Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Important stories for Jan 25 2011

American Policy on the Brink by Juan Cole and Tom Engelhardt

"The problem: Washington’s foreign-policy planners seem to be out of ideas, literally brain-dead, just as the world is visibly in flux. In their reactions, even in their rhetoric, there is remarkably little new under the sun, though from Tunisia to India, China to Brazil, our world is changing before our eyes. "
Can the United States 'control' the Middle East? (Nope) by Stephen M. Walt

"I normally like a lot of Anthony Shadid's reporting, but one odd line leapt out of this story, which I read online in Hanoi this morning. He was discussing the turbulent political situation in Lebanon, and offered this unremarkable observation:

"It is yet another episode in which the United States has watched -- seemingly helplessly -- as events in places like Tunisia, Lebanon and even Iraq unfold unexpectedly and beyond its ability to control."

Shadid is obviously right, but the observation itself is banal in at least two senses. First, even a country as powerful as the United States doesn't "control" an awful lot of events in world politics, and especially the internal maneuverings and struggles of a country like Lebanon. And the sooner that Americans dispense with the notion that we can reliably control events in far-away places, the better off we'll be.

Second, it is hardly surprising that the United States has steadily lost influence (note: not control) in the Middle East. We're hamstrung by the "special relationship" with Israel, which reduces our freedom of maneuvers, makes our rhetoric about justice and democracy and human rights look hypocritical, and angers millions of people around the Arab and Islamic world. We foolishly invaded Iraq and then bungled the job, which made us look both aggressive and incompetent. We continue to follow a failed policy toward Iran, which only seems to make Ahmadinejad stronger. And we help prop up authoritarian regimes that are deeply unpopular, favoring democracy only when the candidates we like win."

Justice Dept. Wants Providers to Retain Internet Data

"The Justice Department will ask Congress to make it mandatory for Internet service providers to retain data on their users’ activity. Law enforcement officials already can ask for data to be preserved, but Justice would like to have more robust snooping capabilities in order to investigate and prosecute “almost every type of crime.”

ISPs are required to make the records they do have available to law enforcement upon request, and many Internet providers, including cellular networks, telcos and cable companies, already retain data for government access.

According to this CNET report, the Justice Department would like to force providers large and small to retain information.

Not surprisingly, the push for mandatory data retention originated in the Bush administration. —PZS"

In the end, the powers-that-be, the "authorities" are going to get access to all of the information on the Internet, for their purposes. Here, in this case, they are trying yet another angle (from the "Patriot Act"), having the ISP's do the dirty-work for them. I think it's redundant, given the Internet is already being recorded ("for our own good", of course).

One day we'll wake up and realize that there are 2 classes of people: those with unfettered access to that mountain of data, and the rest of us. Because we'll all human and we all make mistakes, anyone with access and some time can search the mountain and find some detail that can be puffed to hinder if not destroy their enemies.


No comments: