Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Most recently in the Global Politics Category

I met Peter in Marrakech at a private meeting that he and others had organized during COP22. Peter is Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Co-founder of Conservation International, one of the most effective conservation efforts I know of. I caught up with him on Thanksgiving after we were both back in the US.

We talked about biodiversity, COP22, sustainability, conservation, indigenous people, climate change, complex systems and the theory of change.

The audio is available on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Tenzin and sat down with Jamila and Alia from the Albert Einstein Institute to have a conversation about nonviolent action.

You can find the audio on SoundCloud as well as on iTunes.

I learned about Julia Reda reading Kaz Taira's blog post about her visit to Japan for a Movements for Internet Active Users (MIAU) meeting.

Julia Reda is a Member of the European Parliament representing Germany, and she also serves as a Vice-President of the Greens/EFA group, president of the Young Pirates of Europe and a member of the Pirate Party of Germany.

She is was the rapporteur of the Parliament's review of 2001's Copyright Directive.

We set a Skype call and some of the EU's secret conversations about copyright leaked just as the call was starting so we used this as an opportunity to talk about some of the crazy copyright laws being proposed and passed in Europe right now.

I streamed the video on Facebook Live and posted a cleaner version on YouTube.

Bassel Khartabil, a leading figure in the Syrian Open Source software community, has been imprisoned by the Syrian government since March 2012, accused of "harming state security". The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared his imprisonment arbitrary and called for his immediate release.


Khartabil's wife, human rights attorney Noura Ghazi, has recently been contacted by insiders in the Assad government and told that Bassel has been secretly sentenced to death. (English translation/comments on Noura's Facebook post, which is in Arabic.) It is impossible to confirm these rumors, but this is deeply disturbing news for friends of Bassel and defenders of freedom of expression anywhere.

The Internet Governance Forum in João Pessoa, Brazil, has released a statement demanding that the Syrian government alert Bassel's family to his whereabouts and exercise clemency in his case. We at the MIT Media Lab join this call, and urge the internet community to exercise whatever pressure we can on the Syrian government to make Bassel's whereabouts known and release him from detention.

On October 22, the MIT Media Lab invited Bassel Khartabil to join the Lab as a research scientist in the Center for Civic Media, to continue his work building 3D models of the ancient city of Palmyra, whose ruins have been destroyed by ISIS. We continue to hope that Bassel will be able to take his position at the Media Lab, and we desperately hope the rumors of his death sentence are untrue.

We ask for your help in calling attention to Bassel's arbitrary detention and seeking his whereabouts and immediate release.

- Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
- Ethan Zuckerman, Director, MIT Center for Civic Media


Post on Ethan's Blog

I am proud to announce that we have offered Bassel Khartabil a position as a research scientist in the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, where he will work directly with its director, principal research scientist Ethan Zuckerman. As a research scientist at the Media Lab, Bassel will be able to continue his longstanding work protecting spaces for online speech-work that fits naturally with the core research mission of the Center. In particular, Bassel is currently working on reconstructing in 3D the ancient ruins of Palmyra, one of the sites raided and destroyed by ISIS.

Bassel Safadi

Bassel Khartabil is a dear friend and former colleague at Creative Commons, and a vocal and brilliant advocate and worker for free culture on the Internet. Bassel invited me to Damascus in 2009 and introduced me to students, artists, and Syrian culture, and it remains the most inspiring trip I've ever made in the region. While I was there, he took me to visit ancient Roman sites as well as arranging a wonderful dinner with local tech entrepreneurs. The relationship between history, arts, and technology was stunning-something that no other city does as elegantly as Damascus. (Here are some of my photos from the trip.)

On March 15, 2012, Bassel was arrested by the Syrian military police, and eventually tried without a lawyer present at a military field court. Advocates across the globe have challenged his arrest and detention, arguing that his work presented no threat to anyone inside or outside of Syria, and instead represented the best aspirations of the open software movement.

I am writing this post now because, along with his family, friends, and colleagues around the world, I am very concerned about Bassel's safety. Until recently, he has been held at Adra Prison, but his current whereabouts are unknown-as of yet the Syrian government has not shared any information about where he is or why he was moved.

Bassel has devoted his career to the rich culture of Syria and to protecting that culture. His contributions to the open Internet and open culture internationally, and his research and creativity, have benefitted all of us. Without people like Bassel, the Internet wouldn't be the vibrant and open resource that many of us take for granted.

Stéphanie Vidal has written a detailed and thoughtful piece about Bassel's situation for, and Creative Commons has published a translation by Philippe Aigrain, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, and Jean-Christophe Peyssard on their blog. I encourage you to read these to understand the intricacies of Bassel's situation. One part of Stéphanie's essay in particular really stood out for me:

When there is no longer respect for human rights, public calls can only state what one hopes for. This brings us to the second point: the more the affirmation of our hope is shared and present on the Web and social media, the more it may turn to a reality. Bassel's engagement in favor of a free Internet may have brought him to jail, but the attention that we, citizens on the Internet, give to this case may, to some degree, help bring him out of the darkness.

In the name of the international academic community, I would like to ask President Assad to please give Bassel Khartabil a presidential pardon. He is an important world citizen and a true Syrian trying to protect the heritage of the country, and a pardon would be a tremendous show of good will and a contribution to the preservation of Syrian culture.

Please share this post widely and keep Bassel in your thoughts.


Ulrike Reinhard posted a nice "best of" video of our DIY Video panel. The panel was a lot of fun. The moderator was Howard Rheingold and the panelists were John Seely Brown, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins and me.

I'm on an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) panel on openness and free flow of information. We've been talking a lot about China and a gentleman from the Chinese delegation to the UN in Geneva was in the audience. He stood up and confirmed that "China does not restrict access to any content." I did not know that. ;-P

UPDATE: Would like add that my position was that we are bashing China too much on this panel and I pointed out that there are good things going on there. I just thought it was silly to completely deny content restrictions in public. I think the Chinese delegate caused China to lose all of the sympathy that had been building up in the room because of the focus on China.

UPDATE 2: It's rather frustrating being on a 3 hour 11 person panel... I'm glad I have my blog. *wave*

UPDATE 3: In the end, I barged in and said what I wanted to say so I'm OK now. Phew.

UPDATE 4: Rik has a better account of this incident. Also, excuse the grammar of the title. My excuse is that I posted during the panel and I was a bit preoccupied. Changing it now would break the permalink...

I went to a screening of an inconvenient truth (IMDb). an inconvenient truth is a film directed by Davis Guggenheim about global warming and Al Gore's life long effort to learn about and educate the world about the reality and risk of global warming.

My position on global warming had always been that it was probably a bad thing. Pollution was clearly increasing and it increased the risk of some non-linear event occurring. Having said that, I wasn't THAT concerned and thought that there was still some dispute in the scientific community.

Watching this film has caused me to change my opinion. I now believe that global warming our most urgent and important crisis and something that we all need to rally behind. The movie presents a scientific, moral and political argument that is convincing and also fun to watch. I also felt I got to know Al Gore through the movie in a completely new way.

I've always been a big fan of both Davis and Al Gore, but this movie has really solidified my respect for both of them. I urge everyone to go see this movie. It opens in select theaters on May 24, but the big opening is the first weekend in June. Your turnout to the movie will determine how broadly the movie ends up playing. Considering the importance of this film, it would be great if the maximum number of people possible saw it.


Turns out that disasters nowadays do not seem to turn away tourists for long.

From a story I wrote on trends in Disaster Tourism that is in today's paper:

The number of leisure travelers visiting tourist destinations hit by trouble has in some cases bounced back to a level higher than before disaster struck.
"This new fast recovery of tourism we are observing is kind of strange," said John Koldowski, director for the Strategic Intelligence Center of the Bangkok-based Pacific Asia Travel Association. "It makes you think about the adage that any publicity is good publicity."

Is the acceptance of disaster a good thing - because it shows people are no longer so frightened to travel - or is it a bad thing - because it shows a tolderance for bad things happening in the world?


Here's a home video clip a friend sent that claims to show Paris police shooting in the suburbs. Fairly strong stuff.

Disclaimer: I do not know anything further about the site or the clip.

Posted by

Defining the poor is common (The World Bank's one dollar per day level, for example)

But who are the rich?

If you can read this posting, you are likely rich.

Anyone with a university education and an income at or above the lower-middle class level for an OECD country is rich, I would argue. Being rich is more about having time and freedom to make choices about your life than bagfulls of money.

Joi's latest posting may suggest a way to measure wealth through a Technorati rating!

What is the best metric to define someone as rich?

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Tech editor of the International Herald Tribune seems open to publishing a column of blog-generated ideas.

I need topics of interest our newspaper's readers (wealthy global audience of frequent travelers with diverse interests in politics, economic and culture).

Conversations on this blog that might work have included my postings on Global Sociology of Online Shopping or Joi's post on ideas for new inflight software.

Input welcome on:

Layout - should it be in blog-style or reworked into a newspaper format. I tend to prefer reworking it, but my editor liked the idea of experimenting with a new formatting that might resemble an online chat.

Topics - Ideas for topics that would get the best response and interest our readers. I prefer things that are less about tech-issues than about ideas that may relate to technology.

Writing form - should it be written from a blog or could it be compiled on a wiki-style platform? This would require me to lay out the format and ask for people to help filling it in, but if someone has some appropriate social software platform, it might be fun to test the concept.

Online communities - A futher thought on the above concept is that it may be fun to involve specific online communities in writing guest columns. This would mean asking for the communities - friendster, asmallworld, openbc or another one. The idea would best to use a community with a particular purpose or outlook rather than a generic one. That would allow us to explore how these communities are different. Anyone senior enough at one of these communities should feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Three questions regarding the Committee to Protect Journalists today naming online journalist Shi Tao as a winner of the International Press Freedom Award.

His 10-year sentence to a Chinese prison came partly due to a disclosure about him by Yahoo!.

1- Do employees of Yahoo! feel responsible for/comfortable with this man going to prison? (Will they, for example, send care packages or join a letter-writing campaign petitioning the government of China for his release?)

2- How do users of Yahoo! feel about the company's privacy policies? (Or privacy policies of other Internet companies, for that matter.)

3- As a journalist who has had many police encounters in countries with nasty authoritarian dictatorships, I am always very concerned about the safety of those with whom I interact. Does online interaction lead to a sense of diminished responsibility? Do we need to see someone's face or visit their family at home to feel their pain?

Global Voices Live Chat on Handbook for Bloggers & Cyber-Dissidents going on right now. Join us at #globalvoices on Freenode. For more information see the post on the Global Voices blog.

Update: Just ending now. Will post link to transcripts when they've been posted.

Update: The transcript of the IRC chat has been uploaded.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

North Korea, exaulted member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, just invited me to a festival, but I don't think I can make it.

I have, however, attended three previous Kim Jong Il birthday party.

Based on my experience, I can say that Pyongyang shows a declining level of party sense.

The first I attended was the snazzy party at the Hong Kong jockey club in 2002

The pretty fancy birthday party in 2003

And the distinctly downmarket event party in 2005 (terrible wine!)

For the record, I crashed the party each time. The North Korean government didn't seem to like publicity about their luxury birthday parties while people were starved back at home.

Below is the invite to the festival in North Korea which includes 100,000 people in a synchronized dance!!


The grand mass gymnastic and artistic performance "Arirang" which was premiered on August 16 is going on before full audience at the May Day Stadium with capacity of 150, 000 in Pyongyang. A stream of working people of all walks of life in the capital and other parts of the country as well as the tourists from the all over the world is coming to the stadium to appreciate the performance. The current "Arirang" which depicts the Korean history, fully reflects the eight beautiful sceneries with a flawless masterpiece for the combination of music, dances, gymnastics and acrobatics consistent with deep national emotions and high artistic skills, rhythmic background scenes, peculiar stage settings, electronic displays, laser lightings and other representation means and elements. About 100,000 people consist of world prize laureates, skilled artists, acrobats, youth, students and children are participating in the performance.

After appreciating the performance, people do not stint their praise, saying that it makes them feel national pride.

More than 800,000 of Korean people at home and abroad and foreigners have seen the performance since its premiere.

It will go on until 17th of October except Sundays. In addition to enjoy the performance you will be also able to visit the historical places arranged by the travel agencies in Korea.

The cost of the performance
Special seat 300 USD
First standard 150 USD
Second standard 100 USD
Third standard 50 USD

The cost of the accommodation and the lodgings for 1 day (inclusive of local transportation, guide fee, sightseeing fee)

1 person 150 Euro
2-5 people group 116 Euro
6-9 people group 68 Euro
over 10 people 55 Euro

The duration of stay (Optional)
2 nights and 3 days
3 nights and 4 days

If you are interested please don't hesitate to send us your personal data and visa will be issued within 3 days after your application. Please don't miss the rare chance.

The Consulate General of DPR Korea

Posted by Thomas Crampton

I wrote a story on the Global fund deciding to pull out of Myanmar on Friday.

The fund fights HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, diseases that are the scourges of many developing nations. Click here for their press release.

The fund had been criticised by some for going into the country (some feared they could be seen as providing a support for the goverment) and they were also criticized for pulling out (they did not try hard enough).

Who is correct?

BREAKING NEWS: Rumor is that general Maung Aye has ousted general Than Shwe. If true, we may see even more hardline actions by the government. Maung Aye already beat out general Than Shwe (considered one of the more open members of the ruling clique). now Maung Aye may have consolidated his power further.

In sum: Factions have long weakened Myanmar's military regime, but one of the tougher generals now appears to be consolidating power.

Anyone else have thoughts on Maung Aye?

Anyone who is tuning in right now... about 2 hours ago a series of explosions were reported in London involving the Underground and a bus. The BBC reports "Large numbers of casualties have been reported after at least six explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London."

UPDATE: Most big media sites are slow or down. You can get to many of the blogs post via Technorati for queries such as "London explosions". Lots of pictures on the Flickr London Explosions Group / Flickr Bomb tag. Wikinews article. (Note: I think Wikinews has had the fastest and most substantive news so far. Good job folks.)

UPDATE 7/7/2005 10:50 UTC

#joiito @
antoin - there's someone on the irish radio says there were warnings about bomb scares as early as 7am.
JoiIto - Can I quote that on my blog Antoin?
antoin - sure. i should stress that it's a person who rang into the station, recounting
antoin - so it's a bit third-hand
We're having a real-time global discussion on #joiito on Freenode if you want to join us.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:03 UTC: Blair says G8 will continue.

I notice that the Japanese news has just started picking this up. I just remembered that I was listening to a Japanese radio station just about when this was happening. They were reporting about how GW Bush ran into a policeman on his bike and fell over and was saved from injury by his red helmet. Doh.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:08 UTC:

jbond - heard on radio4. "sources who follow Al Qaida, are saying it's likely they were involved"

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:32 UTC:

[11:32] felix - we are jammed in between aldgate station and whitechapel hospital it's a bit like a war zone
[11:32] felix - RJ and mischa live right above aldgate station they are not allowed to leave the house
[11:33] felix - seems like the carefully crafted emergnecy plan works smoothly
[11:35] felix - like I said london is cool
[11:35] felix - everybody is really calm.
[11:36] felix - as the shut the whole public transport down
[11:37] felix - it's kinda weird how everything is so business as usual
[11:38] felix - I would have thought there would be more panic

UPDATE 7/7/2005 13:10 UTC: They have just closed the bathrooms on BART. (The California Bay Area Rapid Transit.)

