Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Monday, March 04, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Globalization is not new

What is Globalization? Arthur MacEwan looks at the history of globalization (not quite as far back as the Garden, as this quote implies) and how today's version is different.

Ever since Adam and Eve left the garden, people have been expanding the geographic realm of their economic, political, social and cultural contacts. In this sense of extending connections to other peoples around the world, globalization is nothing new. Also, as a process of change that can embody both great opportunities for wealth and progress and great trauma and suffering, globalization at the beginning of the 21st century is following a well established historical path. Yet the current period of change in the international system does have its own distinctive features, not the least important of which is the particular sort of political conflict it is generating.

Hubble spacewalks

In the first of five spacewalks, the Hubble was given a new solar panel, smaller than the old ones but more sturdy and powerful. A second one will be installed in a walk starting at 1:30 Eastern Tuesday morning.

Today's friends are tomorrow's enemies

Forgotten Coverage of Afghan "Freedom Fighters": on the change in media coverage regarding the Afghan Mujahiddin between the 80s and today.

There has, in short, been a fairly dramatic and Orwellian shift in the tone of public discourse regarding Afghanistan. While Islamic extremism is now viewed with great hostility, in the 1980s U.S. policy strongly supported such extremism; there is scarcely any recognition that a little more than a decade ago, the U.S. press waxed eloquent about the Afghan "freedom fighters."


There can be little doubt that journalistic partisanship strongly shaped the agenda of news reporting during the Afghan war of the 1980s. Another problem was direct manipulation of reporting by the U.S. government, which was supporting the Mujahiddin guerrillas during both the Carter and Reagan administrations. (Indeed, we now know that U.S. aid to the Mujahiddin was secretly begun in July 1979, six months before the Soviets invaded--International Politics, 6/00.) This press manipulation began early in the conflict. In January 1980, the New York Times (1/26/80) reported that the State Department had "relaxed" its accuracy code for reporting information on Afghanistan. As a result, the Carter administration generated "accounts suggesting Soviet actions for which the administration itself has no solid foundation."

Limits of computing

The Physics of Information Processing Superobjects: Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains. Anders Sandberg takes a detailed look at the physical limitations to enormous computers.

The laws of physics impose constraints on the activities of intelligent beings regardless of their motivations, culture or technology. As intelligent life begins to extend its potential, information storage, processing and management will become extremely important. It has been argued that civilizations generally are information-limited and that everything intelligent beings do, not just thinking but also economy, art, and emotion, can be viewed as information processing. This means that the physics of information processing imposes limits on what can be achieved by any civilization. In the following I will look at the problems of very large computing systems. They represent the extremes of what an individual being or a culture can become.


U.S. Military Bases and Empire: a look at the history and use of foreign military bases by the U.S.

The United States, which has sought to maintain an imperial economic system without formal political controls over the territorial sovereignty of other nations, has employed these bases to exert force against those nations that have sought to break out of the imperial system altogether, or that have attempted to chart an independent course that is perceived as threatening U.S. interests.

Realities in space

The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects: John Hickman discusses some of the political and economic realities behind such things as space stations, Mars colonization, and star ships.

Space development enthusiasts typically explain the significance of their favorite very large space projects-whether constructing orbital colonies or cities beneath the surface of the Moon, terraforming Mars or Venus, or launching interstellar spacecraft-in terms of their promise to produce vast new wealth, open frontiers to serve as social "safety valves" for the ambitious or the dissenting, generate the novel problems that drive dramatic advances in science and engineering, provide new sources of natural resources, and permit population dispersal to assure the long term survival of our species. Without question, these are all laudable reasons for the adventure of space and any very large space project would probably meet several of these objectives. However, if the economic and social promise of these projects is so extraordinary, and if the social losses which result from failing to undertake them are so large, why haven't humans embarked on them? Why aren't we even close to beginning one of these great enterprises? Given the assertion made by many space development enthusiasts that the basic technology needed for their favorite projects already exists or can be developed from the available science, asking these questions is entirely fair. The answers must be found in political economy, some rudimentary understanding of which will be necessary before realistic planning for any very large space project can begin.

Bolivian coca production

Bolivia Suffers under Plan Colombia: on the impact of drug eradication under the Andean Counterdrug Initiative to the legal growers of coca in Bolivia.

Beyond this, however, we are also sending increasing millions of dollars to Andean governments, especially Bolivia, in order to coerce them to greatly decrease coca production. Since 1997 coca production has decreased by about 75% in Bolivia, almost eliminating that part of the crop which goes to the international cocaine trade. Now, however, we want Bolivia to further decrease coca production. This is what the peasants are protesting, because hundreds of thousands of them make their living from its cultivation for domestic Bolivian consumption.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley