Rumsfeld cites Truman, suggests 40,000 casualties a reasonable price for Iraqi freedom

DoD News: News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Maj. Gen. Peter Pace:

I noted to them that within my lifetime, the same now free and prosperous South Korea that they’re helping to defend was almost completely destroyed by a terrible conflict. In the three years of the Korean War, nearly 40,000 Americans would fall in brutal combat, and U.S. forces endured many setbacks along the way.

President Harry Truman, now remembered as a fine president, would leave office in 1953 with an approval rating of about 25 percent, one of the lowest recorded ratings since folks started measuring those things.

The problem with this comparison is that North and South Korea are separated by a border, something that can be defended in traditional military parlance. The War on Terror is a distributed conflict (see this John Robb link to Martin van Creveld’s analysis) that defies the analogy to fighting communism. And Newt Gingrich is talking a 30 Years War scenario. If the best Bush can offer is “You’re going to hate us more than Truman,” this is a new low for the Republican party.

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One-point-eight-billion dollars on content

Consider that online advertising accounted for approximately eight times as much revenue last year, which means there’s no single business model for content as much as content plays an important role, whether you’re charging for information or hoping to make your money on advertising….

ComScore and The Online Publishers Association report:

U.S. consumers spent $1.8 billion for online content in 2004; this represents an increase of 13.7% compared to 2003 and was driven largely by the Entertainment/Lifestyles category

Entertainment/Lifestyles surges to overtake Business/Investment content as second largest paid content category

Consumer spending on Entertainment/Lifestyles content reached $413.5 million in 2004, surpassing Business/Investment content to rank second among all paid content categories

Entertainment/Lifestyles also registered the largest year-over-year growth (90%), fueled by growth in online music sales

Sports and Games also showed strong annual gains of 38% and 21.8%, respectively

The Personals/Dating category remains the largest paid content category, with Business/Investment now at No. 3 behind Entertainment/ Lifestyles

The top three categories – Personals/Dating, Entertainment/Lifestyles and Business/Investment – accounted for just over two-thirds (67.3%) of online content spending in 2004, up from 64% in 2003

Single purchase share of paid content sales reaches highest point yet

In 2004, single purchase sales hit a record high of $274.7 million, up 59.2% from 2003, driven by single purchases of music downloads

The growth in digital music track/album sales shifted the overall single purchase versus subscription mix, with single purchases accounting for 15.4% of sales in 2004 versus only 11% in 2003 – the largest change in the three years we have been analyzing year-over-year trends.

Single purchase sales in the Entertainment/Lifestyles category accounted for $125.7 million in revenue in 2004, nearly eight times the $15.9 million it accounted for in 2003.

Among single payments, mid-range payments (between $5 and $50) accounted for 70% of single payment revenue for 2004

Monthly subscriptions accounted for 58.4% of total subscription revenues in Q4 2004 versus 52.4% Q4 2003, an increase of 11.5% over the same period last year

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Monkeys, humans count in similar ways

Monkey Math Machinery is Like Humans’:

Monkeys have a semantic perception of numbers that is like humans’ and which is independent of language, Duke University cognitive neuroscientists have discovered. They said their findings demonstrate that the neural mechanism underlying numerical perception is evolutionarily primitive.

This is really interesting. it suggests that the ability to group and compare things, the concept of a set, and other basic math skills are native to other species, not just humans. If the basic processes of numeric cognition are the same, George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez’s Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics Into Being suggests that, if this is the case, the mind of other animals probably work metaphorically, as ours do.

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Alito: Two views of reason with reasonable points

Separated at the Bench – New York Times:

Yes, chances are that a Justice Alito will please conservatives more often than liberals. Doubtless, many liberals will anguish over Judge Alito’s opinion, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that would have upheld a law requiring that husbands be notified when their wives seek abortions. Still, they should give serious study to his record; they may discover that there are varieties of judicial conservatives, just as there are varieties of political conservatives, and that Samuel Alito is not Antonin Scalia.

Alito is not a Scalia clone:

There are, likewise, clues in Alito’s opinions that suggest a balanced, thoughtful, and independent–albeit still conservative–state of mind, as opposed to the arrogant activism that has become Scalia’s signature. In the 2003 case Williams v. Price, for example, Alito wrote the majority opinion overturning a lower court decision in which a convicted first-degree murderer was not permitted to call into question his verdict after a juror was heard making racist comments. This was a grisly murder and just the kind of annoying habeas petition that those of Scalia’s ilk think clog the judicial system. To his credit, Alito authored the opinion that provided for a new hearing.