UPDATE: Lots of good links on Boing Boing.

UPDATE: Roundup of Muslim bloggers responding to London Blast on Global Voice by Rebecca MacKinnon. Dedicated page on Technorati for posts about the London Bombings.

UPDATE: Loic blogs about John Gibson from Fox News saying that he wished it had happened in Paris. Ugh.

UPDATE: Julio points us to David Horovitz writing "And now as then, one suspects, the response of the targeted nation will be resilience and a determined response, rather than capitulation. London is not Madrid." in the Jerusalem Post.

Technorati Tags:

Hoder, our favorite Iranian blogger is going back to Iran. He needs our help to get there as well as possibly keep him out or get him out of jail. See his blog for details.

Daniel Lubetzky @ One Voice
International Campaign Against Extremism

After a successful pilot in Chicago with talks at four universities, OneVoice decided to roll out this fall an International Education program. The program aims to counteract polarization on campuses and communities worldwide - sending Israeli and Palestinian OV representatives with nationalist credentials from each side to college campuses plagued with divisions. They will discuss OV's work and methodology and expose students and community leaders to the imperative alternative of working together pragmatically to support their leaders' quest towards conflict resolution.

The program was conceived after the realization that extremist groups pervade outside the region even though they are out of whack with mainstream Israelis and Palestinians. Over the past couple years, destructive campaigns aimed at de-legitimizing Israel through divestment campaigns or at dehumanizing all Palestinians as terrorists have been corrosive. Hopefully as audiences hear the visions and ambitious of the people living with the consequences, extremists will be exposed as false messiahs that are not helping the cause of their people.

We had a debate on IRC yesterday about whether moderate voices can win over extremists. The discussion started from my post referring to extremists in Japan and Korea, but the discussion lead to a discussion about extremists in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. There was a very convincing argument made that the extremists have won and the aggression is now supported by the majority, therefore fighting until surrender was the only alternative. The idea of trying to fight against extremism was written off as naive. I am not an expert in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, but whenever I hear about what Daniel Lubetzky and One Voice is doing, I have hope. I have hope that the voice of the reason can bring peace without fighting each other to the death. It also brings me hope that we can resolve conflicts in our regions by connecting people and fighting against extremism in all of our countries.

I agree that it is not just the extremists who harbor bad thoughts or engage in bad acts, but they are usually the source of the polarization and try to keep education and communication of the main stream from moving forward.

The American Family Association recently pressured P&G to drop ads on pro-gay shows and web sites through boycotts. I'm glad we don't have them "protecting" us in Japan.

More info on Adam's blog.

Anonymous friend in Chinese
The video shows the initial gathering and starting to march of the protesting in Shanghai. It was taken by my family member while I was not in Shanghai.
The video was taken April 16, 2005. I have created Prodigem page with a BitTorrent torrent. It is a 18.4 MB AVI file that runs for 30 seconds. If you download the file, please keep it seeding for awhile so that we can have a few other peers.

There is no violence or anything so don't download it if that's what you're looking for.

UPDATE: Oguradio has converted it into a 3.11MB QT file. Thanks!

UPDATE 2: And also now on

There is a good blog post by Andrea about bloggers in China talking about the anti-Japan protests.

As a Japanese who has a great deal of sympathy and empathy for China, what I find difficult is trying to understand the various threads and how Japanese people can try to make a difference. In particular, the hateful and extreme actions of some of the Chinese make it difficult, if not scary to even try to open a dialog. At the same time, the extremes in China are fueling the nationalists in Japan and not helping the cause for the more moderate voices. I believe hate will never help communications.

One of the biggest problems is that most Japanese don't understand the issues. Another point is that most Japanese are not great supporters of the military. When I think about the military in Japan, I don't think dirty nationalist thoughts. Rather, I think about May 15, 1932 when Prime Minister Inukai was assassinated by the military which ended party-based politics in Japan until after WWII. I think about the Japanese military taking over the government and sending Japan into one of the worst periods in its history. I think about the small children being sent off to war as Kamikaze or human torpedos and I think about the letters homes from them that are enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine. There are letters from terrified little boys writing about how scared they are about going to war. Most Japanese do not trust the military and most Japanese believe that the military run government of the 30's was an illegitimate government as a result of a coup. Many Japanese believe that the Japanese people were victims of the military.

Having said that, I do think that the text books and teaching in Japan underplays the actions of the military in China and I believe the Japanese text books are a real problem that should be addressed. I really think that the Japanese don't understand how victimized the Chinese and Koreans were and I believe this education needs to occur. I would point out that it is not just this aspect of Japanese textbooks that is broken. Japanese text don't use the word "revolution" or "civil war". It was the "Meiji Restoration", "The American fight for independence", the US Civil War is the "North South War" etc. There was a move to simplify Pi to just 3. In other words, the Japanese ministry of education needs an overhaul. Maybe they should use Wikipedia instead.

I'm not trying to trivialize the issues that are being protested by the Chinese, but if they are trying to cause change in Japan, maybe some of them can try to talk to their allies in Japan like me instead of trying to force or scare into submission their enemy. A reasonable bridge building effort between activists and experts on both sides to try to address the issues through tactical maneuvers might be useful.

Or am I missing the point completely?


Rape, Torture, and Lies An ongoing Canadian saga has a sad new twist today: photojournalist Ziba Zahra Kazemi was likely brutally tortured and raped before her death in Iran in 2003. Arrested after a demonstration, the official Iranian line has been that her death was an accident due to injuries from a fall. The ER doctor who treated her has now spoken out, after being granted refugee status in Canada. Wikipedia has an excellent outline of the entire story.

Hoder ponders what he should do to prevent similar treatment when he returns to Iran. What sort of pressure can help prevent governments from doing such terrible things? Can we help protect Hoder? Hoder says that credentials from a Canadian magazine would help. Can someone help him out?

Atocha Station
Joshua Ramo who was moderating a panel at the Atocha summit asked the question, is the world more democratic since 9/11. Clearly most people thought no. One person in the audience stepped up and said that the elections in Iraq were a good sign and that Iraq was more democratic. A young man from Iraq jumped in and said that he didn't believe that the elections had made Iraq more democratic citing the low turnout and the problems they were having getting started. Then a young Iraqi woman who was working on monitoring elections jumped in and said that she believed it was getting more democratic and that it would take time and people had to be patient. What was striking was the passion that both of these young Iraqi's had and the strength of their words which were based on experience rather than analysis or speculation.

One of the problems with the question about whether the world is more democratic or not is that it is very difficult to measure and the word "democratic" has so many meanings and is ill-defined. What is more interesting, which Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch pointed out was to talk about human rights. He made the point that the Bush administration talks about liberty, freedom and democracy, but avoids talking about human rights. Liberty, freedom and democracy are very fuzzy words, but human rights is very specific. It would be easy to define terrorism as attacks against human rights and international humanitarian law forbids attacks against innocent non-combatants which is often the definition used for terrorism. Roth points out that the US has a terrible position on human rights in the name of the war on terror. He pointed out that Alberto Gonzales told the Senate committee the Senate Convention Against Torture treaty doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics, which makes the US the only country which is not upholding the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of official policy. How can a country which is not upholding basic human rights expect to be respected and supported internationally?

One of the people in the audience mentioned that it was too easy to waste time Bush bashing and maybe there was a bit too much of that. However, someone noted that at yesterday's summit only George Soros criticized George Bush by name.

I just heard some excellent comments by Kumi Naidoo on a panel. I was going to blog them, but I'm sitting next to Rebecca MacKinnon and I looked over her shoulder and noticed that she's taking better notes and is about to post something so I'll link to her instead.

One of the things I'm going to talk about on the panel today is the addition of al-Manar, the satellite TV station of Lebanon-based Hezbollah to the Terrorist Exclusion List on December 17, 2004. The TEL limits immigration for foreigners associated with organizations on the list. This is not the worst of the various lists to be on, but according to Jack Shafer, they are the first media company to be added to this list. My understanding is that al-Manar represents the Hezbollah party in Lebanon. It is an official party with democratically elected politicians. While the content of al-Manar may be objectionable to many people, stifling the voice of a democratically elected party in a foreign country by calling them terrorists goes against the spirit of freedom of expression. The US constitution's First Amendment rights only cover Americans, but I believe that in a democracy the competition of ideas and free speech should combat beliefs that it does not agree with - more speech and debate, not censorship.

Another issue is the chilling effect that this has. Although talking about or talking to people from al-Manar might not land you on the Terrorist Exclusion List, it could easily land you on the no-fly or similar list and cause you to be perpetually harassed when traveling in the US. I imagine that people from al-Manar will have a very difficult time finding anyone to talk to or have lunch with. I feel a chill running down my spine just writing this post.

Today I'll be attending the Atocha Workshop.

On March 11th 2005 the Atocha Workshop on Global Terrorism, hosted by the Safe Democracy Foundation, will create a repository of original thinking on Global Terrorism that will continue to be fed weekly in the form of a weblog by creative thinkers on the subject from around the world.

The launching event will take place at the Atocha Train Station on March 11th, 2005 at the restaurant Samarkanda. Here, in in an atmosphere that will encourage creative thinking, around 200 people will participate as policy proponents, webloggers or as public; all will be engaged in the discussion of the proposed policies.

The program is online. It should be quite interesting. I heard a rumor that it will be broadcast live on CNN, but I'll try to confirm this.

I will be on a panel from 15:10-15:55 about Media Misperception and The War on Terror (Conference Room). The other panelists are: Mario Bettencourt Resendes - Publisher Diario de Noticias, Nick Fielding - Senior Reporter of the London Sunday Times, Rebecca MacKinnon - Fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University, Ahmed Rashid - Author of ‘Taliban’ and ‘Jihad’, Dr. Steve Gorelick - Vice President for Institutional Advancement of The CUNY Graduate Center.

Kofi Annan is speaking now. He says that terrorism is a direct attack on human rights and the rule of law. If we destroy human rights and rule of law in the response to terrorism, they have won. Many responses to terrorism, even by those among members of the UN damage human rights. Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with fighting terrorism, it is essential. He is going to work on UN guidelines to responding to terrorism while following International human rights guidelines.

UPDATE: full text of speech. via Alvy

I am at this moment co-moderating the Democracy, Terrorism and the Open Internet panel at the Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security with Marko Ahtisaari. We worked all day yesterday drafting a document we are calling "The Infrastructure of Democracy". The draft is currently available on the Global Voices wiki. Please give us some feedback.

Special thanks to Martin Varsavsky for giving us the opportunity and to John Perry Barlow, John Gage, Dan Gillmor, Chris Goggans, Pekka Himanen, David Isenberg, Rebecca MacKinnon, Andrew McLaughlin, Desiree Miloshevic, Jeff Moss, Ejovi Nuwere, Kazuhisa Ogawa, Marc Rotenberg, David Smith, Wendy Seltzer, Gohsuke Takama, Noriko Takiguchi, Paul Vixie, David Weinberger and Ethan Zuckerman who came all the way to Madrid to work on this. Thanks also to the other people in the room who contributed.

UPDATE: Transcripts of IRC discussion with Ethan Zuckerman's transcript of most of the comments. Thanks Ethan!

The official summary of the session is on the conference site.

UPDATE 2: Here is the full text of the recommendation draft:

The Infrastructure of Democracy
Strengthening the Open Internet for a Safer World
March 11, 2005

I. The Internet is a foundation of democratic society in the 21st century, because the core values of the Internet and democracy are so closely aligned.

1. The Internet is fundamentally about openness, participation, and freedom of expression for all - increasing the diversity and reach of information and ideas.
2. The Internet allows people to communicate and collaborate across borders and belief systems.
3. The Internet unites families and cultures in diaspora; it connects people, helping them to form civil societies.
4. The Internet can foster economic development by connecting people to information and markets.
5. The Internet introduces new ideas and views to those who may be isolated and prone to political violence.
6. The Internet is neither above nor below the law. The same legal principles that apply in the physical world also apply to human activities conducted over the Internet.

II. Decentralized systems - the power of many - can combat decentralized foes.

1. Terrorist networks are highly decentralized and distributed. A centralized effort by itself cannot effectively fight terrorism.
2. Terrorism is everyone's issue. The internet connects everyone. A connected citizenry is the best defense against terrorist propaganda.
3. As we saw in the aftermath of the March 11 bombing, response was spontaneous and rapid because the citizens were able to use the Internet to organize themselves.
4. As we are seeing in the distributed world of weblogs and other kinds of citizen media, truth emerges best in open conversation among people with divergent views.

III. The best response to abuses of openness is more openness.

1. Open, transparent environments are more secure and more stable than closed, opaque ones.
2. While Internet services can be interrupted, the Internet as a global system is ultimately resilient to attacks, even sophisticated and widely distributed ones.
3. The connectedness of the Internet – people talking with people – counters the divisiveness terrorists are trying to create.
4. The openness of the Internet may be exploited by terrorists, but as with democratic governments, openness minimizes the likelihood of terrorist acts and enables effective responses to terrorism.

IV. Well-meaning regulation of the Internet in established democracies could threaten the development of emerging democracies.

1. Terrorism cannot destroy the internet, but over-zealous legislation in response to terrorism could. Governments should consider mandating changes to core Internet functionality only with extraordinary caution.
2. Some government initiatives that look reasonable in fact violate the basic principles that have made the Internet a success.
3. For example, several interests have called for an end to anonymity. This would be highly unlikely to stop determined terrorists, but it would have a chilling effect on political activity and thereby reduce freedom and transparency. Limiting anonymity would have a cascading series of unintended results that would hurt freedom of expression, especially in countries seeking transition to democratic rule.

V. In conclusion we urge those gathered here in Madrid to:

1. Embrace the open Internet as a foundation of 21st Century democracy, and a critical tool in the fight against terrorism.
2. Recognizing the Internet's value as a critical communications infrastructure, invest to strengthen it against attacks and recover quickly from damage.
3. Work to spread access more evenly, aggressively addressing the Digital Divide, and to provide Internet access for all.
4. To protect free speech and association, endorse the availability of anonymous communications for all.
5. Resist attempts at international governance of the Internet: It can introduce processes that have unintended effects and violate the bottom-up democratic nature of the Net.

Lessig Blog
the "democracy" that is Europe

So despite the fact that the EU Parliament has rejected software patents for Europe, and despite the fact that there is not a qualified majority of member states supporting it, the EU Council has now endorsed their draft of the "Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions."

This struggle continues to astonish me. There's no good economic evidence that software patents do more good than harm. That's the reason the US should reconsider its software patent policy.

But why Europe would voluntarily adopt a policy that will only burden its software developers and only benefit US interests is beyond me.

They call it a "democracy" that they're building in Europe. I don't see it. Instead, they have created a government of bureaucrats, more easily captured by special interests than anything in the US.

