Roots (Shurush)

Bryan Berkett worked for me at Spirit of America, and then left to move back to New York City. A Jewish kid from Beverly Hills, he worked with a Palestinian friend from college to start Shurush, which started as an ad-hoc charity giving out microfinance loans to Palestinians.

I’m an immense believer in microfinance. The “Grameen Bank” type solutions have been shown to work, and the dense social webs that they use and build on not only build economies, but societies as well.

They are working to build a real endowment and take their organization to the next level of stability.

So they are looking for donors, large and small.

A Palestine occupied with entrepreneurial activity would be one that would have very little patience for terrorism. And Palestinians who were personally involved in making their lives better are unlikely to lash out in psychotic rage.

I’m a supporter of Shurush – which means ‘roots’ both in Hebrew and Arabic. If you sent them a few bucks today, that would be good news, too.


So I had a long and boring conference call today, and I’ve got a cold so I’m too wooly-headed to do creative work, so I sat and manually extracted data from the much- (and well-) maligned ‘Chronology of Significant Terrorism 2004.’

I’ve just done January and February (if other folks want to pitch in and do a month and add it to comments, that’d be great…I’ll update as things evolve), and here’s the summary:

69 terrorist acts, which killed 244 and injured 735.

But … 62% of the acts were in India, as were 20% of the dead and 22% of the injured. 16% of the acts were in Iraq, with 51% of the dead and 31% of the injured.

This means that 78% – almost 4 in 5 – of the terrorist acts in the study were in two countries (actually, in one district of a country, and a country at war). I’ll pull some more data together and then start drawing some conclusions – although it may be that they draw themselves.

A summary table is below the fold. And check out the long article over at Demosophia on the institutional issues around the report.|Country|#acts|#killed|#injured|% acts|%killed|%injured|
|Afghanistan | 1 | 1 | 3 | 1.4% | 0.4% | 0.4%|
|Bolivia | 1 | | 3 | 1.4% | 0.0% | 0.4%|
|Columbia | 2 | | | 2.9% | 0.0% | 0.0%|
|France | 1 | | | 1.4% | 0.0% | 0.0%|
|Germany | 1 | | 2 | 1.4% | 0.0% | 0.3%|
|Greece | 1 | | | 1.4% | 0.0% | 0.0%|
|India | 43 | 50 | 165 | 62.3% | 20.5% | 22.4%|
|Iraq | 11 | 125 | 226 | 15.9% | 51.2% | 30.7%|
|Israel | 2 | 19 | 92 | 2.9% | 7.8% | 12.5%|
|Palestine | 4 | 8 | 14 | 5.8% | 3.3% | 1.9%|
|Russia | 1 | 41 | 230 | 1.4% | 16.8% | 31.3%|
|UK | 1 | | | 1.4% | 0.0% | 0.0%|

NCTC Terrorism Study: Huh??

Is it me, or is the much-touted study (requires Acrobat) by the National Counterterrorism Center just so deeply flawed that it’s beyond recovery??

I complained about the decision not to publish the study. Now, looking at it, I’d like to complain about the thinking behind the analysis that was presented.

Sadly, I can’t manage to copy the list of incidents to text so I could make a database of them, but a fast analysis shows that a substantial number of them (30%?? I haven’t yet had time to count, but if someone does, that’s be useful) are in Iraq.Now, according to the methodology page, events in Iraq or Afghanistan are only counted when a foreign national is involved and civilians, as opposed to combatants, are targeted. Seriously:

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was particularly difficult to gather comprehensive information about all incidents. The distinction between terrorism and insurgency in Iraq is especially problematic because Iraqis participate in both the Abu Musab al-Zaquari terrorist network as well as the Baathist, former-regime-elements insurgency. As a result, the list of incidents provided here includes incidents involving non-Afghan/non-Iraqi civilians. By extension, some attacks involving non-combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the attack that led to the death of Department of State employee Edward Seltz, were excluded because the targets of the attack were combatants. We note, however, that because of difficulty in gathering data in Iraq and Afghanistan, the list may not be a complete account of all incidents involving non-Afghan/non-Iraqi civilians in those two countries.

I have a significant problem with this; it’s a simple one – we’re at war in Iraq (and to a much lesser degree in Afghanistan). It’s a war with an army that has adopted terrorism as a tactic, and that freely uses it when civilians are the only ones likely to be killed – as opposed to guerilla warfare against our or Iraqi armed forces, in which it is possible that civilians will inadvertently or carelessly be killed.

It’s insane to conflate these incidents and count them alongside acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom.

I’d love to find an actual database that this is based on that would allow you to query and count by country, among other things – this study lumps regions together, so that Iraq is lumped with Saudi Arabia and the West Bank – which represent different aspects of the same war, but could legitimately be used to measure the level of terrorist activity.

To use the level of terrorist attacks in Iraq as a global yardstick is like measuring gunshot deaths in France in 1941-42 and assuming that they represent a trend in the murder rate in Western Europe.

Note that my complaint isn’t based in a feeling that because terrorist attacks are more frequent, and so I believe the current policies may be wrong – it’s because this is crap data (or, more accurately, crap analysis of data), and as such makes it difficult to do the kind of hard thinking about policy that we need to keep doing.

