Category Archives: Politics

land of the free, home of the brave

— July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how “liberals” are “destroying America,” walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.
— October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.
— December 2008: A pair of “Patriot” movement radicals — the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted “to attack the political infrastructure” — threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.
— December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear “dirty bomb” in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.
— January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.
— February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.
— April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.
— April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama’s purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.
— May 2009: A “sovereign citizen” named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.
— June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.
— February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one “domestic terrorism” too.)
— March 2010: Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.
— March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.
— May 2010: A “sovereign citizen” from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.
— May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.
— May 2010: Two “sovereign citizens” named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.
— July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.
— September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year—old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the “Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.

Google ka Pakistan

Earlier this month, a team from Google and YouTube went to Pakistan to explore business and content opportunities, following up on Google’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment to Pakistan and to sponsor and participate in Pakistan’s first International Youth Conference and Festival. It’s hard to imagine a country more at the nexus of geo-politics today than Pakistan, and our team learned a lot about the state of the Pakistani technology, media and non-profit sectors.

Internet connectivity in Pakistan is quite low—estimates put penetration at around 10%—but opportunities for growth are evident. For one thing, broadband costs are quite cheap compared to other parts of the world—around $13/month. Smartphone usage is also on the rise, and there are a growing number of Pakistani developers who are creating mobile applications for sale both in Pakistan and abroad. Around 60% of Pakistanis have a mobile phone, and their average bill is around $3/month. Not surprisingly, SMS is one of the primary means of communication in Pakistan.

One of the keys to bringing more Pakistanis online is the amount of local Pakistani content available on the Internet. There are some great examples so far: for instance, Coke Studio, a “fusion” music project sponsored by Coke that features popular Pakistani musicians, grew so popular on YouTube last summer that it was the 11th-most viewed channel on the site. Dozens of news organizations have begun to use YouTube as a global distribution platform as well, reaching not only Pakistanis online but the diaspora abroad. The Pakistani media is young and voracious—it was just eight years ago that the government opened up the airwaves to allow non-state media channels to exist, and in that short time the media has grown to become an important player in the public discourse in Pakistan, despite occasional crackdowns from authorities. Citizen media has also played an increasingly big role in Pakistan: for example many Pakistanis used cellphone cameras to document the devastation wrought by the floods in Pakistan last summer.

Keep reading on the Google Blog.  (Bonus Video Interviews with Salman Taseer and Aitzaz Ahsan)

to be, or not to be…

fascinating stuff…

A digest of last week’s prophetic and interpretive thought

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.” —Barack Obama

“We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?” —Sarah Palin

“Where the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ is concerned, opposition is roughly proportional to distance, even in New York.” —Hendrik Hertzberg

“I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state—as important a test as we may see in our lifetimes—and it is critically important that we get it right.” —Michael Bloomberg

“Obviously my opinion is that I’m opposed to it.” —John McCain

“If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project. If you’re a warrior, you do.” —Rudy Giuliani

“It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards.” —Al Franken

“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.” —Newt Gingrich

“There is no valid comparison there.” —Pat Buchanan

“This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism.” —Daisy Khan

“We strengthen America by distinguishing, clearly and unequivocally, between our al-Qaida enemy and our Muslim neighbors.” —Jeff Merkley

“How is this opposition to the mosque being funded? How is this being ginned up?” —Nancy Pelosi

“It is a real affront to people who lost their lives…. Another site would be a better idea.” —Howard Dean

“The longer we have this feud, the more the terrorists are laughing.” —David Paterson

lies, damned lies and statistics

The revision thing: A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies

All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity.

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before. For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them. It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely.

Keep reading, it’s pretty awesome.

ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars

Instead of sending people to the Moon, the US space program is sending robots to the Asteroid Belt. When these robots discover metals in the Belt, how will it affect the economy of Earth?

Discovery’s Robert Lamb reports on a lecture given by Vatican astronomer Guy J. Consolmagno, which was in part about the ethics of asteroid mining. Lamb writes:

Can you put a price tag on an asteroid? Sure you can. We know of roughly 750 S-class asteroids with a diameter of at least 1 kilometer. Many of these pass as near to the Earth as our own moon ? close enough to reach via spacecraft. As a typical asteroid is 10 percent metal, Brother Consolmango estimates that such an asteroid would contain 1 billion metric tons of iron. That’s as much as we mine out of the globe every year, a supply worth trillions and trillions of dollars. Subtract the tens of billions it would cost to exploit such a rock, and you still have a serious profit on your hands.