I guess this is "free" as in free markets, not free software or free beer. I am a capitalist, but looking at the damage that monopolies and strong commercial interests are wreaking on the world, I begin to question the "sanity" of our markets. Now that our media companies and it appears are policies are traded for cash, what is there to check the continuing consolidation of power and diminishing of democracy?

Mark Frauenfelder @ Boing Boing Blog
U.N. landmine commerical won't air in US.

A U.N. commercial depicts American girls playing in a soccer match. A girl steps on a landmine and there's a big explosion. Kids get blown apart. CNN and other networks don't want to air the ad.

 Images2 Landmines2The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter's lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.

It closes with a tag line reading: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."

You can view the ad here. (Here's a torrent file). Link and another Link
First, there was news that:
But on Monday, the Americans created turmoil by announcing that the United States would not join an otherwise universal consensus unless the document was amended to say that it did not create "any new international human rights" or "include the right to abortion."
(via Jonas)

Now this.

I remember at a recent meeting, a senior diplomat we were meeting with said that the U.N. Personnel Landmine Treaty would not have happened if it weren't for Internet and email. He talked about how the Net opened many of these previously closed treaty making processes to NGOs and individuals. It appears that the US is doing what it can to marginalize these multilateral processes. This also reminds me of how important video is. You can say landmine all you want, but a video has impact beyond words. I really think that video blogging will evolve into an important part of our dialog. I wish more news agencies would provide us with material to use to create citizen video commentary. Maybe CNN can ban it, but we can still distribute it on the Internet.

Xeni at Boing Boing linked to a flash movie on a North Korean site promoting vacations to North Korea. The North Korean Friendship Association was not pleased. Read the funny updates.

Xeni @ Boing Boing
Jenna Bush, Spawn of Satan

Th Satannnnnn
Is it me, or is Jenna Bush holding up the sign of Satan next to her father's face in this photo? Choose picture #7 in this MSNBC slide show.
Here's the original MSNBC Link, and here's a link to a copy of the photo I saved locally (it's now offline at MSNBC) (thanks Jeremy)

Update: BB reader Charles Bestal says, "As a University of Texas student, we hear a good bit about the party animal around campus -- but it should be noted that she is most likely invoking the school's hand-sign (Hook 'em Horns, they say), rather than the devil, or her father."

The Houston Chronicle confirms that it was the University of Texas "Hook'em, Horns" but it appears to have offended some people in Norway.

Houston Chronicle
Norway reads something sinister in 'Hook 'em' sign

..."Sjokkhilsen fra Bush datter," read an outraged headline on Norwegian news Web site Nettavisen. Translated: "Shock greeting from Bush daughter."

...The "Hook 'em, Horns" that Bush flashed when The Eyes of Texas was played at the Black Tie and Boots gala Wednesday was misconstrued by some in Norway as a sign of the devil used by a musical scene that terrorized the country in the late 1980s and early '90s.

...Death metal's history
In Norway the horns carried a greater menace. The country has long been a hotbed of death metal, a subgenre of music with a sordid history of church burnings, murder, inadvertant bludgeonings (with sheep skulls), pet sacrifices and sundry behavior best described as anti-Christian. There the gesture has little to do with sports rivalries.

...Needless to say, Norway's more prudish contingent was aghast upon seeing the daughter of the American president flashing a sign associated with such behavior.

It could be worse ...
..."I suppose it can mean different things to different people in different parts of the world," Clark says. "I guess the Norwegians and Italians should be happy that our mascot was a longhorn and not a unicorn."

This sounds like something from a Douglas Adams book. Luckily it didn't mean anything offensive to our future Alien Overlords.

Thanks to Glenn to the Houston Chronicle link

UPDATE: David Weinberger's "Forgive me" gesture and "The Shocker" via AG.

People have been pinging me about this, so I guess I should post something about it. I'm not going to Davos this year. I wasn't invited this year. Not sure exactly why... But I'm in pretty good company... Anyway, I posted some thoughts on the Forum over on Omidyar Network which I'll post here as well.

Joi Ito
This may sound like sour grapes, but I didn't get invited to Davos this year, but after going for 4 years, I was also planning on possibly not going. It's great fun meeting old friends, but I'm finding many of the smaller conferences more interesting these days. A number of people I know are going to the World Social Forum this year instead. Having said that, I'm sure something will happen this year that makes me wish that I was there. Please say hi to everyone for me.
Joi, thanks for your insight. I'd be curious about your thoughts in terms of collective: has the WEF been a mechanism that enables actors to work more intelligently and in partnership across sectors? this is something i've been longing to understand better; there is a sense among participants at places like the World Social Forum that the WEF is exclusionary and serves only the interests of the multinationals. What seems most vital about the forum is the capacity to pool intelligence and coordinate action in a way that reduces global risk. is this happening?
Joi Ito
I think that a lot of the good things that happen at the forum on not intentional and not visible. It's bridge building across sectors. Although the forum has tried to be more and more inclusive, I think it has shifted away from its humble, somewhat academic roots to a conference where there is more participation by powerful people. Also, there is the official program, then there are special groups (like the Media Leaders group I spoke to last year) and then there are secret meetings. In many ways, it is more of a meeting place than a "movement" with something concrete to accomplish such as the WTO or G8, although I've never been to either.

I would disagree that it "only serves the interests of the multinationals" but it does have sponsors that allow it to exist and they obviously get special treatment and access. Having said that, the social entrepreneurs, for instance, include many legitimate social entrepreneurs who are doing a lot of great things that the forum enables in many ways.

So net-net, I would say the forum is a good thing, but I think your mileage may vary.

Finally, I would add... looking at the various lists of people who get invited and un-invited... the process, from my perspective, is close to random, athough there are clear biases. If you've never been invited, don't worry about it. Many many important and interesting people have never been invited. If you get invited and you've never been, give it a go, especially if you don't have to pay. If you go for a few years and get tired of it, you're not the only one.

Hoder @ MetaFilter
Blogs help reform in Iran

Blogs contribute to political reform in Iran (New York Times): Former vice-president of Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said that he learned through the Internet about the huge gap between government officials and the younger generation.

"We do not understand each other and cannot have a dialogue," he said. "As government officials, we receive a lot of confidential reports about what goes on in society. But I have felt that I learned a lot more about people and the younger generation by reading their Web logs and receiving about 40 to 50 e-mails every day. This is so different than reading about society in those bulletins from behind our desks."

Now if only Japanese politicians would read blogs and learn about the huge gap between government officials and the younger generation.

Iranian bloggers have done an amazing job and I'm impressed that at least one politician is getting the message and even blogging himself.

Tn Palestinian Elections Ramallah 050

Getting out the vote in Ramallah

More photos are available in the new Palestinian Elections gallery.

Good luck and my cheers for everyone working on getting out the vote in Palestine!

Editor: Myself - Hoder
No more blogging and net-socializing

Friends in Iran, journalists and technicians, are saying that judiciary officials have ordered all major ISP to filter all blogging services including PersianBlog, BlogSpot, Blogger, BlogSky, and even BlogRolling. They have also ordered to filter Orkut, Yahoo Personal and some other popular dating and social networking websites.

Anyone know if TypePad or LiveJournal are being blocked? Is Google doing anything about this?

UPDATE from #joiito: [Catspaw] Joi: Livejournal and Typepad both accessible form the major Iranian ISPs

One Voice is a project lead by my friend Daniel Lubetzky. He is doing a lot of cutting edge work bringing peace to the Middle East particularly by trying to amplify the moderate voices of the people in Palestine and Israel. We have been bugging him to start a blog and he did. He's given us a scoop on his new blog.

The first-ever Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign in the Palestinian Authority, conducted by OneVoice-Palestine, is about to release a Public Service Announcement that will turn heads: it juxtaposes Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi, the Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice, and Father Attallah Hanna, the Patriarchite of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, with Richard Gere, the film star and humanitarian. They all encourage the Palestinian people to go out and vote. Sheikh Tamimi calls it a "religious and a national commandment" to participate in the elections.

The 1 minute ad will air on Palestinian National TV as well as on local Palestinian stations during the week prior to the Presidential elections.

Some of us have been having an email exchange online about how we can help tsunami victims. Here is an email from Antoin that I found particularly interesting. It concurs with an IHT article I read the other day which said the biggest problem in many regions was not the volume of support but the coordination and the most limited resource was airspace, airstrips, and coordination.

Hi folks,

I've been staying with some Sri Lankan friends living in London. But they really don't know what to do. They are perplexed really.

There is a relief effort, and a lot of people are doing a lot of work, but you'd have to wonder whether this is thought out to any great extent. I can imagine what will happen. In a week or two, tents and medical equipment will show up in SL in large volumes, but by that stage they will be useless. At that stage, they will be beginning to look for things like building supplies. Medical supplies are being shipped from the UK, and this is certainly an important contribution, but perhaps the money and effort could be better focused. You could buy them cheaper in China or Singapore, and the flight time is much shorter.

According to the News Lanka newsletter, a paper for the Sinhalese community in the UK, the government is turning down aid teams from places like Israel, because they already have too many relief workers. Perhaps the Sri Lankan government mistakenly thought that these were 'amateur' relief workers who were being sent.

There is a lot of talk about not being able to afford response systems. In reality, there was no problem predicting the tsunamis by all accounts, at least as far as India and Sri Lanka were concerned. The problem was that the seismologists had no idea who they should call when they found out what was happening.

Now there are false alarms happening and it is difficult for ordinary people to get good information. TV footage in the UK showed people running, because they thought another tsunami was coming. But the information people were getting from the government was incorrect. This will eventually turn into the story about the boy who cried 'wolf' too many times.

There really has to be a better way of going about this.

I absolutely agree with what Jack has written about land title. There is no point in funding the rebuilding the homes of the people effected, if they do not have at least some sort of title on the land. Of course, this only represents a small proportion of the land masses we are talking about, but it would be a great place to start on sorting out land ownership in SE Asia.

From today's paper...

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (AP) - Unknown assailants opened fire this week on a public bus in northern Honduras, killing at least 23 passengers and wounding 16 others ... The assailants left a note that said they represented a revolutionary group that opposes the death penalty...

Beijing (AFP) - The Chinese authorities have sentenced two Hong Kong men to death for smuggling digital player components into the southeastern city of Xiamen...

I don't want to be judgmental or anything, but killing 23 people to protest the death penalty and sentencing to death people for smuggling digital player components both seem a bit extreme to me...

There is now a draft of the Global Voices manifesto on Hoder's wiki. It will eventually be moved, but we're working on it there for now. Here is the current draft.

We believe in free speech, both in protecting the right to speak and extending access to the tools of speech. We define speech broadly to include many media that facilitate expression.

The broadest right of free speech has always extended primarily to those who owned technology for publishing and distribution, beginning with the printing press. It is now possible for anyone to publish and have access to a distribution channel via the Internet. It is our goal that everyone who wants to speak can be heard.

We believe in the power of direct connection and the freedom to connect. The bond between individuals from different worlds is personal, political and powerful.

We seek to create bridges that cross the gulfs that have traditionally divided us. When we cross these gulfs, we understand each other more fully, work together more effectively, and act more powerfully. With these bridges, we can do together what we could only dream of doing alone.

Direct connection is its own reward. However, in a world full of challenges, it is also the best path to building a future that is freer, fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous.

While we’re all committed to our own work as individuals, we also recognize our common interest and goals. We each speak for ourselves, but we’re all in this together. We pledge to respect, listen to, assist, and learn from one other. We are Global Voices.

What do you think? You can also comment on Ethan's post on the Global Voices blog about this draft.

I participated in the Global Voices session at the Berkman Center and promised earlier to post my thoughts. The bad news is that we didn't get far enough to come up with a conclusive plan, but the good news is that I think we have enough momentum to move forward. The discuss was quite sober and practical and was not nearly as techno-utopian as we are often criticized of being and often tend to get.

I think the key difference between this meeting and others that I have attended was the large number of mediums (Wikipedia, OhmyNews, traditional journalism, human rights organizations, bloggers, TV and radio) as well as the strong regional diversity (Iraq, Iran, Malaysia, Kenya, Korea, China, Japan, Pakistan, US and many others). Most of the people in the room were already members of a variety of organizations and projects so we tried to find a common ground. I think that we came to a consensus that freedom of speech and providing voice was extremely important and this could and should take various forms. We agreed to commit to working together to help each other in our efforts. I'll post more when we are a bit more organized, but you can see the discussion we are having on the blog, see a partial list of the participants on Hoder's wiki (it will be moved to a permanent place soon), see a log of the real-time transcripts provided by SJ and join us on #globalvoices on Freenode to chat. There are more resources on the blog. Sorry it's a bit disorganized right now. We will try to organize it more soon. One of the things we hope to do is be much more inclusive of ways to participate and not focus on any one mode. This will complicate things a bit, but I think it's worth it.

Reporters Without Borders says that that China has started blocking Google News just a few weeks after Google started self-censorship on their search results.

via We The Media

Nice on-the-ground reporting from a blog from Ukraine - The ukraine_revolution blog.

via Loic
Croatian diplomat fired over blog comments

17/11/2004 by John Tilak

The Croatian government has recalled an official from its Washington embassy after he apparently wrote on his blog that the diplomatic meetings were boring and that there was no difference between President Bush and the Democratic candidate John Kerry, according to a report from Reuters.

Third secretary at the Croatian embassy in Washington DC, Vibor Kalogjera, 25, had been narrating his experiences under the pseudonym "Vibbi".

He is said to have violated state laws on foreign affairs and civil servants.

I guess this makes sense. It's interesting to think about the line between private and public comments. I'm sure he wouldn't have been recalled for sharing these thoughts in private or with his friends. Of course posting stuff on the Internet is not "sharing in private" but if only a few people are reading it, it is effectively somewhat private. On the other hand, if you get reported in Reuters, your private conversation quickly becomes public... collapsing your context. Maybe he should have had a password protected blog.

via Francesco

Hoder, the Iranian blogger is getting death threats.

Editor: Myself
Now they've moved to BlogSpot and have made another blog with the same name with a more precise content to backup their claims. They now have picked particular posts from my Persian blog, in which they think I've insulted the God, and other sacred concepts of Islam and therefore, quoting from a Quranic verse, I deserve to be killed.
I will be meeting Hoder for the first time at the upcoming Berkman Center's "Internet & Society 2004: Votes, Bits & Bytes" on December 10. This will be Hoder's first trip to the US. I hope it turns out to be enjoyable for him and doesn't cause him problems at home. I always have to remind myself that for some people, things we take for granted like "free speech" are life threatening activities in some countries.

I'm going to Israel this month and South Africa next month. I've heard from a few people that both Israeli stamps and South African stamps in your passport make it very difficult when traveling to Arab countries. Does anyone know if this is true? Is there any way to ask them NOT to stamp your passport? Is THAT a cause for being hassled?

I blogged earlier about the very negative reaction that the Japanese taken hostage in Iraq received in Japan. The main reason was that when the parents asked for their release, they didn't apologize to the Japanese government and even denounced the war. I believe it was a rather unfortunately, but understandable reaction in the context of Japanese culture for the Japanese to say, "we told you to stay away from there, and how dare you cause such shame on Japan without even apologizing."

