jrtom: (social scientist)
http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-and-the-computer-conspiracy-%E2%80%9Cto-destroy-this-invisible-government%E2%80%9D/#

I haven't entirely decided what I think about what Wikileaks has been doing, but this is an interesting look into, and analysis of, what Assange has been trying to accomplish via these leaks.

Of minor professional interest to me: apparently either Assange is not familiar with the terminology of social networks, or he thinks that his audience isn't (possibly fair). Apparently his strategy is an interesting complement to (or inversion of) the US counterterrorism social-network-based strategy, i.e., attempting to disrupt networks by identifying and removing key actors. Instead, Assange is apparently trying to disrupt the network by making the network itself--that is, the connections that make it something other than a collection of individuals--suspect, or at least less efficient.

EDIT: I do look forward to seeing what David Brin (_The Transparent Society_) has to say about this; I'll be watching http://davidbrin.blogspot.com to see when he posts something.
jrtom: (Default)
So apparently I missed this story first time around: it appears that US veterans are committing suicide at about 2x the rate of the rest of the population:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/13/earlyshow/main3494261.shtml

to the point where there have been more suicides than combat fatalities--possibly several times more. It's been publicized again recently:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/06/cbsnews_investigates/main4076241.shtml

Now, as a scientist of sorts, I recognize that there are several unanswered questions:

(1) How has the US veteran suicide rate changed over time? (Stats prior to our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan would be useful here, as a point of departure. Stats before and after the Gulf War, Viet Nam War, would also be handy.)
(2) How many of those veterans that are suiciding are doing so after having had a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan?
(3) How many are doing so shortly before being (re)sent to Iraq or Afghanistan?

A brief search hasn't turned up any studies, or data. If anyone has any (pointers to) such, I'd really like to see it.

However, as a political activist of sorts, even without answers to those questions...I'd really like to see one of the Democratic candidates bring up the fact that N times as many US service members have committed suicide since 2003 as have died in combat: that is, the true casualty rate appears to be considerably higher than the combat death stats suggest.

(This leaves out the injury rates here: part of the reason why there have been fewer deaths than in some previous conflicts is simply that medical technology is now capable of saving some of those that would have died. For an SFnal take on this, see http://www.bestsf.net/reviews/dozois5.html for a reference to the short story "The Million-Dollar Wound".

...and now I'm wondering how many US veteran _suicide attempts_ there have been, and how _that's_ changed...although I'd also bet that the 'success rate' of veteran suicides is considerably higher.)
jrtom: (Default)
in the first 4 minutes of the film "The Kingdom": http://www.boingboing.net/2007/12/18/summarizing-saudi-hi.html#comments

For my money, one of the most fascinating factoids that this brings up is that bin Laden apparently offered to bring in his followers from Afghanistan to help throw out the Iraqis in 1991. One wonders what would have happened if this offer had been accepted, either instead of the American offer (which was accepted, of course), or in combination with it. (Certainly one can expect that (a) bin Laden might have been too busy to plan terrorist attacks on the US and possibly (b) both bin Laden and the US might have had a bit more trouble demonizing each other after fighting on the same side in aid of another. Yes, I know that we funded the Afghani mudjahedeen...but this would have been a more recent event, and one of explicit (and possibly even public) cooperation.)
jrtom: (Default)
http://science.slashdot.org/science/07/06/12/2213233.shtml

I haven't read the paper yet...but I suspect that this is one of those cases in which the process of building a model obscures the fact that the inputs and objective functions are not well-defined.

Nevertheless I plan on checking this out at some point.
jrtom: (Default)
...since most of them tend to devolve to "is not!" "is too!" as if that were really the most important point (as opposed, to, say, trying to decide what we should be doing about the situation).

However, these are a couple of thoughtful articles (by the same author) that are worth reading.

http://www.time.com/time/world/printout/0,8816,1548897,00.html

http://tonykaron.com/2005/08/03/why-iraq-is-not-vietnam/


On a related note, this article seems to suggest that the militias aren't going anywhere, mostly because there's a perception among many Iraqis that they're the only ones that can really provide any kind of order, or at least protection:

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/15805850.htm
jrtom: (Default)
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/11/9/174518/797

Warning: involves a graphic image and some graphic language. NSFL (Not Safe For Lunch).

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May 2011

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