7/31/1999

Blogs & Knowledge

On the Blogger.com piece Blogger Knowledge there's this impressive quote that makes being an Internet windbag seem sooo important!

As a blogger, you are both an individual force and a neuron in the giant, interconnected mind that is the blogosphere

Who knew, Blogs are educational!

The article is pretty cool. Here are my favorite parts:
The Amazing Jelly Bean Experiment

Treynor asked his class to estimate how many jelly beans there were in a jar. When added together and averaged, the group's estimate was 871— there were 850 beans contained within the jar. Only one student had made a better guess (a rogue genius, if you will). The now historic jelly-beans-in-the-jar experiment showed invariably that a group estimate is superior to the vast majority of individual guesses on a consistent basis.

Granted, there are limited situations in which knowing the amount of jelly beans in a jar is a significant accomplishment. Or even mildly amusing, come to think of it. Nevertheless, this example can be found along with 320 pages of other examples in a new book by James Surowiecki called The Wisdom of Crowds. In his book, Surowiecki demonstrates myriad situations where the many are smarter than the few.

"If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's 'collective intelligence' will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally.

'Wise crowds' need
(1) diversity of opinion;
(2) independence of members from one another;
(3) decentralization;
(4) a good method for aggregating opinions."

Beans, Blogs, and Feeds

Four basic conditions? That's all you got, Surowiecki? Your conditions have just met their match: bloggers are a wise crowd.

1. Diversity of opinion - That's a no-brainer. Bloggers publish hundreds of thousands of posts daily, each one charged with its author's unique opinion.
2. Independence of members - Except for your friends saying "You've got to blog about that!" bloggers are not controlled by anyone else.
3. Decentralization - There is no central authority in the blogosphere; publish your blog anywhere you want with any tool you want.
4. A method for aggregating opinions - Blog feeds make aggregation a snap and there is no shortage of services that take advantage of that fact.

The MIT Media Lab project called Blogdex is one of the longest operating and most-visited opinion aggregators.

"Blogdex uses the links made by webloggers as a proxy to the things they are talking about. Webloggers typically contextualize their writing with hypertext links which act as markers for the subjects they are discussing. These markers are like tags placed on wild animals, allowing Blogdex to track a piece of conversation as it moves from weblog to weblog."

The wisdom of blogs is not demonstrated by how many jelly beans are in a jar. In fact, I stand against jelly beans. They're not really beans and they're not really jelly. Seeking the wisdom of blogs is more like consulting an oracle. Throughout the ancient Greek world there were temples one could visit to ask the all-knowing oracle a question — the answer was supposed to express the will of the gods. Instead of the will of the gods, questions posited to Blogdex are answered with the voice of the blogosphere.

The Modern Oracle

Every day, aggregators collect the diverse, decentralized opinions contained within blog posts and organize them. In the case of Blogdex, posts are put into a numbered list based on popularity. Popularity is measured by how many times a particular news story or web page has been linked to. These links are essentially votes in an ongoing campaign to elect information that is interesting, helpful, or enlightening. Instead of answering "How many jelly beans are in the jar?" the blog crowd is answering the unasked question, "What is worth my attention on the Web?"

Other players in this aggregation field go further than just displaying links. They provide users with the ability to search for answers. Technorati is one of these modern day oracles. Is Spider Man 2 a good movie? Let's ask three million people and have our answer in 2.984 seconds... the movie was basically "freakin' excellent."

Kerry's Astrology Chart

From the folks at AstroWorld

Astroworld: JOHN FORBES KERRY

: "At the end of the day on election night (7:00pm Washington, DC) the Asc/Des are exactly polar opposites of his Natal Chart, putting his Moon in the 1st house of the Election Chart and Sun in the 7th House of others, and his Progressed Sun will be moving toward the Mid-heaven at 7:00pm November 2nd and John Edwards Sun in the 1st House. I think we have a couple of winners here folks. And if GWB has one more scandal, one more problem, one more obfuscation that turns out badly for him, he is gone.

May the skies hear you!

7/26/1999

Laurie Mylroie: The Neocons' favorite conspiracy theorist

In his piece "Armchair Provocateur" Peter Bergen writes..
... the belief that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States amounted to a theological conviction within the administration, a conviction successfully sold to the American public. So it's fair to ask: Where did this faith come from? What.. gave neoconservatives like Wolfowitz and Perle such abiding faith in their own positions?
Historians will be debating that question for years, but an important part of the reason has to do with someone you may well have never heard of: Laurie Mylroie. ...

During the 1980s, Mylroie was an apologist for Saddam's regime, but reversed her position upon his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and, with the zeal of the academic spurned, became rabidly anti-Saddam. In the run up to the first Gulf War, Mylroie with New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, a well-reviewed bestseller translated into more than a dozen languages.

Until this point, there was nothing controversial about Mylroie's career. This would change with the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the first act of international terrorism within the United States, which would launch Mylroie on a quixotic quest to prove that Saddam's regime was the most important source of terrorism directed against this country.

