December 10th, 2003


Wolfowitz' raw deal.

White House neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz has decided that "essential security interests" require all non-coalition countries to be banned from contracts for Iraq's reconstruction.

The thing that is so unfair about this, however, is that many of these same countries have contributed significant amounts of money for Iraq's reconstruction.

Case in point. Canada has pledged roughly $225 million US dollars for Iraqi reconstruction and humanitarian aid, which is $25 million more than South Korea, which has a slightly larger economy than Canada. Unlike South Korea, however, Canada is cut out of Iraqi contracts.

Amongst those contributing to the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq are (surprise!) Germany and France. The European Union has pledged to contribute $2.36 billion for reconstruction and humanitarian aid over the next three years, and Germany and France each contribute about 16% of the total EU budget. That would translate into each country giving approximately $380 million apiece to Iraq.

In addition, both France and Germany are being asked to waive or restructure billions of dollars in debt that Iraq owes their countries -- a far bigger deal to the longterm success of Iraq than the costs of the reconstruction. Of course, now that the US has burnt France and Germany on the reconstruction of Iraq, why shouldn't they want Iraq's debt to be paid in full, thereby sticking it to the US, who would no doubt have to cover the expense.

By cutting France and Germany out of Iraqi contracts, US taxpayers are forced to entirely rebuild parts of Iraq's infrastructure which could be repaired in less time and for less money. Also, bids for contracts won't be as competitive and the reconstruction will take longer than necessary, which will also have a negative economic impact on Iraq. (i.e. more pissed off Iraqis who can't work, can't depend on reliable power, water, phones, etc.) A longer period of time for the reconstruction, of course, means more US soldiers returning home in body bags.

Ultimately, countries like France, Germany, and Canada are being punished for listening to their people and not sending their troops to serve under US command for the Bush administration's unsanctioned war. Almost everyone loses on the deal -- the Iraqis, Canada, France, Germany... (i.e. our former allies), US taxpayers, and even US soldiers serving overseas -- almost everyone loses, with the exception of companies such as Halliburton who will get the contracts.

This is ultimately an illegal attempt by the Bush administration to play god with the Iraqi economy and seize it for themselves and their supporters -- essentially the same kind of colonialism-enforced economics that led to the American Revolution, actually.

I dig a mousetrap.

This is a pretty cool little site for making humane mousetraps.

Not only does it show you how to easily build one, it also has a photo gallery and even a movie of the trap working.

Aw... so cute. Makes me wish we had mice, really. Ah well. Cats are good too.

The phony giveaway...

LiveJournal said repeatedly that they would get rid of invite codes, but have changed their minds.

Instead, we get "30 day trials". Whee. How generous... especially to new people who don't know any paid users on LJ. They'll just begin to get a taste for the site, only to have their accounts locked up on them. Just think of all the new users you will meet... after all, we're soon going to have more people begging paid users for invite codes than ever before!

Point of fact -- LiveJournal started as a free service, and started making money *AS A FREE SERVICE*, because it could reliably count on a given percentage of their users contributing to the site in exchange for more features. After all, the paid features were worth paying for.

There are, of course, other LiveJournal Server sites out there that are free -- the same sites which LiveJournal once welcomed as partners, but who are now referred to as "clones", with the implication made that they have lower moral standards and are of poorer quality. There is also an implication that is willing to use their knowledge and control of the codebase to press their advantage. As an example of this, LJ is no longer open sourcing all of its styles, with the excuse that they paid money to develop it. (Actually, you probably paid for it. However, when you gave your money to LJ, you probably assumed that whatever development came out of your donation would be open sourced.) Sure sounds like the Clone Wars to me.

LiveJournal should be developing an interconnected network of sites and a cooperative, open source development effort. Instead, they're building a castle with a drawbridge and a moat. (Watch out for the piranha!)

But at least we can all feel proud knowing that the money people paid for their LiveJournal accounts (nobody calls them contributions or donations anymore...) will pay for more advertising in movie theatres. Thanks LiveJournal!

Of course, what nobody is saying is that successful websites don't need to pay for commercial advertising. Google doesn't advertise, and they're the world's largest search engine. Blogger doesn't advertise, and they're the world's largest weblog service... and they're entirely free. Of course, the same could be said about most weblog services.

Some may argue that I'm being an idealist, but considering that LJ was once a member-run, open source, community-driven service that used to try to keep its promises, I consider it not idealism, but legitimate frustration over what LiveJournal could have become. Either way, I would still prefer to be an idealist than a mediocritist. Congratulations, LJ. You're just another big dotcom, if that is what you really want to be.

I'm not giving up on LiveJournal, however... my loyalty has always been to "LiveJournal - the members" and "LiveJournal - the open source project".. not to "LiveJournal - the dotcom", which, frankly, is in no danger of going out of business. I don't think you should give up on LiveJournal's potential either. I plan to oppose this in a simple, straightforward manner, but I need your help to make it happen.

Beginning on January 1st and continuing until LiveJournal changes its policy, I intend to form a coalition of users who will give away their invite codes freely to anyone who links them to a politely written comment made to a LiveJournal staffmember, or who CC:'s them on an email asking for LiveJournal to politely reconsider the site's invite code policy. Invite codes will not be given away to anyone who acts in an abusive or insulting manner -- only to those who make reasonable, thoughtful, and kind requests that LiveJournal should honor their previous commitments and remove invite codes permanently.

**We won! LiveJournal has backed down in the face of widescale protests and is getting rid of invite codes for good! See my statement on this for more details!**

Please link others to this post if you agree with it, and leave me a comment if you would be willing to donate some of your invite codes for this protest. It is my hope that LiveJournal's staff will reconsider this matter before such a protest is necessary. They responded quickly (albeit partially) to my initial request for them to remove invite codes. Now it's time for LiveJournal to complete the task.

Many thanks,