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Somali Clan Leaders: Pragmatists Switch Sides December 28, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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Clan leaders in Somalia’s capital are considering supporting government forces that are poised to clash with Islamic forces.


According to this report, many clan and other subgroup leaders are trying desperately to avoid a full scale Somali- Ethiopian invasion of Mogadishu and the disastrous number of casualties , both civilian and other, that would inevitably result. The Ethiopians believe that they will be able to take Mogadishu without firing a shot, and they are probably right, especially if local leaders in the capital switch sides from the ruling but certain to be defeated Islamists to the Ethiopian-Somali coalition.

Local clan leaders, previous supporters of the Islamic Courts faction that Ethiopia seeks to weaken, are making the pragmatic decisions of the weak. There is an African proverb to the effect that when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. The clan leaders have decided that the best way to avoid being trampled by this war is switch sides and at all times lie flat, and this is a realistic duplicity. Clan organizations deal with the business of daily life, and provide the real means of governance . They will and should do whatever it takes to mitigate the catastrophe that even a short spell of determined fighting in the Somali capital would bring to an already fragile population. And while the combined Somali government -Ethiopian forces may win the battle, they could still lose the war. For to the grass, the only good elephant is one that is gone.

Tags: supporting | poised | northern | movement | Leaders | Government | FORCES | FIGHTERS | Clash | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mogadishu | Islamists | ISLAMIC | ethiopia | clan


The Ethiopian Confusion December 27, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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Former warlord Mohammed Dheere, who ruled Jowhar before it was captured by the Council of Islamic Courts in June, led the Somali government troops as they drove into the city, said resident Abshir Ali Gabre.”

Mohamed Olad Hassan

Somalia’s Islamic Courts rose to power in part because people were tired of the lawlessness, chaos, and arbitrary tyranny resulting from the ruling combination of weak central government and local warlordism. Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia is likely to exacerbate the chaos and create a new refuge for terrorists out of nearly thin air.

By most accounts, the Islamic Courts did have the virtue of imposing some semblance of order in the areas they controlled. That rule of law (Sharia) is not one I would find congenial, nor would most proponents of liberal democracy. But Somalis may not be liberal ( in the institutional sense, not the doctrinal one), and while people may want the right to elect leaders, that desire does not always lead to liberal democracy. Illiberal theocracy is in fact a possible preference of peoples, and such has been the outcome of popular elections all over the world and all through history. Think early Sandinistas, or the popular wave that brought Islamic theocracy to Iran.

The United States is supporting Meles Zenewe and the Somali transitional government on the theory that Somalia has some necessary connection to al- Quaeda., and on the very dubious assumption that any Islamic government (except Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, oddly enough) will inevitably draw jihadist fighters and act as a haven to them. This is a prime mistake, and it is much more likely, as recent calls from Somali Islamists for foreign fighters indicate, that a nascent movement under attack , as the Islamic Courts now are, will be a more fertile ground for terrorists than a nascent movement. With dreary monotony, the self- fulfilling logistics of war against the weak have now kicked in, so it is probably the case that as the militarily challenged Islamists go into formal retreat and cities are occupied by invading foreigners, the war will be taken to the foreigner, in the form of terrorist acts within Ethiopia itself, particularly in Addis Ababba.

As if this situation were not confusing enough, Ethiopia’s military strategy adds another addled layer. According to the above cited AP report, Ethiopia’s declared intention is not to defeat the Islamist forces, but to drive them back to their bases. Given the military superiority of the Ethiopian forces, aided as they are by several governments, this is probably possible, although it will not be easy. Then we will have warlordism in some areas, with a post-invasion legacy of hatred, fury, and jihadist zeal in the Islamic bases. Thus, what will probably emerge is an infrastructural disaster: a new and unstable brew of kleptocratic regional banditry, a humanitarian refugee disaster, and an armed , hateful bunch of theocrats, cornered and seeking revenge.

