USA on the verge of a dictatorship?

In an TV interview with Wolf Blitzer Jack Cafferty from CNN’s Cafferty Line points out a fundamental change in the policy. The NSA started to collect massive data of phone calls of every US citizen without any warrant. Jack Cafferty in the interview:

The President rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in USA Today and declared the government is doing nothing wrong, and all this is just fine. Is it? Is it legal? Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn’t have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation. Read that sentence again. A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it’s not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says ok and drops the whole thing. We’re in some serious trouble, boys and girls”

There are som many people in the US that probably just don’t care. I don’t know. All I know is if one single institution in the government starts to circumvent any elected representatives then you can’t tell if you still have a democracy or not. It is a serious issue. Saddam Hussein would have loved this: a political system that only appears to be a democracy.

Here are some comments by House members.

Update 6/26/2006: Why NSA spying puts the U.S. in danger

Which country to invade next?

Like Michael Moore once said: »If you want to bomb a country you should at least be able to point it on a map!«. I would add you should at least be able to name some kind of reason. Just watch this video:

It’s a little bit hard to see in the video: These people don’t recognize the displaced country names on the map. Maybe half of the US public thinks Syriana is the name of a country?

Update on 05/16/06: After more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, a study showed. [Source]

Media war

BBC reports that US secretary of offense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledges that the “war on terror” is primarily a struggle of ideas. He proposes the US propaganda machinery must be capable of fighting down the unfavourable news from offensive media with a “more effective 24-hour propaganda machine”.

Hm. I was thinking free press and freedom of speech is a core ingredient to freedom and democracy. Obviously it is not enough to pay Iraqi journalists to carry US reports.

Privacy at stake…?

Bruce Schneier in Wired discusses the challenge that surveillance technology raise for constitutional rights:

Sometime in the near future, a young man is walking around the Washington Monument for 30 minutes. Cameras capture his face, which yields an identity. That identity is queried in a series of commercial databases, producing his travel records, his magazine subscriptions and other personal details. This is all fed into a computerized scoring system, which singles him out as a potential terrorist threat. He is stopped by the police, who open his backpack and find a bag of marijuana. Is the opening of that backpack a legal search as defined by the Constitution?

Civil courage is running a site where people can offer housing for the evacuees. And there are entries like this that are kind of amazing:

We can provide a family of five or six a place to stay while rebuilding is complete. WE WILL PAY FOR YOU AIRPLANE TICKETS, WE CAN OFFER WORK AND WE WILL ASSIST IN GETTING KIDS INTO SCOOLS. We live on a small farm in a rural setting and can help a working family while things get straightend out.

This emotional 14 min. radio interview (MP3) with Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin calling for aid in bitterness and desperation will be an asset in the historic archives – no matter what history will tell about his role in the foreplay of the catastrophe. Quote:

It’s politics man and they’re playing games and they spin it!

Ruppert: Crossing the rubicon

»Crossing the Rubicon« claims to be the second largest selling book about the attacks on September 11th after the official Kean Commission report. Michael C. Ruppert (who is running the website summarizes the claims he is making in this book:

In my book I make several key points:
1. I name Vice President Richard Cheney as the prime suspect in the mass murders of 9/11 and will establish that, not only was he a planner in the attacks, but also that on the day of the attacks he was running a completely separate Command, Control and Communications system which was superceding any orders being issued by the FAA, the Pentagon, or the White House Situation Room;
2. I establish conclusively that in May of 2001, by presidential order, Richard Cheney was put in direct command and control of all wargame and field exercise training and scheduling through several agencies, especially FEMA. This also extended to all of the conflicting and overlapping NORAD drills — some involving hijack simulations — taking place on that day.
3. I demonstrate that the TRIPOD II exercise being set up on Sept. 10th in Manhattan was directly connected to Cheney’s role in the above.
4. I also prove conclusively that a number of public officials, at the national and New York City levels, including then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, were aware that flight 175 was en route to lower Manhattan for 20 minutes and did nothing to order the evacuation of, or warn the occupants of the South Tower. One military officer was forced to leave his post in the middle of the attacks and place a private call to his brother – who worked at the WTC – warning him to get out. That was because no other part of the system was taking action.
5. I also show that the Israeli and British governments acted as partners with the highest levels of the American government to help in the preparation and, very possibly, the actual execution of the attacks.

Actually I was very interested to read through the 122 reader reviews on As expected the book polarizes: ratings are extreme on both ends of the scale – but the high ratings outnumber the critics by far.

