarian worker in Iraq says things have gotten worse: "This week, Rick McDowell of the American Friends Service Committee visited the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram to talk about his time in Iraq. McDowell and his wife, Mary Trotochaud, were part of an assessment team for a consortium of faith-based humanitarian agencies. .. McDowell's job had been to assess the conditions in Iraq and see how humanitarian resources were being used, as well as to work with new Iraqi non-governmental organizations and help with larger projects such as water sanitation.

What he saw wasn't good. "In the past two years, rather than seeing an improvement in services, (Iraqis are) seeing a continual decline in those services," McDowell said.  That's gone hand in hand with a decline in security. ..

On one hand, people were thrilled that Saddam's regime was overthrown. On the other hand, McDowell said, "I don't know anybody that would tell you conditions are better. They are worse. Obviously, there were problems under the regime. But they could walk the streets. Their kids could go to school. They felt safe - as long as they didn't engage in politics." ..

[Iraqi security forces must be built up.] The other thing that should happen, he said, is the United States should clearly announce its intention to leave.  McDowell was in Maine to request that Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe include an amendment to the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill that states the United States' intent to pull both its troops and its bases out of Iraq. "The reality is there will always be insurgents in Iraq as long as we have bases there," McDowell said.  He's not asking to include a timeline in the statement - just to state intent. The president has already said America plans to withdraw troops, but McDowell said it's worth making the proclamation as well.

"That creates space, not only in Iraq, but in the region, and I think in the world," McDowell said. "It's saying that we do not have imperial designs.""

  10:49:48 PM  permalink  

Neoconning the Media: A Very Short History of Neoconservatism: Good summary by Eric Alterman.  After reviewing the think tanks and media outlets, he concludes: "Despite the fact that the collapse of the Soviet Union had demonstrated just how fundamentally wrong had been their analysis of the relative power of both superpowers for most of their existence -- they, nevertheless, were the ones with actionable ideas lying around when it came time to find an appropriately macho-tinged response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. ..

They lost Communism but found terrorism and embraced the unashamed promotion of global empire. .. Their war on Iraq has proven a catastrophe by almost any available measure but they are already planning another adventure in Iran.  Every few years, we read of some set of events that imply the "end of Neoconservatism." Don't believe the hype. It would be hard to imagine a more profound rebuke to their world view than the various events that have followed in the wake of the Iraqi invasion.

The United States is now less safe, poorer, more hated and more constrained in its ability to fight terrorism than it was before the tragic loss of blood and treasure the war has demanded. And yet the Neocons have admitted almost no mistakes and continue to be rewarded with plum posts in the Bush administration. What doesn't kill them just makes them stronger. In their example lies many lessons for liberals, alas."

  10:00:25 PM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, April 17, 2005

EU vs. USA: Thorough report from Sweden comparing the economies, with interesting results. "IF THE EU WERE A PART of the United States of America, would it belong to the richest or the poorest group of states? .. France, Italy and Germany have less per capita GDP than all but five of the states of the USA .. [Sweden], if it were a part of the USA, would rank as one of the very poorest states in that Union.. the American economy has been growing faster than the economies of many European countries in recent decades, not least those of countries like France, Germany and Sweden... This puts Europeans at a level of prosperity on par with states such as Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia. Only the miniscule country of Luxembourg has higher per capita GDP than the average state in the USA [and that is attributed to an influx of foreign capital]..

Per capita private consumption is far higher in the USA than in most European countries. In the USA the average person spends about $9,700 more on consumption annually, a difference of 77 per cent. The average American,
in other words, spends nearly twice as much (77 per cent more) on consumption as the average EU citizen. This is due to a higher level of GDP but also to taxation policy. Allowance for tax differences would reduce these big differences somewhat, but American consumption would still far outweigh its European counterpart."

Additional info found in an NYT article that constrasts these numbers with the common (faulty) perception of Scandinavian wealth.  The biggest factor was the growth rates in the 1990s, with the US adding 2% more GDP every year than the EU.

