mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn

November 13, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm189: OLPC cranks up!

November 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Time to play catch up with the good stuff that has been piling up in the drafts section of MUDGE‘s Windows Live Writer.

Today, the latest on one of our most intriguing ongoing stories, that of One Laptop Per Child. Some previous posts, which go all the way back to mm088, can be found here and here.

giveonegetone

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN
AP Technology Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The One Laptop Per Child Program, which hopes to spread sub-$200 computers to schoolchildren in developing countries, has reached a milestone with the start of mass production.

The nonprofit spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said assembly lines for its “XO” laptops were fired up Tuesday at a Chinese factory run by manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc. That means children should begin getting the green-and-white computers this month.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

olpc7926_thumb2

The OLPC Give One Get One program, which, as they remind us, will be the only time the XO will be available to the public, begins Monday, 12-November-2007 and runs through 26-November.

And, remember L-HC’s take:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

The world is all too full of extraordinarily worthy causes. This one works like planting a tree (two, actually): this initiative could make our world a smarter place. And smart is a quality in all too short supply.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm186: War with Iran: Inevitable?

November 6, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The potential catastrophe of Iran just keeps scaling up. William Arkin, the Washington Post‘s excellent commentator on military affairs updated us Nov. 2 in his Early Warning blog:

arkinearlywarning

The presidential campaigns can’t get enough of talk about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the Bush administration’s eagerness to go to war. Thirty U.S. senators, including Hillary Clinton, sent a letter to President Bush yesterday, reminding him that “no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action in Iran.” Meanwhile, Barack Obama submitted a Senate resolution, also emphasizing that congress must explicitly authorize military action, and that, in regards to Iran, it hasn’t done that so far.

Let me say now, based on my discussions with Pentagon insiders and observers and more than 30 years following the military: We are not going to war with Iran. At least we are not going to start a war now or any time soon. At least not intentionally [emphasis MUDGE].

Can’t help but land hard on that sentence. How much tragedy has the present administration caused, both intentionally and not, over the past nearly seven years?

Way too much, and one can’t help believing that for all of the hidden agendas, the sweetheart procurement deals on a $trillion scale, and the subversion of the workings of government to religious extremism (we’re still talking the U.S. here, folks, we haven’t started in on Iran!), much of the ongoing catastrophe has been the result of inattention and a view of the geopolitical world seemingly so narrow as to be detectable only with an electron microscope.

So, Iran. Maker’s of world class mischief in Syria and Lebanon, interfering almost overtly in Iraq, chief exporter of Islamofascism and terrorism to the western world, and working hard to launch a nuke into Tel Aviv.

It’s symmetry: Now we’re talking about subversion of the Iranian government to religious extremism, a process that the U.S. made inevitable during nearly 30 years of lavish support of the corrupt Shah they illegally put in place. The U.S. has many decades of petrodiplomacy to answer for.

Arkin’s take on the election rhetoric is that the candidates’ words and deeds on the subject of Iran are only making Iran more nervous about U.S. intentions, and that can’t help anything.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Keep It Down – Early Warning

Mr. Arkin, everyone is supposed to quiet down so that we don’t provoke Iran into doing sooner what they seem to have every intention of doing eventually?

Everyone is supposed to quiet down so that the cooler military heads (compared to the raving maniacs of the administration) can remain coolly overwhelmed by the two official wars that the administration has tasked them with?

It’s a great idea but I just don’t see the candidates of either party letting such a juicy rhetorical target go by, with 440 days of 24-hour campaigning still to be filled.

It’s a great idea, but I just don’t know that Iran will wait for a new, somewhat more diplomatic and worldly U.S. administration.

And I have to reluctantly venture the fear that I don’t know whether Israel can afford to wait.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm183: Abolish the Air Force

November 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

From the “If it’s the weekend, it must be military” department, we bring you this fascinating analysis from The American Prospect.