I recently talked to someone involved in the Arab press and learned that if the parents had apologized and sucked up to the Japanese government, there was a good chance that the hostages would not have been released. So if I had to choose between whether my children were released alive or whether they would be happily received by the Japanese government, I think I'd choose to have my children live. Whether it was done on purpose or not, their parents made the right decision.

Then there is the story of the Australian journalist who was freed because a Google search revealed he was not CIA or a US contractor.

I don't think that all of the kidnappers are smart and politically motivated and ethical, but they are clearly sending a signal that their targets are not all random.

David Weinberger
VoIP crime

US citizen Ilya Mafter has been detained by the Belarusians for committing the crime of Voice over IP. The government says that he caused about US$100,000 in damage to the country's telephony providers "as a result of illegal communications services using IP telephony that were organized by Mafter."

Such illegal communications services hurt telephone companies and in many countries these telephone companies are run by the government or wield a great deal of power. Sometimes it's easy to forget that competition with monopolies is illegal in many countries.

I'm sitting in the Italian Parliament (I think.) The panel I was on was dealing with the impact of digital/Internet on content creation and distribution. It started yesterday and continued today. I think it lasted about seven hours or so in total. I found myself in violent disagreement at the beginning because they kept talking about piracy. The interesting thing about this panel (probably more common in other cultures, but new for me) was that we had to come to a written consensus by the end of the session and present it in the Parliament building. It would then be distributed to politicians across Europe as a recommendation.

I found myself negotiating like some UN diplomat.

In the end, here is where we ended up on a few of my "hot buttons".

Organized, for-profit, commercial piracy was different from P2P file sharing by individuals. We could not agree on the impact of P2P file sharing, but we agreed that punishing file sharing was not the only/best way to deal with the issue. I pushed for a stronger stance, my position being that as Chris Anderson says in The Long Tail, it's a matter of price and convenience. People will pay if the experience is better. That was not included in the statement, but "education" was used instead. Blah. I just made a statement that I disagree with this and that there is not enough evidence that P2P filesharing of music is really bad for the music industry.

It appeared that people had a VERY bad image of Creative Commons. For some reason they thought that CC was trying to force people to share and was anti-copyright. I explained the CC was built upon copyright and was trying to help artists choose their copyright.

This part turned out quite well in the statement. They said that CC was a tool, not to steal from artists, but to give them the choice to share and lower the parasitic costs (legal) of choosing a license. They concluded that CC was NOT a threat as they had originally envisioned, but a complimentary and a good thing. The tone was very pro-artist and less tolerant of distributors, the idea of giving more control to artists seemed to be quite attractive.

I'm about to have a chance to object to some of the issues I see in the statement and give an address about my thoughts. I'm going to talk about the value of the Long Tail and Creative Commons.

People have been reporting about the FBI ordering a hosting provider, Rackspace, with offices in the US and the UK to seize at least two servers from Indymedia's UK datacenter. Indymedia is a well known edgy alternative news site which was established to provide grassroots coverage of the WTO protests in Seattle. It has grown into a multinational resource for some hardcore journalism including a lot of work on the Diebold and the Patroit Act issues. The reports as well as Indymedia's page on this story say that the FBI has not provided a reason for the seizure to Indymedia. The statement from Rackspace says:

In the present matter regarding Indymedia, Rackspace Managed Hosting, a U.S. based company with offices in London, is acting in compliance with a court order pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering. Rackspace responded to a Commissioner’s subpoena, duly issued under Title 28, United States Code, Section 1782 in an investigation that did not arise in the United States. Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter.
In past, Indymedia has done stuff like posting photos of undercover police officers. However, according to Indymedia, the "FBI asked for the Nantes post on swiss police to be removed, but admitted no laws were violated". This time the FBI has not told them what they've done wrong and Rackspace is under a gag order so they can't even tell Indymedia exactly what hardware they removed.

This implies that some non-US entity had the FBI force an action in the UK under MLAT. This means that Indymedia is being suspected of engaging in international terrorism, kidnapping or money laundering. I've seen some extreme reporting on Indymedia, but terrorism, kidnapping or money laundering? I guess the definition of "terrorism" has been expanded to meet popular demand these days, but come on... really?

This reminds me of toywar. A group of Swiss artists established in 1994 who are Golden Nica award winners from my Ars Electronica jury in 1996 call themselves etoy. Later, Etoys, founded in 1998 tried to take the domain by force. They got a temporary injunction against the web site because a judge in LA agreed that it was confusing to customers of Etoys. Network Soutions complied and went beyond their call of duty and shut down email as well for good measure. Swiss artists can be sued in a US court and having their email shut down by a US registrar.

My point is, be careful where your data lives...

UPDATE: is speculating that it is because Indymedia published the identities of the RNC delegates.

UPDATE2: It appears that maybe it wasn't the RNC, but the photos of the police officers according to Cryptome.

UPDATE3: imajes has an written a letter to his MPs. Maybe others should do the same.

Mark Frauenfelder @ Boing Boing
WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of her letter to friends about horrific conditions in Iraq

Farnaz Fassihi, a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq, confirmed that a widely-redistributed letter she emailed to friends about the nightmarish situation in Iraq was indeed written by her. Too bad the WSJ doesn't allow this reporter to write these kinds of stories for the paper.

"Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity," Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. "Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler." And: "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

...Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."


Unlike the US Army in my previous post, the WSJ stood up for her.
Editor & Publisher
After she confirmed writing the letter on Wednesday, Paul Steiger, editor of the Wall Street Journal, stood up for her, telling the New York Post that her "private opinions have in no way distorted her coverage, which has been a model of intelligent and courageous reporting, and scrupulous accuracy and fairness."
Continue reading to see a copy of the email.

Farnaz Fassihi
Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't.

There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the turning point exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a potential threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to imminent and active threat, a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess the situation. When asked how are things? they reply: the situation is very bad.

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war.

In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health, which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers-- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods. The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it -- baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda -- are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every dayÜover 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel.

Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral.

The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a no go zone -- out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

Ethan explains that although Wikipedia tries to maintain an neutral point of view (NPOV), it is inherently systemically biased by its demographic to pay more attention to articles that the contributors know about and research from sources which are available online. Xed, a Wikipedian has tried to address this systemic bias with a new project called the "Committee Regarding Overcoming Serious Systemic Bias On Wikipedia" or CROSSBOW.

From draft CROSSBOW manifesto
Wikipedia has a number of systemic biases, mostly deriving from the demographics of our participant base, the heavy bias towards online research, and the (generally commendable) tendency to "write what you know". Systemic bias is not to be confused with systematic bias. The latter just means "thoroughgoing bias". Systemic bias means that there are structural reasons why Wikipedia gives certain topics much better coverage than others. As of this writing, Wikipedia is disproportionately white and male; disproportionately American; disproportionately written by people from white collar backgrounds. We do not think this is a result of a conspiracy - it is largely a result of self-selection - but it has effects not all of which are beneficial, and which need to be looked at and (in some cases) countered.

Wikipedia is biased toward over-inclusion of certain material pertaining to (for example) science fiction, contemporary youth culture, contemporary U.S. and UK culture in general, and anything already well covered in the English-langauge portion of the Internet. These excessive inclusions are relatively harmless: at worst, people look at some of these articles and say "this is silly, why is it in an encyclopedia?" Of far greater (and more detrimental) consequence, these same biases lead to minimal or non-existent treatment of topics of great importance. One example is that, as of this writing, the Congo Civil War, possibly the largest war since World War II has claimed over 3 million lives, but one would be hard pressed to learn much about it from Wikipedia. In fact, there is more information on a fictional plant.

They are planning a variety of projects to try to address the bias. If you are interested and can help, you should.

Our good friend Andrew Orlowski points out that as Wikipedia tries to get more distribution on smaller devices such as mobile phones, they need to be wary of the size of the database and the framework in order to be more inclusive than just web oriented techies or in his words, "Californian techno-utopians, wiki-fiddlers."

So the most useful thing the Wikipedia project could do is not write another adoring 20,000 word article on our good friend Joi Ito (the spiritual leader), or "memes", but nail down a simple lightweight framework that librarians, schools, churches and small businesses could use as an annotation and broadcast channel.

This is another way to address the bias. Move to non-web devices too, although in this article Andrew is talking about "Questions like 'What's the kid's soccer schedule?', and 'Is Thursday street cleaning day on Geary?'" I do agree that Wikipedians should be spending their time writing about the Congo Civil War instead of writing a 20,000 word article on me.

As of yesterday, Wikipedia is inaccessible from most of China. It appears to be inaccessible from 11 out of 12 points in China. It was blocked for a few days back in June or so, but this block appears to be broader than the last one. Hope this one gets resolved quickly too.

Hoder reports government crackdowns on reformist websites and bloggers.

I was wondering why so many of my favorite feeds weren't coming into my news reader and I realized (duh!) that I'm in China and Blogger and TypePad are blocked. It's one thing blogging about it from Japan, it's another thing actually being blocked and realizing how much of my world just sort of disappears. There are proxy servers, but I hear that even then, if you use one for too long, they get tracked down and blocked literally while you're surfing...

The Feature
Encouraging Cameraphone Use -- For Less Than Encouraging Reasons

Instead of banning them, Chinese authorities have creatively adapted cameraphones as yet another tool to control its citizens, if the latest allegations prove to be true. Authorities there reportedly threatened pro-democracy radio talk show hosts, after which they all quit. This didn't involve cameraphones until new reports emerged that authorities have contacted the families of callers to these shows still living on the mainland. They have been told to convince their relatives to vote for pro-Beijing candidates and then snap a picture of their ballots with a cameraphone to send back proof.

Of course we should all have seen this coming. I remember when I got my first camera phone, I got one for Mizuka and myself. Our relationship was still pretty "fresh". That week, I went on an trip to Kyoto with a small group of older Japanese businessman friends. "So... where are you? Can you send me a picture?" "Ummm... sure. OK. Here." Yes, there are simple ways to get around this by preparing photos or doctoring stuff, but it's obvious that the privacy issue for camera phones isn't just the subjects being photographed, but the owners of the phones as well.

The post by Xeni about Stealth Lynndie-ing reminded me of a story I heard recently from a unnamed source involved in Israeli and Palestinian relations. Apparently after an official meeting, an Israeli and Palestinian were having coffee and the Israeli asked the Palestinian to tell him a joke. Here is the joke the Palestinian told:

So there's this young guy from Hebron (I guess they make fun of people from Hebron...). He goes to the PLO and says he wants to become a suicide bomber. The PLO gives him a gun, a belt-bomb and a cell phone and tell him to call when he's found some Jews. He kid goes out and finds a Jew and calls. "Hey I found one, I found one!" "One? You have to fine more. Find a group." The kid call back later and say, "I found a dozen Jews!" "No no... like a lot. Find a disco with a bunch of young Jewish kids." The kid continues. "I'm at a disco with a LOT of Jewish young people!" "Go for it!" And the young man from Hebron pulls out his gun and shoots himself in the head.

What's amazing to me is that even in, and maybe more often in, the most cruel of human situations, humor exists and even thrives. This joke, told by a Palestinian to an Israeli really highlights one of my favorite Shimon Peres quotes: "We are just two tragedies meeting in the same place at the same time."

China Photos
via Reuters
The New York Times has an interesting story about the rowdy anti-Japanese crowds at the recent Asian Cup soccer match in China between China and Japan.
The New York Times
"Kill! Kill! Kill!" the Chinese fans yelled. Or, echoing a patriotic song from another era, they shouted, roughly: "May a big sword chop off the Japanese heads!"
What's surprising is not that there were anti-Japanese sentiments, but that the article asserts that such sentiments are on the rise. According to the article, "... increasingly, the most strident criticism of Japan now comes from a generation born long after the end of the war, which in China is known as the War of Resistance against Japan." My impression is that most of the anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan is fueled by people like Governor Ishihara of Tokyo who remember the war, and not young post-war Japanese. (UPDATE: Mizuka just told me that there were a bunch of right-wing Japanese demonstrating in Kasumigaseki yesterday and they were mostly young.) There is a revisionist movement in Japan, but I have heard only 0.3% of school actually ended up using the controversial revised texts and the movement is considered a failure. However, I don't have a good sense of whether anti-Chinese sentiments are increasing or decreasing, but they are clearly here as I've blogged about in the past.

The "new anti-Japanese" in China represent a bad trend. At the Brainstorm conference in 2002, I heard Shimon Peres say, "What can you learn from History? Very little... History was written with red ink, wth bloodshed. We should educate our children how to imagine, not how to remember." I think his words are extremely relevant.

The article also quotes a Mr. Lu saying, "Like many young Chinese, he believes Japan is returning to militarism. 'I want China to be strong again,' Mr. Lu said at lunch the day before the game. He said China needed to be strong so it would not again succumb to foreign invaders." This is also quite an odd image. At a recent conference I went to, it was clear that the American no longer viewed Japan as a military threat. At this conference, it was pointed out that since Japan is aging so quickly, it can not be motivated very strongly to grow its military. Most countries which expanded security forces were usually countries that had a lot of young people. It was noted that the Kim Jon Il said during his trip across Russia on the train, that he had "too many people." This is one reason why he might be happier to send troops to war than Japan where there are so few young people.

In other news on the topic, it appears Japanese hackers went after a Chinese site and now the Chinese hackers are retaliating.

The Passion of the Present
A failure of will

Forces from across the world are poised to help the people of Darfur, but no nation has the will to move forward.

We are in a tragic and signal moment, a catalytic moment, where the world sees the need, has the means, and yet continues to experience a failure of will.

...Now it is the public's turn. It is our turn. The time is now for our action. We must ask our leaders to act now, not in 30 days.

All key elements are in place, except the will to launch the rescue of Darfur in earnest.

A call to action that you should all read. This is "low hanging fruit" on the "lets do something good today" tree. Take some action today.

Ashraf Ghani is Afghanistan's finance minister. He was interviewed by David Kirkpatrick

Here are my notes.

Q: What's at stake in Afghanistan.

A: Positive and negative. Freedom from terror and freedom from drugs. Afghanistan can easily be turned into a mafia state. Afghan heroin has made it to California.

We have on our borders some of the largest energy producing states as well as nuclear states. The stability of Afghanistan could help stabilize this region.

Even people who's homes were accidentally bombed by Americans still welcome American soldiers. This is different than the rest of the Middle East.

We've been a trading people for a couple of thousand years. We thrive in networks, but not in hierarchies.

Q: Give us an update. The US media says Afghanistan is in quasi chaos.

A: Quasi chaos is quasi progress. US is not known for depth or understanding. They don't take push-back. They don't engage in debate.

Can't type fast enough, but he's giving a update on all of the great progress they are making.

Progress is good, but problem is expectations. Bush and Blair got up and promised a miracle.

70% of our people live under $1 a day. How do you convince people $1B is a small amount of money.

I'm not going to chase foreign aid and I want to get out of foreign aid in 10 years.

$1 of foreign investment is worth $5-$10 in foreign aid.

Kofi Anan is a great leader but the UN system doesn't work. There are lessons from Afghanistan that can help other countries.

Q: What is the prospect that you can get a grip on the drug mafia in Afghanistan.

