December 16, 2003

- -TERROR ALERT!! (Guess Who.)- -

Although I'm not surprised at this MSNBC/Newsweek report called "A Net of Control - Unthinkable: How the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works", it does create butterflies the size of a space shuttle in my tummy. Excerpts:

Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet . . .

How could the freedom genie be shoved back into the bottle? Basically, it’s part of a huge effort to transform the Net from an arena where anyone can anonymously participate to a sign-in affair where tamperproof “digital certificates” identify who you are. The advantages of such a system are clear: it would eliminate identity theft and enable small, secure electronic “microtransactions,” long a dream of Internet commerce pioneers. (Another bonus: arrivederci, unwelcome spam.) A concurrent step would be the adoption of “trusted computing,” a system by which not only people but computer programs would be stamped with identifying marks. Those would link with certificates that determine whether programs are uncorrupted and cleared to run on your computer . . .

Nonetheless, staving off the Internet power shift will be a difficult task, made even harder by apathy on the part of users who won’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking to people about this,” says Walker. “And I can’t think of a single person who is actually going to do something about it.” Unfortunately, our increasingly Internet-based society will get only the freedom it fights for[emphasis added].

If our passivity at the demise of democracy is a benchmark, we can kiss this puppy bye-bye, too.

When you've finished reading that piece, go directly to "D.C. Upside Down - Iraq effect: It’s undermining the role of the ideologues in the biggest foreign- policy election since 1968" by Michael Hirsh (also MSNBC/Newsweek). Excerpts:

Today there is a rebalancing of influence between the new transformationalists and the old traditionalists, between those who cry freedom and those who fret about its burdens, between the ideologues and the policy professionals. Power, in other words, is shifting away from the hawks who believe that America can do as it pleases, who embrace American hegemony, even empire, as a righteous cause and see Iraq as the first step toward a grand democratic transformation of the Arab world. That power seems to be increasingly falling to moderates who stress American limitations—carefully matching commitments to resources—and cultivating allies, and who worry that by getting bogged down in grand designs for Iraq, America is failing to deal with other dire threats like North Korea.

It is a clash between unabashed champions of U.S. power, like Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney—as well as influential neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz, all of them latter-day Reaganites—and the realists who grew up embracing containment during Vietnam and the cold war. The latter include wavering realists like Rice and powerful GOP senators such as Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John Warner, who runs the Armed Services Committee. Even within Rice’s NSC, the ideologues are losing altitude. “Traditional realists are more energized in presenting their view assertively,” says Dimitri Simes of the Nixon Center. “A lot of people are becoming quite angry with the ideologues. The feeling is they are just indifferent to facts" . . .

These retreats have undercut the credibility of the neocons and hegemonists, who for three years have gleefully run the levers of power in Washington. Now, sensing Bush’s weakness, once cowed Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are on the attack. And on the other side of the aisle the traditional Republican line, the old Jeffersonian fear of overextension, has reasserted itself. Bush is responding—somewhat. “There is a rounding off of the sharp corners,” says a former moderate Republican official from Bush I. “The language from the White House is less chip-on-your-shoulder than it has been.” It’s still unclear if the trend is permanent—Bush, even as he asked Rice to wrest control of Iraq, notably did not take Rumsfeld to the woodshed when the Defense chief erupted publicly against that policy. And no senior official has yet lost his or her job (though some are thought to be dead men walking, like Pentagon No. 3 Douglas Feith, the neocon who bungled postwar planning and no longer attends Iraq reconstruction meetings).

So, uh, tell me . . . why have we had to sacrifice so many people to get to this point??? The other question is why France, Germany, and Russia are so pissed that we won't give them any reconstruction money. They otta be happy they're keeping this blood off their hands . . . and if they wait long enough, The Cheney Gang will get to FUBAR and it'll be the EU's mess to clean up.

Be at peace.