Was sent this earlier today by MUDGE‘s ex-Navy son, who was interested, as is his parent, not due to his parochial leanings toward the maritime forces, but rather due to his interest in history, especially military history.

And the thesis here is based, not only on the present straitened circumstances in which the U.S. Air Force finds itself, fighting in conflicts using techniques in which it has little interest, and causing as a result inexcusable amounts of what is delicately called collateral damage.

No, the analysis expertly recounts the troubled history of the Air Force, built from the first on a flawed premise: the value of strategic bombing.

americanprospect

Abolish the Air Force

What it does on its own — strategic bombing — isn’t suited to modern warfare. What it does well — its tactical support missions — could be better managed by the Army and Navy. It’s time to break up the Air Force.

Robert Farley | November 1, 2007

In August of this year, reports emerged that British Army officers in Afghanistan had requested an end to American airstrikes in Helmand Province because the strikes were killing too many civilians there. In Iraq, the Lancet Study of Iraqi civilian casualties of the war suggested that airstrikes have been responsible for roughly 13 percent of those casualties, or somewhere in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 deaths.

This watershed comes at a particularly important time, as the Air Force observed its 60th anniversary this past September.

But it’s time to revisit the 1947 decision to separate the Air Force from the Army. While everyone agrees that the United States military requires air capability, it’s less obvious that we need a bureaucratic entity called the United States Air Force. The independent Air Force privileges airpower to a degree unsupported by the historical record. This bureaucratic structure has proven to be a continual problem in war fighting, in procurement, and in estimates of the costs of armed conflict. Indeed, it would be wrong to say that the USAF is an idea whose time has passed. Rather, it’s a mistake that never should have been made.

As a child of the 50s and 60s MUDGE cut his teeth on Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, which ought to be required reading for all (and which I believe helped make draft dodgers out of huge swathes of the sons of the Greatest Generation, whose Air Force Heller eviscerates).

So I’ve long been suspicious of the value of strategic bombing, which was designed to undermine the enemy’s ability to prosecute war by crippling its industrial base, and as the years have passed, and my reading of history has expanded well beyond the comic novel, my suspicions have become sureties.

Before we continue, I need to stop.

What is written here is meant to cast no aspersions on the competence, courage and loyalty of the personnel in the cockpits and the equally dedicated people who support them on the ground. Indeed the official nephew of Mr. and Mrs. MUDGE is completing his senior year at a major university as a high performing member of Air Force ROTC and we couldn’t be prouder.

This is about the generals and the politicians who coddle them. Strategic and not tactical. I love you gals and guys in the trenches, and the shiny (or anti-reflective stealthy as the case may be) warbirds you fly and you keep in the air. This is only about those who direct you from the air conditioned D.C. offices. Those guys.

Okay, back to the story.

During the first years of the U.S. involvement in the European theater of World War II, strategic bombing was the only way for the U.S. to take the fight to Germany, but was a terribly costly way, and did not provide the overwhelming blow that its then Army Air Force proponents promised.

But, strategic bombing is what the Air Force was selling, and just after the successful end of the war Congress bought it.

Strategic bombing performed by the now independent Air Force did lots of work, but failed to win the wars against North Korea, or North Vietnam.

Arguably, airpower did succeed on its own in bringing victory in the 1999 Kosovo War. For 78 days, the NATO alliance bombed Serbian military and infrastructure targets in order to force Serbia’s withdrawal from the province of Kosovo. After increasingly serious threats of a ground invasion and the end of Russian support, Serbia succumbed to the NATO occupation of Kosovo. Even acknowledging the decisiveness of the airstrikes, however, the ability of a small country to stand against the world’s most powerful military alliance for almost three months does not speak well of the coercive capacity of modern airpower.

And now, strategic bombing seems to have an uncertain place in the type of asymmetric warfare the U.S. is fighting today.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Abolish the Air Force | The American Prospect

There has been something “off” about the Air Force, especially in recent years. The scandals at the Air Force Academy, which as one of the comments to the American Prospect story reminds us, is increasingly fundamentalist Christian in its orientation (anyone recall separation of church and state?) and where sexual harassment (an unfortunate and nasty feature at all of the military academies) has been particularly ugly.