A: They told me I had 0.1% chance of success. Cotton will not compete with poppy, but the T-Shirt will.

Poppy is a male crop. Women are not involved in the cultivation of poppy. What a family looks for is its overall income. How do we connect the women to the market. The management skills to get them to the value change.

Every drug producing center of Afghanistan is a center of cotton production. Tax incentives for textile companies would help. Security for textile cities.

Seasonal labor is the weak point of the drug industry.

They need to be given an assurance that things will get better.

It took Thailand 10 years. Afghanistan doesn't have 10 years because it could be taken over by the mafia before that.

Q: Moving companies to Afghanistan could help deal with this mafia issue which is putting the world at risk. They aren't coming because they are afraid?

A: July of 2002, there wasn't a single mobile phone in Kabul. Now my mobile phone from Afghanistan works here. The US spends $11B / yr security in Afghanistan. Security is not about spending money on military. It's about jobs.

Afghanistan is growing quickly. If it could be given a push....

Q: Are you optimistic long term with relationship between the region and the US.

A: The classic age of Islam needs to be understood. We didn't go through the medieval period. This is a confident culture. The extremists exist because of lack of open debate and dialog and this is because of the cold war. Most muslims are moderate. Go to muslim countries. You'll find people like you. We are in clashes. We are not focused enough on solutions.

I'll turn it around. Can you function without the Middle East? Can you exist without oil from the Middle East? If you can't exist without us, we need to focus on solutions.

The risk to my life is about 95% which is worth the risk of saving the millions of people of Afghanistan. I was educated by the people and it was a price I was willing to pay.

Q: You talked about the drug mafia but not about warlords? What do you do with the rest of the country where you can't protect people from the warlords.

A: The ministry of finance is collecting from every corner of the country and we have influence across the country. We need to look at diverse sources of power.

Up until now, monopoly of violence was the source of power. Rules are also power. These people are afraid. Human rights prosecution, etc. They are afraid. We haven't addressed these issues. 80% of Afghanistan has always been self-policed. Need to enhance the social capital of the regions. Communities that ensure security should get reconstruction assistance. Getting free of drugs should provide more assistance.

The answer is about understanding cold self-interest. We've rebuilt the country a hundred times in the past. We'll rebuild. But the rest of the world has to understand the issues to provide help.

Q: Are the terrorists working with the drug mafia.

A: Drug money is easy fast money. $4B in Afghanistan, $40B outside of Afghanistan. The ability for this to do harm is huge.

On the plane returning from Helsinki to Tokyo, I read an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, Dare We Call It Genocide? Please click the link and read it. It's short, but an important perspective. People gloss over statistics and even vivid first-hand accounts like this in text often fail to get our attention. In fact, I remember thinking about blogging this article, but it slipped my mind after I returned to Japan.

This morning I saw Tears of the Sun starring Bruce Willis. This movie is about a heroic extraction mission in Nigeria with ethnic cleansing as a backdrop. The movie itself and its message were not that interesting, but the scene where people are being murdered and raped by soldiers struck me emotionally and created a visual image for me of the atrocities in Sudan. It sparked me to search for and post the link above.

I think it's important to realize that motion pictures and videos have an incredible impact on us emotionally. We've discussed the risks of racial stereotyping in motion pictures and some people have criticized me for citing shallow movies about important issues. It is clear that movies play a huge role in helping us (accurately or not) understand and care about cultures.

One thing I've noticed is that amateur films and flash are being used quite effectively in political jokes and commentary on the Net. There are copyright issues with many of the works, but I believe that video blogging, (or whatever you want to call grassroots video production and sharing) can play a very important role in raising awareness on issues such as the genocide in Sudan.

Maybe we need to get Witness and Passion of the Present working together if they aren't already. Ethan?

Bruce Schneier has written an interesting article discussing the accusation of Ahmed Chalabi of informing Iran that the US had broken its codes and when Iran knew that the NSA was cracking their codes. He digs into the history of Crypto AG, the NSA and Iran. He links to an article about Hans Buehler, the Crypto AG salesman who was arrested by Iran in 1992 on suspicion that Crypto AG had installed back doors in its encryption machines. There is no conclusion, but this story reminds me of Crytonomicon and the interesting world of information, misinformation and spying.

I'm at Eva Baudet's office right now helping her get her blog started. (She's writing her first post now.) She's a member of the Finnish Parliament and a member of the Swedish People's Party. She's a fellow GLT and I met her first in Davos. I've been coming to Finland almost every month these days and Eva's been educating me about Finnish and European politics. Finally I get to teach HER something. ;-)

Good luck on your blog Eva, and I hope you can keep it going!

Thanks to Boris for the design.

Passion of the present is covering the genocide in Sudan.

See Jim's blog for more information on how you can help googlebomb to stop genocide.

photo from Hoder's photo blog
The New York Times
Those Sexy Iranians

...True, girls and women can still be imprisoned for going out without proper Islamic dress. But young people are completely redefining such dress so it heightens sex appeal instead of smothering it.

Women are required to cover their hair and to wear either a chador cloak or an overcoat, called a manteau, every time they go out, and these are meant to be black and shapeless. But the latest fashion here in Shiraz, in central Iran, is light, tight and sensual.

"There are some manteaus with slits on the sides up to the armpits," said Mahmoud Salehi, a 25-year-old manteau salesman. "And then there are the `commando manteaus,' with ties on the legs to show off the hips and an elastic under the breasts to accentuate the bust."

Worse, from the point of view of hard-line mullahs, young women in such clothing aren't getting 74 lashes any more — they're getting dates.

Iranian blogger Hoder has started a photo blog and some of the recent images show us what they're talking about.

edwardsaidorientalismJust finished reading the famous introduction to Orientalism by Edward Said. Said was a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University and was a well known Palestinian scholar who died in September of last year. Orientalism was written in 1978, but probably continues to become more relevant.

Basically, he argues that the whole notion of the "Orient" or "Orientalism" is a body of culture, academic work and politics that tries to identify the East as "them" in terms that have evolved through Western imperialism. He makes the point that even work that doesn't appear immediately political had political impact and was part of the larger process of the development of Orientalism. Reading it brings back memories of Trader Vic's and pictures from British Museum exhibits of "Headpiece from dead savage."

He points out some important issues which ties into the racism as stereotype discussion we had about Lost In Translation. The simplistic stereotypes and the images of the the East leads to a kind of fascination with the Orient, but also creates a false sense of understanding and fake academics upon which many ignorant, racist and imperialistic political decisions are made.

A version of the introduction is available on The Guardian Unlimited Books web site so I'll give you a few quotes from there.

Edward W. Said
...Orientalism is very much a book tied to the tumultuous dynamics of contemporary history. Its first page opens with a description of the Lebanese civil war that ended in 1990, but the violence and the ugly shedding of human blood continues up to this minute. We have had the failure of the Oslo peace process, the outbreak of the second intifada, and the awful suffering of the Palestinians on the reinvaded West Bank and Gaza. The suicide bombing phenomenon has appeared with all its hideous damage, none more lurid and apocalyptic of course than the events of September 11 2001 and their aftermath in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. As I write these lines, the illegal occupation of Iraq by Britain and the United States proceeds. Its aftermath is truly awful to contemplate. This is all part of what is supposed to be a clash of civilisations, unending, implacable, irremediable. Nevertheless, I think not.

I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the US has improved, but alas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better. What American leaders and their intellectual lackeys seem incapable of understanding is that history cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, so that "we" might inscribe our own future there and impose our own forms of life for these lesser people to follow. It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar. But this has often happened with the "orient", that semi-mythical construct which since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the late 18th century has been made and remade countless times. In the process the uncountable sediments of history, a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sandheap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad.


The major influences on George W Bush's Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, experts on the Arab and Islamic world who helped the American hawks to think about such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind and the centuries-old Islamic decline which only American power could reverse. Today bookstores in the US are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange oriental peoples. CNN and Fox, plus myriad evangelical and rightwing radio hosts, innumerable tabloids and even middle-brow journals, have recycled the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalisations so as to stir up "America" against the foreign devil.


Think of the line that starts with Napoleon, continues with the rise of oriental studies and the takeover of North Africa, and goes on in similar undertakings in Vietnam, in Egypt, in Palestine and, during the entire 20th century, in the struggle over oil and strategic control in the Gulf, in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan. Then think of the rise of anti-colonial nationalism, through the short period of liberal independence, the era of military coups, of insurgency, civil war, religious fanaticism, irrational struggle and uncompromising brutality against the latest bunch of "natives". Each of these phases and eras produces its own distorted knowledge of the other, each its own reductive images, its own disputatious polemics.

My idea in Orientalism was to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us. I have called what I try to do "humanism", a word I continue to use stubbornly despite the scornful dismissal of the term by sophisticated postmodern critics. By humanism I mean first of all attempting to dissolve Blake's "mind-forg'd manacles" so as to be able to use one's mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding. Moreover humanism is sustained by a sense of community with other interpreters and other societies and periods: strictly speaking therefore, there is no such thing as an isolated humanist.


Speaking both as an American and as an Arab I must ask my reader not to underestimate the kind of simplified view of the world that a relative handful of Pentagon civilian elites have formulated for US policy in the entire Arab and Islamic worlds, a view in which terror, pre-emptive war, and unilateral regime change - backed up by the most bloated military budget in history - are the main ideas debated endlessly and impoverishingly by a media that assigns itself the role of producing so-called "experts" who validate the government's general line. Reflection, debate, rational argument and moral principle based on a secular notion that human beings must create their own history have been replaced by abstract ideas that celebrate American or western exceptionalism, denigrate the relevance of context, and regard other cultures with contempt.


The terrible conflicts that herd people under falsely unifying rubrics such as "America," "the west" or "Islam" and invent collective identities for large numbers of individuals who are actually quite diverse, cannot remain as potent as they are, and must be opposed. We still have at our disposal the rational interpretive skills that are the legacy of humanistic education, not as a sentimental piety enjoining us to return to traditional values or the classics but as the active practice of worldly secular rational discourse. The secular world is the world of history as made by human beings. Critical thought does not submit to commands to join in the ranks marching against one or another approved enemy. Rather than the manufactured clash of civilisations, we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together. But for that kind of wider perception we need time, patient and sceptical inquiry, supported by faith in communities of interpretation that are difficult to sustain in a world demanding instant action and reaction.

Humanism is centred upon the agency of human individuality and subjective intuition, rather than on received ideas and authority. Texts have to be read as texts that were produced and live on in all sorts of what I have called worldly ways. But this by no means excludes power, since on the contrary I have tried to show the insinuations, the imbrications of power into even the most recondite of studies. And lastly, most important, humanism is the only, and I would go as far as to say the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.

I just picked out some paragraphs there were particularly interesting to me, but the whole thing is really interesting so I suggest you read the intro in its entirety.

Japan Today
N Korea's Kim criticized at home for apology to Japan

Friday, May 7, 2004 at 04:00 JST

WASHINGTON — North Korean military hardliners have been critical of leader Kim Jong Il for apologizing to Japan for the abduction of Japanese nationals, a U.S. expert who visited North Korea in April said.

This makes it difficult for the North Korean leader to make a decision to break the impasse over the abduction issue with Japan, said Selig Harrison, Asian project director at the Washington-based Center for International Policy. He said the hardliners were angry because they think North Korea should never apologize to Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. (Kyodo News)

Thank you Kim Jong Il. Japan has done many things that I think requires apologies, but the abductions of Japanese by the North Koreas is an issue that I believe required an apology. I think this is a important first step, even if it is causing him some grief at home. I'm not sure what these means from a diplomatic tactics perspective, but I think Kim Jong Il deserves some credit on this one.

Loic Le Meur at the World Economic Forum
Loic's rant at the European WEF meeting.
With his French accent, Loic criticizes France and is our designated agitator at the Warsaw meeting. Wish I had been there to heckle him. ;-)

Interesting talk. Loic's soliciting comments on his blog.

Brin was no expert on international diplomacy. So he ordered a half-dozen books about Chinese history, business, and politics on and splurged on overnight shipping. He consulted with Schmidt, Page, and David Drummond, Google's general counsel and head of business development, then put in a call to tech industry doyenne Esther Dyson for advice and contacts. Google has no offices in China, so Brin enlisted go-betweens to get the message to Chinese authorities that Google would be very interested in working out a compromise to restore access. "We didn't want to do anything rash," Brin says. "The situation over there is more complex than I had imagined."

Four days later, Chinese authorities restored access to the site. How did that happen? For starters, the Chinese government was deluged with outcries from the nation's 46 million Internet users when access to Google was cut off. "Internet users in China are an apolitical crowd," says Xiao Qiang, executive director of New York-based Human Rights In China. "They tend to be people who are doing well, and they don't usually voice strong views. But this stepped into their digital freedom."

The quick workaround: Chinese authorities tweaked the national firewall, making the new Google China different from the site that was turned off. Today, Chinese who use Google to search on terms like "falun gong" or "human rights in china" receive a standard-looking results page. But when they click on any of the results, either their browsers are redirected to a blank or government-approved page, or their computers are blocked from accessing Google for an hour or two. "They have a new mechanism that can block the results of certain searches," Brin says. Did Google help China find or obtain the filtering technology? "We didn't make changes to our servers" is all he'll say.

Seth Finkelstein describes how Google self-censorship works. Also, Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School have a paper on Localized Google search result exclusions which is quite interesting.

I can understand from a business perspective why Google would do this, but whenever I bring this up with people they deny it or can't believe it.

Does anyone else have any more information on this?

PS This has nothing to do with trying to hurt Google or their IPO. I've been trying to figure this out for the last few weeks and have reached a dead end in my research so I'm trying to understand more. How companies like this work with governments and how this information is then disclosed is very important.

There is genocide going on in Sudan. A must read essay about it and how you can help.

via Jim Moore





If I could so much ask, I would like to suggest others who own typepad sites and other blogs to put a note on theirs as a means to spread the word.

So until TypePad blogs are unblocked, you will all have to bear with this ugly black border around my blog.

Pass it on.

Via North Korea zone

UPDATE: I'm removing the black background because it seems to mess up some browsers and loads slowly for some reason. I have begun discussions with people who might be able to help us get unblocked. I will keep you updated if there is any progress.

I just got email saying that TypePad is being blocked in China. Can anyone else confirm this?

Speaking of racial stereotypes... Here's a cartoon of bloggers writing about the the impeachment in Korea from a Korean newspaper. On the other hand, at least they're reading the blogs.

via dda on IRC

Isaac Mao
The biggest ever block on blog in China, one of the biggest blogging service in China, has been ordered to shut down it's service from noon today.

In case you're just waking up and reading blogs before reading the news. There has been a terrible terrorist incident in Spain.

News on

The last count I saw was over 170 192 people dead. Several commuter trains in the early morning to Madrid. Government says it was the ETA.

Victor has compiled a lot of information on the attack.

"We will not take part in the funeral for freedom."

A cell-phone text message circulated in Iran to protest against a clampdown on reformists in last weeks of parliamentary elections.

