Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is war becoming outdated?

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.

It gives one pause to wonder whether, if the U.S. had left Iraq alone, it too might be on the current list of countries going through regime change.  One could also wonder if the trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost was worth it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ok, you won. Now what?

This is a great look in Libya about the instant problems that arise once the power of the dictator is gone. I heard Gene Sharp say on NPR that kicking out the dictator is only the beginning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Would Iraqis have kicked out Hussein on their own?

When I started this blog I figured economic forces were the main thing changing the world quickly.  But now with the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere, there are other forces at work here as well.  The people have risen up to overthrow dictators who have been in place as long as 40 years.  Why did this happen now?

My other blog,, is about the influence of the Internet and other technology on social activism.  The Internet makes connecting to like-minded people not only easy but instant.  Organizing, distributing work, and staying in touch are simple, cheap, and instant.  This is not the only ingredient, of course, that makes today different than before. But it is the tool that makes such protest easier and cheaper to accomplish, and thus more likely.

The influence of this wave of change is powerful and will last for a long time. China is concerned that they may be next for large protests.  And how will relations between other countries change once a new government has been established in places like Egypt? 

Getting rid of Mubarak, Gaddafi, and the other dictators is only the start of these revolutions.  It's difficult to establish a stable democracy.  Prepare for change.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nonviolent protest is not only morally correct, it works!

Egypt, Tunisia, and probably another country or two soon, have thrown off long-time dictators, using peaceful methods.  Gandhi got rid of British rule in India with nonviolence.  Many other examples since then show the power of nonviolent protest.

The New York Times' article about Gene Sharp is interesting, and has some nice links as well.  I've never heard of Sharp, so now I'll have to read his "From Dictatorship to Democracy" and find out what the fuss is about. 

The most amazing thing about these recent protests is that they are efficient.  There has been a lot of thinking and planning ahead of time.  This is in contrast to 1989 when the Chinese protested at Tienanmen Square, and were crushed by the military.  Shen Tong's book Almost a Revolution tells what happened there.  They were not prepared for their small protest to blow up into such a huge demonstration. They had to organize and improvise on the fly.  This caused all kinds of problems when the protesters tried to negotiate with the government, because it was difficult to present a united front and concrete demands when the protesters were so splintered.

On February 22 PBS will broadcast an inside look into the organizing and running of the protests in Egypt.  This should be enlightening.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

how should collective action fit into our economy?

"As an entrepreneur/programmer who makes a good living from writing and selling software, I'm dumbfounded as to why developers write applications and then put them up on the Internet for free. You've found yourself in one of the most lucrative fields in the world. A business with 99% profit margin, where you have no physical product but can name your price; a business where you can ship a buggy product and the customer will still buy it."

I've been puzzling over this for a long time. How does our economic system deal with the many areas of our economy that have gone over or are going over to collective action?  Journalism is an example of this, where you can get good reporting from activists and bloggers for free. Video production that used to require a college degree can now be done by your 4th grader. Programming is of course a big one.  Who needs Microsoft when you have Linux?  

What is this doing to our economy?  It is draining jobs over to the volunteer side of our country.  Dammit, people!  Why are you doing all these things for free when you should be charging and keeping our economy healthy!  Money needs to circulate!  What does this say about what kind of a people we are when we're willing to give away our work... oh, wait.  That actually says something pretty good about us.  We want to share freely, even though it's a product of our work.

But what happens to all those journalists, videographers, and programmers who can't compete with the free work of hobbyists, activists, and the like?  What kind of hit to our country's economy does this make?  Is there a way to incorporate the product of volunteerism and collective action into our economy?  Do we need to make a big alteration to account for this stuff?

And after writing the above, I found this great video:

From this, then, collective action and volunteerism should be incorporated into a business.  I'll have to ponder that a while.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

U.S. deficit

The U.S. is hobbled with a political party that puts ideology above economic sense.  "Shrink the government" and "taxes are evil" do not fix what is wrong with our economy.  Besides, as this article shows, the Republican Party does not even follow it's own ideology when passing laws.

I don't see an easy solution to this when common sense takes a back seat to political memes.