Another aside: During the years the official son of Mr. and Mrs. MUDGE was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, we were proud members of the local parents organization, so we were in a better position than most to understand the very much harder than hard road that women midshipmen and cadets face at all of the Academies. And now one of those stalwart women, who went on to distinguished service in Japan, the Gulf and Washington, D.C., is now our lovely daughter-in-law. Are we lucky!

A third aside: I remember distinctly learning from a Naval Academy recruiter at one of those parents association meetings in the early 1990s that at the time, due to the post Cold War drawdowns of forces, there were actually more flight berths on offer to graduates of the Naval Academy (remember, all those floating airports, the Navy’s carriers) than for the Air Force.

Off.

Finally, as covered in several posts here recently, the air is increasingly filling with remotely piloted aircraft, the UAVs and UCAVs, most of them flown by enlisted personnel at consoles thousands of miles away. Not exactly Eddie Rickenbacker or Chuck Yeager, is it?

predatora

Did you catch the heart of the argument?

If strategic bombing won independence for the Air Force, yet strategic bombing cannot win wars, it’s unclear why the Air Force should retain its independence.

Indeed.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.

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mm169: It’s a Gore-y story

October 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Have to congratulate Al Gore.

One gets the impression that, like many such awards, the Nobel Prizes are subject to public relations campaigns and politicking…

It was inevitable that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to Gore. Historically, the prize has had very little to do with rewarding genuine peacemakers. In 1939, nominees for the prize included such distinguished fighters for peace as Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler. The prize has always been influenced by the exigencies of realpolitik. So, over the years individuals like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter and Willy Brandt received the Nobel. [–Spiked (see below)]

… so it wasn’t exactly out of the blue that Gore was awarded the Peace prize for his work on behalf of environmental awareness.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Gore’s “campaign” to win the Nobel was widely enough known that we picked up on it even in this out of the way nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

What was speculation (the Prize) is now fact. And so many other observers are taking a closer look at Gore’s presidential opportunity.

So, two of L-HC’s usual suspects, Salon and Slate weigh in.

salon

What are the odds that Al Gore enters the presidential race?

We put that question this morning to Karen Skelton, who served as Gore’s political director while he was vice president. Her response: “He will not run. Negative odds. He’s got all he needs. He’s a Nobel Prize winner, which means he’s being rewarded for following his passion successfully in a way that’s changed the world. His passion was never politics for the fight, it was for the cause.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

War Room: Political News, Politics News – Salon

slate

Will Al Gore now run for the White House?

By John Dickerson
Posted Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, at 10:43 AM ET

Al Gore. Click image to expand.Al Gore

Al Gore is a winner. Al Gore was right. One of the best things for Al Gore about winning the Nobel Peace Prize is that the sound bites are finally all on his side. For decades the two-term vice president has been championing environmental causes and until recently often received public scorn and derision. Now he’s been rewarded with one of the most coveted prizes on the planet.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

What does the Nobel Peace Prize mean for Gore 2008? – By John Dickerson – Slate Magazine

With the help of an interesting publication out of the UK, Spiked let’s put this prize into some context.

spiked

On Monday, spiked will publish a series of articles on Al Gore, the Nobel and the climate change debate. As a preview, here is Frank Furedi explaining why Gore is a fitting winner of the ‘Nobel Fear Prize’.

When I heard commentators this morning praising Al Gore as a ‘charismatic figure’, I waited around for the punchline. But they weren’t joking.

Somehow, this dull provincial politician suffering from a charisma-bypass has been transformed into a hi-tech twenty-first century prophet – and now he has won the Nobel Peace Prize to boot.

