Friday, October 9, 2009

Pres Barack Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize.. too early?

Today the Nobel committee awarded the yearly Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. Of course it's going to set off a firestorm of ridiculous criticism from the right wing harrumphing crowd. But what I'm more interested in is.. why now? Why not award this in a few years after he's proved he can fulfill the promised dream vision with which he won the presidency? Was the Nobel Committee still caught up in the dreamy aura he had in the 6 months or so between the election and the end of his first 100 days in office?

Obama's Nobel seen as "daring" bet on future:

Siv Jensen, the head of Norway's biggest opposition party, said: "In the year he's been president he has not achieved concrete things in peace work. I mean that should be the criterion in handing out the peace prize, not expectations."

... Often Nobels are given as a sort of lifetime achievement award for peace makers, such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won in 2002, and the 2008 winner, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari.

Some likened Obama's prize to the 1978 award shared by Egyptian President Mohammad Anwar Al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who negotiated peace between their countries which, at the time, provided much hope for security across the Middle East. Such peace still remains elusive.

US media on Obama Nobel award: Curiously concentrates on the media voices that blast this award to Obama. Maybe the BBC thinks the U.S. media consists of the right wing blowhards? I dunno about that but it's really strange that every quote they have blast the decision as being for someone who hasn't achieved any practical results yet but instead has great rhetoric. I tend to agree with that point of view. The voices quoted in the BBC article are more inflammatory than I just put it.

Analysis: Obama's Nobel honors promise, not action: Goes in a similar vein recounting promises and the actual results which were a shadow of the promise. But ends with this:-

And remember that the Nobel prize has a long history of being awarded more for the committee's aspirations than for others' accomplishments — for Mideast peace or a better South Africa, for instance. In some cases, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.

Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said as much. "Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early?" he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."

Obama certainly understands his challenges are too steep to resolve quickly. "It's not going to be easy," the president often says as he sets tasks for the United States.

The Nobel committee, it seems, had the audacity to hope that he'll eventually produce a record worthy of its prize.

Pres. Obama seems to understand this as well, Building a World that "Gives Life to the Promise of Our Founding Documents":

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!" And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up." So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

These challenges can't be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that's why my administration has worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek. We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people. And that's why we've begun to take concrete steps to pursue a world without nuclear weapons, because all nations have the right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but all nations have the responsibility to demonstrate their peaceful intentions.

We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children -- sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities. And that's why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy.

We can't allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another, and that's why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years, and that effort must include an unwavering commitment that finally realizes that the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can't accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for -- the ability to get an education and make a decent living; the security that you won't have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

And even as we strive to seek a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and prosperity is widely shared, we have to confront the world as we know it today. I am the Commander-in-Chief of a country that's responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies. I'm also aware that we are dealing with the impact of a global economic crisis that has left millions of Americans looking for work. These are concerns that I confront every day on behalf of the American people.

Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration -- it's about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

And that's why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity -- for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace.

That has always been the cause of America. That's why the world has always looked to America. And that's why I believe America will continue to lead.

Thank you very much.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Oslo, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

New FTC guidelines on advertising affects bloggers

The U.S. Fair Trade Commission has recently released new rules on advertising that appears in the form of endorsements and testimonials. This is one of those "the times they are a changing" moments given that these guidelines were last updated in 1980, my how the world has changed since then. There are many ways endorsements & testimonials show up which aren't so clearly ethical and the new technologies being developed offer new ways for us to communicate with each other. If the FTC were to remain limited by the old rules written before the Web was invented how would the FTC be able to regulate this new medium?

Let's think a moment about bloggers and endorsements.

Obviously some bloggers spend their blogging time writing about products and either tracking product press releases or doing reviews about products. There's nothing new about that and many magazines revolve around a similar vein of writing.

For decades there has been concern about slanted magazine reviews. That's why the original FTC guidelines came into being, right?

If the principle is "Caveat Emptor" it is up to the customer to decide whether or not to believe a given product review, right? But if payments or freebies provided by the manufacturer are not disclosed then how is the customer to know whether to take the review with a grain of salt? Requiring the reviewer to disclose stuff provided by the manufacturer makes for transparency.

For bloggers the FTC press release has this to say:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Some examples about online payola:-

Belkin’s Online Review Payola Plot Thickens: "A Belkin employee was recently busted offering payment for positive reviews of a Belkin network router—whether or not the reviewer had even seen one"

NBC Analyst Admits Receiving Tech Payola: About a 2005 "payola scheme by NBC tech analyst Cory Greenberg surfaced Wednesday, in which he was receiving upwards of $15,000 a piece from technology companies to positively promote their products on NBC's Today Show."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"I want to opt out of Google's Sattelite View"

The other night a friend said that. She wants to be in her back yard in any state of (un-)dress and not worry about peeping googlebots in the sky or for that matter the neighbors. It's clearly an invasion of expected privacy when satellite services take pictures of every square inch of the planet. So let's ponder this for a moment..

The times, they are a changing.. eh? New advances of technology come routinely enough. Some of them dramatically challenge the preconceived notions we have. For example cell phones have made it routine to talk to apparently no-one whereas in earlier times we'd have thought someone nuts if they were carrying on a conversation with the air around them.

Taking pictures from satellites has been going on for decades and has only been getting better and better. What's new here is that Google and other services have made the images available on a massive scale to everybody. That's all.

There's an interesting principle about the right to photograph things. As I understand it (in the U.S.) the right to photograph is that if you are able to stand on public property and see something then you have the right to photograph it. In essence I think satellite imagery is taking that to an extreme. Satellites are clearly on public property (outer space) and they are taking pictures of things people could plausibly see if they were in outer space. That isn't too much of a stretch is it?

At issue isn't just satellite imagery, there is also airplane based imagery. In a few years we can expect unmanned air vehicles to be approved for use in the U.S. and perhaps there will be services flying UAV's around the country for the same purpose that satellites are used today.

Which isn't to say that my friend isn't out of line. She is having a very perfectly normal reaction. While I share her concern I'm simply being a realist about it. Technology has created this airborne photography service which serves many purposes and one of them is a massive invasion of privacy.

Internet means Freedom? Or more Tyranny?

For a long time many have claimed that the growth of the Internet will mean that the proletariat can shake off the chains of tyranny and gain freedom. But is that true? Clearly there are examples where the Internet and the Web have played a significant part in the people circumventing official media dominance to learn things tyrannical governments would rather not be known. Clearly that can lead to more freedom and perhaps the ability of the proletariat to actually revolt against their tyrannical governments. But is this always the case?

Evgeny Morozov: How the Net aids dictatorships goes into this.. so ...

He's got some good points.. that it's up to the people using the Internet to use it in a given way. Just because the creator of a thing wants it used one way doesn't mean the users will do so, they may have some other use for the thing than the intended purpose. Also the powers that be have an ability to be inventive about ways of using the Internet to gather open source intelligence, or to engage with their critics in a way that defuses the criticisms.

I think at the basic fundamental level for a society to successfully revolt against a tyrannical government, the society has to take the step of kicking the bums out. That means an actual revolution, fighting in the street, etc. It won't happen automatically once we all have a blog and can post our thoughts for everybody else to read.

An example is -- if Television is the Opiate of the Masses -- World of Warcraft and other addictive Internet experiences are doubly so. In China for example World of Warcraft and other online games are so widespread that they've identified "Internet Addiction" as a disease and have treatment centers for it.

Someone on the Internet playing games is not a threat to the tyranny of the regime, just as television addicts are also not a threat to the tyranny.