  11:22:45 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nuclear Plants Are Still Vulnerable, Panel Says: "Three and a half years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the government has failed to address the risk that a passenger plane flying at high speed could be deliberately crashed into a commercial nuclear plant, setting off fires and dispersing large amounts of radiation, a long-awaited report by the National Academy of Sciences has concluded. .. the risk of major attacks could be sufficiently addressed by changing how spent fuel is stored in pools and by installing water sprays to control fires, said the academy's Kevin Crowley, the study coordinator. ..

"We do believe that the possibility of a successful attack using commercial aircraft is very small," [NRC spokesman Scott Burnell] said. It is impractical to ask commercial plants to defend against such attacks, Burnell concluded."   How much does one 911 cost? As with chemical plants, this administration considers it "impractical" to impose any costs on the private sector, so nothing will be done. 

  11:57:50 PM  permalink  

It's a Flat World, After All: Tom Friedman, in a longer treatment of his awakening to globalization.  Nice to see him realize the world does not revolve around the middle east.  Key point: "we are now in the process of connecting all the knowledge pools in the world together. We've tasted some of the downsides of that in the way that Osama bin Laden has connected terrorist knowledge pools together through his Qaeda network, not to mention the work of teenage hackers spinning off more and more lethal computer viruses that affect us all. But the upside is that by connecting all these knowledge pools we are on the cusp of an incredible new era of innovation, an era that will be driven from left field and right field, from West and East and from North and South. Only 30 years ago, if you had a choice of being born a B student in Boston or a genius in Bangalore or Beijing, you probably would have chosen Boston, because a genius in Beijing or Bangalore could not really take advantage of his or her talent. They could not plug and play globally. Not anymore.  [Now] you can innovate without having to emigrate. This is going to get interesting. We are about to see creative destruction on steroids. "  6:14:08 PM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On Intelligence Excerpt - Prologue: From Jeff Hawkin's recent book.  Nice intro.  9:54:52 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, April 04, 2005

Patriot Act Changes to Be Proposed:  "In addition to the provision on business records, critics are likely to focus on measures that loosened standards for secret intelligence warrants and on a permanent provision that allows delayed notification of searches -- known by critics as "sneak-and-peek warrants."  In the latter case, the Justice Department released statistics yesterday showing that investigators have used such warrants 155 times since October 2001. ..

Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances [is] an ad hoc alliance that includes groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union. The group was formed last month in an effort to seek changes in the Patriot Act."

  10:39:23 PM  permalink  

Sneaking and peeking: FBI admits secret searches of Mayfield's home: "In a recent letter to Mayfield's attorneys, the Justice Department admitted that FBI agents conducted secret searches of Mayfield's house under a particularly Orwellian provision of the Patriot Act. .. Brandon Mayfield is the Portland attorney whose life became a screeching nightmare last year after he was jailed in connection with train bombings in Spain. He was released two weeks later after the FBI admitted that it had wrongly accused Mayfield of complicity. ..

During those searches, agents took 10 DNA samples preserved on cotton swabs and removed six cigarette butts for DNA analysis. They took 335 digital photographs of Mayfield's personal effects, his house and property. They inventoried his safe-deposit box. They seized a book that chronicled the history of al-Qaeda, two guns and material that agents say related "to U.S. weapons systems" but that Mayfield's attorneys say was a U.S. Army manual from Mayfield's time in the military. They seized three computer hard drives. They wiretapped his home.

If the Justice Department could so brazenly violate Mayfield's Fourth Amendment right to protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures," it can do the same to other citizens under the Patriot Act. In fact, it probably already has. ..

Mayfield's name was among 20 produced by a computerized fingerprint match, and he says he was singled out because he is a Muslim. .. The FBI did all this under the Patriot Act's "sneak and peek" provision. It allows federal investigators to search suspects' homes and businesses without informing them that the searches have taken place. It's one of several deeply flawed provisions of the Patriot Act that expire at the end of this year and that Congress should eliminate. "

  10:33:09 PM  permalink  

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