It is hard to tell if the reinvention of Gore is a testimony to the persuasive powers of PowerPoint, or to the collapse of the cultural and political imagination in the West. Probably, Gore’s emergence as a modern-day icon is a result of his ability to personify our culture of fear. He is the ideal spokesman for an era in which virtually every human experience comes with a health warning attached. Now, with his Nobel award, he joins a pantheon of cultural saints, including fellow Nobel recipient Mother Teresa.

A bracing point of view. And welcome.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

And the Nobel Fear Prize goes to… | spiked

And now for some perspective on Gore as a past presidential candidate, from an opinion columnist for the NYTimes.

nytimes

Yesterday began with the gratifying news that Al Gore, derided by George H.W. Bush as the “Ozone Man,” had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The first thing media types wanted to know was whether this would prompt Mr. Gore to elbow his way into the presidential campaign. That’s like asking someone who’s recovered from a heart attack if he plans to resume smoking.

Mr. Gore, who won an Academy Award for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and an Emmy for his cable TV network, Current, knows better than anyone else how toxic and downright idiotic presidential politics has become.

He may be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, talented men in America and remarkably well-equipped to lead the nation, but it’s Mr. Bush’s less-than-curious, less-than-distinguished son, George W., who is president.

There are all kinds of ironies wrapped up in the title of Mr. Gore’s latest book, “The Assault on Reason.”

Especially useful is the comparison with (the even more hypocritical than most of his fellow hypocritical candidates in his hypocritical party) Rudy Giuliani.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Trivial Pursuit – New York Times

And another comparison with Gore’s “successful” opponent in 2000 from the Washington Post…

washingtonpost

By Peter Baker, Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 13, 2007; A09

MIAMI, Oct. 12 — Somehow, it seemed only fitting that at the moment of Al Gore‘s triumph, George W. Bush would spend the day in Florida, scene of the fateful clash that propelled one to the presidency and the other to the Nobel Prize.

What a difference seven years makes. The winner of that struggle went on to capture the White House and to become a wartime leader now heading toward the final year of a struggling presidency. The loser went on to reinvent himself from cautious politician to hero of the activist left now honored as a man of peace.

For the Gore camp, it was a day of resurrection, a day to salve the wounds of history and to write another narrative that they hope will be as enduring as Florida. “We finally have their respective legacies,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a veteran of the Clinton-Gore White House. “Bush earned the Iraq war, and Al Gore earned the Nobel Prize. Who knew Al Gore would one day thank the Supreme Court for their judgment?”

The White House stuck to polite, if restrained, congratulations. “Obviously, it’s an important recognition, and we’re sure the vice president is thrilled,” spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters aboard Air Force One heading here Friday. Another senior official, commenting on the condition of anonymity to speak less diplomatically, said the Nobel Prize is nice, but the presidency is still better. “We’re happy for him,” the aide said, “but suspect he’d trade places before we would.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Feats Divide Pair Linked by Election

A similar perspective from an opinion column in the the LATimes:

latimes

Jonathan Chait

No wonder conservatives are apoplectic – Gore’s fortunes rise as the president’s plummets.

October 13, 2007

When Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, conservatives reacted with apoplexy. Talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, conservative bloggers and other Republican faithful denounced the prize as a fraud….

The defensiveness of Gore’s critics comes because he is the ultimate rebuke to Bush. Gore, obviously, is the great historic counter-factual, the man who would have been president if Florida had a functioning ballot system. More than that, he is the anti-Bush. He is intellectual and introverted, while Bush is simplistic and backslapping.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Al Gore: the anti-Bush – Los Angeles Times

Finally, James Woudhuysen, again from Spiked, takes a most incisive look at the environmental movement itself, in the light of this latest event and symbol of its ascendency into the mainstream of political thought.

spiked

Environmental activists and commentators frequently argue that climate change is the most pressing problem facing humanity, and that if we don’t do something about it the planet will burn up. Yet when planet-sized technological solutions to global warming – also known as ‘geo-engineering solutions’ – are put forward, environmentalists are the first to balk. ‘It will never work’, they say. Why are those who are most concerned about climate change also the most hostile to doing something serious to tackle it?