At risk of being labeled an echochamberist, I'm going to agree that danah has a good point in her post about echo chambers. (See David Weinberger's article for more background.) I think it is natural to communicate most with people whom you share context and I believe that if you separate strong ties and weak ties a la Granovetter's Strength of Weak Ties, there is definitely a lot of "strong tie" hang-out-with-your-friends action that goes on on blogs. I think that's natural. Most blogs are conversations between a small group of friends.

It's clear that it's fun and easy to hang out with people you like and trust and shared context allows you to relax and communicate easily. I do not think, however, that hanging out with your friends is exclusive of caring about or listening to people outside your immediate group of friends. This is especially true if you care about diversity or the pursuit of truth. The difficulty with blogs is that a variety of contexts are collapsed and the conversation with your friends, the conversation with a larger community and the general pursuit of diversity and "triangulation" all happens in the same place.

Normally, chatting in the kitchen with my family, hanging out at a geek conference and giving a plenary at an international conference are different contexts for me where I am performing a different facet of my identity and where my mind is in a completely different mode. On my blog, I somehow mix all of these together.

I think that in the real world the amount time communicating with your strongs ties is generally greater than the amount of time communicating with your weak ties. Weak ties are like transferring information across communities and boundaries whereas communicating inside of your group is more like digesting these thoughts. I suppose the question is whether talking about things among your friends tends to reinforce and amplify misconceptions or leads to greater understanding of the issues.

On the one hand, sharing context allows you to communicate efficiently and place new ideas into existing frameworks without the risk of constantly talking past each other. On the other hand, it limits your ability to "think outside the box" and a poorly organized group probably causes mutual back-patting. I think that's what the echo chamber is currently being blamed for causing. Shouldn't we recognize the fact that people will hang out with their friends and create communities and try to focus on how use these communities together with our weak ties?

I think that the project that Ethan and I are planning is an example of this. The idea is to take a group of bloggers to Africa. The strong ties allows us to have a group of people with whom we share a context so that we can support each other and work together to think about and create action based on things we see and learn in Africa. Going to Africa is an attempt to forge weak ties with a community outside. I think that without the smaller group of friends, trying to tie my Africa experience into my daily life would be more difficult and I think that going to Africa will enrich my local community with lots of new information and culture. I think the perfect balance is what we are trying to achieve.

As a child I travelled a lot, but mostly between US and Japan. I dealt with a lot of bicultural issues, but the rest of the world seemed far away. In the 90's I started going to Europe and Asia more, but it was always to "civilized" places.

Several years ago, I became actively involved in trying to reform Japan and I was allowed to be quite vocal about this. Last year, I gave a rant at Davos about how broken Japanese democracy was. Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues. These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context. With the US elections front and center, the obvious place to try to apply these thoughts was the US. Having spent a year or so thinking about US politics, I realize how important the US election is, but I'm drawn more and more to countries that need more help.

I think many of us avoid thinking about or worrying about the rest of the world. We hear people talking about poverty, but it sounds like something in some far away country on a National Geographic special. Most people just don't care. To be honest, I cared, but in retrospect, I didn't REALLY care. I guess better late than never. As I prepare for my trip to Africa with Ethan and try to figure out exactly how I can contribute and what I should be studying, I'm drawn back to organizations such as the UNHCR. On the flight back to Japan, I saw Beyond Borders, a movie about relief work and the UNHCR, starring Angelina Jolie. The movie captured some of the experiences of being an activist on a global level and I watched it thinking about what drove some people to such high levels of commitment. Googling around, I found Angelina Jolie's journal from her mission to Russia last year. (We need to get her a blog...) What is really striking to me and something that I'm trying understand is the process that people go through to reach a higher level of caring for human beings outside of their immediate circle. I think that this process holds the key for some of the important contributions that technologies can make.

Bloggers will be reporters tomorrow in Iran

I'm trying to encourage Iranian blogger to go out tomorrow, the election day, and report what they see and hear in their city and blog it. I also plan to gather all posts related to it in one place either in my own Persian blog or in Sobhaneh, the collective news blog.

I also consider a place in iranFilter for those Iranian who know English to provide translations the reports that are gathered in Persian.

This can be the 9/11 for Persian blogosphere. It's the first event that potentially engages every body in every city in Iran and blogs can play a huge role in reporting the news, rumors, and all those things that traditional journalists usually miss.

Iranian bloggers do not vote tomorrow, but the blog.

Update: special page on iranFilter is now set up and it's ready for Persian bloggers' covereage on the election day. Please help us by translating whatever you find interesting in Persian sources into English.

A very important day for Iran and a chance for blogs to make a difference.

photo_library_3208Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis introduced us to the Iranian blogger, Pedram Moallemian. Pedram blogs at the eyeranian. He is one of the outspoken Iranians who blogs in English and help us understand what's going on on the incredible number of Persian blogs. He explain that the Persian blogs can be traced to the short explanation written by Hoder at explaining how to use Blogger in Persian. There are now over 100,000 Persian blogs. Most of the blogs are about politics and sex as well as other things like poetry. The suppression of free speech in Iran is one of the explanations for the number of Persian blogs, but the notion that one short page of Persian documentation for Blogger starting this incredible trend is also very important. Many countries and languages probably just need a small seed to create an emergent cascade of blogging adoption.

Jeff writes about an arrested Iranian blogger who was recently freed. Great post with links to other interesting posts about Iranian blogging.

Ethan prepared some notes for our session which starts in 2.5 hours.

The conversation so far:

Ethan's critique of "Second Superpower", "Emergent Democracy"

Joi's response, on finding the next Salam Pax

Examples of emergent democracy from Joi and Ethan's readers

Views from the rest of the world

Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian pied piper for blogs

IranFilter - translated overview of 100,000 persian language blogs

Living on the Planet - global blog content aggregator

Narconews - trilingual news on the drug war


BlogAfrica catalog and aggregator

Adam Chambas's Accra Crisis Blog

Rebecca MacKinnon's NKZone - alternative reporting from North Korea

Oh My News, South Korea's brilliant citizen journalism project

Ghana Web, news and opinion

Subang Jaya e-news from Malaysia

Blogalization, content in translation from blogs around the world

Efforts to build cross-cultural dialogue, give a voice to people in developing nations

Open Knowledge Network content from the developing world, for the developing world. And, in Kiswahili

Voices04 Voices for folks without a voice in the 2004 election

SARS Watch. Became a platform for Chinese voices on SARS to communicate, uncensored

Taking IT Global

Kabissa - online discussion for African NGOs

What could we do we do:

Online legislation in Estonia

SARI - leading application became lobbying regional government via wireless internet.

Cellphones, talk radio and election monitoring in Ghana

Smart mobs, SMS in Kenya

What does a cellphone-based anticorruption system look like?

How do we launch OhMyNews in every nation

Rebecca, from CNN, who is now at Harvard on sabattical, has just launched a new blog about North Korea. It's an cool experiment in blogging/journalism by someone who has a lot of on-the-ground experience covering difficult topics like this.

This is an experiment in interactive, participatory journalism. And in the new age of internet web-blogging, we are ALL journalists.

NKzone is NOT a conventional news or information website. Our members will build NKzone collectively with unique, personal, and (whenever possible) first-hand insights about the world's most mysterious country. Please approach this site not as a "viewer" or "reader", but as a "participant" and "contributor." NKzone is non-partisan. It seeks to generate interest and debate about North Korea. It seeks to include many clashing views. It is not advocating a particular cause, other than the desire that people be better informed about North Korea.

Gapminder is a truly amazing site of visualizations of stunning facts and statistics.

Thanks for the link David!

I had a few ginger ales with Shekhar Kapur, a well known Indian film director. We talked about the life, the universe and everything. We talked about what it takes to direct a good film and how Shekhar chose which films to direct.

He talked about being asked to direct "Long Walk to Freedom" about the life of Nelson Mandela. He said he turned it down. He understood about inequality and prejudice from his experiences in India and being Indian, but that he didn't think he would ever truly understand the extreme conditions of apartheid. He would never truly understand the rage of being treated as a completely different class of human being by the white man.

Later, in Hollywood, in the office of an important studio exec, Shekhar explained that he had turned down the offer to direct "Long Walk to Freedom". The exec told Shekhar that he thought that it was a good idea since people weren't interested in a story about the struggles of a black man.

Shekhar was infuriated by the comment, but contained it and kept a straight face. He excused himself and went to the rest room. From the rest room, he called his agent and told him to accept the deal. Shekhar was now able to feel the rage and his passion for the film had developed.

It is very difficult to get the cultural passions right in a movie. Usually the culture is the backdrop of a story or the story is about how American culture triumph over other cultures. Shekhar's insistence on understanding the cultural passion that would be core to a movie was impressive and something that more directors would strive for when making movies about other cultures.

Chatting with Ethan of Geekcorps and Gillian of Witness conspiring to blogifying developing nations and organzations doing human rights work.

Ethan and Gillian are educating me on doing human rights and technology work in developing nations and I'm trying to help integrate blogging into their work. The stuff that they're doing is SO important, I think it's a great application for the blog amplifier.

Ethan's convinced me to visit Africa. Geekcorps sends geek volunteers into developing nations to work on technology projects. Ethan was an Internet entrepreneur turned social entrepreneur.

Gillian has been an activist her whole life, first as a high school Amnesty International chapter leader, then as an attorney, then as a investigative documentary producer. Just listening to her talk about all of the things she's done is so inspiring and is making me feel like a couch potato blogger.

Michael Powell wants to crack down on profanity in the US and the Brazilians arrest this pilot (via antti) for flipping them the finger. "He made an internationally known obscene gesture when he was being photographed by the Federal Police," according to the article. With all of the increased reason for profanity directed against establishment, I can see how a global war on profanity is essential for the security interests of the civilized world. :-p

Here's another racist influential leader ranting, this time about genocide.

"There will be a purge on God’s orders, and evil will be eliminated like shadows," the Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myong Moon, the owner and primary funder of money-losing right-wing Washington Times, said last week. (The comments were posted online by Rev. Moon’s webmaster and picked up by blogger John Gorenfeld.) "Gays will be eliminated, the 3 Israels will unite. If not then they will be burned. We do not know what kind of world God will bring but this is what happens. It will be greater than the communist purge but at God’s orders."

Via metafilter

It's $100 to register and you can register even if you're not attending ETech. I'll be doing a session with Ethan Zuckerman on International stuff.

Emergent Democracy Worldwide
Joichi Ito, Founder and CEO, Neoteny
Ethan Zuckerman, Founder, Geekcorps
Time: 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Location: California Ballroom C

While we're building great new tools to build communities, we've done very little to ensure that people around the world have access to them. And even when we've made it possible for people in developing nations to speak, we've done little to ensure that anyone listens. How do we ensure that the "Second Superpower" Jim Moore proposes includes the poor as well as the rich? When a new democratic structure emerges from highly-wired westerners, how do we ensure it's fair and just for those currently unwired? The answer is more complex than bridging the so-called "digital divide" - it involves bridging countless cultural divides. Emerging technologies make it easier than ever to bring first-person perspectives, as well as images, movies and music to people in other nations - is this enough to bring cultures together and ensure they care about one another?

My last blog entry about blogs and justice was a bit theoretical and ended with more questions than answers. Maybe it was confusing. Let me try to be specific. I think blogging will go beyond text and by blogging I mean the whole space that includes all sorts of micro-publishing of micro-content in a highly linked and low-cost way. This includes camera phones, video and audio. There are many things going on right now that will be sand in the vaseline from a technology perspective. Most types of DRM will suck for micro-content distribution. So will things like the broadcast flag. The whole notion of architecting systems for streaming video on demand goes against architecting systems for sharing. These technology and policy decisions will greatly affect the ease in which we publish and share information in the future.

When else can we do? At the last GLT Annual meeting Ethan Zukerman raised an important question during a talk moderated by Richard Smith, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of Newsweek. He asked why the mass media didn't cover Africa more. To summarize, Mr. Smith answered that they were a business and had to print things that people cared about and that they had resource constraints that made it difficult for them to cover remote regions. Resource constraints and caring. Mr. Smith seemed genuinely distressed by the inability to report about things the he believed people SHOULD care about. In Aspen the year before last, Jack Kemp said an interesting thing, "It doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." I agree, and generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about.

I think blogs can help on both points. There are lots of people in these countries that can help provide voice if enabled with some technology and some support. Witness provides a video voice to people who are oppressed in remote regions of the world. Take a look at the videos. Tell me if you still don't care. Salam Pax our Blogger in Iraq provided a real human voice before the invasion of Iraq. This human voice helped me care about Iraq much more than a statistical body count reported in the New York Times ever could. I'm hoping that Creative Commons licenses will allow musicians in remote regions to share music and culture directly so they have a voice, rather than being mined by studios and commercial interests and being turned into an mere ethnic overtone in an otherwise typically commercial business. I think blogs and technologies that allow people to produce and share information help greatly on the "make people care" part of the equation.

On the "we are resource constrained" part of the media equation, blogs can help too. Ethan Zukerman is planning his second trip to Africa with GLTs and other opinion leaders. I hope to join him on the trip after that. Ethan has been working very hard to try to provide technical support to NGO and other people working in Africa. As I propose in my Emergent Democracy paper, I think that there is a way for information to emerge from regions though several layers of blogs. A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step. We don't need a lot of these bloggers and they probably won't be your average person, but with a few well positioned bloggers in these regions, these regions can be "lit up" with a human voice and feed culture into our collective consciousness. These bloggers would keep in touch with sources and provide a network similar to the way in which a journalist creates a local network of sources and experts.

I think that bloggers can work closely with the mass media. Richard Smith expressed his interest in hooking up with bloggers and other sources with access to information that his journalists could use. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

These are just some examples of things that we can be doing to help make blogs provide real value to society, rather than becoming an echo-chamber for local values or chat rooms to promote new media assets.

So when Clay's asserts that:

I can’t imagine a system that would right the obvious but hard to quantify injustice of the weblog world that wouldn’t also destroy its dynamism.
I guess if the primary focus of a good system is to be just, I can imagine it trying to make technology more inclusive and thinking beyond the market of the privileged that danah refers to.

The FCC says it's OK to say "fuck" on TV. So it is OK to broadcast, "fucking USA" ?

Via MetaFilter and Boing Boing

I'm sure most of you have already seen this news, but 27 pilots including a brigadier general and two colonels, nine in active duty, signed a letter saying that the Israeli air strikes were "illegal and immoral" and that they refused to take part in such missions.

Israel Reels at Pilots' Refusal to Go on Mission

An F-15 pilot who signed the letter, identified only as Captain Alef, told Israel's Channel Two television: "If dropping a bomb on a seven-storey building only to find out 14 innocent civilians were killed, of them nine children and two women, if that is not an illegal order, then what is?" Israel drew international condemnation last year when 16 civilians died after an F-16 warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential neighborhood in Gaza City to kill Salah Shehada, a top commander in the militant Islamic group Hamas.

This is truly a significant issue. If upstanding members the Israeli military feel that the justification of the attacks on the Palestinians is weak, it's clear that the extremists who are pushing for the continued attacks are on fairly weak moral ground.

This reminds me of the work that Peaceworks is doing to try to amplify the voice of the silent majority in Israel and Palestine who are against the continued conflict.