The New New Media

Well, it’s been an interesting week; I’m out of the closet yet again as the new media project I’m working on with Roger Simon and Charles Johnson went public at the L.A. Press Club on Tuesday.

Much of what we’re working on isn’t really grist for public blogging yet. There’s some potentially protectable IP, and a lot of business negotiations that are best held out of the public eye. If you’re a blogger and interested in signing up to Phase I, which will be – in simple terms – an ad network, send an email to join-(at) and you’ll hear back about some next steps.

It does explain the dearth of blogging by me, though. And it’ll be a while before I have the chunks of time I usually use for blogging; I do miss it.

I’ll take a moment, though, to set out some of the strategic ideas behind what we’re trying to do, and see what the folks here think about them.

I’ve believed in the power of the Internet to disintermediate different sectors of the economy for quite some time. The reality is that the different layers of middlemen in the economy really do three things – they help you find things, they buffer supply, and they catalog information. Two of those three things are done better by information services, and one of them is done better by the manufacturer.
I’ve also believed that – in Mazlow’s hierarchy of need – that Western societies will be far more concerned about self-actualization than productive work in the coming decades. That’s a good thing on several levels, one of which is that it will soften the blow of global leveling, as our reduced lifestyles are combined with improved aesthetic sensibilities. But that means that there is a virtually limitless supply of talent (some better than others…) out there looking for an outlet.

And home music studios (and soon film studios), and on-demand printing, and blogs will make it easier and easier for the genteelly poor creative classes to create.

Look at CD Baby sometime.

In no small part, the engine behind blogging is really this same thing.

As someone who writes business models the way other folks do grocery lists, I’ve laid out several models for businesses to do this – working with Dutch software guy Donovan Janus, first taking a stab with Iverdean, a digital fulfillment service which morphed into Exposure Manager, an online photo gallery/fulfillment service which is actually beginning to chug along as a business.

What does this mean for the ‘legacy’ companies that are in these spaces?

Hugh Hewitt flat out said that big newspapers are dead.

Usually, I’m a lot more liberal than Hugh, but in this case, I’m a lot more conservative.

I think that newspapers – as a model for the kind of legacy information middleman that makes up the media industry – are badly wounded, but I doubt that they will die.

But they will go from the 93% of the market for written news – and more important for a certain class of advertising – that they once owned to, say 50 – 60%. And more, they will lose the ability to set prices for advertising in the market, which will make the business model for the newspaper much, much tougher.

As an institution, they are going to have to change, and change a lot. I’ll pat myself on the back for a moment here; I was interviewed by Harry Chandler for a job in the fledgling “new media” division of the Times back in 1995 or 6. I did some homework, and as we sat and chatted, he asked me what the “new media” Times ought to look like; I told him that first of all, it was going to have to be much leaner. About 30% of the bottom-line revenues of the Times had come from classified ads, and those ads were about to go away, I told him. And world and national competitors were going to go after their readers – the Washington Post would compete on coverage of national politics, and the BBC on coverage in Europe. Their answer was to regionalize.

He didn’t like either answer, and I didn’t get the job.

Blogs are moving toward a critical mass, in which they break out of the enclave we all have been living in, into the wider world of media.

Blogs will become another media channel. It will happen in part as top bloggers become media figures themselves (and vice versa); as media companies create or sponsor blogs; as blogs intertwine with ‘tentpole’ media properties that are somehow related to them ( and food blogs; and sex blogs; and so on).

But the heart of the blogosphere will be the emergent, fast-changing, unstructured (formally, anyway) world of blogs as we know them.

And the questions will be how to build useful interfaces between that world and the highly structured world of advertisers, media consumers, and blog novices while respecting the dynamic nature of the blogs themselves.

That’s the three-pipe problem.

I Wonder If Harry Bridges Worried About Having A Support Group?

Sometimes, there’s not a lot of distance between satire and reality. For example, is this Iowahawk or the L.A.Times?

Eva KATAJA remembers the day more than two decades ago when she told a friend of her desire to become more active in liberal causes — to “take responsibility” and help make the world a better place.

The friend, a longtime activist, leveled with her. Don’t do it, he advised. You’ll lose friends. You’ll become isolated. People will see you as a downer. You’ll regret it.

Kataja was taken aback but vowed that she would never become burned out and embittered.

Fast-forward two decades through countless meetings, protests, projects, petitions, phone banks, wars, elections and Sept. 11.

Now Kataja, a marriage and family therapist in West Los Angeles, says: “As the years have gone by and I’ve gotten in deeper, I’m beginning to experience what my friend talked about. I feel discounted and marginalized a lot of the time.”

Championing a particular cause or course of action often can be a lonely crusade, but these are particularly tough times for liberal activists.

Red-state dominance in the last election, the war in Iraq, changes in environmental policy and the possibility of a more conservative Supreme Court have left many local activists feeling as blue as the state they live in.

What they need, one longtime activist recently decided, is some therapy — a good old-fashioned support group tailored for the liberal activist in need of emotional rejuvenation.

Sigh. Now I’m feeling a little depressed.

My grandfather was a bodyguard for Harry Bridges. I think he had other things to worry about than self-esteem.

That’s What The Internet Is For

Ben Affleck may believe “That’s what the Internet is for. Slandering others anonymously.”

But he’s wrong.

Let me tell you what the Internet is for.Right now, I’m in Chicago for the burial of my father-in-law’s ashes. He died last year, and today we buried him.

We flew in Friday night, and having missed our flight at 6:00 Friday morning, would up on a oft-delayed trip back that got us into Chicago at 8:30 at night. We’d missed dinner with TG’s brother, and when we called her mom from O’Hare, she said we should just come over to her place and have leftover tempura.

We weren’t very interested in that. Chicago is not known for its tempura.

We wanted pizza. And pizza near her mom’s condo in Glenview.

I have a Treo 650, and Yahoo Local has listings for pizza places near TG’s mom’s place.

So while TG rented our Mustang, I surfed the web.

We scored a deep-dish sausage and pepperoni with extra garlic from Viccino’s on Glenview & Harlem. and brought it to my mother-in-law’s.

It was excellent.

And, my friends, that’s what the Internet is for.

Pushing Big Rocks Up Hills Is A Good Metaphor

Today Brad Delong takes me over to a post by Sisyphus Shrugged on ‘neocons’ that springs from the ill-thought out Michael Kinsley column on the subject.

Sisyphus concludes, with a “I schooled them” air…

Work with me, Mr. Kinsley.

Ms. Kirkpatrick thought we should prop up the oligarchs (many of whom we hand-picked and foisted on the people to begin with) and let the people fend for themselves.

The current crop, as a response to a wave of democratization, thinks we should foist hand-picked oligarchs on the people (by force of arms, if necessary) and then prop them up.

Where in this you see a switch in actual practice rather than in figleaf rhetoric (swooning over ideas indeed. “Carter sucks” is not an ideology. Nor is “It sucks if Carter does it”) eludes me. It’s all neo realpolitik, and what neo realpolitik meant then and means now is that Republicans make up grand, lofty lies about their goals to get elected so they can do pretty much what they want to do with no reference to all the pretty rhetoric.

Hint: When political leaders in the Middle East refer to the Iraqi elections as a seminal event, you may want to reconsider your partisan rhetoric.

That is if you ever want to see a liberal elected in your lifetime.

I would, just as a hint.

Ike Said “We’ll know in 50 years…”

In the comments to this post on propaganda, Praktike dinged me and suggested I read Michael Beschloss’ book on planning for the aftermath of WWII, ‘The Conquerors.’

As I’d noted, it was on the list (I have an Excel file of all the books, records, and movies I mean to get around to), but his recommendation pushed it to the top of the list.

Got it yesterday, started it today, and am about halfway through.

I want to leave you with one big thought, and a few choice morsels to consider.The book is told at a gnat’s eye view – tracking interdepartmental politics in the White House, personality clashes, clashes of ideas and policies, and it reminds me of how contingent history really is. By that I don’t mean to take a side in the ‘inevitable historical forces’ vs. ‘great human action’ vs. ‘random workings of chance’ debate on a philosophy of history, but to suggest that the unfolding of history is certainly more complex than the understandings of any of the actors participating in it – including us.

Something worth keeping in mind as we debate the grand sweep of strategy.

Two quotes that made me go “uh-huh!!” from the book:

“The success of this occupation can only be judged fifty years from now. If the Germans at that time have a stable, prosperous democracy, then we will have succeeded.”

– Dwight Eisenhower, October 1945. Frankfurt, Germany

After midnight in London, Morgenthau gave an address on CBS Radio to the American people, which Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood and the CBS London correspondent Edward R. Murrow helped to write. He told his audience that while touring the fallout [sic] shelters, the “principal thought that filled my mind and heart” had been “we must never forget!” It was not enough to hope that postwar Germans and Japanese would “behave themselves as decent people”: “Hoping is not good enough…Germany and Japan must be kept disarmed.”

Can you imagine Dan Rather helping John Snow write a policy speech given from Baghdad? Can you understand how the notion that he was an American first, and a journalist later might have figured in Murrow’s makeup? How would that have played with Eason Jordan, do you think?

OK, This IS Annoying…

If, like me, you supported Bush – because you felt he was going to do a better job on issues of combating a terrorism – than you probably believe that we face a serious threat.

Infuriatingly, we sometimes get news that suggests that the Administration doesn’t completely share that view.

From the great ‘Counterterrorism Blog‘ (you are reading it, right?) comes this gem of annoyance:

Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year’s debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better–they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department’s discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655.

Now before Professor Cole gets all sweaty and excited at this proof that the war in Iraq is pushing up the level of anti American attacks from Islamist terrorists, note the rest of the paragraph:

For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents. In the Secretary’s defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq). Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face.

Hear, hear.

Facing facts where you find them is the first thing I try and get my teams to do. You may win without knowing what’s really going on, but you might also win an Olympic sharpshooting medal blindfolded. Random luck is an interesting thing, but it’s not the basis for good policy.