She laid out her case in Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, a book published by AEI in 2000 which makes it clear that Mylroie and the neocon hawks worked hand in glove to push her theory that Iraq was behind the '93 Trade Center bombing. Its acknowledgements fulsomely thanked John Bolton and the staff of AEI for their assistance, while Richard Perle glowingly blurbed the book as "splendid and wholly convincing." Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is thanked for his "generous and timely assistance." And it appears that Paul Wolfowitz himself was instrumental in the genesis of Study of Revenge: His then-wife is credited with having "fundamentally shaped the book," while of Wolfowitz, she says: "At critical times, he provided crucial support for a project that is inherently difficult."

None of which was out of the ordinary, except for this: Mylroie became enamored of her theory that Saddam was the mastermind of a vast anti-U.S. terrorist conspiracy in the face of virtually all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the '93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade, from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the leveling of the federal building in Oklahoma City to September 11 itself.

...Mylroie has written that the crash of TWA flight 800 into Long Island Sound in 1996 likely was an Iraqi plot.... According to Mylroie, Iraq supplied the bomb-making expertise for the attack which killed 17 U.S. sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. No American law enforcement official has made that claim. Mylroie blames Iraq for the post-9/11 anthrax attacks around the United States.

...[Despite Mylroie's rantings] by the mid-'90s, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the F.B.I., the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, the C.I.A., the N.S.C., and the State Department had all found no evidence implicating the Iraqi government in the first Trade Center attack.

She is, in short, a crackpot, which would not be significant if she were merely advising say, Lyndon LaRouche. But her neocon friends who went on to run the war in Iraq believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.

[on a recent seminar - 2003 ] Mylroie began lecturing in a hectoring tone: "Listen, we're going to war because President Bush believes Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Al Qaeda is a front for Iraqi intelligence;[the U.S.] bureaucracy made a tremendous blunder that refused to acknowledge these links; the people responsible for gathering this information, say in the C.I.A., are also the same people who contributed to the blunder on 9/11 and the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and so whenever this information emerges they move to discredit it."

At the end of the interview, Mylroie, who exudes a slightly frazzled, batty air, started getting visibly agitated, her finger jabbing at the camera and her voice rising to a yell as she outlined the following apocalyptic scenario: "Now I'm going to tell you something, OK, and I want all Canada to understand, I want you to understand the consequences of the cynicism of people .. There is a very acute chance as we go to war that Saddam will use biological agents as revenge against Americans, that there will be anthrax in the United States and there will be smallpox in the United States. Are you in Canada prepared for Americans who have smallpox and do not know it crossing the border and bringing that into Canada?"

Unfortunately, Mylroie's researches have proven to be more than merely academic, as her theories have bolstered the argument that led us into a costly war in Iraq and swayed key opinion-makers in the Bush administration, who then managed to persuade seven out of 10 Americans that the Iraqi dictator had a role in the attacks on Washington and New York. So, her specious theories of Iraq's involvement in anti-American terrorism have now become part of the American zeitgeist. Meanwhile, in a recent, telling quote to Newsweek, Mylroie observed: "I take satisfaction that we went to war with Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein. The rest is details." Now she tells us.

7/25/1999

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Six charged over USS Cole attack

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Six charged over USS Cole attack

USS Cole Attack links

LookSmart - Directory - USS Cole Attack

"# BBC News - Six Charged Over USS Cole Attack
July 2004 article describes the indictments of Jamal al-Badawi, Fahd al-Qusaa, and four others in the terrorist attack.

# BBC News - USS Cole Bomb Suspects Recaptured
Learn about the arrest by Yemeni officials of two terrorists after they broke out of a jail in May 2003."

Clinton's UN policy

On the declassified documents for the Rwanda massacre in 1994/95, we see this interesting document, "Document 9", which is a White paper prepared by the Department of State documenting Clinton's policy for joint operations with UN. Contrary to what neocons say, Democrats didn't preach or talked about abdicating US power to UN. Just the opposite: US lead all the interventions that were taken during the Clinton years.

The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: Evidence of Inaction

White paper, Department of State, “The Clinton Administration’s Policy on Reforming Multilateral Peace Operations”, May 1994. Non-classified.
Source: Mandatory Declassification Review release by the National Security Council

Presidential Decision Directive 25 guides US government policy on peacekeeping operations, setting forth criteria that must be met before US participation can occur. The document stipulates three different sets of criteria depending on the anticipated level of engagement. One of the most controversial policy documents of the Clinton Administration’s first term, this directive was under development for more than a year, and during the review was the subject of bureaucratic infighting, leaks to the press, and strong Congressional criticism. While much information in the directive itself remains classified, the State Department issued an executive summary as a “white paper”, which spells out the thresholds and criteria for US involvement in peace operations.


Yahoo! News - Japan Panel OKs Human Cloning for Research

Yahoo! News - Japan Panel OKs Human Cloning for Research
Bookmarked

7/23/1999

Iraq Veterans Against the War
Bookmarked

Military Families Speak Out
Bookmarked