It isn’t just because such solutions would be ambitious, costly and distant in time; nor is it only because these solutions would carry risks. Rather, environmentalists tend to dismiss geo-engineering because, at root, they are not interested in halting climate change. For many today, both green activists and leading politicians, climate change is a moral and political issue rather than simply a practical problem. They see the ‘issue of climate change’ as a means to changing people’s behaviour and expectations, rather than simply as a byproduct of industrialisation that ought to be tackled by technological know-how. They are resistant to geo-engineering solutions because putting an end to climate change would rob them of their raison d’être.

Here’s a particularly telling point:

Yet it is not particular technologies that environmentalists hate, so much as the whole idea of human ingenuity – the conscious, designing, problem-solving capabilities that distinguish mankind from naturally occurring species. If, as environmentalists claim, mankind means waste and the reckless destruction of finite natural resources, then artificial constructions can only deserve varying degrees of ridicule – partly for the damage they will bring in tow, but mainly for their creators’ outrageous arrogance.

How soft-headed can the Greens get? Keep reading.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Why greens don’t want to ‘solve’ climate change | spiked

So, a refreshing change here for L-HC.

It’s not been our experience in this space to date to have had the occasion to expose the practitioners of political correctness.

PC comes from those drug-addled survivors of the ’60s that now set policy in so many institutions of higher education and non-governmental organizations.

We are reminded, courtesy of Spiked, that the jerks of the right have no monopoly on wrong-headed moral certitude.

But Al Gore, child of those same times, is not a jerk.

And if he restrains himself from the temptations that his stellar year has exposed to him, he’ll remain one of the good guys. Either way, he deserves our congratulations.

Al, direct your energies toward persuading your friends the Greens that technological solutions to our environmental challenges are perfectly appropriate.

Then, perhaps they’ll retire the Peace prize with your name on it.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm162: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience

October 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

As the November launch date for the XO approaches, the news, save for the price, keeps getting better.

The XO, as regular reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© no doubt recalls (and such links as this, this and this will help jog the memory), is the long-awaited One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicholas Negroponte come to fruition.

And now, the respected David Pogue of the NYTimes weighs in with his advance report.

And here’s the essence:

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

It’s a rave review.

nytimes

By DAVID POGUE

Published: October 4, 2007

In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.

And this laptop will cost $200.

The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.

The concept: if a machine is designed smartly enough, without the bloat of standard laptops, and sold in large enough quantities, the price can be brought way, way down. Maybe not down to $100, as O.L.P.C. originally hoped, but low enough for developing countries to afford millions of them — one per child.

XO is a technological tour de force.

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

Of course, XO has its detractors. Gearheads complain that it’s underpowered and fully functioning laptops can be purchased for $400 today. As Pogue points out, missing the point entirely. It’s not for you, guys.

And, ministers of education (and their superiors, I’m betting) in many developing nations apparently feel threatened by the implications of such an interconnected, and Internet-connected, resource in so many millions of hands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience – New York Times

I hope that every child in the developing world get’s a chance to use the XO — and as I’ve stated here before, a lot of U.S. kids live in developing world conditions as far as housing and education are concerned.

And, based on what we’ve all seen of the value of the dollar lately, $188 is the new $100. So, don’t beat up OLPC on price — ramp up production and watch what happens. And if it doesn’t, based on Pogue’s evaluation, it’s a dazzler even at today’s price.

And imagine some of the older children tuning into UC Berkeley’s YouTube courses. This all can’t happen soon enough. And, you can help!

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

And we’ll give the eloquent David Pogue the last word:

… Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm153: Buy a Laptop for a Child, Get Another Laptop Free

September 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

This week seems to be developing a theme: technology of the developed world reaching out to the developing world, with some intriguing results.

