Monthly Archives: November 2004

Read: More Juan Cole

Informed Comment : 11/01/2004 – 11/30/2004

“The Bush administration is full of revolutionaries. They are shaking up the world by military force. They are playing a role familiar in modern history, pioneered by Napoleon Bonaparte, of using overwhelming military superiority to establish new forms of hegemony by appealing to desires for change among neighboring publics. Bonaparte promised the Italians liberty on the French model, but in fact reduced the Italians to a series of French puppet regimes and then he looted the country. So far Bush’s Iraq looks increasingly like Bonaparte’s Italy in these regards.”

Read this

Informed Comment : 11/01/2004 – 11/30/2004

Al-Qaeda has ambitions beyond just blowing a few things up, no matter how horribly. [...]

George W. Bush has never been able to see clearly the nature of this threat, which experts call asymmetrical. This word is a fancy way of saying that small groups can now accomplish things that only states used to be able to. Bush is trapped in Cold War thinking, where all major threats derive from other states, from other countries. His first thought after September 11 was that Iraq was behind it.

Bush invaded Iraq and occupied it rather than finishing off al-Qaeda and putting Afghanistan on a proper footing. He has most of the fighting units of the US military bogged down in a quagmire. His adventure in Iraq, which had nothing to do with September 11, has the potential for destabilizing the oil-rich Persian Gulf for some time to come, producing high petroleum prices, high gasoline prices, and risking a major economic downturn for the US and the world.

A9 is kinda cool

This week the big search news is that Google’s index now contains more than 8 billion pages, almost twice its previous size. Not a suprising annoucement given the growing murmers about Microsoft’s new search which was announced last night.

Neither announcement is particularly significant, but taken together, they show that there is, once again, a bit of competition in the web seach space. Bigger indexes are interesting, but evolutionary. Microsoft’s relevance may or may not be better, but its not the sort of thing thats immeditely obvious. Microsoft also allows one to adjust the way search results are weighted in three dimensions, allowing one to weight newness over relevance, for example. It seems like it could be cool for some searches, but sounds suspiciously like some cheap widget added to differentiate the offering without actually adding much real value.

What I found really interesting this week, search-engine wise, is A9.com, from Amazon. A9 has been around for a while, and I don’t think they made any real annoucements this week, but I finally gave them a closer look.

I’ve just started playing with it, but here are some of the cool features

  • Search history — So you can easily rerun past searches to look for new items
  • Diary — Lets you add notes on pages you find
  • Bookmarks — lets you access bookmarks from any computer
  • Discover — starts making reccomendation of pages based on your search and browsing history
  • Lists — Automatically parses out lists on web pages, such as site specific search engines, topics in discussion forums, and lets you easily navigate through each link in sequence. You can also select a blob of text, and make a list from that, which you could use to visit all the links in a paragraph.

Most of these features are enabled by the A9 toolbar, which is available on Mac, Windows & Linux and supports Firefox.

This featureset starts treating searching the web not is some isolated atomic activity, but as part of a larger process of finding and processing information.

There are some downsides to A9. The toolbar has some real privacy issues that I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with in the long run. But for now, I’m happy to experiment.

America, America, God Shed his grace on thee…

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Questionable Quotes (Hermann Goering)

Claim: Hermann Goering proclaimed that although “the people don’t want war,” they “can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders.”

Status: True.

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”