In this issue:
With more car bombs in Beirut and reports of Israel readying a strike on Iran by March, Iraq's latest round of voting makes the country seem somewhat normal. As ever, the voting process is a necessary step in rebuilding a functioning Iraqi civil society, but voting alone is not sufficient to transform the country.
Meanwhile, Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear enrichment capability is fast reaching the point of no return. Israel wants the nuke question to be handled by the U.N. before the International Atomic Energy Agency files its next report on Iran in early March. Elections in Israel are also slated for March 28, providing an obvious window for Israel to act preemptively should the U.N. fail to move. Pre-empt, n., see Iraq.
However, Iran does not offer the same easy, one-and-done target that Iraq's Osirak did almost 25 years ago. An effective Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program would have to hit multiple sites. That would probably require multiple missions and almost certainly the tacit support of U.S. forces in Iraq.
At the risk of being criminally wish-washy, it is important to say that both sides have a point in the little dust-up between Intel and the backers of the $100 laptop for developing countries. Intel is correct to note that the limited range of software for the machines-certainly nothing like a full laptop might use-will limit the devices' ability to scale into existing business operations.
However, we are talking about places where there tends not to be much in the way of existing infrastructure of any kind. That is why the thing is powered by a hand crank. Seeding these things around might be an effective way to bootstrap entirely new networks and operations. Or it might just be a complete waste of money.
The unknown is what makes the $100 laptop an experiment and not a solution. Everyone should be able to hang tight for a bit and see what the results might be.
Guitar tab, the idiot bastard child of musical notation, beloved of day-jobbing hobbyists everywhere, may go behind the intellectual property wall. Music publishers contend that if you cross tab with digital dissemination, you get massive copyright infringement. How massive? The Music Publishers' Association chief says operators of guitar tab sites should go to jail.
Publishers are promising to make 2006 the year of the war on unauthorized reproductions of tab, formal sheet music, and of song lyrics. This will be interesting.
Writing down song lyrics, and especially tablature puzzled out by users, does not make a copy of a work so much as transcribe or quote it. But user-created tab can also convey new ideas about how to play someone else's notes. As such these tab efforts are officially "wrong" when compared to the copyrighted notation. However, when they are played they sound "right." Does that merit jail time too? A stiff fine? Or humming? A citation?
Quote of the Week
"The Combat Meth Act is the toughest anti-meth bill ever considered by the Congress, and it will help people in neighborhoods all across Missouri and the country who are threatened by meth." -Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) on the bill that has been combined with the conference report for the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act.
Crackdown on Government Spending
Where will it end? Now Connecticut is forcing state workers to use the phone book instead of punching up 411, saving $10,000 in the process. Luckily, workers still managed to dial 411 some 19,000 times in November. Whew!
Plame Scandal Update
Confused about where things stand in the CIA leak investigation? Good. Everyone else seems to be as well. Latest wrinkle: Karl Rove forgot he talked to a different reporter. We think.
The bottom-up, user written Wikipedia makes a goof on the Kennedy assassination thanks to some guy who thought it was a spoof site. At least that is the cover story.
Balls to the
Big-boxing a mega-retailer's ears. Julian Sanchez
The Father of Modern School Reform
Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman introduced the idea of school vouchers. Interviewed by Nick Gillespie
Beware the Climate Lilliputians
Treaty ties that bind. Ronald Bailey
And much more!
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