Tags: Dheere | Abshir | warlord | version | troops | RULED | return | RESIDENT | link | Government | DROVE | CAPTURED | article | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mohammed | Mogadishu | june | Jowhar | ISLAMIC | Courts | Council

Ethiopia Goes to War in Somalia December 24, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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(AP) – Ethiopia launched an attack Sunday on Somalia’s powerful Islamic movement, sending fighter jets across the border and bombarding several towns in a major escalation of the violence that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa.

Mohamed Olad Hassan, The Guardian 12/24/06

Ethiopia launched an attack on Somalia’s powerful Islamic movement on Sunday, initiating the fiery culmination of troop buildups, resentment over old border wars, and a growing inability of the Somali government to curtail the radical Islamic Courts.

The air raids were intended to prop up the government of Somaili President Abdullahi Yusuf, a government that is in firm control of precisely one town, Baidoa. Baidoa has been an armed camp for years, and Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea have been locked in more or less permanent border disputes for years. Ethiopia and Somalia have fought two previous wars. Eritrea backs the radical Islamic Courts of Somailia, and the conflict threatens to involve all three countries- essentially the entire Horn of Africa. The Council of Islamic Courts wants to incorporate the ethnic Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia and in Kenya into a greater Somali.

The United States has regarded Ethiopia as an ally in its war on terror, and the Council of Islamic Courts has called for foreign fighters to come to aid in their jihad. Several sightings of disembarking Arab foreign fighters have been reported from the port city of Kismayo.

The potential of this conflict to spread is enormous, and may constitute what the Bush administration will see as an African front of the war on terror. However, the real dispute is likely to play out between the old rivals, Eritrea, which backs the Islamic movment, and Ethiopia, which backs the beleaguered and almost territory-less official government of Somalia.

Tags: engulf | bombarding | violence | troops | towns | threatens | SENDING | Powerful | movement | launched | jets | fighter | escalation | border | attack | sunday | Somalia | Politics | Mogadishu | ISLAMIC | horn | ethiopia | Council | Africa

Target Removes Che Guevara Mechandise December 23, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Coporate Policies.
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Target Corp said on Friday it had pulled a CD carrying case bearing Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s image after an outcry by critics; some who label the Marxist revolutionary a murderer and totalitarian symbol; while others say Guevara is a philosophically improbable candidate for merchandising.

Target made itself the target by displaying Guevara related merchandise. Guevara , killed with the assistance of the CIA as he made a futile attempt to incite revolution in Bolivia, would have despised Target anyway, and would be delighted if he could see this little furor he has caused in the American economy. The Guevara legend lives on, and apparently is more potent than I thought. Of course, mass marketing Che through Target would have defanged him as a figure appealing to the radically chic. After all, what self respecting cutting edge stylehorse wants someone who appears on metal lunchboxes? Che continues to bedevil conservatives, and will become even more desirable to leftist consumers, presumably in the form of a T-shirt with the familiar beret, and a target drawn across his chest.

Tags: trades | tips | Technology | tech | taxes | stock | states | Sivy | RETIRE | research | Rate | price | portfolio | Politics | plans | Places | news | LOAN | guevara | gadgets | funds | fortune | finance | fastest-growing | Estate | EMPLOYERS | data | cars | CALCULATOR | business | Blog

Zappa Memorial Fund Fights Censorhip December 22, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Libraries.
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The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation have been designated by the Frank Zappa family as among the organizations to receive contributions made in his memory.”

Don Wood, Library 2.0

Don Wood’s Library 2.0 is one of the more substantive library blogs around, and he has just posted this notice that the Frank Zappa family has established a Frank Zappa Memorial Fund to receive contributions to benefit the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. The OIF provides information to librarians regarding censorship, maintains a database on censorship, and publishes a newsletter . The Freedom to Read Foundation, founded by the ALA in 1969, is a legal defense fund, supporting First Amendment freedoms for librarians, authors, and other concerned parties.

