No reason for optimism in Iraq - BBC

John Simpson is far from a doomsayer so now I worry even more!

Carl Beeth

Why I Published Those Cartoons

Flemming Rose the Culture Editor of Jyllands-Posten explains his side of the story.

Carl Beeth

Good Night, and Good Luck

George Clooney


By telling the story of Edward Murrow vs. Senator Joseph McCarthy, George Clooney crafts a powerful message by simply letting us draw our own parallels to the current political climate.

The black and white and photography mixed in with original footage and jazz soundtrack ads a lot to the fabulous performance of the actors. David Strathairn as Edward Murrow is absolutely stunning.

Carl Beeth

Power-laws solutions to social ills

Malcom Gladwell has an intriguing take on homelessness, bad cops and car pollution.

Power-law solutions have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago-school cost-benefit analysis.

By taking examples from homelessness, bad cops and car pollution, the article explains that we have tended to look at these issues as endemic problems but when you look at them more carefully you see that that in each case very few represent the biggest challenge and we need to gear our solutions to solving them in realistic ways.

Hamas Without Veils - NRO

It’s rare that I agree with something said in the NRO but this echoes how I see it.

Carl Beeth



Want to see a graphic illustration of what the google censorship in China means? Then take a look at this chinese version of a google images search then do the same in the normal google images search. Very Scary!

1 hour 6 min

Al Gore on the unchecked expansion of executive powers in the US

Taking the base of the recent illegal wire taps in the US, Al Gore delivers a superb speech sounding the alarm on the president's use of fear to extend his powers beyond the law and the constitutional crisis it creates.

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but in the next breath declared that he has no intention stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men.

There is a transcript of the speech here but I recommend listing to it. You can also find some bits on video here.

What is your dangerous idea?

Edge.org has their annual question online, this year it is "What is your dangerous idea?". Answered by a bunch of luminaries they are well worth browsing through.

A Life, Wasted - Washington Post

Carl Beeth

Richard Dawkins on Creationism etc.

There is a short interview with Richard Dawkins over on beliefnet where of course he talks about evolution, creationism, god and atheism. I thought this part was particularly telling:

...I feel elated. My book, "Unweaving the Rainbow," is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be—in a funny sort of way—rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life--these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. ...

This touches a nerve with me. I often get annoyed by people that think that one can not marvel at nature if one tries to understand it. In my opinion understanding almost always ends up enhancing the beauty of what one observes.

The Corporation

Jennifer Abbott
Mark Achbar


Finally saw the corporation, after a quick run down of the history of the corporation the movie settles down to a very scary psychoanalysis of the corporation with lots of examples amoral behavior.

Although not surprised, I found the way Fox shut up their reporters for fear of losing their advertising dollars particularly scary. Sadly I think this is now the norm in the investigative reporting, actually it is quite questionable if there still is anything one can call tv journalism when the tv news is reduced to gathering eyeballs for advertisers.

I don't think there is anything inherently immoral with with the concept of the corporation but would definitely agree that it is amoral by nature and only through legislation can we insure that it does not slip into immorality. Anyway the movie is definitely a must see movie.

Carl Beeth

Does religious belief damage a society?

There is a short article in the times online about a study that finds more religious democracies worse off in social ills than their less religious counterparts.
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.
I don't doubt the statistics but I have second thoughts on the conclusion. I think that it is more probable that countries with a functioning social safety net tend to become less religious over time. It works something like this, as people feel more confidant that their public services can help them in their hour of need they feel less the need to rely on a higher power. I think a big reason the US is so religious compared to Europe is that they don't have a functioning social safety net, and if one is very cynical, one could even think that the reason the religious right are in bed with the neocons is that they both benefit in different ways from weakening the state.

Peter Jennings

John Simpson has an obituary on Peter Jennings that rings very true. I had the privilege to meet him a couple of times when I worked as local ABC News gofer in Brussels whenever there was a presidential visit to NATO. I was amazed how nice he was and how generous he was with praise towards us gofers. I will always remember my experiences working for ABC News as some of the best learning experiences of my professional life. Rosemary Henderson the girl that first got me the job told me on the first day, "Whatever they ask you say yes, then you turn around and ask the next person how". I learned a lot of things real quick from that.

It’s incredibly sad that TV News in the US has almost been reduced to pure entertainment, sadly it will only get worse with the loss of Peter Jennings

OpenTech 2005 Afterthoughts

Me at OpenTech

Danny O’Brian’s presentation on fame and the internet was fantastic and funny. It touched many interesting aspects of fame, privacy and relationship grooming. I would have liked to hear more on micro fame and maybe exploring the advantages of internet extended persona. As a side note I loved his use of quicksilver as substitute for PowerPoint.

Ted Nelson’s presentation was both a highlight and a bit of a let down. He has been a hero of mine since I saw BBC’s Hyperland in the early 90s but here there were two problems in his presentation. He did not show a compelling user experience for his translit project which made it very difficult to grasp and frankly he sounded biter about the web.

Paul Mutton Social network graphs were super cool. Sebastien Noel from Space Hijackers presented their next project MMS Charles Clarke a project to track Charles Clark the british interior ministers every move through a network of volunteers with camera phones.

There was a session about starting some kind of UK based Electronic Frontier Foundation to fight for digital rights. This is seems rather odd to me as the industry lobby now operate on a european level. Even a european organization seems strange as the battle ground is increasingly global and with things like the mickey mouse copyright extension act starting it’s life in Europe and then the Americans harmonizing on a European decisions I think one global organization with local chapters makes much more sense. I think EFF is the bast placed to step up to the plate.

45 min 43 seconds

Ira Flatow interviews Tom Friedman

One of my favorite radio host Ira Flatow of science friday interviews Tom Friedman, one of my favorite columnists. They talk all kinds of topics surrounding Friedman's book "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century".