Samuel Alito is clearly not a bleeding-heart liberal; but neither is he a caustic conservative. To be sure, he will not be the next Blackmun. But neither will he be the next Scalia.

I’m less and less concerned about Alito, who may be conservative but is clearly thoughtful. We have to get a sense of his willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade and key elements of regulatory law, and the Miers debacle gave Democrats the right to ask these questions, as Republicans didn’t hesitate to ask when they had their doubts. It’s not “political,” it’s politically important to ask.

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Slow at the core, the economy squeezes us all

FRB: Press Release–FOMC statement–November 1, 2005:

Elevated energy prices and hurricane-related disruptions in economic activity have temporarily depressed output and employment. However, monetary policy accommodation, coupled with robust underlying growth in productivity, is providing ongoing support to economic activity that will likely be augmented by planned rebuilding in the hurricane-affected areas. The cumulative rise in energy and other costs have the potential to add to inflation pressures; however, core inflation has been relatively low in recent months and longer-term inflation expectations remain contained.

The Fed raised rates a quarter-percent, again. But the problem is that core inflation—everything other than energy prices, basically—is not rising, so the Fed is responding primarily to external costs that may be passed along to the rest of us, by raising the cost of money for all of us. There is less and less room for the Fed to have monetary policy work effectively.

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A crisis of imagination

The Looming Attention Crisis:

Most of us have day jobs. Many of us have families. So we have a limited amount of attention left. And I suspect we are consuming most of it with what we’ve got on our plates today.

So where does the attention come for the next wave of blogs and web services? From the old ones, I guess. In my case, its not going to come out of my family’s attention allocation or my firm’s.

So attention is a zero sum game and if we are creating (at an exponential rate?) more uses of attention, then we are facing a looming attention crisis.

Fred Wilson has arrived at that wall where the transition between gathering and using attention as a fungible asset that can be converted into economic value in various ways. Yes, we’re running short on attention, because, for now, our attention is rendered largely valueless by the gross metrics, physicality and temporality of the economy. Once we begin to understand that by mining attention we approach forms of knowledge that are currently viewed as intrinsic aspects of the economy rather than as extrinsic value that redounds to its creators, then the zero-sum that punctuates our attempts to fit all the information we view into our already busy lives will evaporate. It will happen slowly, but it will happen.

Who in 1400 C.E. would have imagined there would be a class of people who traded symbolic value representing remote physical and economic assets? Likewise, today we look at how much knowledge is “lost” in the rapid shifting of our attention and cannot imagine how it will be made valuable.

UPDATE: The Head Lemur blames copyright, which I am not so worried about. The problem, I think, is how you create an economy of small information production, because producers of knowledge still need to eat. Alan’s right that copyright has over-reached through extension of the term of copyright to absurd lengths, but the problem is in the breach between the creation of content and the copyright term, where livings will be made in the future.

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Walking through OPML

OPML 101 Screencast

Alex Barnett has a good introduction—in a Flash movie—to OPML. He talks about Taskable, a lightweight OPML browser I am finding very intriguing.

Challenge for developers: How to help users manage OPML redundancy as information about the aggregate interest in particular sites and pieces of information. As much or more than tagging, the subscriptions we have and how we name them, can help the bottom-up organization of information.

Here’s the ideal tagging philosophy: It’s the taxonomies we don’t think about that are most important to capture and understand.

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Flu Plan: No Global Outreach – Bush Requests Total of $7.1 Billion To Prepare for Flu Pandemic:

The president, in a speech at the National Institutes of Health, said the U.S. must be prepared to detect outbreaks anywhere in the world, stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs and be ready to respond at the federal, state and local levels in the event a pandemic reaches the U.S.

Mr. Bush outlined a strategy that would cost $7.1 billion including:

• $1.2 billion for the government to buy enough doses of the vaccine against the current strain of bird flu to protect 20 million Americans;

• $1 billion to stockpile more anti-viral drugs that lessen the severity of the flu symptoms;

• $2.8 billion to speed the development of vaccines as new strains emerge, a process that now takes months;

• $583 million for states and local governments to prepare emergency plans to respond to an outbreak.

What’s missing is our contribution to global responses to the flu and research and information sharing, which should be facilitated through a global open database of flu data to encourage broader research. We’re the greatest country in the world and can afford to save humanity from pandemics.

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