Frank Zappa was a tireless advocate of freedom of expression, an innovative rock musician, and political satirist without parallel. His heirs have done his memory honor,

Tags: Organization | Memory | incidents | established | designated | CONTRIBUTIONS | Censorship | Zappa | Politics | library | intellectual | fund | freedom | Frank | Foundation | American

John Lennon’s FBI Files Released December 21, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Surveillance.
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Clearly a man who sang Imagine all the people/Living life in peace was a major league subversive, but still the FBI could not quite nail John Lennon. An American historian has finally won his 25-year campaign to expose the FBI’s pursuit of the ex-Beatle – but the last 10 pages, released only after a string of court cases, don’t quite make spy thriller reading.

The Guardian

The last few pages of John Lennon’s  FBI files, released after years of effort by the historian Jon Wiener, show that while Lennon imagined, the FBI suffered from an acute case of over-imagining. In the early 1970’s , the FBI recruited two Brits to befriend Lennon and persuade him to fund a leftwing bookshop in London. He turned them down, and the FBI concluded that there was “no certain proof” that Lennon had funded subversion. The FBI cited national security reasons for not releasing all of the files to Wiener, who said yesterday that “the claims the FBI has been making ( to support denial of access to the files ) were absurd.”

Tags: tried | thriller | SUBVERSIVE | SANG | Released | Reading | Pursuit | peace | pages | nail | league | historian | finally | expose | ex-Beatle | court | CASES | campaign | revealed | Politics | London | Lennon | John | FBI | American

Psiphon: Eluding Government Web Censors December 21, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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Deep in a basement lab at the University of Toronto a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists, or “hactivists,” have created the latest, and some say most advanced tool yet in allowing Internet users to circumvent government censorship of the Web.

New York Times

The Psiphon program was released on December 1 in response to growing Web censorship, particularly in China. The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab designed Psiphon, and it works via a person in an uncensored country downloading the program. The user who wishes to view websites and blogs in a censored country then logs in to the person in the uncensored country’s computer, which with the download, acts as a virtual access proxy. Once the censored user clears the browser history, the program’s designers claim there is no trace of the user having accessed forbidden sites. The Citizen Lab is a member of the Open Net Initiative, which, when it opened in 2000, monitored China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Since then , internet filtering has increased, and now the Initiative monitors over 40 countries.

Tags: computer-hacking | users | software | SCIENTISTS | Psiphon | program | latest | growing | Government | engineers | created | circumvent | Censorship | BASEMENT | allowing | advanced | activists | Web | university | Toronto | internet | Citizen | Censor

Saudi Spin Man Is New Ambassador December 21, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Diplomacy.
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Saudi Arabia has informed the State Department that it intends to appoint Adel al-Jubeir as the new ambassador to Washington, according to U.S. officials. Jubeir, who is one of King Abdullah’s closest foreign policy advisers, has long been the public face of the oil-rich kingdom in the West.”

Washington Post

Turki al Faisal’s resignation as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US remains unexplained, but the appointment of Adel al Jubeir as the new ambassador to Washington is less of a surprise. Jubeir is known in Washington as being the point man for the Kingdom’s attempt to dissociate Saudi royalty from the al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks. Jubeir was also dispatched to the US to defuse an impending uproar over Prince Abdullah’s assertion that “Zionist hands” were “95%” behind terrorist events in 2004.

It is true that the Saudi royals have turned against bin Laden, and that he is dedicated to destroying the Saudi government. But that turnaround took place belatedly, and the new ambassador’s assertion that bin Laden’s popularity has dropped off in the Kingdom is much more questionable.

Tags: al-Jubeir | Jubeir | Adel | well-known | policy | oil-rich | officials | KINGDOM | intends | informed | closest | appoint | AMBASSADOR | advisers | according | Washington | Saudi Arabia | Saudi | department | Abdullah

Google Books: Evil or Not? December 20, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Coporate Policies, Information policy, Libraries, Technology.
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Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement,
Google’s crusade to build a digital library has triggered a
philosophical debate with an alternative project promising better
online access to the world’s books, art and historical documents.