At the joint Social Entrepreneurs and Global Leaders for Tomorrow meeting in Geneva, I met Gillian Caldwell. She is a film maker and an attorney and the Executive Director of WITNESS.

Witness Mission Statement
WITNESS advances human rights advocacy through the use of video and communications technology. In partnership with more than 150 non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in 50 countries, WITNESS strengthens grassroots movements for change by providing video technology and assisting its partners to use video as evidence before courts and the United Nations, as a tool for public education, and as a deterrent to further abuse. WITNESS also gives local groups a global voice by distributing their video to the media and on the Internet, and by helping to educate and activate an international audience around their causes.
This is incredibly important work. They are causing a great deal of impact already, but I think blogs could help increase their ability to reach a broader audience. This is such a great reason to figure out video blogging.

Ethan Zuckerman is the founder of geekcorps.

A US-based, non-profit organization, we place international technical volunteers in developing nations. We contribute to local IT projects while transferring the technical skills needed to keep projects moving after our volunteers have returned home.
Ethan's a GLT and one of the few blog savvy GLT's here. We've both evangelizing weblogs like crazy this trip. Ethan works a lot in developing nations and we talked about how to get technology to developing nations and how blogs could help get more coverage for issues in developing nations since the mass media tends to underreport them. One important part is to make them feel more culturally "close" in the way Salam Pax created a voice for Baghdad in the blogging community. We need more African bloggers. The other thing is to for other bloggers to understand and blog more about things going on in other parts of the world.

Ethan pointed me to a great resource for news about Africa, I think I'll start here...

Doc links to a "Girl Blog from Iraq", Baghdad Burning by Salam's friend Riverbend.

David Kirkpatrick : "Everything is on the record."

This means I can blog! ;-)

Panelists: Madeleine Albright - the 64th Secretary of State of the US, General Wesley Clark - Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Paula Dobriansky - Under Secretary for Global Affairs of the US Department of State and Kishore Mahbubani - Singapore's Ambassador to the UN.

Question: "Are we safer now since the war in Iraq?"

Madeleine Albright, "was Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat? No. So we are less safe now than before the attack. Understood the 'why' but not 'why now'. I'm now concerned about where (WMD) they are now. Many people in the US hate the UN, because it is full of foreigners, which can not be helped. (laughs) Support Bush's notion of more democracy in the middle east."

Paula Dobriansky: We are safer. The issue of what brought us in. 9/11. I don't think anyone would have thought that what took place on 9/11 was possible before that. The topic is new world order. We are not safe from a variety of threats. From rogue nations, or terrorists. There was a false sense of security. Then we look at Iraq specifically. 12 years of negotiation. Over several US administrations. Some security resolution. Hundreds of investigators. Inspectors who were on the ground in and out. The uncertainty of our security. The kind of volatility that exists out there. The environment has a great deal of vulnerability. The question is, are we better with Saddam's removal. The answer is "yes".

Kishore Mahbubani, "If you come from outside the US, for the rest of the world, the key question, is 'what now'. what is the impact of the Iraq war on the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, there are more questions being asked than has ever been asked before. Part is due to the Iraq war. "Friends of America" want America to succeed and would like some introspection in America to figure out how to get it right and how to reach out to the rest of the world. "What percentage of the world in their hearts of hearts want American to succeed vs. fail in Iraq." Many allies want American to fail and many others want America to succeed because we need a world order. "Tipping point". What can America do to make sure it doesn't reach the tipping point.

Wesley Clark, A few days after 9/11 Clark went through the Pentagon to check on his commentary. A joke was going around. "If Saddam didn't do 9/11, too bad, he should have, we're going to get him anyway." Those seized on that event to take out Saddam. Going after Sadaam cost us a year on the war terror. 40,000 troops who should have gone into Afghanistan were being held by Rumsfeld for Iraq. "It doesn't matter why, or how it comes out, but we went in there and kicked some ass, and boy they'll respect us now." The UN is not a world government, but it is an important part of creating legitimacy. I am concerned about WMD, but where are they? Not enough intelligence. The impact of instability of the action. There were some erroneous assumptions made. "I" for Iraq. Incomplete and indeterminate. Policy problems, bad planning, slow and cumbersome. We have a threefold problem. Al Qaeda, Iraqis trying to live, the Shia are organizing and deciding what to do. While we are worrying about terrorism and WMD, North Korea has crossed the redline. I'm happy Saddam is gone, but we have a plateful of stuff to do, but I think it's arguable whether we're more safe or not.

Paula : AIDS... After 9/11 worried that heath issues would get marginalized or sidetracked.

Albright : I sympathize for Paula who has to defend uni-dimensional administration policy. Defending the Bush administration is difficult, defending the UN is more difficult. Need for UN has never been greater.

Some quotes...

In America, we have the constitution. If something is socially unjust, Americans say 'It's unconstitutional'. In Islam, the equivalent is, 'this is un-Islamic'.

I regard Osama Bin Laden as the Robin Hood character. If we had a democracy in Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden would run for office.

There was a study that came out in June. The question was how the rest of the world views the US. Bin Laden was one of the top 4 on the list of who could help change US behavior. The approval rating, even in Europe has gone down over the last year.

The American Muslim community can help interface with the Muslims in the rest of the world. The American Muslim leaders and the American Jewish to work on issues such as the Palestinian issue.

Q: What about the role of women in Islam

A: Ideals and realities often have a gap. Even the framers did not really give people equal rights at the beginning. The ideal equality, but it didn't end up that way. The prophet was very much a feminist. The problem was when the Koran was implemented, local culture became law. Over 95% of law in the middle east is not from the Koran. The industrial revolution and the spreading of wealth increased the role of women. You can see this in the Middle East as the countries become wealthier, there are more lobbies to allow more equality for women.

If the Islamic world were more democratic and were more economically healthy, you wouldn't have many of the problems you have now. The rage in the Muslim world is focused on local issues. The war on terror should be focused on creating a light at the end of the tunnel and helping people raise themselves up.

President Roh of Korea is visiting Japan and I was invited to attend a lunch with him today. He has been in office for about 100 days and was widely reported as being the world's first "Internet President". I wrote about it in Feb. Since then, his popularity has gone from about 60% to 40% because of difficulties in execution of domestic financial policy and constantly changing positions on the US and other issues. His trip to Japan was also very controversial back in Korea because Japan just passed a new law broadening the powers of the Japanese military's ability to defend itself on Friday. Former victims of Japanese military occupation are very negative about any expansion of the Japanese military.

I was very interested in how the Internet would play a part in his leadership and deliberations so I was anxious to meet him and ask him about Emergent Democracy. Unfortunately, the "lunch" turned out to be a pretty formal and huge lunch with 150 business leaders. There was only time for two questions and the people asking the questions were already pre-chosen. The discussion focused around free trade, helping each other's economies, China and about Korea trying to become a hub for Asia and a railroad gateway to Europe.

Mark Norbom, the CEO of GE Capital was at my table and I hadn't seen him for a long time so that was nice. Also got to see Chairman Nishimuro of Toshiba who I'd also not seen for a long time. Other than generally schmoozing around, it wasn't much fun and there definitely wasn't any emergent anything going on as far as I could tell.

Andrew Orlowski has an article in The Register about how Jim Moore's paper about the Second Superpower spread so quickly it now ranks #1 on Google. Talks about how A-List blogs contribute to the ability for a single entry to quickly outrank versions of the word. (Cory talks about this phenomenon a lot.) Flattering mention of my blog... ;-p

Moore's subversion of the meaning of "Secondary Superpower" - his high PageRank™ from derives from followers of 'A-list' tech bloggers linking from an eerily similar "Emergent Democracy" discussion list, which in turn takes its name from a similarly essay posted by Joi Ito [Lunch - Lunch - Lunch - Segway - Lunch - Lunch - Fawning Parody] who is a colossus of authority in these circles, hence lots of PageRank™-boosting hyperlinks, and who like Moore, appeared from nowhere as a figure of authority.

Lunchin' Ito's essay is uncannily similar to Moore's - both are vague and elusive and fail to describe how the "emergent" democracy might form a legal framework, a currency, a definition of property or - most important this, when you're being hit with a stick by a bastard - an armed resistance (which in polite circles today, we call a "military").

The phenomenon Andrew writes about is quite interesting although the article is a bit nasty. Obviously Andrew doesn't think much about blogging.
Andrew Orlowski
Andrew Orlowski on blogging
Here's a mechanism which allows a billion people who can't sing, can't write a song or make an original beep, and have nothing to express, the means to deafen me with their tuneless, boring cacophony.
IMHO, I think Andrew should join the conversation instead of griping and acting like a magazine on the coffee table at a cocktail party...

Mitch has blogged about this article.

Thanks to Kevin, Anthony and George on the ED list for the links

James Moore
China as the winner of US v. Iraq

Joi Ito just wrote from Japan, and I recall that at last summer's Fortune Brainstorm conference Joi was emphasizing the hidden power of the Chinese--and that the Chinese really aspire to superpower status, and a major form of global leadership.

I think that the Chinese are the real winners in the war on Iraq. While the United States blows resources on a destructive cause, the Chinese are staying focused on strengthening their core economy. The United States ties itself up in years of economically and morally-draining occupation of Iraq--while the Chinese stay free and focused.

I figure that the war on Iraq probably will hasten Chinese leadership over the US

I was invited to the Forture conference last year and Japan had become so insignificant that as probably the only participant from Japan, I was stuck on the China Panel. (There was no panel or session on Japan.) ;-) Pretty good indication of what people are interested in these days. I didn't remember this conversation with Jim until he blogged it, but, yes. I think China is obviously shooting to be super-power and in my recent visits to China at least some of the people presented the situation to me as "so you should choose China instead of the US as your primary partner since we're (China) going to beat the US soon."

I think that if the US totally botches the Iraq thing and China ends up being the force that neutralizes the North Korea situation, China could potentially be catapulted into quite a strong geopolitical position. It's interesting to watch China's foreign policy right now.

A roundup of hilarious satire blogs. Blogs by GW Bush, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Il Live Journal link via woj@MetaFilter

Christiaan van der Valk posted a thoughtful item about mutual respect and the Arab world on the GLT list.

Christiaan van der Valk
It goes without saying that Iraq and its people need all the help they can get short term.

Seeing US soldiers paint a message for Saddam on a missile saying "9/11" was a sad confirmation of US public opinion of the reason for this war. While of course inspired by a fear only those in combat have a right to judge, seeing troops cheer as missiles are fired off (a commander explains: "they know the devastation these things bring") was as revolting as seeing people in the Muslim world celebrate after 9/11. I am sure the US and UK are serious about bringing peace and stability to the region (albeit certainly without a sufficient understanding of what the region really wants) but a little PR briefing of the troops would have helped. I did some introspection this weekend and concluded that I, too, as probably most Westerners, have a level of sub-conscious fear and resentment against the Arab world -- as much as rationally I would like things to be different, I could not conclude otherwise. Why? Because apparently some primitive part of my brain says "they hate us" and "they threaten our way of life". Even if one has been educated (as I think I have) to always question such feelings and try to understand them and counter them through rationalization, it does not take a lot for these these feelings to take the upper hand. I am pretty sure most people in the Arab world have not been sensitized to signal and deal with such dangerous emotions -- in many cases rather the opposite. Try to imagine against that background how this war and its preparation feel. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in the Arab and Muslim world are convinced the West hates them. And as much as Bush and all of us are sure we're doing all the right things to inspire confidence, we haven't began to do what is needed to get there. It is this mindset we're up against. You can pump a hundred billion into post-war Iraq, if you do not address this basic issue it will not be interpreted as positive. We have to learn mutual respect and we have to accept compromise. Showing decency in every aspect of this war, which is now a fact of life, must be a first step.
quoted with permission

I've posted a two movies clips I took at the anti-war parade in Shibuya. The first one is a 1.7MB QT movie of the Japanese drummers and the second one is a 780K QT movie of the big black flags of the anarchics waving in the air walking down Koendori in front of the Marui department store. I imagined that we were marching for the overthrow of the Japanese government for a moment. ;-)

Recently I've been getting email and comments in my blog pushing me to try to elaborate on my position on the war or to engage in the debate. I don't want to right now. I have several reasons.

1 - The War with Iraq is very important, but I have many things that are important to me and committing to taking a strong position and defending it would undermind my ability to cause a revolution in Japan, think about North Korea, run my business and try to understand democracy.

2 - Most of what can be said is being said. It reminds me of high school debate. We had hundreds of note cards supporting or debunking various positions. Debate was about choosing and presenting a variety of positions about certain points. Both teams had 99% of all of the arguments already worked out. It was just a matter of hashing things out. I read the war blogs and it seems like just recycling of the same information over and over again. I'm not interested in hearing about the war unless it is new information. Calling me names and pushing me harder will not change my position on the war. I also do not have much to add at this point. I don't have much first hand information and it would be reiterated arguments already made. I don't see the point.

3 - Most of the sources of information are not trustworthy and have a variety of complex agendas. The issue itself is VERY complex. I think that ANYONE who is completely convinced either way either has access to information that I do not have or is a fool. I do not take strong positions on issues where I don't know the facts for sure and where it is too complex to predict the outcome.

I have decided to be against the war after listening to a variety of people who I trust and who have thought about this a lot. I had the opportunity to meet Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in a small group with the Global Leaders for Tomorrow two years ago. I developed a great deal of respect for him. His speech at Davos this year was the most convincing argument for the war that I've heard. All of the pro-war folks are not nearly as convincing and I've already heard the argument about the UN resolution from Powell so I don't need to hear it again and again. I've also spent time with a journalist who I respect very much who is also pro-war. He was also very convincing. I've talked to experts on foreign policy, university professors, bloggers and a variety of people who I trust. My feeling after hearing all of the arguments is that there is no obvious position. So, when in doubt, my position is, don't kill people. Also, I believe that the US one of the best democracies in the world and that we should all push the US to hold the link and maintain its integrity. Judges face cases where they KNOW the defendant is guilty, but throw it out due to technicalities. Rules are rules. First-strike, torture are bad no matter what the reason. Due process should be protected no matter what the reason. If you let these principles slip, you're losing what you're fighting for. I'm not going to go into any more specifics in this entry because for every argument, there is a counter-argument.

So my fear in taking the anti-war position is that we may be allowing another Hitler to happen. Having said that, Sadaam does not have nearly the support or the power the Hitler had so we still have time. We are allowing the bin Laden to unite the Arab/Islam world against the US with this war and strange bedfellows are united. This is dangerous. We are also pushing Sadaam to strike first. The cost of a long war on the global economy and the difficulty of "running Iraq" is immense and I dread the thought of a drawn out US occupation of Iraq. That's what's on my mind.

So my humble position is to let the inspectors continue, work through the UN, get the rest of the world on board with a "smoking gun" and talk to the rest of the Arab nations more for ideas about hot to unseat Sadaam.

PS If you are going to warblog spam my blog, please comment on this item if possible. I won't delete or censor war comments to other entries, but I think it's bad taste to turn EVERY discussion into a discussion about Iraq.