But is this ethical? Brother Consolmango asked us to ponder whether such an asteroid harvest would drastically disrupt the economies of resource-exporting nations. What would happen to most of Africa? What would it do to the cost of iron ore? And what about refining and manufacturing? If we spend the money to harvest iron in space, why not outsource the other related processes as well? Imagine a future in which solar-powered robots toil in lunar or orbital factories.

“On the one hand, it’s great,” Brother Consolmango said. “You’ve now taken all of this dirty industry off the surface of the Earth. On the other hand, you’ve put a whole lot of people out of work. If you’ve got a robot doing the mining, why not another robot doing the manufacturing? And now you’ve just put all of China out of work. What are the ethical implications of this kind of major shift?”

The question is interesting. A number of authors, including Ken MacLeod and Paul McAuley, have suggested that Earth’s future economy may become rigidly environmentalist to preserve the planet’s habitability. Development planetside will grind to a halt, but old-fashioned dirty industry will thrive in space. So you could wind up with two human economies: A controlled, stable-state one on Earth, and a crazily free market one offworld.

something fishy goin on

Israel has asked an Indian geneticist to study the link between the Indian Pathans tribe and certain tribes of Israel, the Times of India reported this week.

Geneticist Shahnaz Ali has been asked to study the link between the Afridi Pathans, based in the Lucknow region of India, and certain tribes of Israel who migrated across Asia thousands of years ago.

Ali is based in Haifa where she is working in collaboration with Israel’s prestigious university the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

liar, liar pants on fire

The former New York City mayor who has sometimes been mocked for using “a noun, a verb and 9/11″ in stump speeches appears to have forgotten — or has mentally reclassified — the worst terrorist attack on American soil. “We had no domestic attacks under Bush,” Rudy Giuliani told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Friday.

Even if Giuliani doesn’t consider the attacks on 9/11 a “domestic” attack then surely he forgot about the anthrax attacks of 2001.

While ABC’s George Stephanopolous let Giuliani get away with his misstatement both during the interview and on his blog, ABC’s Jake Tapper called the former mayor out. “Giuliani’s comments that there were zero terrorist attacks under Bush, 1 under Obama, is false no matter how you slice it,” tweeted Tapper.

The former mayor criticized Obama for opting to handle the alleged bomber’s case in civilian court, essentially saying that the problem with civilian courts is that suspects are given lawyers.
“If you put someone in a civilian court, within a short period of time a lawyer is appointed and the person shuts up,” he remarked. “If you have a person in the military system, you can question him endlessly for as long as you have to to make sure you’ve got the full scope of information.”

Giuliani then praised Obama for using the phrase “war on terror.”

“I’m very hopeful that President Obama turned a corner yesterday,” he said. “He first used the words, thank goodness, ‘War on Terror.'”

we are soldiers

dawn news has made a superb documentary on the pakistan military. unfortunately, as all things pakistani, the bureaucrats within have decided that it is not meant for public consumption has gone ahead and banned it. my buddy wajahat has hosted and narrated the entire documentary. as in all things video, you can find it in all its glory over at youtube. the first page brings you to the promo’s and trailers. clicking on playlist will allow you to watch the film in it’s entirety. hope you enjoy. oh yeah, apparently there’s a petition going around on facebook to lift the ban. i ain’t on facebook, so whomever knows the link, help a brother out and send it to me so i can link to it here.

the physics of war?

Sean Gourley is a physicist who wanted to know more about the Iraq war. He wanted to understand the war via the data — data about attacks, deaths, types of weapons used, locations, and so on. So he and his team started using publicly available data to chart the war and its effects. His conclusions about the nature of war are powerful: there is order in war; there is mathematical predictability in the way fighting forces work. The patterns that underly the Iraq conflict look the same across many conflicts. But what’s most interesting: you can use math to gauge the effectiveness of strategies (like the famous Surge) and chart the nature of a war over time.

Discussed: charting number of attacks versus size of attack (number killed), the pattern of war across the world, an equation to predict the likelihood of an attack in a given country, “so what,” the organizational structure of groups carrying out attacks (as a mathematically consistent value), why insurgencies work, and most interestingly: did the Surge work?

If you’re interesting in statistics or war, have a look: