Friday, January 21, 2005
When information technology weakens terrorism
One meme that has been a constant since the September 11th attacks has been that terrorist networks have been so adroit in using information technologies to plan, coordinate, and execute acts of violence.
However, an even older meme is that civil society can exploit these technologies to improve their lot in life as well. Two stories out of Iraq today highlight this fact.
Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press that Iraqis are using text messaging as a way of outing terrorists:
In the Chicago Tribune, Aamer Madhani reports on one radio station in the Sunni triangle that's strongly encouraged Iraqis to vote in the upcoming elections:
These uses of technology toward improving life In iraq mesh with recent polling evidence suggesting that there is greater support among ordinary Iraqis for the elections than previously expected. As Karl Vick points out in this Washington Post report:
The one thing that bugs me is that all of these behind-the-scenes efforts mean nothing unless people are physically willing to show up on Election Day. And unlike the transfer of sovereignty, the election date can't simply be moved up at the last minute. An no amount of information technology can alter that fact.
UPDATE: Reuters reports on one way to blunt the terrorist threat on Election Day: "the location of voting centers will be revealed only at the last minute in some areas." Another Reuters report quotes UN election official Carlos Venezuela stating that, "(Conditions) are not the best and certainly far from ideal, but if the security measures work there is a very good chance that the elections that take place will take place successfully ...and will be accepted as legitimate."
Your personal ad of the week...
The following ad appeared this week in the Eye, an alternative weekly based in Toronto:
Wait, do you hear that sound? That must be the wails of anguish from women all across North America, upset that they do not live in Toronto and will therefore be unable to learn "the art of bedroom control." Especially when there are young women in Toronto who are myseriously declining this generous offer.
The opportunity costs of tsunami aid
Earlier this month Virginia Postrel accurately predicted that there would be a follow-up story on how "generosity toward tsunami victims is pulling money away from other, often local, charities."
As these stories go, you could do far, far worse than Daniel Gross' Slate essay on the topic. The key paragraph:
Read the whole thing.
The Greatest Americans?
The Discovery Channel and AOL launched a contest today asking "Who is the Greatest American?" According to the Associated Press story, the specific criteria is naming the Americans who they believe "most influenced the way they think, work and live."
I've already entered my five names, in ascending order of importance:
Honorable mentions for Jackie Robinson, Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, and Henry Ford.
Readers are encouraged to post their own top 5.
UPDATE: Some excellent suggestions have been put forward in the comments -- particularly George Marshall.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Open second inaugural thread
Feel free to comment on President Bush's Second Inaugural Address here. here's how it closes:
How to turn Americans into libertarians
As I was boarding my ATA flight back to Chicago yesterday, I was startled to see the boarding area so crowded. I then found out that the flight before mine to Chicago -- which was supposed to leave six hours before mine -- had been cancelled. I assumed this was because of the inclement weather (it was snowing), but it turned out I was only partially correct.
The flight had indeed been delayed by a few hours because of the weather. By the time it was ready to take off, however, a new problem presented itself. One of the flight attendants had been on duty by that point for more than 16 hours. Because FAA regulations stipulate that no flight attendant can work more than 16 hours straight, she was not allowed to work on that flight. This left only three flight attendants for that flight segment. That, however, bumped into another FAA regulation -- there must be one flight attendant for every 50 seats on the plane. Because this was ATA, they didn't have some vast reservoir of flight attendants twiddling their thumbs at the airport. So, the flight was cancelled.
Needless to say, the following occurred:
Where oh where is the Queen of Sky when you need her?
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
While I was away...
I had a business trip today (more about why in a week or so), which explains the paucity of blogging on my part.
However, I'm glad to see that there was a thread about me, over at Asymmetrical Information. I was particularly bemused by this equation summarizing my contribution to the blogosphere:
Commenters are warily encouraged to come up with what they believe are more precise equations.
And -- for the record -- I don't think I've ever seen a hysterical post from Andrew Sullivan.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
It's never good to be compared with the Carter years
Greg Ip has a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal on whether the weakening dollar will help or hurt the economy.
I don't want to reprint the entire article, but one troubling comparison in the piece is a section that compares the current moment with "the last dollar crisis, in the late 1970s." On the whole, it's a mixed bag, but what should worry Republicans is that the comparison is being made at all. A good political rule of thumb for any administration is to do one's upmost to prevent the press from being able to make a valid economic comparisons to the Carter era.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Behind the scenes in Ukraine
Back on November 25th, at the beginning of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, I blogged the following:
In the New York Times, C.J. Chivers has a riveting behind-the-scenes look at Ukraine's security services during the election campaign, suggesting that in the case of Ukraine, it was a combination of options (2) and (3). Here's one key moment:
Read the whole thing.
Open Sy Hersh thread
Feel free to comment on the veracity and implications of Sy Hersh's latest New Yorker essay here. This is how it opens:
This paragraph is the one that -- if true -- disturbs me the most:
If this is true, it suggests the administration really believes that the threat posed by nuclear-armed states is greater than the threat posed by a black market proliferation network that could sell to states and non-state actors alike.
That said, here's the paragraph that makes me wonder just how much Hersh's sources are speaking without knowing:
One obvious dynamic at work is that some of Hersh's intelligence sources have to be victims of the Porter Goss regime at Langley. On the one hand, that probably gives these officials a strong incentive to spll their guts. On the other hand, it also gives them an incentive to stick it to the Bush administration by any means necessary.
For the record, here is the Defense Department's press release in response to the Hersh essay -- in which precise facts contained in Hersh's piece are challenged; for interpretation of the DoD's statement, check out CNN's take.
Rice reshapes the foreign policy apparatus
Last year I wrote in TNR Online:
Continuing that vein of thinking, Guy Dinmore has a great story in the Financial Times on how Condi Rice is staffing both the State Department and the NSC:
What O'Sullivan and Krasner have in common with each other -- as well as with Robert Zoellick, the new no. 2 at State -- is that they are really smart, and they are realists.
Full disclosure: I've known O'Sullivan for some time and am a big fan of her book, Shrewd Sanctions. And Krasner was my dissertation advisor, so you cam pretty much throw any claim to objectivity out the window on him.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
How much has China changed in fifteen years?
Zhao Zhiyang, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party until the Tiananmen Square crackdown, has died. Jasmine Yap has an obituary in Bloomberg; here's a link to the New York Times obit by Jim Yardley.
Combined, the obituaries make a telling point about China in the eighties -- and set up a test to see how much China has changed.
Yap's obit points out the initial trigger for the Tiananmen protests:
If Hu's death triggered Tiananmen, one wonders whether Zhao's death will trigger any similar kind of political mobilization against the government.
To be honest, I'll be surprised if it does. This is for one of three reasons:
UPDATE: Looks like the Chinese government is attempting to try hypothesis no. 2 out, according to the New York Times' Joseph Kahn:
Hey, in Philadelphia, I'm a law professor!!
Frank Wilson has a review of Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. This paragraph jumped out at me:
Y'know, if I was earning the same salary as a law professor, I wouldn't complain.
UPDATE: Thanks to Warren Dodson for pointing out that Wilson was merely repeating what Hewitt wrote in Blog on p. 11: "Daniel Drezner, a University of Chicago law professor and uber-blogger, called for Lott's resignation on Saturday . . . ."
I'll take the mis-designation in return for being called an uber-blogger. Hmmm.... note to self: contact Marvel Comics about new superhero idea.....