Michael Liedtke, AP

Google has made tremendous inroads in scanning books from several libraries, including Harvard and the University of California. Google will not say how many books it has scanned so far, but admits to scanning about 3,000 books per day. The problem, according to a new coalition called the Open Content Alliance, is that Google wants the books to appear only on Google’s search engine. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has just awarded the Internet Archive, a leading member of the Open Content Alliance, a $1 million dollar grant to create digital copies of items owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, and the Johns Hopkins University Library. Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle has been critical of Google’s restrictions on scanned books, and the grant represents the culmination of efforts to call attention to the situation.

Google says that its scanning arrangements are a fair deal because agreements with providers do not restrict them from entering into other digitizing arrangements. And to make matters more complicated, Microsoft and Yahoo are both members of the OCA, and Microsoft recently launched its own scanning initiative, marked by its own exclusivity deal.

The OCA ‘s Kahle is disappointed by Microsoft’s move, but he is more worried about the aggregate power of Google, as well he might be. Google, as its present corporate arrangements with publishers show, is not entirely evil, but it does represent an accumulated clout that will probably outlast the ideals of its founders. An organization such as the OCA, as long as it plays no favorites, is better placed to ensure the future availability of a world wide library than is any corporate entity simply because at the end of the day, a corporate entity is strictly responsible only to share holders, while an alliance of publishers and librarians can hold and maintain a less restrictive charter. In view of Microsoft’s creation of its own exclusive book search, the company’s participation in the OCA is a kind of PR exercise at best.

And of course, there are dozens of other digitizing projects that have been well underway for years: the most important and the most open of these is Project Gutenberg, alibrary of free e-books with expired copyrights. Perhaps the ultimate answer is to divide and conquer, but in that scenario the corporate behemoths will eventually control the information, with truly open source projects picking up the remnants. It is true that politics remains too important to be left to politicians,and it is probably true that the future world library is too important to be left in the hands of one or two corporations, even if they aren’t evil.

Tags: livraries | digitizing | Project Gutenberg | Open Content Alliiance | Kahle | SCANNING | books | Yale | Yahoo | Microsoft | Harvard | Google

Iran’s Online Censors: The Persian Impediment December 20, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship.
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In 2003 Iran became the first country ever to imprison a blogger
for views expressed online. Since then, over 28 bloggers and online
journalists have been imprisoned on various charges

The Persian Impediment

Article 19 is an organization that takes its name from the section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that supports free speech. Recently the organization has launched a campaign to draw attention to persecution of online journalists in the Islamic Republic of Iran. As you might recall, Tehran is a recently self-declared citadel of free speech, and recently hosted the world’s largest gathering of Holocaust Deniers.

Article 19 claims that of the 28 bloggers and online journalists imprisoned since 2003, 54% were imprisoned in 2004, 32% in 2005, and 11% in 2006. This appears to be a steady decline in the rate of detentions, but should not lead to the conclusion that Iran is slackening in its online censorship: rather the reverse is the case. The declining numbers of detained opponents indicates more vigorous filtering techniques and a successful campaign of intimidation, resulting in greater self-censorship among opponents of Ahmadinejad’s hardline policies.

Arrested bloggers are often held incommunicado and receive an average of 1- 3 months imprisonment, with generous allotments of solitary confinement. The imprisoned allege interrogations of up to 11 hours at a session, as well as torture. Offenses include “insulting the Supreme Guide” , writing “propaganda against the regime”, and posting photographs of demonstrations. A list of cases complete with the names of the detained and what is known about the conditions of detention is available through Article 19.

Tags: torture | online journalists | internet filtering | human rights | DETENTIONS | Censorship | bloggers | Politics | Articcle 19 | Ahmadinejad