Any member of the ‘Sphere recognizes that the PC is the instrument of tremendous potential for creating change, especially the access to the Internet (and the universe beyond the dusty village) that it can provide,

The One Laptop Per Child project has been carefully followed in this space, and the original story has been subsequently augmented and commented on, most recently this week.

Here’s an update on OLPC, published this week in the NYTimes.

By STEVE LOHR Published: September 24, 2007

One Laptop Per Child, an ambitious project to bring computing to the developing world’s children, has considerable momentum. Years of work by engineers and scientists have paid off in a pioneering low-cost machine that is light, rugged and surprisingly versatile. The early reviews have been glowing, and mass production is set to start next month.

olpc7926

Orders, however, are slow. “I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the nonprofit project. “And yes, it has been a disappointment.”

But Mr. Negroponte, the founding director of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory, views the problem as a temporary one in the long-term pursuit of using technology as a new channel of learning and self-expression for children worldwide.

And he is reaching out to the public to try to give the laptop campaign a boost. The marketing program, to be announced today, is called “Give 1 Get 1,” in which Americans and Canadians can buy two laptops for $399.

Putting aside the question about how a $100 laptop has inflated to two for $399, the OLPC continues to break new ground even in marketing.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Buy a Laptop for a Child, Get Another Laptop Free – New York Times

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm151: Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta

September 24, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

As we’ve noted lately (here and indirectly, here), fewer and fewer corners of the planet are immune from that pesky virus: information.

Even North Korea has been .0015% more reasonable of late, and the bright lights of media exposure can claim at least a bit of credit (a persistently starving population gets a lot more, of course).

So, Myanmar, as repressive a tyranny as can be found (sorry guys, we’re not going to forget about you just because you changed your name; a Burma by any other name…) is once again experiencing civil unrest, and due to the pervasiveness of both MSM and alternative media, this time they can’t hide it or minimize it or freely crush it.

The photo that accompanied the NYTimes story is ample evidence of this, in and of itself.

myanmar

By SETH MYDANS

BANGKOK, Monday, Sept. 24 — The largest street protests in two decades against Myanmar’s military rulers gained momentum Sunday as thousands of onlookers cheered huge columns of Buddhist monks and shouted support for the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Winding for a sixth day through rainy streets, the protest swelled to 10,000 monks in the main city of Yangon, formerly Rangoon, according to witnesses and other accounts relayed from the closed country, including some clandestinely shot videos.

It came one day after a group of several hundred monks paid respects to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi at the gate of her home, the first time she has been seen in public in more than four years.

And here’s the nub of the argument:

Myanmar’s military government has sealed off the country to foreign journalists but information about the protests has been increasingly flowing out through wire service reports, exile groups in Thailand with contacts inside Myanmar, and through the photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet, that the government has failed to squelch.

“… photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet…”

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta – New York Times

There’s that pesky Internet again, screwing up the generals’ private party.

Our best, maybe only, hope for an end to tyranny:

  • the retro Myanmar variety (and our Chinese, North Korean (and Cuban) friends would fit in this bucket);
  • the more au courant Middle Eastern style as found in places like Syria and Iran;
  • and even such New Age (and retro) tyrannies as practiced by Putin and his ex(?)-KGB brethren throughout Russia and its former empire;

… is the pervasiveness of information, as exemplified by the liberator of Eastern Europe, CNN, and maybe the liberator of the rest of the shackled world, the Internet.

And, let’s give credit: perhaps the (admittedly looking more spurious) Congressional revolution of 2006 wouldn’t have happened at all without the blogosphere.

Not the infinitesimal nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© that we ruefully acknowledge as this weblog’s permanent fate, but certainly the heavy hitters like Daily Kos blogroll2 that help keep the kettle aboil, always a good state for the democratic process.

Small “d” democracy at work around the globe, powered by electrons.

