Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be Designated as "Global Terrorist" Organization

This is a first: the US is about to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a military unit that operates outside of the rest of Iran's military establishment, as a "global terrorist" organization. This would be for such actions as supplying arms to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The significance:

The move would be the first such designation of a foreign government entity and would cut the designees off from the U.S. financial system and freeze assets that it, its members or subsidiaries have in U.S. jurisdictions. It would also allow the Treasury to move against firms subject to U.S. law that transact with the group.

The reasoning:

It remains unclear when the step will be formally announced but officials said it has been weighed for months as the United States has lost patience with Iran amid charges the guard corps is supplying weapons to Shiite insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan and as international efforts to shut down the Iranian nuclear program have bogged down.

The designation will mean that Rice has found that the Revolutionary Guard Corps “has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States,” according to the executive order.

My thoughts? It's about time. and it brings us that much closer to the Iranian regime itself. In my dreams, it's the first step toward answering the war that Iran started against the US back in 1979.

Digg Report

Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3368, is a link to a scan of the "world's most disturbing children's book," as titled by the Diggster.

Actually, although I don't particularly like such books, it does handle a delicate topic with some tact. I hardly think it merits anything close to this sort of treatment.

Municipal Wi-Fi Projects Failing - Good for Them

I just love this Businessweek story about failing municipal Wi-Fi projects, because I believe such projects to be one of the worst examples of government expropriation of wealth. The idea of government taking money from taxpayers so that some Internet users can have constant Wi-Fi access is astounding.

If the public wants such a service enough, a private company would be more than willing to provide it. And if it's not economically viable, then it shouldn't happen.

What's most interesting to me, though, is what appears to be the primary reason the projects are failing: lack of public demand. I was afraid that people would latch onto the free services, cancel their private Internet connections, and thus hold back the development of new and better connectivity solutions.

Instead, something different is happening. Wherever municipalities try to establish services, or announce their plans to do so, private Internet providers (telcos, cable, etc.) are lowering their prices. And, their customers are staying with them.

Don't misunderstand me. It's a bad thing that government is engaging in activities that forces private companies to lower their prices and lose profits. It's wrong morally, and its wrong practically, because lower telco and cable profits means that there's less money to invest in upgrading the countries infrastructure.

Notice that at the end of the story, it's noted that the private companies who've been in partnership with the various municipalities are saying that the governments need to chip in to pay more of the costs. Meaning they're not profitable enterprises, and so taxpayers--whether they would ever use the service or not, and involuntarily--will be taxed more to pay for the service.

How anyone can see this kind of program as a good thing astounds me. It really does.

Web Tool Shows Wikipedia Edits by CIA, Dems, and Vatican

A new Web tool traces the IP address of Wikipedia editors back to their organizations of origin. Some of the perpetrators of edits in this BBC story: the CIA, the Democrative Party, and the Vatican. Now, before everyone gets their anti-CIA shorts in a bunch, note the edits made:

By the CIA:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

So, some CIA employee got bored. Big deal.

So, what about the Democratic Party?

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist", and a "bigot". An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

A little more serious, but again, probably a rogue employee acting on its own. I doubt the Democratic Party itself would stoop this low.

Now, here's the Vatican's:

The site also indicates that Vatican computers were used to remove content from a page about the leader of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams.

The edit removed links to newspaper stories written in 2006 that alleged that Mr Adams' fingerprints and handprints were found on a car used during a double murder in 1971.

The section, titled "Fresh murder question raised" is no longer available through the online encyclopaedia.

Of all three, I'd say the Vatican's the worst, by far. They materially changed Wikipedia by removing information, rather than adding obviously false information.

There are some others listed. It's worth a read.

Ex-Soviet Dissident to Return to Russia to Run for President

This is one brave guy, a former Soviet dissident who's returning to Russia to run in the Presidential elections there. Check out some quotes:

In an interview, Mr. Bukovsky, a 64-year-old retired neurophysiologist, said: "I am not scared, but Russian society is very scared. You need to boost people's morale. If they really want to change things --if they take to the streets in their millions -- they can. But that requires determination."

Given his history, though, I'd say he has reason to be scared:

Forty years ago the Russian authorities tried to execute Mr. Bukovsky on false charges of planning a Gulag mutiny. Having spent 12 years imprisoned in psychiatric and labour camps for "anti-Soviet activities," he was eventually deported in 1976, in an historic prison exchange with the Chilean communist leader Luis Corvalan Lepe, before seeking asylum in Britain.

And I fear something might happen to him:

His return to Russia follows the death of his close friend Mr. Litvinenko. He and other expatriate Russians claimed Mr. Litvinenko was murdered on the Kremlin's orders. Andrei Lugovoi, another former spy, is wanted in Britain to stand trial for Mr. Litvinenko's murder.

As a pallbearer at the London funeral last December, Mr. Bukovsky told mourners: "Sasha [Litvinenko] died as a soldier, a warrior, fighting his enemies to the very end, looking straight into their eyes. He fought for his brothers." Mr. Litvinenko's death, he added, was a sign that "Russia has been given a licence to kill, an invitation to murder anyone it wishes."

Putin's already created an atmosphere of fear around the upcoming elections, and is gaming things as well as he can so that his chosen one will become his successor. For this man to return to Russia and campaign in this environment makes him one brave soul indeed.

Russia Holds Vast Mineral Resources - Problem? Probably Not Yet

I know that Russia holds vast natural resources, and could use them as political weapons, as this short story implies. I think they will, to some extent, but ultimately they need to sell the stuff for it to be worth anything to them. Their basic economic infrastructure is so weak that they need to sell raw materials to stay afloat.

This will worry me in 10 years, if Putin manages to turn things around (which part of me doubts), but for now I think we'll see a great deal of saber rattling but a fair amount of selling as well.