Ideas for the online revolution.

The Cost of the Iraqi War and Occupation

The cost of the Iraq War is approximately $200 billion according to
the National Priorities Project

That is only the direct financial cost.

The US consumes approximately 20 million barrels of oil/day (19.65 million in 2001 according to the CIA world fact book , or 7 billion barrels each year.

If the war/occupation causes oil to cost $10 more per barrel (which I think is a realistic estimate), then this adds $70 billion/year to the cost of the war and occupation.

This doesn't include the increase in the price of natural gas, used for heating and power plants, which tends to follow the price of oil (though it is subject to much wilder fluctuations).

Building Progressive Infrastructure

For longterm social change you need a long term strategy. Sure you need to fight the short-term battles (otherwise people suffer and die), but hopefully the left can scrape together some support for longterm institutions.

One example of such a program would be a database of skills and trainers. We need to convince all of the existing social change training organizations (Training for Change, Midwest Academy, AFL-CIO's trainers, ACORN, various socialist groups, etc) to publish their materials under the Creative Commons License. These materials should be available in large chunks (as books) and broken down into smaller chunks (chapters or exercises), and available online for free (PDF an HTML) - or in printed form for a charge.

Optimizing MySQL - strings vs integers

I've been logging my slow MySQL queries, with "slow" being defined rather harshly as anything that takes more than 0.01 seconds. However, when you are only dealing with 1000-30,000 records and simple selects, they shouldn't take much longer than that.

One thing I've noticed is a MAJOR difference between how MySQL treats integers versus strings in the WHERE clause.

For instance, if I do
FROM zipcodes
WHERE Zip=19104

This works fast if Zip is stored as an integer. If you want to store Zip as a string (to support codes like 00213, or because you are using a 7 character field to also support Canada which uses a mix of letters and numbers), then you can run into problems.

Opera is now FREE - A good alternative browser

Opera has a new release of their browser. One of the biggest differences is that their software which was previously supported by Ads that go away only if you register it, is now completely free.

I think Opera is a powerful alternative to Mozilla and encourage you to try it out.

It is possibly faster and has several features that I like (I prefer its tab system).

Download it

Pushing Power to the Edges Or to a New Elite?

Evolve Foundation recently came out with a paper on online activism called Pushing Power to the Edges with only barely mentioning Race, Class, or Gender.

Online activism might manage to mobilize millions of middle class white people, led by upper-middle class men who push the Mobilize Button. But is that pushing power to the edges?

I'm reminded of the Zapatistas who are common example of how the Internet can be used by a grassroots group that otherwise wouldn't have much power to acquire international fame and support. But wait a minute! Pratically every communique I read (and
I read many of them out load on a college radio show) was written by Subcomandante Marcos. Because he had more privilege that other people in the movement he became a media idol. We ended up reading poetic stories about rainbows, bridges, sea shells, Don Quixote, Alice in Wonderland, and parrots instead of about the conditions of people in the villages who were the most oppressed.

International Geocoding

I created an international geocoder using the GNS data. It converts a city, state (optional), and country into a longitude and latitude.

It has about a 90% success rate.

Geocodes and Maps the Result


Google Maps API thread

Taking Friendster and MySpace Down - Building a Noncommercial Alternative

MySpace was recently purchased as part of a $550 million deal. I think part of its value lies in trying to build profiles of people so that corporations can sell them products and target online advertizing.

We need a noncommercial/free/open social network that won't sell out to corporations and that will end the need of having to maintain a profile on seperate commercial networks so as to stay in touch with friends.

I believe I have a good idea to make it work. The technical aspects of creating a friendster or myspace is relatively easy. A good programmer or team could crank it out in a year or so. The trick is publicizing it.

Social Responsible Investing - A Couple Theories

Theory #1 - Short Term - The Impact
Thesis: Either socially responsible investors receive a lower rate of return than other investors, or their investment has little to no social impact.

The US economy has a standard rate of return on investment. This is the average rate that an investor can expect to get. Of course this rate fluctuates all over the place due to economic cycles, and it is difficult to predict what it will be in the future. However, there is still an average rate of return.

Regular investors will invest in companies which they believe will give them this rate of return or better. These investors do not care if the company is socially responsible or not, and will thus provide enough investment to both responsible and irresponsible companies up until the point where any additional investment would be less productive, and provide a below-market rate of return.

Mapping US Military Casualties

Someone made a map that shows US Military Casualties from the Iraq war.

Hopefully someone will be inspired to create a map of Iraqi civilian casualties. You could use data from Iraq Body Count, and the Geonames database to convert Iraqi cities into longitudes and latitudes.

Maybe the Left Hasn't Done Anything Wrong

There is a recent trend in the US discussion about politics that argues that the Left needs a big rethink, because it has failed to get its message across and we're seeing a New Era of rightwing dominance.

There are numerous problems with this assertion. First of all, you can find evidence for it, but finding conclusive evidence is very difficult as this is a very hard thing to demonstrate.

The "Left"
Unfortunately this is narrowly defined as the Democrats. Thus what people are really concerned about the fact is that Democrat canidates, who are moving closer and closer to Republican/rightwing values, keep losing elections. Instead we should be focussing on the fact that society is making very little progress on issues of racism and class inequality.

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