Frank Boosman's rather lucid arguments FOR the war.
Interesting cross-blog debate

I have been criticized as being a "Japan Basher" for my comments about the dysfunctional Japanese democracy. I'd like to point out that I criticize everything that I think is wrong and don't discriminate by nationality. I don't think Japan is the only country with problems. In fact, I think that many countries have similar problems with their democracy.

Joi Ito has posted some thoughts about Japan's problems, and he could just as well be speaking about the USA.


House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas)
DELAY: John, we're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duperpower.
At least we don't have politicians in Japan calling us a "super-duperpower". How embarrassing. Looking at the press these days, it almost seems like politicians in the US are sounding stupid on purpose...

pwn_logo.gifDaniel Lubetzky of Peaceworks joined our session at the GLT summit, "Rebuilding Modern Politics: Can the System Fix Itself?" and talked about his project. Peaceworks is an amazing group working on empowering people and the "moderate" voices in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. They use Internet, newspapers, telephones and a variety of technologies to get the voice of the people, which is much more moderate than the extremists who currently control poltics. I think the strategy of Peaceworks of using technology to short circuit the legistlature which is so heavily influenced by extremists is a great idea that may even be relevant in the US. You you can't change politics directly, go around them. After you get the "moderate voice" aired, it becomes easier to for the moderate politicians to take a moderate stance. A stance that they can't take when the voices of the exteremists are the only ones that are heard.

Take a look at the overview. There is a good flash presentation as well.

As the rapporteur of this session, I was supposed to take notes on a brainstorming session facilitated by Ted Halstead, President and CEO of the New American Foundation, a think tank, and Philippa K. Malmgren, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, National Economic Council, USA. There were about 11 other participants. The description of the topic was:

Public interest continues to wane in almost every industrialized democratic country. What needs to change in terms of political priorities, accountability, ideology, organization and leadership in most democracies? Will the next generation of leaders be able to reverse the trend from within existing political frameworks?

The discussion went all over the place with a variety of plans like creating an international organization to consult to new democracies and a variety of ways to wake up the voters and chase away the bad politicians. With the help of everyone, I tried to boil the discussion down into some concrete issues and things that we might be able to do to address these issues.

Here is a draft version of my report that I submitted to the World Economic Forum. I think and edited version of this will end up in the briefing package for the participants of the forum next year.

Different problems in different countries

There are "mature democracies", "emerging democracies", and "waiting democracies" in the world. Each country has a variety of problems and there is no single "plan" to "fix" every democracy. Too much focus on the GDP can undermine a country's democracy. Too much focus on the democratic process can undermine the economic development of a democracy.

There are issues common to most democracies and some practical initiatives to address these issues.

Issues faced by most democracies regardless of the stage of the democracy

Control of agenda by extremists

In most democracies, for a variety of reasons, extremists have control of political agendas.

In the United States, the two party system and the ability of extremists in the parties, the religious right in the Republican Party and the minorities in the Democratic Party are able to exercise power through the ability to mobilize people while the moderates are not active and don't vote.

The referendum process in California that was initiated in part to try to bypass the extremist in the legislature has ended up being used primarily by the extremists.

In them Middle East, the extremists have taken charge of the agenda on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.

Lack of choice of politicians

The two party system and the electoral system in the United States does not give people a choice of alternative politicians.

The inability to displace incumbent politicians and the unwillingness of politicians to allow succession in other countries limit the choice of politicians.

Most politicians are professional politicians and it is difficult for new politicians to enter the process.

Lack of participation and apathy by young adults and moderates

Young adults and moderates do not vote in most countries.

In the US, polls show that most young people are independent, neither Democrat or Republican.

Lack of ideology in politics

Most politicians lack ideology and are focused on special interests and the interest of powerful extremists. There are few politicians willing to risk their political careers for strong policy or ideological views.

Initiatives to address issues

Better legislature

We must improve the quality and the behavior of politicians.

Encourage more politicians willing to risk their careers for ideologies and policies

There are several ways to encourage politicians to risk their careers for ideologies and policies and to encourage people willing to take these risks to become politicians.

We must encourage more non-professional politicians to become politicians or join public services.

There are several specific policies that would help.

Pay politicians more money

Currently, the cost of campaigning and the low financial incentives for politicians and public servants hinder people without the sufficient financial resources from become involved in politics. In addition, the funding requirements cause politicians to rely on funding from special interest groups.

Change election system

The election systems in many countries make it difficult for independent or new politicians to be elected. The "winner takes all" electoral college in the US forces a choice between the two parties and independents cause votes to be distributed between similar candidates diminishing their ability to win.

In other countries such as Japan, the numbers of seats in the proportional system is not balanced and cause certain regions to be unfairly represented.

"Instant run-off"

The "Instant run-off" system which has been enacted in California allow voters to vote for several candidate in order of priority so that votes from candidates which can not win can be diverted to the second choice candidates improving their chances of winning creating a more fair outcome.

Mandatory voting

Several countries have implemented successful mandatory voting. Mandatory voting will cause the moderate and the young to vote diminishing the ability of the extremists to control the election process.

Bypassing legislature

In many cases, it is impossible for politicians to resist the extremist forces and it is necessary to bypass the legislature and empower the people to organize and affect policy directly.

Technologies and methods to empower people

New technologies provide access to information and ability for the people to be empowered to learn and organize themselves into forces to back policies.

In the Middle East, The Peaceworks Network has reached people directly through multiple media forms and polled them on political issues providing a public view of the opinions of the public. These views of the public provide feedback to the public and also legitimize the moderate position of the public. This can provide politicians hampered by hardliners a position of strength when taking the moderate stance.

Media is essential component for empowering individuals

The media is an essential element in inclusion of the public in the political process and in empowering the public to take action. Liberating the media in a nation is essential, but the practical methods for such liberation is unique in each country.


Ars Electronica 2002 Program

Plug-In VII: Global Conflicts - Local Networks
Rüdiger Wischenbart / A, Joichi Ito / J, Alex Galloway / USA, Derrick de Kerckhove / CDN, Lori Wallach / USA
Brucknerhaus, 12.9.02, 10:30 - 13:30

The Internet utopias have evaporated into the reality of our society. Nevertheless, there is evidence of the political power that actively network-linked communities can bring to bear ... not perfect, but a good start.

Suhair Mohamed Khair Al-Zahabi/Qatar. Journalist, Al-Jazeera.
Lori Wallach/USA. Director of Public Citizens’s Global Trade Watch.
Joichi Ito/J.
Alex Galloway/USA. Member of
Rüdiger Wischenbart/A/D. Journalist and consultant.

Interesting panel. I was going to talk mostly about privacy, identity and community, but I ended up spending most of my time talking about my blog. I forgot to say a few things I was meaning to say, but we only had 30 minutes for the initial presentation so I had to fit a lot in...

I talked about Lessig and Code and how code is law and architecture is politics. I talked about Roger Clarke's notions on how identity and entity are different and that an architecture that allows us to keep our identities separate from our entities would be a good thing. I discussed how privacy underpins democracy and that we need to work hard to create architectures that protect our privacy. Then I showed everyone my blog and showed how the architecture of blogs was inside out. You went to get information from individual blogs that were connected. You didn't need to segregate, filter or blog since it you were pulling, not being pushed to (except for my update spam) and since you weren't stuck in a tiny common space, people weren't forced to confront each other...

It was interesting meeting someone from the Al-Jazeera. The questions and dialog inevitably drifted towards Osama Bin Laden and Islam. I got to quote the King of Jordan and sound a bit educated about the Middle East. ;-p

First spotted on Slashdot.

I once made a comment at a conference in Hong Kong that more than half of the Internet would soon be Chinese and that China may end up running Internet protocols before long. Everyone liked that comment (in China) and it ended up in the paper. ;-P

In protesting the Japanese government's security weaknesses, we often talk about the issue of the government's love of Microsoft products. We often talked about China's push into open source and Linux.

I think that from a security perspective and a "leap frog the West" perspective, making open source a national initiative in China makes obvious sense.

LinuxWorld Expo: Chinese government raises Linux sail
By Matt Berger
August 13, 2002 10:56 am PT

SAN FRANCISCO -- A government-sponsored software development group in China unveiled a version of the Linux operating system it has developed that it said will eventually replace Windows and Unix on all of its government PCs and servers.
Infoworld Article - LinuxWorld Expo: Chinese government raises Linux sail

David Kirkpatrick wrote some notes about a session that I participated in at the Fortune Brainstorm conference. I have interspersed my comments in italics.

A Glimpse Inside Brainstorm
Which is more important: democracy or human rights? At a recent FORTUNE conference, international panelists debate.
By David Kirkpatrick

The talk at FORTUNE's recent Brainstorm 2002 event got pretty darn interesting, as businesspeople mixed it up with experts and thinkers from other domains. In one part of the Brainstorm program, each FORTUNE editor or writer moderated an hour-long session of 8-10 randomly assigned participants, with no set topic.

I scribbled down the following dialogue during mine, which included Glover Ferguson, chief scientist of Accenture; Joichi Ito, CEO of Japanese Internet company Neoteny; Fred Krupp, Executive Director of Environmental Defense; Jim Moore, Senior Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Xiao Qiang, Executive Director of Human Rights in China; Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; Dave Roux, managing director of investment group Silver Lake Partners; and Fred Thompson, who manages Korn/Ferry's searches for top technology executives. The concentration of NGOs, human rights professionals, and men was coincidental. Much of the day had touched on issues of democracy, so that's where our conversation got started.

Ito: When we talk about democracy, I want to know the definition. Japan is not a democracy. If it were it would have become a communist state. Is there hypocrisy when the U.S. talks about democracy?
I was referring to the fact that after World War II, the US Occupation chose to back the old guard bureaucrats and gangsters to fend off Russian support for the Japanese left wing. The left wing sentiment was quite strong at the time and without this action, it is possible Japan would have swung quite far to the left. The US wanted a controllable non-communist state and this could not have happened if left to populist democracy.

[Ferguson mentions that Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's longtime leader, sometimes downplayed the importance of democracy.] Qiang: Why do people take him seriously? He just ran a city. Singaporeans who disagreed could always leave. In China they can't. Roth: The U.S. has been somewhat hypocritical. Democracy is a flexible term which can be used with more or less cynicism. Roux: Is democracy the bigger issue vs. climate change, economic development, poverty, etc.? Moore: Human rights? Roux: Not in my top ten. Roth: It's hard to address yours without it. But economic determinism has been refuted in China-there's been great evolution in personal freedoms but none in political freedoms. Development alone does not lead to human rights. Qiang: Look at the consumerism and materialism in China. It's devastating. Environmentally China is heading to disaster, and the political system has a lot to do with it. Moore: You need educated people concerned with long-term thinking. Ito: A lot of Americans are fooling themselves. There's a big difference between how they feel about the rights of citizens and those of non-citizens. What if all the countries of the world really participated in an intelligent dialogue and spoke up? Would that be considered good for the U.S? Roux: The U.S. has the opportunity to take the advantages it has in various dimensions and engage in horse trading--for instance, the way it helped get China into the WTO. Roth: The irony of this administration's position is that it rejects so many international treaties. In doing so they give up that advantage. It's shortsighted because the treaty rules are going ahead anyway. Krupp: Some talk of a new Marshall Plan to aid development, but what might be a realistic way to transfer wealth from rich to poor countries would be, for instance, to pay India to modify its power plants to be less polluting. [Some discussion ensues about the role of the Internet in economic development and companies like DevelopmentSpace, which enables a direct online connection between donors and philanthropic recipients in developing countries.] Krupp: The Internet is a tool that can allow us to do something like what Save The Children does, but in a very scaled-up way. It can tie into peoples' desire to have personal impact. Roth: The challenge for NGOs is not only to show that there is suffering out there, but also to show that you can do something about it. People are moved when they see suffering. You don't need to steer it back to self-interest. But if it doesn't directly relate back to U.S. concerns, CNN won't cover it. Ferguson: There's a long-term problem with the way humans are wired. We are wired to smash in the face of the bear at the door. Ito: [Making point that long-term action is not impossible.] Tokyo Station was built in 1914 to be used for 100 years, and it can still easily add new lines for new bullet trains. Moore: We have big problems that require macro approaches over a long time. Qiang: How do you show people that by doing something more long-term they're really making a difference? Ito: No one trusts the U.S. No one trusts the IMF. I'm not sure what the context was for this comment. I think the issue of trust, trustworthiness and knowing whether you are trusted is a big issue... It is not true that "no one" trust the US and IMF. Of course some people do. ;-) Moore: You could see the beginnings of a move toward global governance in some of the Internet domain-name management efforts. Thompson: The vast majority of people in the world are compassionate, and they care, but there's no means to bring that together. Ito: Global dialogue is a key. duh... People ended by praising Brainstorm as a method of moving in the right direction. Pierre Omidyar of eBay joined our table after his own broke up. We all talked about various ways of continuing the dialogue; Brainstorm's momentum was building. Fast Forward will return to talking about technology and its discontents in future installments. But I don't see Brainstorm as something separate. If we're going to understand the true importance of technology we have to see it in the context of what's happening in the world. That's the relationship between Brainstorm and Fast Forward, the two FORTUNE sub-brands I'm working so hard to develop.


Shimon Peres says...

First, he told us that he had just received a call from the Prime Minister and that another bomb had gone off in a University...

"I have no hatred in my heart for the Palistinians."

He thinks that maybe the Palestinians may be able to build the first real Arab democracy since they are building from scratch and have watched other Arab nations and their problems.

"We are just two tragedies meeting in the same place. I hope that this doesn't turn into a third tragedy."

"I believe that the greatest liberation in the 20th century was the liberation of women."

"Since we can't build a world government, let's build a world NGO. Have the companies come together and pay insurance. Have a board of directors with members such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela. Totally based on volunteering. No one forcing. This may be able to handle the problems that globalization is creating."

"Television made dictatorship impossible, but it made democracy intolerable."

"What can you learn from History? Very little... History was written with red ink, wth bloodshed. We should educate our children how to imagine, not how to remember."

Some students and a Rabbi were discussing how you can tell when night is over and day has come. One student said that when you can tell the difference between a lamb and a goat, day has come. Another student said that when you can tell the difference between a fig tree and and an olive tree, the day has started. The Rabbi says, when you see and white man or a black man and you call him your brother, the day has come. When you see a rich man or a poor man and you call him your brother, the day has come.

I don't know the publishing rules for this conference. I looked through all of the materials and there was no comment about usage of what we learn. They never mentioned it at during any of the sessions either so I am assuming it is OK. If someone thinks this is inappropriate, please email me. I think his comments were great and can't see how it could damage anyone...

John Gage set up 802.11 in the main room of the conference so I'm online live now. Cool. The king of Jordan is talking now and I'm sitting between Stewart Brand and Paul Saffo. Shimon Peres and his bodyguard are sitting next to Paul. We're all sitting in Herman Miller Aeron chairs sponsored by Herman Miller. (The Levis of the new economy.)

The King of Jordan just said, "We find ourselves between Iraq and a hard place." ;-)

The King was incredibly articulate and impressive. He said that it was the Americans who supported Islamic extremism in the region because they used them to fight their wars. The war on terrorism is a war between fundamentalism and modern Islam and it was the rest of the world joining this struggle, not the other way around.

Category Archives

Monthly Archives