Ben Franklin, Alessandro Volta, Nikola Tesla and all: the free (and hopefully soon to be freer) world owes you a monumental debt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm127: Sunni Rule Again in Iraq? – Early Warning

September 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The always dead-on military analyst, William Arkin of the Washington Post has this to say regarding George III’s sudden visit to Iraq on Monday.

arkinearlywarning
Posted at 08:17 AM ET, 09/ 4/2007

President Bush’s surprise eight-hour visit to Iraq yesterday will be read by many Iraqis, and by many others in the Islamic world, as part of a great conspiracy. The conspiracy’s goal? To create an American-Sunni alliance, restore the Sunni minority to power and suppress the Shiite majority.

No one doubts that the intended audience of Bush’s photo op was Congress and the American public. But, as has been typical of Washington’s initiatives in Iraq from Day One, perceptions of the visit — by the Iraqi people and by our potential adversaries — was ignored.

Interesting isn’t it how the president stayed out of Baghdad, in favor of a Sunni stronghold?

For weeks, the administration and the military have been pointing to Anbar as a success. Local Sunni tribal leaders have broken with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the argument goes, throwing in their lot with the United States. The U.S. has responded by arming and training Sunni militias and freelancers. Oh, if the rest of the country could just follow suit, the United States could leave a safe and stable country. (Put aside for a moment what happened to the Iraqi Army and police force in this process. At this point, the United States is clearly ready to accept progress from whatever quarter it can get it.)

So, the U.S. didn’t have a quarrel with all Sunnis, just the one? What an unsettling symbolic visit for anyone who cares about Iraq’s future as a democracy, and for long-term stability in the region. Read on:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Sunni Rule Again in Iraq? – Early Warning

And whether we civilians are thinking on it or not, the endgame seems to be war with Iran.

Anyone else find this disturbing?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm121: We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

August 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Christopher Hitchens is that guy you love to hate. His best seller, God is Not Great is currently No. 5 on the New York Times list (since one needs an account to access the list, I thought I’d just show you the pix):

hitchensbestseller

This is not some retiring violet — the man does like to pick a fight.

But yet. He does have a way of making sense.

Here he is in Slate yesterday, making sense:

slate

We’re fighting at least three of them.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 4:56 PM ET

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Click image to expand.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

When people say that they want to end the war in Iraq, I always want to ask them which war they mean. There are currently at least three wars, along with several subconflicts, being fought on Iraqi soil. The first, tragically, is the battle for mastery between Sunni and Shiite. The second is the campaign to isolate and defeat al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The third is the struggle of Iraq’s Kurdish minority to defend and consolidate its regional government in the north.

The balance of the article is quite concise for Mr. Hitchens. Take a look.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

So, no wonder the Bush administration is so confounded by Iraq. I’m sure that they have no idea that they’re fighting three different wars there!

And our prospective leaders may have the same trouble:

The ability to distinguish among these different definitions of the “war” is what ought to define the difference between a serious politician and a political opportunist, both in Iraq and in America….

Meanwhile, it is all very well for Sens. Clinton and Levin to denounce the Maliki government and to say that he and his Dawa Party colleagues are not worth fighting for. But what do they say about the other two wars?

Attention, candidates! Please learn already that the USA’s position in the world cannot be summarized in a 20-second sound byte.

What are your substantive thoughts (i.e., body text, not headlines) about the panoply of messes (some we’ve inherited, some we’ve created, some we’re just bemusedly observing) in the world?

Show us your brains, candidates! (And that goes for you putative non-candidates — Michael Bloomberg I mean you!)

Start by telling us what you think of this Christopher Hitchens analysis (I know, you wouldn’t touch his atheistic whatever with a 10-foot whatever so leave his name out of it if you must), but acknowledge that our world is more complex than ABC123.

Wouldn’t it be a wondrous achievement if we elect a president for her/his brains, not his superficialities as showcased through the expenditure of $billions in manipulative advertising and nefarious “swift boaters”?

Will I live that long?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE