Thursday, August 17, 2006

Universal Web Access

The promise of a New South (as in the United States) has long been bedeviled by the very concentrations of wealth that spawned the term. In short form, the complete takeover of Southern politics by the combined forces of the noveau riche and the evangelical right wing which finds such fertile ground in the native traditional culture stymies progress in providing the very means by which a democratic society is created: exchange of information. While declaring surpluses and tax cuts, the areas of the South that could benefit most immediately from access to the Internet are twenty-five miles from a browser.

Internet access and skills today define literacy. Those left behind in this information revolution cannot succeed in today's job market or even their own culture. To be uninformed is to be dispossessed.

The information revolution that we speak of so powerfully as a transformative force for other countries such as China isn't available to the rural South without investments from State government and far sighted planning. It is achievable but that requires policy and leadership.

I had a chance to chat with Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley yesterday. She is the Democratic Party candidate for Governor in a State where all of the money is betting on the Republican candidate. I was very impressed with Mrs Baxley. The initiatives she proposes look to the future of the State of Alabama. While the Republicans are continuing their tired tactics of isms and distortion, Lucy Baxley is providing a clear-minded and bold but practical approach to the challenges we face at the dawn ofthe 21st century.

I was particularly impressed with her eagerness to begin enabling Internet access to the rural residents so that their children wil lbe better prepared for the 21st century economy. If information exchange is the definition of democracy, such an initiative brings both knowledge and democracy to every citizen as a right sustained by good government.

I admired her character and ethics in saying she did not have all the answers for getting this done,but insisting that just as we had to wire the rural South for electricity not that long ago, we had to bring the information highway by starting now and solving the problem one step at a time.

While this a State election probably of not much concern to the web community, I wonder if candidacies such as hers are not golden opportunities for the open source community to advance its own economic model with ideas for how such rural literacy and senior citizen access can be achieved.

What can open source provide to make such a promise achievable and sustainable? What must we do to make it open to all who wish to learn and achieve? Inclusiveness and transparency are the twin horses of open source. Inclusiveness and transparency are the twin goals of the Baxley campaign. Whatever the political pundits say, we who have the brains and the knowledge have left the choices for the future of our communities for too long in the hands of those who believe that proprietary control preserves their wealth even if at the cost of our future. It's good to win in Boston, but American political power is in the South and so is the red state base of ignorance.

While nothing will change that tomorrow, only education has a chance of changing that at all. I would appreciate your insights into the challenges of bringing the Internet into the rural South where driving to a library every day as a means for a child to do their homework isn't a practical answer.

Perhaps the Googles, Red Hats, Suns and IBMs of the world have an answer. Perhaps the Gates Foundation will help as well. Meanwhile, perhaps the collective brain power of the web can help with ideas as to how this can be achieved.

What will it take to create a model for universal access that is realizable, scalable, sustainable and replicable to other parts of the world?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Point of Uncertainty

A friend sent me this link

to a video that purports to expose fraud on the part of Reuters and other national news organizations. Because I have no way to vette these, I leave it to the reader to form their own conclusions. I have opinions about the means.

Manipulation of the media, spinning the message, denying the obvious, affirming the absurd leads one to trust nothing, and believe no one. Maximum ambiguity creates maximum uncertainty and that is the precise goal of demagoguery, because then only a small truth is needed to create an amplified and incendiary effect.

In orbital mechanics there is a phenomenon known as a lagrange point. In a lagrange point, all of the gravitational forces of different bodies in the system are cancelled out. A lagrange point is a location for a parking orbit that enables telecommunications satellites to remain ‘geostationary’ if no extra force acts to move them. Tiny perturbations are cancelled out with tiny forces. On the other hand, it is the point of maximum uncertainty because the tiniest force can be used to push any object in the lagrange point to favor one of the opposing forces. This is the principal for deep space probe navigation known as low energy transport. It is the phenomenon that characterizes commodity products in economics, and the means to sell the unsellable.

It is also the means to create permanent conflict. No rational self-interested people will pursue their own destruction for multiple generations unless subtle and continuous means are applied to shape the patterns by which they observe and react to that end. The push comes from all sides and keeps them in a continuous uncertainty until a tiny force, a tiny moment of momentum pushes them toward one of the local attractors.

Why is it that peace is the least certain position of the opposing forces in the mideast?

The solution will be to put international forces on the ground between the combatants and as a policeman going to a domestic violence call, the probability that both sides will fire on the policeman is quite high. Then ever greater forces will be put into the region with an ever widening conflict, or the international forces will withdraw and the violence will go on locally until all are dead or exhausted. It is reasonable to assume that as long as the US provides armaments to Israel and Syria and Iran provide armaments to Hezbollah or the latest flavor of Arab violence, the killing will continue. At some point, the Iranians or an outside source will provide Arabs with their own nuclear weapons to match the ones already in the Israeli arsenal.

Will they risk what follows? Will they destroy the holy land once and for all?

I don’t know because I can’t conceive of any Heaven worth going to through a garden of nuclear devastation that destroys the holy places of three world religions. What God greets one as a hero if one has destroyed eternal Jerusalem for eternity?

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