Category: Politics


Spain’s Blurred Cultural Divides (or how Newt Gingrich can’t even get xenophobia right)

The Alhambra, from Mirador San Nicolás
The Alhambra of Granada: Muslim Nasrid Fortress; Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's palace; Catholic churches and ex-mosques in view. Photo taken outside the Saint Nicholas church in the Albayzin "Muslim quarter" of the city.

Newt Gingrich states,

“The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.” [Emphasis mine.]

I’ll overlook Gingrich’s gross overstatement of the historical facts (this excellent post by a medieval historian refutes his statements in detail) and get to the more glaring irony in his statement. Say hello to the “world’s third-largest mosque complex,” that symbolic victory over Christian Spain (which before the conquest was neither unified in religion nor statehood):

Yep, that just makes ya tremble in fear of Islamist conquerors, doesn’t it? Newt Gingrich uses Córdoba as an example of the Muslim destruction of Western or Christian culture, yet the very building in question stands today not as a mosque, but a cathedral. (Ironically, the world’s third-largest Christian complex lies a couple of hours’ drive away in Seville – a mosque converted into a cathedral after the Catholics conquered the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus.)


Proprietary Vendors Want Open Source Sanctions

The Guardian reports that  International Intellectual Property Alliance requested that the U.S. Trade Representative to put countries using open source in government on a “Special 301 watchlist” – a list of intellectual property-violating nations, or “state sponsors of piracy.” The recommendation states:

The Indonesian government’s policy… simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market.

Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations.

As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions.

In general, this is just another example of an established, successful industry trying to maintain power by coercing governments to make emerging business models illegal, rather than bothering to innovate and create sustainability in the free market. I rant about this all the time, so I won’t continue to do so here.

But since this was filed by the “International Intellectual Property Alliance” – an interest group which conveniently separates this action’s publicity from the companies it represents – I thought I’d just call out just a few of the member companies which are behind this anticompetitive action: (this list goes through member organizations of the IIPA, including the BSAESA and AAP)

  • Adobe
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Apple
  • Bloomberg Press
  • The Cato Institute (Free market libertarian economics think tanks for government regulations?!)
  • Cisco Systems
  • Dell
  • Electronic Arts
  • Harcourt, Inc.
  • Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • HP
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • McGraw-Hill
  • Microsoft
  • Motion Picture Association of America
  • Nintendo
  • Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
  • SAP
  • Sony
  • Symantec
  • Xerox
  • Countless University presses (MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Oxford, Universities of California, Chicago, New York, North Carolina and more)

While there isn’t evidence that these companies directly instigated the effort to stifle competition from open source, they are the financial backers of this anticompetitive organization, and thus have a responsibility to be accountable for its actions.


Google Grows a Pair

I’ve long disapproved of American companies’ willingness to go along with oppressive regimes’ human rights abuses. Some companies have given information on dissidents to governments and helped in the apprehension of political prisoners. This has attracted significant attention over the years, both in the media and in Congressional inquiries.

For years, Google has censored search results on their Chinese domain,, in an effort to keep their site from being blocked by the “Great Firewall of China,” which blocks access to countless sites on an unpublished Government blacklist.

Today, Google made public their findings of targeted malicious break-ins to Google accounts of various activists for Chinese human rights, both within China, and in the U.S. and Europe. The attacks weren’t exclusive to Google, but widespread across other major companies.

Amazingly, after finding this, Google has made the decision to fight back and stop participating in China’s self-censorship mandates:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

I applaud this policy decision by Google. It’s a shame that American companies benefit so often from doing their business in ways that support corrupt governments, and our own country should do more to prevent it from happening to others.

China is growing and has the potential to improve the quality of life for people worldwide, but it has some very disturbing issues that it needs to address as it matures


U.S. Intel failed on Underpants Bomber due to Misspelling, Software

Well, this isn’t good. According to an official White House review, the intelligence community failed to notice red flags about the underpants bomber. Why? The software that would have correlated intel and raised alarms was rendered ineffective by a one-letter misspelling of the would-be bomber’s name.

From the White House’s review of the government’s failures in the Flight 253 debacle:

Mr. Abdulmutallab possessed a U.S. visa, but this fact was not correlated with the concerns of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father about Mr. Abdulmutallab’s potential radicalization. A misspelling of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name initially resulted in the State Department believing he did not have a valid U.S. visa. A determination to revoke his visa however would have only occurred if there had been a successful integration of intelligence by the CT [counterterrorism] community, resulting in his being watchlisted.

According to Talking Points Memo, Abdulmutallab’s name was misspelled by just one letter.