The Zarqawi scandal

by John Quiggin on March 28, 2004

As Richard Clarke’s unsurprising revelations continue to receive blanket coverage around the blogosphere and elsewhere, I’ve been increasingly puzzled by the failure of the Zarqawi scandal to make a bigger stir. As far as I can determine, the following facts are undisputed

* Abu Musab Zarqawi, leader of the group Ansar al-Islam is one of the most dangerous Islamist terrorists currently active. He is the prime suspect for both the Karbala and Madrid atrocities and the alleged author of a letter setting out al Qaeda’s strategy for jihad in Iraq. Although he has become increasingly prominent in the past year, he has been well-known as a terrorist for many years
* For some years, until March 2003, Ansar al-Islam was based primarily at Kirma in Northern Iraq, in part of the region of Iraq generally controlled by the Kurds and included in the no-fly zone enforced by the US and UK. In other words, the group was an easy target for either a US air attack, a land attack by some special forces and/or Kurdish militia or a combination of the two
* Nothing was done until the invasion of Iraq proper, by which time the group had fled

These facts alone would indicate a failure comparable in every way to the missed opportunities to kill or capture bin Laden before S11. But the reality appears to be far worse.

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Finding playmates

by Eszter Hargittai on March 28, 2004

Seth Finkelstein comments on Ed Felten’s blog that perhaps one reason why we don’t see much mixing of people from legal and technical backgrounds at conferences is that neither lawyers nor technologists get points within their own communities for attending conferences with experts from other fields. I can’t tell if Seth agrees with this point or is merely raising it, but it’s worth considering either way. My reaction to the above approach is that it seems short-sighted to assume that you cannot gain something valuable – something that could eventually score you points in your own community – from attending a conference that isn’t solely made up of people from your own field.

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Selective intelligence

by Eszter Hargittai on March 28, 2004

There are clearly some very smart folks behind Google given that they provide us with a great service and continually add useful features. That said, at times I am surprised by some of the decisions. Should they be placing their machine intelligence over user preferences? I am surfing the Web in Budapest. When I try to go to google.com, I am redirected to google.co.hu. I change the URL because I prefer to see the site in English. Fine. Then I run a search using English words and get Adwords Sponsored Links on the right in Hungarian. The rest of the interface is in English as are all of the results, but the ads are not. (Granted, the one term that matched the search term “domain” was in the ads, but every other word was in Hungarian.) Geography does not equal language preference or knowledge, especially when the user has already signaled so. It seems getting meaningful ads would be in the interest of both Google and its Adwords clients, why this decision then? (I commented on something very similar a year ago and although it seems some progress may have been made, need for improvement remains.)