I am amazed, that this book has not yet caused a huge turmoil. Why could Bill Clinton be impeached for a lousy sexual affair while the claims of this book are not even a matter of a serious investigation? The Kean Commission obviously did not – otherwise it would already have settled all the questions raised.

There is something fishy about all this… Strange!

Extreme Democracy

This concept proposed by Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Ratcliffe asks what is the future of democracy in the information age:

“Extreme democracy” is a political philosophy of the information era that puts people in charge of the entire political process. It suggests a deliberative process that places total confidence in the people, opening the policy-making process to many centers of power through deeply networked coalitions that can be organized around local, national and international issues. The choice of the word “extreme” reflects the lessons of the extreme programming movement in technology that has allowed small teams to make rapid progress on complex projects through concentrated projects that yield results far greater than previous labor-intensive programming practices. Extreme democracy emphasizes the importance of tools designed to break down barriers to collaboration and access to power, acknowledging that political realities can be altered by building on rapidly advancing generations of technology and that human organizations are transformed by new political expectations and practices made possible by technology.

What I am not quite sure about: Is this a vision about democracy, an interpretation of current developments or both?

In any case I am sceptical about this proposal. Why should people start to be engaged in politics after they don’t even seem to read the local news papers? I think it would already be a huge achievement if the social construction of reality would involve less TV and more conversations.

60 years Hiroshima

Hiroshima was not only a human desaster of unspeakable extent – it is also the beginning of »politics of deception« that led to Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II (and probably more to come).

Quote from the LA Times article:

Hiroshima’s myths have gradually given rise to an American unilateralism born of atomic arrogance.

The most frustrating thing is that the US public is not interested in the truth about Hiroshima and instead cling to the myth that the atom bombs were required to end the war (in fact the war was extended to be able to drop two bombs – an uranium bomb and a plutonium bomb).

I have read two very useful recension of the books »Racing the enemy« by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and »American Prometheus« by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.

But I fear these books (like many others) will not be recieved by the wider US public and thus fail to disintegrate the »politics of deception«.

Related articles:

Few days after my returning home from New York after 9/11 (the day I originally planned to fly home) I felt strongly that the WTC attacks were just a episode and that there is a great deal of background and responsibility on the side of the current (and probably former) US governments and the fact that there were so little questioning about that could only be a result of a profound lack serious journalism (and people actually watching/reading these reports).

Now there is a site that offers a huge number of documentaries about all the things you won’t see in the news.

Political capital from desasters

The death toll desaster in asian sea begins to exceed any catastrophe the world has ever seen. It is a shame to read this headline:

Secretary of State Colin Powell conferred by video hookup with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday on assistance to the victims of the Asian and African tsunamis and then added the United Nations to the core group planning relief efforts.

Pardon – if somebody is added to anything, then it is the US added to the international body of helping states led and coordinated be the U.N. There is no such thing as a “US led core group”. The simple fact that Colin Powell poses as if the US is leading the helping effort is nothing more than a nauseating way to cast an image of the US as not being the “curer” of the world.

Update: Bush ‘Undermining UN with Aid Coalition’: United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster. (

Software patents kill innovation

Martin Brampton from doubts that software patents are rarely as innovative as the simplistic argument for patents would suggest.

A parallel debate is being fought in science. Governments have sought increased commercial involvement with university research, but the price has often been proprietary control over new ideas. Many academic scientists are opposing this trend, believing that the advancement of knowledge is a collaborative and public venture.


Here are two examples of software patents that describe Interface design ideas:

6,785,865: “Discoverability and navigation of hyperlinks via tabs (A user may discover and navigate among hyperlinks through the use of a keyboard. For example, a user may press a tab key to discover and navigate to a first hyperlink that is part of a hypertext document.)” [Microsoft]

6,784,354: “Generating a music snippet (Systems and methods for extracting a music snippet from a music stream are described. In one aspect, the music stream is divided into multiple frames of fixed length. The most-salient frame of the multiple frames is then identified. One or more music sentences are then extracted from the music stream as a function of peaks and valleys of acoustic energy across sequential music stream portions. The music snippet is the sentence that includes the most-salient frame.)” [Microsoft]

Did someone “invent” something here? I would say no. The Tab key is a functional element of the invention “keyboard”. It is a very basic idea to assign functionality to keys and to enhance operation of software or to manipulate on-screen options. So, to assign navigation functionality to the tab key is a convention not an invention. But if a patent prohibits interface design following a convention, then these patents are destructive.

Also: the idea to compensate low network capacity by allowing to play snippets of a larger file is following a very general idea of selective representation. Downloading a single web page instead of the whole site is quite the same. A kid could contemplate such a principle without costly research. Again this is no invention but it is rather a logical consequence of the network, web and interface principles. Fair enough that Microsoft could implement this in a copyrighted software, which I think is enough protection for this “idea”.

Deutsche Bank Research against software patents

DB Research has issued a paper that claims software patents block innovation:

A growing number of R&D-intensive businesses realises that licencing out their IP (intellectual property) can constitute a substantial share or their revenues, which in turn encourages innovation efforts. Bearing this in mind, one could be tempted to consider ever stricter IP protection regimes to provide ever more stimuli for innovation.
This conclusion is wrong, however. A prime example is patents on software, which might at first sight be seen as a logical expansion of the classic technology patent. But creating software differs markedly from creating machinery and the like: MIT researchers Bessen and Maskin argue that innovation in software is both strongly sequential (one invention building on a previous one) and complementary (thriving on parallel approaches to the same problem), far more so than in other technology fields. In fact, they found empirical evidence that software patenting substitutes R&D activity, rather than encouraging it, and conclude: “For industries like software or computer, there is actually good reason to believe that imitation becomes a spur to innovation, while strong patents become an impediment” 2. In accordance with other academics, they strongly favour copyright over patent protection for software. Copyrighting provides both adequate leeway for sequential innovation and enough protection for marketable software products.

Update: Siegfried Hirsch posted a german translation of this passage.

Bogus patents

What if you invent a web site creation and maintenance system that permits distributed control and centralized management of a web site? What if the physical implementation of the web site resides on a database maintained by a database administratorand the web site system permits a site administrator to construct the overall structure, design and style of the web site?

Well, you would be in violation with Patent #6,745,238 (which was filed in March 2000 by Oracle).

Welcome to the world of software patents.


When I was in New York on 9/11/2001 I was stunned by the news program FoxNews. US people know that program: I didn’t at that time. The only US program we see here is CNN Europe (which is very different from the US as I learned that time).

Now it seems (some) Americans start to acutally learn what media are needed for and that making “good profit” in broadcasting doens’t mean having “good journalism”.

What I get from the Outfoxed DVD is, that there is definitively a problem with the news media in the US if the claims of these “journalists” are news to anyone.

I had a chance to see Farenheit 9/11. Most of the story was no news to me: there wasn’t so much possibilities left how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I got some details that I didn’t have the chance to see or hear about (like the soldiers talking about what kind of music they put on their communication system during battle). But it is clear that Michael Moore is manipulative as well. So Moore is on the side of those saying “I’d rather be manipulative for the sake of good instead of giving the cake away without a fight to the bad guys!”. So he is trying to fight fire with fire? It really depends on if he can solidify the claims.

Yesterday Moore has published some web pages that try to back up the facts he claimed in the movie. It is extremely important for him to do this. It is OK for him to be happy about the success of his film, but I don’t think it is wise to claim victory already. But if the repubilcans decide to disqualify Moore instead of his claims they will just help his cause.

And by the way: Michael Moore started to run a weblog.

Copenhagen Consensus

This week there is a conference in Copenhagen where scientists debate environmental challenges of the world.

Copenhagen Consensus is based on the aim to improve prioritization of limited means. The world is faced with a countless number of challenges such as diseases, environmental degradation, armed conflicts and financial instability. Copenhagen Consensus takes a new and critical-analytical approach to assessing the effects of international opportunities for solving the challenges.
Ten challenges representing some of the world’s biggest concerns have been identified. In Copenhagen, nine outstanding acknowledged economic experts will gather to discuss, analyze and rank the opportunities corresponding to each challenge. Ten specialists have each prepared a background paper on a challenge within their field of research in order to provide the experts with the best and most recent information.

Nuclear power the only green solution?

This article by James Lovelock keeps me thinking. 25 years ago he was one of the first to warn about the global warming and he first conceived the Gaia hypothesis while working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in the mid-1960s, where he was designing life detection instruments for NASA’s Mars Viking probes.

He proposes switching to nuclear energy is the only available option to reduce the greenhouse effect, which -if not stopped- will cause much greater problems because it is a positive feedback loop that will turn catastrophic sooner and faster than we all may believe.