Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Economics of War

This week's File on Four covers the war in Afghanistan. Our stereotype of the Taleban tends towards the religous fanatic. An interview with a Taleban fighter reveals a different story:

“I'm fighting with a Kalashnikov and an RPG - a rocket propelled grenade launcher,” he said. “I'm not trying to take over the country. I am just trying to earn my salary.”

Compared to his previous work in the coal mines, fighting is easy and the pay is much better. He goes on to explain the Taleban even offer bonuses for killing American soldiers. An interview with an opium farmer reveals a similar economic motivations. He'd happily grow vegetables, but the market for opium is just so much better. This highlights the core economic problems behind the current problems in Afghanistan (and many other places in the world). Instead of the Wars on Terror and Drugs, perhaps Dubya should launch a War on Farm Subsidies. It ought to play well at home given that France is one of the main proponents of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Control of creativity

For a few years now the media companies have been going nuts about copyright protection. This article compares the differences in control over creativity in the fashion and the media. Why is it that Sony, for example, goes nuts if you sample a few seconds from one of their artist's tracks, but if you copy someone's clothing designs (as Topshop, H&M, etc. routinely do) you get, if not applause, at least no negative repercussions. I don't have a good answer, but I know which model I prefer.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter and Tech Reports

I walked in today along the canal. It's a clear cold day (-3C right now), a relief after all the dreary overcast days of late. The canal had frozen and I could clearly see a hexagonal structure in the ice, like enormous frozen snowflakes.

I've spent most of this week working on a techinical report. I'm glad it's finished and I feel good about the work. Doing the analysis, and getting statistically significant results, was nice (when I reviewed other work for the Related Work section I was rather surprised how few authors do any proper analysis of their results). I hope to turn it into a publication soon.